Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

they can be tempted, and can secure their aids accordingly; but how is it possible, that such a man should cure all the evils of his nature, and repair the breaches of Adam's sin, and stop all the effect which is upon him from all the evils of the world, if he delights in seas of drink, and is pleased with the follies of distempered persons, and laughs loud at the childish humours and weak discourses of the man, that can do nothing but that for which Dionysius slew Antiphon, and Timagenes did fall from Cæsar's friendship; that is, play the fool and abuse his friend; he cannot give good counsel or spend an hour in wise sayings; but half a day they can talk “ ut foret, unde corona cachinnum tollere possit,” to make the crowd laugh, and consider not.

And the same is the case of lust; because it is exactly contrary to Christ the king of virgins, and his Holy Spirit, who is the prince of purities and holy thoughts; it is a captivity of the reason, and an enraging of the passions, it wakens every night, and rages every day, it desires passionately, and prosecutes violently, it hinders business and distracts counsel, it brings jealousies and enkindles wars, it sins against the body, and weakens the soul, it defiles a temple, and drives the Holy Spirit forth, and it is so entire a prose-, cution of the follies and weaknesses of nature; such a snare and a bait to weak and easy fools, that it prevails infinitely, and rages horribly, and rules tyrannically; it is a very fever in the reason, and a calenture in the passions; and therefore either it must be quenched, or it will be impossible to cure our evil natures: the curing of this is not the remedy of a single evil, but it is a doing violence to our whole nature; and therefore hath in it the greatest courage and an equal conduct, and supposes spiritual strengths great enough to contest against every enemy.

4. Hitherto is to be reduced, that we avoid all flatterers and evil company; for it was impossible that Alexander should be wise and cure his pride and his drunkenness, so long as he entertained Agesius and Agnon, Bagoas and Demetrius, and slew Parmenio and Philotas, and murdered wise Callisthenes; for he that loves to be flattered, loves not to change his pleasure; but had rather to hear himself called wise, than to be so. Flattery does bribe an evil nature, and corrupt a good one; and make it love to give wrong judg

ment, and evil sentences : he that loves to be flattered, can never want some to abuse him, but he shall always want one to counsel him, and then he can never be wise.

5. But I must put these advices into a heap; he therefore that will cure his evil nature, must set himself against his chiefest lust, which when he hath overcome, the lesser enemies will come in of themselves. He must endeavour to reduce his affections to an indifferency; for all violence is an enemy to reason and counsel, and is that state of disease for which he is to inquire remedies.

6. It is necessary that in all actions of choice he deliberate and consider, that he may never do that for which he must ask a pardon, and he must suffer shame and smart : and therefore Cato did well reprove Aulus Albinus for writing the Roman story in the Greek tongue, of which he had but imperfect knowledge; and himself was put to make his apology for so doing: Cato told him that he was mightily in love with a fault, that he had rather beg a pardon than be innocent; Who forced him to need the pardon? And when beforehand we know we must change from what we are or do worse, it is a better compendium not to enter in from whence we must uneasily retire.

7. In all the contingencies of chance and variety of action, remember that thou art the maker of thy own fortune, and of thy own sin; charge not God with it either before or after; the violence of thy own passion is no superinduced necessity from him, and the events of providence in all its strange variety can give no authority or patronage to a foul forbidden action, though the next chance of war or fortune be prosperous and rich. An Egyptian robber, sleeping under a rotten wall, was awakened by Serapis, and sent away from the ruin; but being quit from the danger, and seeing the wall to slide, he thought that the demon loved his crime, because he had so strangely preserved him from a sudden and a violent death. But Serapis told him, Oávatov mèv älvπον Νυν έφυγες, σταυρωδ' ίσθι φυλαττόμενος, “I saved you

from the wall, to reserve you for the wheel ;" from a short and private death, to a painful and disgraceful; and so it is very frequently in the event of human affairs: men are saved from one death, and reserved for another; or are preserved here, to be destroyed hereafter; and they that would judge of actions by events, must stay till all events are passed, that is, till all their posterity be dead, and the sentence is given at doom's-day; in the mean time the evils of our nature are to be looked upon without all accidental appendages; as they are in themselves, as they have an irregularity and disorder, an unreasonableness and a sting; and be sure to rely upon nothing, but the truth of laws and promises; and take severe accounts by those lines, which God gave us on purpose to reprove our evil habits and filthy inclinations. Men that are not willing to be cured, are glad of any thing to cozen them; but the body of death cannot be taken off from us, unless we be honest in our purposes, and severe in our counsels, and take just measures, and glorify God, and set ourselves against ourselves, that we may be changed into the likeness of the sons of God.

8. Avoid all delay in the counsels of religion. Because the aversation and perverseness of a child's nature may be corrected easily; but every day of indulgence and excuse increases the evil, and makes it still more natural, and still more necessary.

