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WHEN I look on a leaden bullet, therein I can read both God’s mercy and man’s malice. God’s mercy, whose providence, foreseeing that men of lead would make instruments of cruelty, did give that metal a medicinal virtue; as it hurts, so it also heals; and a bullet sent in by man’s hatred into a fleshy and no vital part, will (with ordinary care and curing), out of a natural charity, work its own way out. But oh! how devilish were those men who, to frustrate and defeat his goodness, and to countermand the healing power of lead, first found the champing and empoisoning of bullets! Fools, who account themselves honoured with the shameful title of being the inventors of evil things, [Rom. i. 30.] endeavouring to out-infinite God’s kindness with their cruelty.63
I HAVE heard some men, rather causelessly captious than judicially critical, cavil at grammarians for calling some conjunctions disjunctive, as if this were a flat contradiction. Whereas, indeed, the same particle may conjoin words, and yet disjoin the sense. But, alas! how sad is the present condition of Christians, who have a communion disuniting. The Lord’s Supper, ordained by our Saviour to conjoin our affections, hath disjoined our judgments. Yea, it is to be feared, lest our long quarrels about the manner of his presence cause the matter of his absence, for our want of charity to receive him.
I HAVE observed that children, when they first put on new shoes, are very curious to keep them clean. Scarce will they set their feet on the ground for fear to dirt the soles of their shoes. Yea, rather they will wipe the leather clean with their coats; and yet, perchance, the next day they will trample with the same shoes in the mire up to the ankles. Alas! children’s play is our earnest. On that day wherein we receive the sacrament, we are often 64over-precise, scrupling to say or do those things which lawfully we may. But we, who are more than curious that day, are not so much as careful the next; and too often (what shall I say?) go on in sin up to the ankles: yea, our sins go over our heads. [Psalm xxxviii. 4.]
I KNOW some men very desirous to see the devil, because they conceive such an apparition would be a confirmation of their faith. For then, by the logic of opposites, they will conclude there is a God because there is a devil. Thus they will not believe there is a heaven, except hell itself will be deposed for a witness thereof. Surely such men’s wishes are vain, and hearts are wicked; for if they will not believe, having Moses and the prophets, and the apostles, they will not believe, no, if the devil from hell appears unto them. Such apparitions were never ordained by God as the means of faith. Besides, Satan will never show himself but to his own advantage. If as a devil, to fright them, if as an angel of light, to flatter them, how ever to hurt them. For my part, I never desire to see him. And O (if it were possible) that I might never feel him in his motions and temptations! I say, let me never see 65him till the day of judgment, where he shall stand arraigned at the bar, and God’s majesty sit judge on the bench ready to condemn him.
I OBSERVE that antiquaries, such as prize skill above profit (as being rather curious than covetous), do prefer the brass coins of the Roman emperors before those in gold and silver. Because there is much falseness and forgery daily detected, and more suspected, in gold and silver medals, as being commonly cast and counterfeited, whereas brass coins are presumed upon as true and ancient, because it will not quit cost for any to counterfeit them. Plain dealing, Lord, what I want in wealth may I have in sincerity. I care not how mean metal my estate be of, if my soul have the true stamp, really impressed with the unfeigned image of the King of Heaven.
LOOKING on the chapel of King Henry the Seventh, in Westminster, (God grant I may once again see it, with the saint who belongs to it, our sovereign, there in a well-conditioned peace,) I say, looking on the outside of the chapel, I have much admired the curious 66workmanship thereof. It added to the wonder, that it is so shadowed with mean houses, well-nigh on all sides, that one may almost touch it as soon as see it. Such a structure needed no base buildings about it, as foils to set it off. Rather this chapel may pass for the emblem of a great worth living in a private way. How is he pleased with his own obscurity, whilst others of less desert make greater show: and whilst proud people stretch out their plumes in ostentation, he useth their vanity for his shelter; more pleased to have worth than to have others take notice of it.
THE mariners at sea count it the sweetest perfume when the water in the keel of their ship doth stink. For hence they conclude that it is but little, and long since leaked in; but it is woful with them when the water is felt before it is smelt, as fresh flowing in upon them in abundance. It is the best savour in a Christian soul when his sins are loathsome and offensive unto him. A happy token that there hath not been of late in him any insensible supply of heinous offences, because his stale sins are still his new and daily sorrow.67
I HAVE sometimes considered in what troublesome case is that chamberlain in an inn, who, being but one, is to give attendance to many guests. For suppose them ah 1 in one chamber, yet if one shall command him to come to the window, and the other to the table, and another to the bed, and another to the chimney, and another to come up stairs, and another to go down stairs, and all in the same instant, how would he be distracted to please them all. And yet such is the sad condition of my soul by nature, not only a servant, but a slave unto sin. Pride calls me to the window, gluttony to the table, wantonness to the bed, laziness to the chimney, ambition commands me to go up stairs, and covetousness to come down. Vices, I see, are as well contrary to themselves as to virtue. Free me, Lord, from this distracted case; fetch me from being sin’s servant to be thine, whose service is perfect freedom; for thou art but one and ever the same, and always enjoinest commands agreeable to themselves, thy glory, and my good.
