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XCVI. When I see my Saviour hanging in so forlorn a fashion upon the Cross: his head drooping down; his temples bleeding with thorns, his hands and feet with the nails, and his side with the spear; his enemies round about him, mocking, at his shame, and insulting over his impotence : how should I think any otherwise of him, than, as himself complaineth, forsaken of his Father ? But, when again I turn mine eyes, and see the sun darkened, the earth quaking, the rocks rent, the graves opened, the thief confessing, to give witness to his Deity; and when I see so strong a guard of Providence over him, that all his malicious enemies are not able so much as to break one bone of that body, which seemed carelessly neglected : I cannot but wonder at his glory and safety. God is ever near, though oft unseen; and, if he wink at our distress, he sleepeth not. The sense of others must not be judges of his presence and care; but our faith. What care I, if the world give me up for miserable, while I am under his secret protection? O Lord, since thou art strong in our weakness, and present in our senselessness; give me but as much comfort in my sorrow, as thou givest me security, and at my worst I shall be well.
XCVII. In sins, and afflictions, our course must be contrary : we must begin to detest the greatest sin first, and descend to the hatred of the least; we must first begin to suffer small afflictions with patience, that we may ascend to the endurance of the greatest : then alone shall I be happy, when, by this holy method, I have drawn my soul to make conscience of the least evil of sin, and not to shrink at the greatest evil of affliction.
XCVIII. Prescription is no plea against the king : much less can long custom plead for error, against that our Supreme Lord, to whom a thousand years are but as yesterday. Yea, Time, which pleads voluntarily for continuance of things lawful, will take no fee, not to speak against an evil use. Hath an ill custom lasted long? It is more than time it were abrogated : age is an aggravation to sin. Heresy or abuse, if it be grey-headed, deserves sharper opposition. To say “I will do ill because I have done so,” is perilous and impious presumption. Continuance can no more make any
wickedness safe, than the author of sin, no devil. If I have once sinned, it is too much : if oft, woe be to me; if the iteration of my offence cause boldness, and not rather more sorrow, more detestation : woe be to me and my sin, if I be not the better because I have sinned.
XCIX. It is strange to see the varieties and proportion of spiritual and bodily diets. There be some creatures, that are fatted and delighted with poisons : others live by nothing but air; and some, they say, by fire : others will taste no water, but muddy : others feed on their fellows, or perhaps on part of themselves; others, on the excretions of nobler creatures : some search into the earth for sustenance, or dive into the waters ; others content themselves with what the upper earth yields them, without violence. All these, and more, are answered in the palate of the soul: there be some, yea the most, to whom sin, which is of a most venomous nature, is both food and dainties; others, that think it the only life, to feed on the popular air of applause; others, that are never welí out of the fire of contentions, and that wilfully trouble all waters with their private humours and opinions ; others, whose cruelty delights in oppression and blood, yea whose envy gnaws upon their own hearts; others, that take pleasure to revive the wicked and foul heresies of the greater wits of the former times; others, whose worldly minds root altogether in earthly cares, or who not content with the ordinary provision of doctrine affect obscure subtleties unknown to wiser men; others, whose too indifferent minds feed on whatever opinion comes next to hand, without any
careful disquisition of truth: so, some feed foul; others, but few, clean and wholesome. As there is no beast upon earth, which hath not his like in the sea, and which perhaps is not in some sort paralleled in the plants of the earth; so there is no bestial disposition, which is not answerably found in some men: mankind, therefore, hath within itself his Goats, Chameleons, Salamanders, Camels, Wolves, Dogs, Swine, Moles, and whatever sorts of beasts: there are but a few men, amongst men.
To a wise man, the shape is not so much as the qualities. If I be not a man within,; in my choices, affections, inclinations; it had been better for me to have been a beast without : a beast is but like itself; but an evil man is half a beast, and half a devil.
C. Forced favours are thankless; and, commonly, with noble minds find no acceptation. For a man to give his soul to God, when he sees he can no longer bold it; or to bestow his goods, when he is forced to part with them; or to forsake his sin, when he cannot follow it; are but unkind and cold obediences. God sees our necessity, and scorns our compelled oflers. What mau of any generous spirit will abide himself made the last refuge of a craved, denied, and constrained courtesy? While God gives me leave to keep my soul, yet then to bequeath it to him; and, while strength and opportunity serve me to sin, then to forsake it; is both accepted and crowned : God loves neither grudged nor necessary gifts : I will offer betimes, that he may vouchsafe to take: I will give him the best, that he may take all.
O God, give me this grace, that I may give thee myself, freely and seasonably : and then I know thou canst not but accept me, because this gift is thine own.
THE THIRD CENTURY
MEDITATIONS AND VOWS;
DIVINE AND MORAL.
TO THE RIGHT WORSHIPFUL
SIR EDMUND BACON, KNIGHT, INCREASE OF HONOUR, STRENGTH OF BODY, PERFECTION OF VIRTUE.
