Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

immediate ends of both, I do not exclude any other which may be involved in these, or result from them. Nor, of what importance these two things are, I need not shew. For since all sin is distinguished in scripture into the filthiness of the spirit and the flesh, it is plain, that the pride of the heart, and the lust of the body, are the two great causes of all immorality and uncleanness. And therefore these are the two great ends which the wise and good have ever had in their eye in all their acts of felf-denial and mortification. This is sufficiently attested by the example of David, Pfal. cxxxi. Lord, I am not high-minded, Í have no proud looks. I do not exercise myself in great matters, which are too high for ; me: But I refrain my foul, and keep it low, like as a child that is weaned from his mother; gea, my soul is even as a weaned child. And from that other of St. Paul, 1 Cor. ix. 25. 26, 27. And every one that striveth for the mastery, is temperate in all things: Now, they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore fo run, not as uncertainly ; fo fight I, not as one that beateth the air : but I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection ; left that by any means when I have preached to others, I myself Jould be a cast-away. Whoever thus mortifies the pride of the heart, whoever thus brings under the body, will soon find him

felf

self truly set free, and master of himself and fortune : he will be able to run the way of God's commandments, and to advance on swiftly towards Perfe&tion, and the pleasure and happiness that attends it: .

And to attain these blessed ends, I do not think that we need ensnare our souls in the perpetual bonds of monaftick vows; I do not think that we are to expose our selyes by any ridiculous or fantastick observances: there is, I say, no need of this, for we may, as oft as we shall see fit, retrench our pleasures, abate of the shew and figure of life; we may renounce our own wills to comply with theirs who cannot so well pretend either to authority or discretion: and if these things cannot be done in some cirumstances, without becoming fools for Christ; that is, without that tameness, that condescension, that diminution of our felves which will never comport with the humours and the fashions of the world; here is still the more room for mortification, and for a nearer and more eminent imitation of the blessed Jefus : provided still we decline all affectation of singularity; and when we practise any extraordinary instance of self-denial, we be ever able to justify it to religious and judicious persons, by the proposal of some excellent end. Fasting indeed is plainly defcribed in fcripture, and tho' the obligation

K

[ocr errors]

to it, with respect to its frequency and meafure, be not the fame on all, yet all should some time or other practise it, as far as the rules of Christian prudence will permit. And I have often thought, that fasting should generally confift, rather in abstinence from pleaping meats, than from all; not the food which nourifkes our strength, but thąt whicb gratifies the palate, ministring most directly to wantonness and luxury.

For the better regulating of voluntary discipline, I propole, by way of advice, three things. 1. I do not think it best to bring our felves under any perpetual and unalterable ties in any, instance bf felf-denial: there is a virtue in enjoying the world, as well as in renouncing it; and 'tis as great an excellence of religion to know how to abound, as how to suffer. want. Nay, what is more, all voluntary austerities are in order to give us a power and dominion over our felves in the general course of a prosperous life. And, lastly, I very much doubt, when once a man has long and constantly accustomed himself to any rigour, whether it continue to have much of mortification in it, or whether it fo effectually tend to promote our spiritual liberty, as it would if we did return to it but now and tken, as we saw occasion. 2. We must not multiply unnecessary severities;

and

and that no man may think more needful than really are, I observe here, that as there are very few who have not in their nature very considerable infirmities, fo are tfieré as few who have not in their fortune very considerable inconveniences : and if they would apply themselves to the mastering of both these as they ought, they would stand in less need of the discipline of arbifrary austerities There are many things too trifling to be taken notice of, which yet do prove fufficient to difturb the quiet of mtoft, and betray them to many pasfions and indecencies: nay, the weakneffes of good men are sometimes fed by temptations of very little moment. Now, to surmount these temptations, and to frame and accommodate the mind to bear the little shocks and justies which we daily meer with, without any discomposure or difpleasure, is a matter of great use tɔ the franquility of life, and the maturity of virtue. To be able to bear the pride of one, and the stupidity of another; one while to encounter rudeness, another while neglect, without being moved by either; to submit to noile, disorder, and the distraction of many little affairs, when one is naturally a lover of quietness and order; or when the mind is intent upon things of importance; in a word; to digeft' tlie perpetual disappointinents which

we meet with, both in business and pleafure, and in all the little projects, which !! not the elegant and ingenious only, but I people of all stations and all capacities purfue ; to suffer all the humours and follies, the errors, artifices, indecencies, and faults of those we have to do with, with that temper we ought, that is, with a calmness which proceeds, not from an unconcernment for the good of others, but a just dominion over our own spirits : this is a great height; and to train our selves up to it daily with much patience, vigilance, and application of mind, is the best discipline : tho' I do not mean hereby to exclude all voluntary impoßtions ; for, in order to master the evils which we cannot avoid, it may be of good use now and then to form the mind by voluntary tryals and difficulties of our own chusing.' 3. Lastly, We must ever have a care not to lose the substance for the shadow; not to rest in the means, and neglect the end ; being much taken up in discipline, without producing any fruit of it. For this is taking much pains to little purpose; travelling much without making any progress. Buc much more must we take care in the next place, that the discipline we put our selves upon, do not produce any ill fruit. To which end, we must carefully observe three things. 1. That we keep to that mo

deration

« AnteriorContinuar »