I HAVE observed, that towns which have been casually burnt have been built again 68more beautiful than before; mud walls, afterwards made of stone; and roofs, formerly but thatched, after advanced to be tiled. The Apostle tells me, that I must not think strange concerning the fiery trial which is to happen unto me. [1 Peter iv. 12.] May I likewise prove improved by it. Let my renewed soul, which grows out of the ashes of the old man, be a more firm fabric, and stronger structure: so shall affliction be my advantage.
OUR Saviour saith, When thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth. [Matth. vi. 3.] Yet one may generally observe, that almshouses are commonly built by highway sides, the ready road to ostentation. However, far be it from me to make bad comments on their bounty; I rather interpret it, that they place those houses so publicly, thereby not to gain applause, but imitation. Yea, let those who will plant pious works, have the liberty to choose their own ground. Especially in this age, wherein we are likely, neither in by-ways nor highways, to have any works of mercy, till the whole kingdom be speedily turned into one great hospital, and God’s charity only able to relieve us.69
HOW wrangling and litigious were we in time of peace! How many actions were created of nothing! Suits we had commenced about a mouthful of grass, or a handful of hay. Now he, who formerly would sue his neighbour for pedibus ambulando, can behold his whole field lying waste and must be content. We see our goods taken from us and dare say nothing, not so much as seeking any legal redress, because certain not to find it. May we be restored in due time to our former properties, but not to our former peevishness. And when law shall be again awaked (or rather revived), let us express our thanks to God for so great a gift, by using it not wantonly (as formerly, in vexing our neighbours about trifles), but soberly, to right ourselves in matters of moment.
ALMOST twenty years since I heard a profane jest, and still remember it. How many pious passages of far later date have I forgotten. It seems my soul is like a filthy pond, wherein fish die soon, and frogs live long. Lord, raze this profane jest out of my memory. 70Leave not a letter thereof behind, lest my corruption (an apt scholar) guess it out again; and be pleased to write some pious meditation in the place thereof. And grant, Lord, for the time to come, (because such bad guests are easier kept out,) that I may be careful not to admit what I find so difficult to expel.
I PERCEIVE there is in the world a good-nature, falsely so called, as being nothing else but a facile and flexible disposition, wax for every impression. What others are so bold to beg, they are so bashful as not to deny. Such osiers can never make beams to bear stress in church and state. If this be good-nature, let me always be a clown; if this be good-fellowship, let me always be a churl. Give me to set a sturdy porter before my soul, who may not equally open to every comer. I cannot conceive how he can be a friend to any, who is a friend to all, and the worst foe to himself.
HA is the interjection of laughter; Ah is an interjection of sorrow. The difference betwixt them very small, as consisting 71only in the transposition of what is no substantial letter, but a bare aspiration. How quickly, in the age of a minute, in the very turning of a breath, is our mirth changed into mourning!
I HAVE a great friend whom I endeavour and desire to please, but hitherto all in vain: the more I seek, the farther off I am from finding his favour. Whence comes this miscarriage? Are not my applications to man more frequent than my addresses to my Maker? Do I not love his smiles more than I fear Heaven’s frowns? I confess, to my shame, that sometimes his anger hath grieved me more than my sins. Hereafter, by thy assistance, I will labour to approve my ways in God’s presence; so shall I either have, or not need his friendship, and either please him with more ease, or displease him with less danger.
THIS nation is scourged with a wasting war. Our sins were ripe; God could no longer be just if we were prosperous. Blessed be his name that I have suffered my share in the calamities of my country. Had I poised 72myself so politically betwixt both parties, that I had suffered from neither, yet could I have taken no contentment in my safe escaping. For why should I, equally engaged with others in sinning, be exempted above them from the punishment? And seeing the bitter cup, which my brethren have pledged, to pass by me, I should fear it would be filled again, and returned double, for me to drink it. Yea, I should suspect that I were reserved alone for a greater shame and sorrow. It is therefore some comfort that I draw in the same yoke with my neighbours, and with them jointly bear the burden which our sins jointly brought upon us.
WHEN, in my private prayers, I have been to confess my bosom sins unto God, I have been loath to speak them aloud; fearing (though no man could, yet) that the devil would overhear me, and make use of my words against me. It being probable, that, when I have discovered the weakest part of my soul, he would assault me there. Yet since, I have considered that therein I shall tell Satan no news, which he knew not before. Surely I have not managed my secret sins with such privacy, but that he, from some circumstances, 73collected what they were. Though the fire was within, he saw some smoke without. Wherefore, for the future, I am resolved to acknowledge my darling faults, though alone, yet aloud; that the devil, who rejoiced in partly knowing of my sins, may be grieved more by hearing the expression of my sorrow. As for any advantage he may make from my confession, this comforts me: God’s goodness in assisting me will be above Satan’s malice in assaulting me.
