Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

turbance. As a storm could not be so hurtful, were it not for the opposition of trees and houses; it ruins nowhere, but where it is withstood and repelled. It has indeed the same force when it passes over the rush, or the yielding osier : but it does not roar nor become dreadful, till it grapples with the oak, and rattles upon the tops of the cedars. --South.

LESSONS OF WISDOM.

WISDOM instructs us to examine, compare, and rightly to value the objects that court our affections, and challenge our care ; and thereby regulates our passions, and moderates our endeavours, which begets a pleasant serenity and peaceable tranquillity of mind. For when, being deluded with false shows, and relying upon ill-grounded presumptions, we highly esteem, passionately affect, and eagerly pursue things of little worth in themselves, or concernment to us, as we unhandsomely prostitute our affections, and prodigally mis-spend our time, and vainly lose our labour; so the event not answering our expectation, our minds thereby are confounded, disturbed and distempered. But when, guided by right reason, we conceive great esteem of, and are zealously enamoured with, and vigorously strive to attain things of excellent worth, and weighty consequence, the conscience of having well placed our affections, and well employed our pains, and the experience of fruits corresponding to our hopes ravishes our mind with unexpressible content. And so it is : present appearance and vulgar conceit ordinarily impose upon our fancies, disguising things with a deceitful varnish, and representing those that are vainest with the greatest advantage; whilst the noblest objects, being of a more subtle and spiritual nature, like fairest jewels enclosed in a homely box, avoid the notice of gross sense, and pass undiscerned by us. But the light of wisdom, as it un. masks specious imposture, and bereaves it of its false colours : so it penetrates into the retirements of true excellency, and reveals its genuine lustre. For example, corporeal pleasure, which so powerfully allures and en. chants us, wisdom declares that it is but a present, momentary and transient satisfaction of brutish sense, dimming the light, sullying the beauty, impairing the vigour, and restraining the activity of the mind; diverting it from better operations, and indisposing it to enjoy purer delights; leaving no comfortable relish or gladsome memory behind it, but often followed with bitterness, regret and disgrace. That the profit the world so greedily gapes after is but a possession of trifles, not valuable in themselves, nor rendering the masters of them so: accidentally obtained, and promiscuously enjoyed by all sorts, but commonly by the worst of men; difficultly acquired, and easily lost; however, to be used but for a very short time, and then to be resigned into uncertain hands. That the honour men so dote upon is, ordinarily, but the difference of a few petty circumstances, a peculiar name or title, a determinate place, a distinguishing ensign; things of only imaginary excellence, derived from chance, and conferring no advantage, except from some little influence they have upon the arbitrary opinion and fickle humour of the people ; complacence in which is vain, and reliance upon it dangerous. That power and dominion, which men so impatiently struggle for, are but necessary evils introduced to restrain the bad tempers of men; most evil to them that enjoy them ; requiring tedious attendance, distracting care, and vexatious toil; attended with frequent disappointment, opprobrious censure, and dangerous envy; having such real burthens, and slavish incumbrances, sweetened only by superficial pomps, strained obsequiousness, some petty privileges and exemptions scarce worth the mentioning. That wit and parts, of which men make such ostentation, are but natural endowments, commendable only in order to use, apt to engender pride and vanity, and hugely dangerous, if abused or misemployed. Why should I mention beauty, that fading toy; or bodily strength and activity, qualities so palpably inconsiderable ? Upon these and such like flattering objects, so adored by vulgar opinion. Wisdom exercising severe and impartial judgment, and perceiving in them no intrinsic excellence, no solid content springing from them, no perfection thence accruing to the mind, no high reward allotted to them, no security to the future condition, or other durable advantages proceeding from them; it con.' cludes they deserve not any high opinion of the mind, nor any vehement passion of the soul, nor any laborious

care to be employed on them, and moderates our affections toward them: it frees us from anxious desire of them; from being transported with excessive joy in the acquisition of them: from being overwhelmed with disconsolate sorrow at the missing of them, or parting with them; from repining and envying at those who have better success than ourselves in the procuring them: from immoderate toil in getting, and care in preserving them: and so delivering us from all these unquiet anxieties of thought, tumultuous perturbations of passion, and tedious vexations of body, it maintains our minds in a cheerful calm, quiet indifferency, and comfortable liberty. On the other side, things of real worth and high concernment, that produce great satisfaction to the mind, and are mainly conducible to our happiness, such as are a right understanding and strong sense of our obligations to Almighty God, and relations to men, a sound temper and complexion of mind, a virtuous disposition, a capacity to discharge the duties of our places, a due qualification to enjoy the happiness of the other world ; these and such like things, by discovering their nature, and the effects resulting from them, it engages us highly to esteem, ardently to affect, and industriously to pursue; so preventing the inconveniences that follow the want of them, and conveying the benefits arising from the possession of them.-Barrow.

