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whoso finds in himself, let him not think any weakness a lawful bar to meditation. He, that pleads this excuse, is like some simple man; which, being half starved with cold, refuseth to come near the fire, because he findeth not heat enough in himself.
2. That he be free from worldly thoughts. Neither may the soul, that hopeth to profit by meditation, suffer itself for the time entangled with the world ; which is all one, as to come to God's flaming bush on the hill of visions, with our shoes on our feet. Thou seest the bird, whose feathers are limed, unable to take her former flight: so are we, when our thoughts are clinged together by the world, to soar up to our heaven in meditation. The pair of brothers must leave their nets, if they will follow Christ; Elisha his oxen, if he will attend a prophet. It must be a free and a light mind, that can ascend this mount of contemplation; overcoming this height, this steepness. Cares are a heavy load, and uneasy : these must be laid down at the bottom of this hill, if we ever look to attain the top. Thou art loaded with household cares; perhaps, public : I bid thee not cast them away : even these have their season, which thou canst not omit without impiety : I bid thee lay them down at thy closet door, when thou attemp test this work. "Let them in with thee, thou shalt find them troublesome . companions ; ever distracting thee from thy best errand. Thou wouldest think of heaven: thy barn comes in thy way; or, perhaps, thy 'count-book; or thy coffers; or, it may be, thy mind is beforehand travelling upon the morrow's journey. So, while thou thinkest of many things, thou thinkest of nothing ; while thou wouldest go many ways, thou standest still. And, as in a crowd, while many press forward at once through one door, none proceedeth; so, when variety of thoughts tumultuously throng in upon the mind, each proveth a bar to the other, and all a hinderance to him that entertains them.
3. That he be constant; and that, in time and matter. AND, as our client of meditation must both be pure and free in undertaking this task; so also constant in continuing it : constant, both in time, and in matter; both in a set course and hour reserved for this work, and in an unwearied prosecution of it once begun. Those, that meditate by snatches and uncertain fits, when only all other employments forsake them, or when good motions are thrust upon them by necessity, let them never hope to reach to any perfection: for these feeble beginnings of lukewarm grace, which are wrought in them by one fit of serious meditation, are soon extinguished by intermission; and, by miswonting, perish. This day's meal, though large and liberal, strengthens thee not for to morrow: the body languisheth, if there be not a daily supply of repast.
Thus feed thy soul by meditation. Set thine hours, and keep them; and yield not to an easy d straction. There is no hardness in this practice, but in the beginning : use shall give it, not ease only, but delight. Thy companion entertaineth thee, this while, in loving discourses; or some unexpected business offers to interrupt thee : never any good work shall want some hinderance: either break through the lets, except it be with incivility or loss; or, if they be importunate, pay thyself the time that was unseasonably borrowed; and recompense thine omitted hours, with the double labours of another day. For thou shalt find, that deferring breeds, beside the loss, an indisposition to good: so that what was before pleasant to thee being omitted, to morrow grows harsh; the next day, unnecessary; afterward, odious. To day, thou canst ; but wilt not: to morrow, thou couldest; but listest not : the next day, thou neither wilt nor canst bend thy mind on these thoughts. So I have seen friends, that, upon neglect of duty, grow overly; upon overliness, strange; upon strangeness, to utter defiance. Those, whose very trade is Divinity, methinks, should omit no day without his line of meditation : those, which are secular men, not many ; remembering that they have a common calling of Christianity to attend, as well as a special vocation in the world ; and that other, being more noble and important, may justly challenge both often and diligent service,