IN the midst of my morning prayers I had a good meditation, which since I have forgotten. Thus much I remember of it, that it was pious in itself, but not proper for that time. For it took much from my devotion, and added nothing to my instruction; and my soul, not able to intend two things at once, abated of its fervency in praying. Thus snatching at two employments, I held neither well. Sure this meditation came not from him who is the God of order; he useth to fasten all his nails, and not to drive out one with another. If the same meditation return again when I have leisure and room to receive it, I will say it is of his sending, who so mustereth and 74marshalleth all good actions, that, like the soldiers in his army, mentioned in the Prophet, they shall not thrust one another, they shall walk every one in his own path. [Joel ii. 8.]
WHEN I go speedily in any action, Lord, give me to call my soul to an account. It is a shrewd suspicion that my bowl runs downhill, because it runs so fast. And, Lord, when I go in an unlawful way, start some rubs to stop me, let my foot slip or stumble. And give me the grace to understand the language of the lets thou throwest in my way. Thou hast promised, I will hedge up thy way. [Hosea ii. 6.] Lord, be pleased to make the hedge high enough and thick enough, that if I be so mad as to adventure to climb over it, I may not only soundly rake my clothes, but rend my flesh; yea, let me rather be caught, and stick in the hedge, than, breaking in through it, fall on the other side into the deep ditch of eternal damnation.
COMING hastily into a chamber, I had almost thrown down a crystal hourglass. Fear lest I had, made me grieve as if 75I had broken it. But, alas! how much precious time have I cast away without any regret! The hour-glass was but crystal, each hour a pearl; that but like to be broken, this lost outright: that but casually, this done wilfully. A better hour-glass might be bought; but time lost once, lost ever. Thus we grieve more for toys than for treasure. Lord, give me an hour-glass, not to be by me, but to be in me. Teach me to number my days. [Psalm xc. 12.] An hour-glass to turn me, that I may apply my heart unto wisdom.
WHEN a child, I loved to look on the pictures in the Book of Martyrs. I thought that there the martyrs at the stake seemed like the three children in the fiery furnace, [Dan. iii. 27 ] ever since I had known them there, not one hair more of their head was burnt, nor any smell of the fire singeing of their clothes. This made me think martyrdom was nothing. But oh, though the lion be painted fiercer than he is, the fire is far fiercer than it is painted. Thus it is easy for one to endure an affliction, as he limns it out in his own fancy, and represents it to himself but in a bare speculation. But when it is brought indeed, and laid home to us, there must be 76the man, yea, there must be God to assist the man to undergo it.
TRAVELLING on the plain (which notwithstanding hath its risings and fallings), I discovered Salisbury steeple many miles off; coming to a declivity, I lost sight thereof; but climbing up the next hill, the steeple grew out of the ground again. Yea, I often found it and lost it, till at last I came safely to it, and took my lodging near it. It fareth thus with us, whilst we are wayfaring to heaven, mounted on the Pisgah top of some good meditation, we get a glimpse of our celestial Canaan. [Deut. xxxiv. 1.] But when either on the flat of an ordinary temper, or in the fall of an extraordinary temptation, we lose the view thereof. Thus, in the sight of our soul, heaven is discovered covered, and recovered; till, though late, at last, though slowly, surely, we arrive at the haven of our happiness.
LORD, I find myself in the latitude of a fever; I am neither well nor ill; not so well that I have any mind to be merry with my friends, nor so ill that my friends have 77any cause to condole with me. I am a probationer in point of my health. As I shall behave myself, so I may be either expelled out of it, or admitted into it. Lord, let my distemper stop here and go no farther. Shoot thy murdering pieces against that clay castle, which surrendereth itself at the first summons. O spare me a little, that I may recover my strength. I beg not to be forgiven, but to be forborne my debt to nature. And I only crave time for a while, till I am better fitted and furnished to pay it.
IT seemed strange to me when I was told, that aqua-vitae, which restores life to others, should itself be made of the droppings of dead beer; and that strong waters should be extracted out of the dregs (almost) of small beer. Surely many other excellent ingredients must concur, and much art must be used in the distillation. Despair not then, O my soul! No extraction is impossible where the chemist is infinite. He that is all in all can produce anything out of anything; and he can make my soul, which by nature is settled on her lees, [Zeph. i. 12.] and dead in sin, to be quickened by the infusion of his grace, and purified into a pious disposition.78
HOW easy is pen and paper piety for one to write religiously! I will not say it costeth nothing, but it is far cheaper to work one’s head than one’s heart to goodness. Some, perchance, may guess me to be good by my writings, and so I shall deceive my reader. But if I do not desire to be good, I most of all deceive myself. I can make a hundred meditations sooner than subdue the least sin in my soul. Yea, I was once in the mind never to write more; for fear lest my writings at the last day prove records against me. And yet why should I not write? that by reading my own book, the disproportion betwixt my lines and my life may make me blush myself (if not into goodness) into less badness than I would do otherwise. That so my writings may condemn me, and make me to condemn myself, that so God may be moved to acquit me.79
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