FOOLISH JESTING.

PLAISANCE, and joy, and a lively spirit, and a pleasant conversation, and the innocent caresses of a charitable humanity, is not forbidden; plenum tamen suavitatis et gratiæ sermonem non esse indecorum, Saint Ambrose af. firmed : and here in my text our conversation is commanded to be such, iva xágiv, that it may minister grace, that is, favour, complacence, cheerfulness; and be acceptable and pleasant to the hearer : and so must be our conversation; it must be as far from sullenness as it ought to be from lightness, and a cheerful spirit is the best convoy for religion; and, though sadness does in some cases become a Christian, as being an index of a pious mind, of compassion, and a wise proper resentment of things, yet it serves but one end, being useful in the only instance of repentance; and hath done its greatest works, not when it weeps and sighs, but when it hates and grows careful against sin. But cheerfulness and a festival spirit fills the soul full of harmony-it composes music for Churches and hearts-it makes and publishes glorifications of God-it produces thankfulness and serves the end of charity; and, when the oil of gladness runs over, it makes bright and tall emissions of light and holy fires, reaching up to a cloud, and making joy round about; and, therefore, since it is so innocent, and may be so pious and full of holy advantage, whatsoever can innocently minister to this holy joy does set forward the work of religion and charity. And, indeed, charity itself, which is the vertical top of all religion, is nothing else but a union of joys concentrated in the heart, and reflected from all the angles of our life and intercourse. It is a rejoicing in God, a gladness in our neighbour's good, a pleasure in doing good, a rejoicing with him; and without love we cannot have any joy at all. It is this that makes children to be a pleasure, and friendship to be so noble and divine a thing: and upon this account it is certain that all that which innocently makes a man cheerful, does also make him charitable; for grief, and age, and sickness, and weariness, these are peevish and troublesome; but mirth and cheerfulness is content, and civil, and compliant, and communicative, and loves to do good, and swells up to felicity only upon the wings of charity. Upon this account here is pleasure enough for a Christian at present; and, if a facete discourse, and an amicable friendly mirth can refresh the spirit, and take it off from the vile temptation of peevish, despairing, uncomplying melancholy, it must needs be innocent and commendable. And we may as well be refreshed by a clean and a brisk discourse, as by the air of Campanian wines ; and our faces and our heads may as well be anointed and look pleasant with wit and friendly intercourse, as with the fat of the balsam-tree ; and such a conversation no wise man ever did or ought to reprove. But when the jest hath teeth and nails, biting or scratching our brother, when it is loose and wanton, when it is unseasonable, and, much or many, when it serves ill purposes, or spends better time, then it is the drunkenness of the soul, and makes the spirit fly away, seeking for a temple where the mirth and the music is solemn and religious.-Bishop Taylor.

LUKEWARMNESS AND ZEAL.

He that is warm to-day and cold to-morrow, zealous in his resolution, and weary in his practices, fierce in the beginning, and slack and easy in his progress, hath not yet well chosen what side he will be of. For religion cannot change, though we do; and, if we do, we have left God; and whither he can go that goes from God, his own sorrows will soon enough instruct him. This fire must never go out; but it must be like the fire of heaven; it must shine like the stars, though sometimes covered with a cloud, or obscured by a greater light; yet they dwell for ever in their orbs, and walk in their circles, and observe their circumstances; but go not out by day nor night, and set not when kings die, nor are extinguished when nations change their government. So must the zeal of a Christian be, a constant incentive of his duty; and though sometimes his hand is drawn back by violence or need, and his prayers shortened by the importunity of business, and some parts omitted by necessities and just compliances; yet still the fire is kept alive, it burns within when the light breaks not forth, and is eternal as the orb of fire, or the embers of the altar of incense.

In every action of religion God expects such a warmth, and a holy fire to go along, that it may be able to enkindle the wood upon the altar, and consume the sacrifice; but God hates an indifferent spirit. Earnestness and vivacity ; quickness and delight, perfect choice of the service, and a delight in the prosecution, is all that the spirit of a man can yield towards his religion : the outward work is the effect of the body; but if a man does it heartily and with all his mind, then religion hath wings, and moves upon wheels of fire.

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 so long as the light shines bright, and the fires of devotion and desires flame out, so long the mind of a man stands close to

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »