« AnteriorContinuar »
Thus it is fit, that men should be affected and employed, when they hear and read sermons, coming bither not as into a theatre, where men observe the gestures or noises of the people, the brow and the
eyes of the most busy censurers, and make parties, and go aside with them that dislike everything, or else admire not the things, but the persons; but as to a sacrifice, and as to a school where virtue is taught and exercised, and none come but such as put themselves under discipline, and intend to grow wiser, and more virtuous to appease their passion, from violent to become smooth and even, to have their faith established, and their hope confirmed, and their charity enlarged. They that are otherwise affected, do not do their duty ; but if they be so minded as they ought, I, and all men of my employment, shall be secured against the tongues and faces of men, who are ingeniosi in alieno libro, witty to abuse and undervalue another man's book.
And yet, besides these spiritual arts already reckoned, I have one security more ; for, unless I deceive myself, I intend the glory of God sincerely, and the service of Jesus, in this publication ; and therefore being, I do not seek myself or my own reputation; I shall not be troubled if they be lost in the voices of busy people, so that I be accepted of God, and “ found of him in the day of the Lord's visitation."
FROM JEREMY TAYLOR'S SERMONS.
PRAYER is the peace of the spirit, the stillness of our thoughts, the evenness of recollection, the seat of meditation, the rest of our cares, and the calm of our tempest; prayer is the issue of a quiet mind, of untroubled thoughts, it is the daughter of charity, and the sister of meekness; and he that prays to God with an angry, that is, with a troubled and discomposed spirit, is like him that retires into a battle to meditate, and sets up his closet in the outer quarters of an army, and chooses a frontier garrison to be wise in. Anger is a perfect alienation of the mind from prayer, and therefore is contrary to that attention, which presents our prayers in a right line to God. For so have I seen a lark rising from his bed of grass, and soaring upwards, singing as he rises, and hopes to get to heaven, and climb above the clouds; but the poor bird was beaten back with the loud sighings of an eastern wind, and his motion made irregular and inconstant, descending more at every breath of the tempest, than it could recover by the libration and frequent weighings of his wings; till the little creature was forced to sit down and pant, and stay till the storm was over, and then it made a prosperous flight, and did rise and sing, as if it had learned music and motion from an angel, as he passed sometimes through the air about his ministeries here below.
So is the prayer of a good man; when his affairs have required business, and his business was matter of discipline ; and his discipline was to pass upon a sin
; ning person, or had a design of charity, his duty met with infirmities of a man, and anger was its instrument, and the instrument became stronger than the prime agent, and raised a tempest, and overruled the man; and then his prayer was broken, and his thoughts were troubled, and his words went up towards a cloud, and his thoughts pulled them back again, and made them without intention ; and the good man sighs for his infirmity, but must be content to lose the prayer, and he must recover it when his anger is removed, and his spirit is becalmed, made even as the brow of Jesus, and smooth like the heart of God; and then it ascends to heaven upon the wings of the holy dove, and dwells with God, till it returns like the useful bee, loaden with a blessing and the dew of heaven.
Fear is the great bridle of intemperance, the modesty of the spirit, and the restraint of gaieties and dissolutions; it is the girdle to the soul, and the handmaid to repentance, the arrest of sin, and the cure or antidote to the spirit of reprobation; it preserves our apprehensions of the divine majesty, and hinders our single actions from combining to sinful habits; it is the mother of consideration, and the nurse of sober counsels, and it puts the soul to fermentation and activity, making it to pass from trembling to caution, from caution to carefulness, froin carefulness to watchfulness, from thence to prudence; and by the gates and progresses of repentance, it leads the soul on to love and to felicity, and to joys in God, that shall never cease again.
Fear is the guard of a man in the days of prosperity, and it stands upon the watch towers, and spies the approaching danger, and gives warning to them that laugh loud, and feast in the chambers of rejoicing, where a man cannot consider, by reason of the noises of wine, and jest, and music; and if prudence takes it by the hand and leads it on to duty, it is a state of grace,
and a universal instrument to infant religion, and the only security of the less perfect persons; and in all senses is that homage we owe to God, who sends often to demand it, even then when he speaks in thunder, or smites by a plague, or awakens us by threatenings, or discomposes our easiness by sad thoughts, and tender eyes, and fearful hearts, and trembling considerations.
However it be very easy to have our thoughts wander, yet it is our indifferency and lukewarmness, that makes it so natural; and you may observe it, that as long as the light shines bright, and the fires of devotion and desires flame out, so long the mind of man stands close to the altar, and waits upon the sacrifice ; but as the fires die and desires decay, so the mind steals away, and walks abroad to see the little images of beauty and pleasure, which it beholds in the falling stars and little glow worms of the world. The river that runs slow, and creeps by the banks, and begs leave of every turf to let it pass, is drawn into little hollownesses, and spends itself in small portions, and dies with diversion ; but when it runs with vigorousness and a full stream, and breaks down every obstacle, making it even as its own brow, it stays not to be tempted with little avocations, and to creep into holes, but runs into the sea through full and useful channels.
So is a man's prayer, if it move upon the feet of an abated appetite, it wanders into the society of every trifling accident, and stays at the corners of the fancy, and talks with every object it meets, and cannot arrive at heaven; but when it is carried upon the wings of passion and strong desires, a swift motion and a hungry appetite, it passes on through all the intermedial region of clouds, and stays not till it dwells at the foot of the throne, where mercy sits, and thence sends holy show