9. Learn to despise the world; or, which is a better compendium in the duty, learn but truly to understand it; for it is a cozenage all the way; the head of it is a rainbow, and the face of it is flattery; its words are charms, and all its stories are false ; its body is a shadow, and its hands do knit spiders' webs; it is an image and a noise, with an hyena's lip and a serpent's tail; it was given to serve the needs of our nature; and instead of doing it, it creates strange appetites, and nourishes thirsts and fevers; it brings care, and debauches our nature, and brings shame and death as the reward of all our cares. Our nature is a disease, and the world does nourish it; but if you leave to feed upon such unwholesome diet, your nature reverts to its first purities, and to the entertainments of the grace of God.

4. I am now to consider, how far the infirmities of the flesh can be innocent, and consist with the Spirit of grace. For all these counsels are to be entertained into a willing spirit, and not only so, but into an active : and so long as the spirit is only willing, the weakness of the flesh will in many instances become stronger than the strengths of the spirit. For he that hath a good will, and does not do good

actions, which are required of him, is hindered, but not by God that requires them, and therefore by himself, or his worst enemy. But the measures of this question are these :

1. If the flesh hinders us of our duty, it is our enemy; and then our misery is not, that the flesh is weak, but that it is too strong; but, 2. when it abates the degrees of duty and stops its growth, or its passing on to action and effect, then it is weak, but not directly nor always criminal. But to speak particularly.

1. If our Aesh hinders us of any thing that is a direct duty, and prevails upon the spirit to make it do an evil action, or contract an evil habit, the man is in a state of bondage and sin: his flesh is the mother of corruption and an enemy to God. It is not enough to say, I desire to serve God, and cannot as I would: I would fain love God above all things in the world, but the flesh hath appetites of its own that must be observed : I pray to be forgiven as I forgive others; but flesh and blood cannot put up such an injury : for know that no infirmity, no unavoidable accident, no necessity, no poverty, no business, can hinder us from the love of God, or forgiving injuries, or being of a religious and a devout spirit : poverty and the intrigues of the world are things, that can no more hinder the spirit in these duties, than a strong enemy can hinder the sun to shine, or the clouds to drop rain. These things which God requires of us, and exacts from us with mighty penalties, these he hath made us able to perform ; for he knows that we have no strength but what he gives us; and therefore, as he binds burdens upon our shoulders, so he gives us strength to bear them : and therefore, he that says he cannot forgive, says only that his lust is stronger than his religion; his flesh prevails upon his spirit. For what necessity can a man have to curse him, whom he calls enemy? or to sue him, or kill him, or do him any spite? A man may serve all his needs of nature, though he does nothing of all this; and if he be willing, what hinders him to love, to pardon, to wish well, to desire ? The willing is the doing in this case; and he that says he is willing to do his duty, but he cannot, does not understand what he says. For all the duty of the inner man consists in the actions of the will, and there they are seated, and to it all the inferior faculties obey in those things which are direct

of actions by events, must stay till all events are passed, that is, till all their posterity be dead, and the sentence is given at doom's-day; in the mean time the evils of our nature are to be looked upon without all accidental appendages; as they are in themselves, as they have an irregularity and disorder, an unreasonableness and a sting; and be sure to rely upon nothing, but the truth of laws and promises; and take severe accounts by those lines, which God gave us on purpose to reprove our evil habits and filthy inclinations. Men that are not willing to be cured, are glad of any thing to cozen them; but the body of death cannot be taken off from us, unless we be honest in our purposes, and severe in our counsels, and take just measures, and glorify God, and set ourselves against ourselves, that we may be changed into the likeness of the sons of God.

8. Avoid all delay in the counsels of religion. Because the aversation and perverseness of a child's nature may be corrected easily; but every day of indulgence and excuse increases the evil, and makes it still more natural, and still more necessary.

9. Learn to despise the world; or, which is a better compendium in the duty, learn but truly to understand it; for it is a cozenage all the way; the head of it is a rainbow, and the face of it is flattery; its words are charms, and all its stories are false ; its body is a shadow, and its hands do knit spiders' webs; it is an image and a noise, with an hyena's lip and a serpent's tail; it was given to serve the needs of our nature; and instead of doing it, it creates strange appetites, and nourishes thirsts and fevers; it brings care, and debauches our nature, and brings shame and death as the reward of all our cares. Our nature is a disease, and the world does nourish it; but if you leave to feed upon such unwholesome diet, your nature reverts to its first purities, and to the entertainments of the grace of God.

4. I am now to consider, how far the infirmities of the flesh can be innocent, and consist with the Spirit of grace. For all these counsels are to be entertained into a willing spirit, and not only so, but into an active : and so long as the spirit is only willing, the weakness of the flesh will in many instances become stronger than the strengths of the spirit. For he that hath a good will, and does not do goed

« AnteriorContinuar »