2. That he be constant in the continuance. And, as this constancy requires thee to keep day with thyself, unless thou wilt prove bankrupt in good exercises ; so also, that thy inind should dwell upon the same thought without fitting, without weariness, until it have attained to some issue of spiritual profit : otherwise it attempteth much, effecteth nothing. What availeth it, to knock at the door of the heart, if we depart ere we have an answer? What are we the warmer, if we pass bastily along by the hearth, and stay not at it? Those, that do only travel through Atic, become not blackamoors: but those, which are born there; those, that inhabit there. We account those damsels too light of their love, which betroth themselves upon the first sight, upon the first motion; and those we deem of much price, which require long and earnest soliciting. He deceiveth himself, that thinketh grace so easily won : there must be much suit and importunity, ere it will yield to our desires. Not that we call for a perpetuity of this labour of meditation : human frailty could never bear so great a toil. Nothing under heaven is capable of a continual motion, without complaint : it is enough for the glorified spirits above, to be ever thinking and never weary. The mind of man is of a strange metal : if it be not used, it rusteth; if used hardly, it
breaketh: briefly, it is sooner dulled, than satisfied, with a con, tinual meditation. Whence it came to pass that those ancient monks, who intermeddled bodily labour with their contemplations, proved so excellent in this divine business; when those at this day, which, having mewed and mured up themselves from the worid, spend themselves wholly upon their beads and crucifix, pretending no other work but meditation, have cold hearts to God, and to the world shew nothing but a dull shadow of devotion : for that, if the thoughts of these latter were as divine as they are superstitious; yet being without all interchangeableness bent upon the same discourse, the mind must needs grow weary, the thoughts remiss and Janguishing, the objects tedious : while the other refreshed themselves with this wise variety ; employing the hands, while they called off the mind, as good comedians so mix their parts, that the pleasantness of the one may temper the austereness of the other ; whereupon they gained both enough to the body, and to the soul more than if it had been all the while busied. Besides, the excellency of the object letteth this assiduity of meditation ; which is so glorious, that, like unto the sun, it may abide to have an eye cast upon it for a while, will not be gazed upon: whosoever ventureth so far, loseth both his hope and his wits. If we hold, with that blessed Monica, that such like cogitations are the food of the mind; yet even the mind also hath her satiety, and may surfeit of too much. It shall be sufficient, therefore, that we persevere in our meditation, without any such affectation of perpetuity; and leave, without a light fickleness : making always, not our hour glass, but some competent increase of our devotion, the measure of our continuance; knowing, that, as for heaven, so for our pursuit of grace, it shall avail us little to have begun well, without perseverance: and, withal, that the soul of man is not always in the like disposi , tion ; but, sometimes, is longer in settling, through some unquiet, ness or more obstinate distraction ; sometimes, heavier; and, sometimes, more active and nimble to dispatch. Gerson, whose authority * I rather use because our adversaries disclaim him for theirs, professeth, he hath been sometimes four hours together working Înis heart, ere he could frame it to purpose: a singular pattern of unwearied constancy, of an unconquerable spirit ; whom his present unfitness did not so much discourage, as it whetted him to strive with himself till he could overcome. And, surely, other victories are hazardous ; this, certain, if we will persist to strive : other fights are upon hope; this, upon assurance, while our success dependeth upon the promise of God, which cannot disappoint us. Persist, therefore; and prevail: persist, till thou hast prevailed; so that, which thou begannest with difficulty, shall end in comfort.
* Saving our just quarrel against him, for the Council of Constance.
