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MAN therefore, as a Creature, has sufficient Reason to be humble, and poor in Spirit. But if we consider him 2dly, as a Sinner, he has Cause, not only to be humble, but to lie down flat
upon his Face, and look upon himself to be more base and vile than the very Duft whereof he was form’d, and whereon he treads. To be a Sinner is much more vile than to be the meanest Creature; and the Non-Entity of Sin is more dishonourable than that of Nature. This latter, tho’ it cannot actually conform, yet it is not disobedient to the Will of God: But the former Nothing contradicts and refifts his Will. This is, as think one of the Fathers 'calls it, Nihil Rebele, c in Deum armatum, an Armed Nothing. Indeed, to be a Creature, involves Weakness and Imperfection in it; but then it also involves Good, because nothing can be, but by partaking of the Perfection of God. But now, to be a Sinner involves nothing but pure and unmist Evil; and is withal, a farther remove from Good than to be nothing, since it is, not only negatively, but contr arily opposed to it. 'Tis indeed the greatest Monstrosity and Deformity in the World, the greatest Contradiction to Order and Harmony, to Reason and Proportion, to Well-being and Happiness: In one Word, 'Tis the only thing which God hates. What great Reason then has Man to be humble, and poor in Spirit; poor even to Emptiness, and Self-Annihilation, who is not only a Creature, but a finful Creature !
HAVING now shewn the Duty and Reasonableness of Poverty of Spirit, in the full latitude of the Word, I proceed to thew, in the Third Place, the Happiness of those who are so disposed. Blessed are the poor in spirit, says our Saviour, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. That's the only Blessedness which is here expresly mentioned : But they are happy also in other regards: For, in the first place, What an happy Disposition of Soul must it be, always to carry about one such a strong and lively Convi&tion of the Vanity of all created Good, as not to run out into vehement Desires after it ? For, Defire it self, to go no farther, is always a great Torment: 'Tis the fame to the Soul, that Thirst is to the Body; and Hope deferrod (as the Wise Man tells us) makes the heart fick, Prov. 13. But that is not all; for here will come in the Trouble of Disappointment, as well as of Desire: Not that which the World generally understands by Disappointment, the not compassing what you designed, (tho' that also will often happen) but the not enjoying what you have compassed, the Disappointment of FruBut now, to be
to be poor in Spirit is the way to avoid all this. Such a Person expects no Happiness from the Creature; and consequently, not to find it there, will be to him no Disappointment. He does not lean not lean upon any cro
created Good with Stress; and therefore, tho' it should fail under him, his Fall will be but slight and easie. And, indeed, it is not to be imagined what a deal of
Anxiety, Care, Restlesness, Disappointment, Sorrow, fruitless Labour and Endeavour are saved by this Poverty of Spirit. And I think this is no small Degree of Happiness.
AGAIN, Is it not a great Happiness to be so moderately and indifferently affected towards the World, as to be contented with any Condition in it? to be of a quiet, sedate, resigned and disinteressed Disposition? He that is thus dispofed, is above, or rather below the reach of calamitous Accidents. The Storm flies over his Head, he has nothing for Fortune to take hold of: Nor will he be under the Hazard of parting with his Religion, to secure his worldly Interest. No; he can do his Duty, tho’at the Expence of Martyrdom; and tho' highly deserving of the best Times, may yet be trusted in the worst
. Then as to the Happiness attending upon Poverty of Spirit, as it stands for Humility, there is no one Vertue that is more her own Reward than this : Pride is the most uneasie thing in the World; and withal, the most odious ; uneasie to the Patient, and odious to the Observer. And, as it is uneasie in it self, so is it the Parent of
many troublesom and uneasie Passions; such as Anger, Contention, Revenge, Envy, Impatience, &c. So that it is hard to determin whether the proud Man be more ridiculous or miserable.
But now, to be humble, is to be wise, to understand the true Proportion and Measure of a Creature, to be serene, to be contented, to be thankful, to be pleasant and chearful, to be calm
and untroubled, to be dispassionate and unconcerned. In short, No Man enjoys what he really is, so much as he that does not fansie himself what he is not. And besides, the humble Man is sure to get that very Honour which he declines, and because he declines it. I end this with the Observation of Plato, That a Man that does not rightly know himself can neither be prudent, good, nor happy; which is all that goes to the Perfection of Man: And he that does, is sure to be all this.
Thus far of the Happiness belonging to the two kinds of Poverty of Spirit severally. There remains yet one more belonging to them both in common; and that is, the Kingdom of Heaven, which I suppose to comprehend both Grace and Glory. As to Grace, we are told by the Apostle, that God has chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith. And in the same place where God is faid to resist the Proud, he is said also to give Grace to the Humble, Jam. 4. 6. Indeed, Humility is the proper Foundation of Grace, and the Theatre of all Divine Operations. This State of Nothingness, and Self-emptiness, is as much a Preparation to the New, as the Void and Inform Space was to the Old Creation : 'Tis the true and proper first Matter in the Spiritual World, into which the Form of the New Creature will be introduced : And if Man does but contain himself in this Nothing, God will not fail to work All, and to be All in him; having promised his Special Presence to the Man of an humble Spirit, Isa. 57. 15.
Then, as for Glory, 'tis highly equitable, that they who have humbled themselves here, should be exalted hereafter; and that they who have renounced this World, should have their Portion in the next. And to convince the flow, hearted and distrustful World, that thus it shall be, God has already given a Specimen of it, in the Example of his Son, who was particularly eminent for this double Poverty of Spirit; for renouncing the World, and for debasing himself; whom therefore God has highly exalted, giving him a name above every name, Phil. 2. 9. and has also placed him on his own Righthand, Angels, and Authorities, and Powers being made subject unto him, i Pet. 3. 22.
DISCOURSE the Second.
MATTH. V. Ver. iv.
Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be
HEY are the Words of him who
was himself a Man of Sorrows, and T
acquainted with Grief ; and who
was also acquainted with Happiness too, with the Joys of Religion, with the Refreshments of Angels, with the Antepasts of