THERE is no wise man would give his thoughts for all the world : which, as they are the most pleasing and noble business of man, being the natural and immediate issue of that reason whereby he is severed from brute creatures; so they are, in their use, most beneficial to ourselves and others. For, by the means hereof, we enjoy both God and ourselves; and hereby we make others partners of those rich excellencies, which God hath hid in the mind. And, though it be most easy and safe for a man, with the Psalmist, tó commune with his own heart in silence; yet is it more behoveful to the common good, for which, both as Men and Christians, we are ordained, that those thoughts, which our experience hath found comfortable and fruitful to ourselves, should, with neglect of all censures, be communicated to others. The concealment whereof, methinks, can proceed from no other ground, but either timorousness
Which consideration huth induced me to clothe these naked thoughts, in pluin and simple words; and to adventure them into the light, after their fellows: consecrating them the rather to your name, for that, besides all other respects of duty, they are part of those Asedilations, which, in my late peregrination with you, took me up under the solitary hills of Ardenna, wanting as then the opportunity of their employment. I offer them to you, not for that yourself are not stored with choice of better ; but as poor men use to bring presents to the rich. If they may carry acceptation from you and bring profit unto any soul, it shall abundantly satisfy me : 'who should think it honour enough, if I might be vouchsafed ío bring but one pin towards the decking of the Spouse of Christ; while others, out of their abundance, adorn her with costly robes and rich medals. I commend their success, to God; their patronyou;
their use, to the world. That God multiply his rare favours upon you, and your worthy Lady; and go you on to favour
Your Worship’s humble devoted,
MEDITATIONS AND VOWS.
I. Good men are placed by God, as so many stars in the lower firmament of the world. As they must imitate those heavenly bodies, in their light and influence; so also in their motion: and, therefore, as the planets have a course proper to themselves, against the sway of the heaven that carries them about; so must each good man have a motion out of his own judgment, contrary to the customs and opinions of the vulgar; finishing his own course with the least shew of resistance. I will never affect singularity, except it be among
those that are vicious. It is better to do or think well alone, than to follow a multitude in evil.
II. What strange variety of actions doth the eye of God see, at once, round about the compass of the earth, and within it! Some, building houses; some, delving for metals; some, marching in troops, or encamping one against another; some, bargaining in the market; some, travelling on their way; some, praying in their closets; others, quaffing at the tavern; some, rowing in the gallies; others, dallying in their chambers: and, in short, as many different actions as persons; yet all have one common intention of good to themselves; true, in some, but, in the most, imaginary. The glorified spirits have but one uniform work, wherein they all join; the praise of their Creator. This is one difference betwist the saints above, and below: they above are free both from business and distraction; these below are free, though not absolutely, from distraction, not at all from business. Paul could think of the cloak that he left at Troas, and of the shaping of his skins for his tents; yet, through these, he looked still at heaven. This world is made for business. My actions must vary, according to occasions. My end shall be but one; and the same now on earth, that it must be one day in heaven.
III. To see bow the Martyrs of God died, and the life of their persecutors, would make a man out of love with life, and out of all fear of death. They were flesh and blood, as well as we: life was as sweet to them, as to us: their bodies were as sensible of pain, as ours: we go to the same heaven with them. How comes it then, that they were so courageous, in abiding such torments in their death, as the very mention strikes horror into any reader; and we are so cowardly, in encountering a fair and natural death? If this valour had been of themselves, I would never have looked after them in hope of imitation: now, I know it was he, for whom they
suffered and that suffered in them, which sustained them. were of themselves as weak as I; and God can be as strong in me, as he was in them. O Lord, thou art not more unable to give me this grace; but I am more unworthy to receive it: and yet thou regardest not worthiness, but mercy. Give me their strength, and what end thou wilt,
IV. Our first age is all in hope. When we are in the womb, who knows whether we shall have our right shape and proportion of body; being neither monstrous nor deformed? When we are born, who knows whether, with the due features of a man, we shall have the faculties of reason and understanding? When yet our progress in years discovereth wit or folly, who knows whether, with the power of reason, we shall have the grace of faith to be Christians? and, when we begin to profess well, whether it be a temporary and seeming, or a true and saving faith? Our middle age is half in hope, for the future; and half in proof, for that is past: our old age is out of hope; and altogether in proof. In our last times, therefore, we know, both what we have been, and what to expect. It is good for youth to look forward, and stili to propound the best things unto itself; for an old man to look backward, and to repent him of that wherein he hath failed, and to recollect himself for the present: but, in my middle age, I will look both backward and forward; comparing my hopes with my proof; redeeming the time, ere it be all spent, that my recovery may prevent my repentance. It is both a folly and misery to say,
i This I might have done,”
V. It is the wonderful mercy of God, both to forgive us our debts to him in our sins, and to make himself a debtor to us in his promises: so that now, both ways, the soul may be sure; since he neither calleth for those debts which he hath once forgiven, nor withdraweth those favours and that heaven which he hath promised: but, as he is a merciful creditor to forgive, so he is a true debtor to pay whatsoever he hath undertaken. Whence it is come to pass, that the penitent sinner owes nothing to God, but love and obedience; and God owes still much and all to him: for he owes as much as he hath promised; and what he owes, by virtue of his blessed promise, we may challenge. O infinite mercy! He, that lent us all that we have, and in whose debt-books we run hourly forward till the sum be endless; yet owes us more, and bids us look for payment. I cannot deserve the least favour he can give; yet will I as confidently challenge the greatest, as if I deserved it. Promise indebteth no less, than loan or desert.
VI. It is no small commendation, to manage a little well. He is a good waggoner, that can turn in a narrow room. To live well in abundance, is the praise of the estate, not of the person. I will