CHAP. IX. II. Of the CIRCUMSTANCES of meditation :—and therein, 1. of the
Place. FROM the qualities of the person, we descend towards the action itself: where, first, we meet with those Circumstances, which are necessary for our predisposition to the work; Place, Time, Site of the Body:
Solitariness of Place is fittest for ineditation. Retire thyself from others, if thou wouidest talk profitably with thyself. So Jesus meditates alone in the mount; Isaac, in the fields; John Baptist, in the desert; David, on his bed; Chrysostom, in the bath: each, in several places; but all solitary. There is no place free from God; none, to which he is more tied: one finds his closet most convenient; where his eyes, being limited by the known walis, call the mind, after a soit, from wandering abroad : another findeth his soul more free, when it beholdeth his heaven above and about him. It matters not, so we be solitary and silent. It was a witty and divine speech of Bernard, that the Spouse of the Soul, Christ Jesus, is bashful; neither willingly cometh to his bride, in the presence of a multitude. And hence is that sweet invitation, which we find of her: Come, my well beloved, let us go forth into the fields: let us lodge in the villages : let us go up early to the vines : let us see if the vine flourish, whether it hath disclosed the first grape ; or whether the pomegranates blossom : there will I give thee my love. Abandon, therefore, all worldly society, that thou mayest change it for the company of God and his angels : the society, I say, of the world ; not outward only, but inward also. There be many, that sequester themselves from the visible company of men, which yet carry a world within them; who, being alone in body, are haunted with a throng of fancies: as Jerome, in his wildest desert, found himself too oft in his thoughts amongst the dances of the Roman dames. This company is worse than the other: for it is more possible, for some thoughtful men to have a solitary mind in the midst of a market, than for a man thus disposed to be alone in a wilder
Both companies are enemies to meditations: whither tendeth that ancient counsel of a great Master in this Art, of three things requisite to this business, Secrecy, Silence, Rest: whereof the first excludeth company; the second, noise; the third, motion. It cannot be spoken, how subject we are, in this work, to distraction; like Solomon's old man, whom the noise of every bird wakeneth. Sensual delights we are not drawn from, with the threefold cords of judgment; but our spiritual pleasures are easily hindered. Make choice, therefore, of that place, which shall admit the fewest occasions of withdrawing thy soul from good thoughts : wherein also even change of places is somewhat prejudicial; and I know not how it falls out, that we find God nearer us, in the place where we have been accustomed familiarly to meet him : not for
that his presence is confined to one place above others; but that our thoughts are, through custom, more easily gathered to the place where we have ordinarily conversed with him.
2. Of the Time. ONE Time cannot be prescribed to all : for, neither is God bound to hours, neither doth the contrary disposition of men agree in one choice of opportunities. The golden hours of the morning, some find fittest for meditation; when the body, newly raised, is well calmed with his late rest; and the soul hath not as yet had, from these outward things, any motives of alienation. Others find it best, to learn wisdom of their reins in the night ; hoping, with Job, that their bed will bring them comfort in their meditation : when, both all other things are still; and themselves, wearied with these earthly cares, do, out of a contempt of them, grow into greater liking and love of heavenly things. I have ever found Isaac's time tittest, who went out in the evening, to meditate. No precept, no practice of others can prescribe to us, in this circumstance.
It shall be enough, that, first, we set ourselves a time : secondly, that we set apart that time, wherein we are aptest for this service. And, as no time is prejudiced with unfitness, but every day is without difference seasonable for this work, so especially God's day. No day is barren of grace to the searcher of it; none alike fruitful to this: which being by God sanctified to himself, and to be sanctified by us to God, is privileged with blessings above others : for the plentiful instruction of that day stirreth thee up to this action, and fills thee with matter; and the zeal of thy public service warmeth thy heart to this other business of devotion. No manna fell to the Israelites on their Sabbath : our spiritual manna falleth on ours, most frequent. If thou wouldest have a full soul, gather as it falls; gather it by hearing, reading, meditation : spiritual idleness is a fault, this day; perhaps, not less than bodily work.
CHAP. XI. 3. Of the Site and Gesture of the Body, Neither is there less variety in the Site and Gesture of the Body; the due composedness whereof is no little advantage to this exercise. Even in our speech to God, we observe not always one and the same position: sometimes, we fall grovelling on our faces: sometimes, we bow our knees; sometimes, stand on our feet : sometimes, we lift up our hands ; sometimes, cast down our eyes, God is a spirit; who therefore, being a severe observer of the disposition of the soul, is not scrupulous for the body; requiring not so much, that the gesture thereof should be uniform, as reverent, No marvel, therefore, though in this all our teachers of meditation have commended several positions of body, according to their dis,