« AnteriorContinuar »
neighbouring gardens; but then the despised drops were grown into an artificial river, and intolerable mischief. So are the first entrances of sin, stopped with the antidotes of a hearty prayer, and checked into sobriety by the eye of a reverend man, or the counsels of a single sermon; but when such beginnings are neglected, and our religion hath not in it so much philosophy, as to think anything evil as long as we can endure it, they grow up to ulcers, and pestilential evils; they destroy the soul by their abode, who at their first entry might have been killed with the pressure of a little finger.
As the needle of a compass, when it is directed to its beloved star, at the first addresses waves on either side, and seems indifferent in his courtship of the rising or declining sun, and when it seems first determined to the north, stands awhile trembling, as if it suffered inconvenience in the first fruition of its desires, and stands not still in full enjoyment till after first a great variety of motion, and then an undisturbed posture ; so is the piety, and so is the conversion of a man wrought by degrees, and several steps of imperfection; and at first our choices are wavering, convinced by the grace of God, and yet not persuaded ; and then persuaded, but not resolved ; and then resolved, but deferring to begin ; and then beginning, but (as all beginnings are) in weakness and uncertainty ; and we fly out often into huge indiscretions, and long to return to Egypt; and when the storm is quite over, we find little bubblings
and unevenesses upon the face of the waters ; we often weaken our own purposes by the returns of sin; and we do not call ourselves conquerors, till by the long possession of virtues it is a strange and unusual, and therefore an uneasy and unpleasant thing, to act a crime.
CONVERSATION, Man feels his brother's wants by his own experience, and God hath given us speech, and the endearments of society, and pleasantness of conversation, and powers of seasonable discourse, arguments to allay the sorrow, by abating our apprehensions, and taking out the sting, or telling the periods of comfort, or exciting hope, or urging a precept, and reconciling our affections, and reciting promises, or telling stories of the divine mercy, or changing it into duty, or making the burden less by comparing it with a greater, or by proving it to be less than we deserve, and that it is so intended, and may become the instrument of virtue. And certain it is, that as nothing can better do it, so there is nothing greater for which God made our tongues, next to reciting his praises, than to minister comfort to a weary soul.
And what greater measure can we have, than that we should bring joy to our brother, who, with his dreary eyes, looks to heaven, and round about, and cannot find so much rest as to lay his eyelids close together ;
than that thy tongue should be tuned with heavenly accents, and make the weary soul to listen for light and ease, and when he perceives that there is such a thing in the world, and in the order of things, as comfort and joy, to begin to break out from the prison of his sorrows, at the door of sighs and tears, and by little and little, melt into showers and refreshment ? This is glory to thy voice, and employment fit for the brightest angel. But so have I seen the sun kiss the frozen earth, which was bound up with the images of death, and the colder breath of the north ; and then the waters break from their inclosures, and melt with joy, and run in useful channels; and the flies do rise again from their little graves in walls, and dance awhile in the air, to tell that their joy is within, and that the great mother of creatures will open the stock of her new refreshment, become useful to mankind, and sing praises to her redeemer; so is the heart of a sorrowful man, under the discourses of a wise comforter ; he breaks from the despairs of the grave, and the fetters and chains of sorrow; he blesses God, and he blesses thee, and he feels his life returning; for to be miserable is death, but nothing is life, but to be comforted; and God is pleased with no music from below, so much as in the thanksgiving songs of relieved widows, of
supported orphans, of rejoicing, and comforted, and thankful persons.
It is a fearful thing to see a man despairing. No one knows the sorrow and the intolerable anguish but
themselves, and they that are damned ; and so are all the loads of a wounded spirit, when the staff of a man's broken fortune bows his head to the ground, and sinks like an ozier under the violence of a mighty tempest.
NATURE OF WORLDLY POSSESSIONS.
I consider, that he that is the greatest possessor in the world, enjoys its best and most noble parts, and those which are of most excellent perfection, but in common with the inferior persons, and the most despicable of his kingdom. Can the greatest prince enclose the sun, and set one little star in his cabinet for
use? Or secure to himself the gentle and benign influences of any one constellation ? Are not his subjects' fields bedewed with the same showers, that water his gardens of pleasure ?
Nay, those things, which he esteems his ornament, and the singularity of his possessions, are they not of more use to others than to himself ? For, suppose his garments splendid and shining, like the robe of a cherub, or the clothing of the fields, all that he that wears them enjoys, is, that they keep him warm and clean, and modest; and all this is done by clean and less pompous vestments ; and the beauty of them, which distinguishes him from others, is made to please the eyes of the beholders; and he is like a fair bird, * * * made wholly to be looked on, that is, to be en
joyed by every one but himself; and the fairest face, and the sparkling eye, cannot perceive or enjoy their own beauties, but by reflection. It is I that am pleased with beholding his gaiety, and the gay man, in bis greatest bravery, is only pleased because I am pleased with the sight; so borrowing his little and imaginary complacency from the delight that I have, not from any inherency of his own possession.
The poorest artizan of Rome, walking in Cæsar's gardens, had the same pleasures, which they ministered to their lord ; and although it may be, he was put to gather fruits to eat from another place, yet his other senses were delighted equally with Cæsar's; the birds made him as good music, the flowers gave him as sweet smells, he there sucked as good air, and delighted in the beauty and order of the place, for the same reason, and upon the same perception as the prince himself; save only that Cæsar paid for all that pleasure vast sums of money, the blood and treasure of a province, which the poor man had for nothing.
Suppose a man lord of all the world, yet since everything is received, not according to its own greatness and worth, but according to the capacity of the receiver, it signifies very little as to our content, or to the riches of our possession. If any man should give to a lion a fair meadow full of hay, or a thousand quince trees; or should give to the goodly bull, the master and the fairest of the whole herd, a thousand fair stags; if a man should present to a child, a ship laden with