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THE FOURTH CENTURY
HAVING spoken so much concerning his entrance and progress in Felicity, I will in this century speak of the principles with which your friend endued himself to enjoy it. For besides contemplative, there is an active happiness, which consisteth in blessed operations. And as some things fit a man for contemplation, so there are others fitting him for action: which as they are infinitely necessary to practical happiness, so are they likewise infinitely conducive to contemplative itself.
He thought it a vain thing to see glorious principles lie buried in books, unless he did remove them into his understanding; and a vain thing to remove them unless he did revive them, and raise them up by continual exercise. Let this therefore be the first principle of your soul That to have no principles or to live 239beside them, is equally miserable. And that philosophers are not those that speak but do great things.
He thought that to be a Philosopher, a Christian, and a Divine, was to be one of the most illustrious creatures in the world; and that no man was a man in act, but only in capacity, that was not one of these, or rather all. For either of these three include the other two. A Divine includes a Philosopher and a Christian; a Christian includes a Divine and a Philosopher; a Philosopher includes a Christian and a Divine. Since no man therefore can be a man unless he be a Philosopher, nor a true Philosopher unless he be a Christian, nor a perfect Christian, unless he be a Divine, every man ought to spend his time, in studying diligently Divine Philosophy.
This last principle needs a little explication. Not only because Philosophy is condemned for vain, but because it is superfluous among inferior Christians, and impossible, as some think, unto them. We must distinguish therefore of philosophy and of Christians also. Some philosophy, as Saint Paul says, is vain, but then it is vain philosophy. But there is also a Divine Philosophy, of which no books in the world are more full than his own. That we are naturally the Sons of 240God (I speak of primitive and upright nature,) that the Son of God is the first beginning of every creature, that we are to be changed from glory to glory into the same Image, that we are spiritual Kings, that Christ is the express Image of His Father’s person, that by Him all things are made whether they are visible or invisible, is the highest Philosophy in the world; and so is it also to treat, as he does, of the nature of virtues and Divine Laws. Yet no man, I suppose, will account these superfluous, or vain, for in the right knowledge of these Eternal Life consisteth. And till we see into the beauty and blessedness of God’s Laws, the glory of His works, the excellency of our soul, &c. we are but children of darkness, at least but ignorant and imperfect: neither able to rejoice in God as we ought, nor to live in communion with Him. Rather we should remember that Jesus Christ is the Wisdom of the Father, and that since our life is hid with Christ in God, we should spend our days in studying Wisdom, that we might be like unto Him:that the treasures of Heaven are the treasures of Wisdom, and that they are hid in Christ. As it is written, In Him are hid all the treasures of Wisdom and Knowledge.
In distinguishing of Christians we ought to consider that Christians are of two sorts, perfect or imperfect, intelligent and mature, or weak and inexperienced: (I will not say ignorant, for an ignorant Christian is a 241contradiction in nature. I say not that an imperfect Christian is the most glorious creature in the whole world, nor that it, is necessary for him, if he loves to be imperfect, to be a Divine Philosopher. But he that is perfect is a Divine Philosopher, and the most glorious creature in the whole world. Is not a Philosopher a lover of wisdom? That is the signification of the very word, and sure it is the essence of a Christian, or very near it, to be a lover of wisdom. Can a Christian be so degenerate as to be a lover of imperfection? Does not your very nature abhor imperfection? Tis true a Christian so far as he is defective and imperfect may be ignorant, yet still he is a lover of wisdom and a studier of it. He may be defective, but so far as he is defective he is no Christian, for a Christian is not a Christian in his blemishes, but his excellencies. Nor is a man indeed a man in his ignorances, but his wisdom. Blemishes may mar a man, and spoil a Christian, but they cannot make him. Defects may be in him and cleave unto him, but they are to be shaken off and repented. Every man therefore according to his degree, so far forth as he is a Christian, is a Philosopher.
Furthermore doth not St. Paul command us in understanding to be men? That implies that with little understanding we are but children, and without understanding are not men, but dreams and shadows, insignificant shells and mere apparitions. Doth he not earnestly 242pray, that their hearts may be comforted, being knit together in Love, unto all the riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ? This plainly shows, that though a weak Christian may believe great things by an implicit faith, yet it is very desirable his faith should be turned into assurance, and that cannot be but by the riches of knowledge and understanding. For he may believe that God is, and that Jesus Christ is his Saviour, and that his soul is immortal, and that there are joys in heaven, and that the scriptures are God’s Word, and that God loves him, &c., so far as to yield obedience in some measure, but he can never come to a full assurance of all this, but by seeing the riches of the full assurance, i.e., those things which are called the riches of the full assurance; for being known they give us assurance of the truth of all things: the glory of God’s laws, the true dignity of his own soul, the excellency of God’s ways, the magnificent goodness of His works, and the real blessedness of the state of grace. All which a man is so clearly to see, that he is not more sensible of the reality of the sunbeams. How else should he live in communion with God, to wit, in the enjoyment of them? For a full assurance of the reality of his joys is infinitely necessary to the possession of them.243
This digression steals me a little further. Is it not the shame and reproach of Nature, that men should spend so much time in studying trades, and be so ready skilled in the nature of clothes, of grounds, of gold and silver, &c., and to think it much to spend a little time in the study of God, themselves, and happiness? What have men to do in this world, but to make themselves happy? Shall it ever be praised, and despised? Verily, happiness being the sovereign and supreme of our concerns, should have the most peculiar portion of our time, and other things what she can spare. It more concerns me to be Divine than to have a purse of gold. And therefore as Solomon said, We must dig for her as for gold and silver, and that is the way to understand the fear of the Lord, and to find the knowledge of God. It is a strange thing that men will be such enemies to themselves. Wisdom is the principal thing, yet all neglect her. Wherefore get wisdom, and with all thy getting get understanding. Exalt her and she shalt promote thee, she shall bring thee to honour when thou dost embrace her. She shall give to thy head an ornament of grace, a crown of glory shall she deliver to thee. Had you certain tidings of a mine of gold, would the care of your ordinary affairs detain you, could you have it for the digging? Nothing more ruins the world than a conceit that a little knowledge is sufficient. Which is a mere lazy dream to cover our sloth or enmity against God. Can you go to a mine of gold, and not to wisdom, 244 (to dig for it) without being guilty, either of a base despondency and distrust of wisdom that she will not bring you to such glorious treasures as is promised; or else of a vile and lazy humour that makes you despise them, because of the little but long labour you apprehend between? Nothing keeps men out of the Temple of Honour, but that the Temple of Virtue stands between, But this was his principle that loved Happiness, and is your friend: I came into this world only that I might be happy. And whatsoever it cost me, I will be happy. A happiness there is, and it is my desire to enjoy it.
Philosophers are not only those that contemplate happiness, but practise virtue. He is a Philosopher that subdues his vices, lives by reason, orders his desires, rules his passions, and submits not to his senses, nor is guided by the customs of this world. He despiseth those riches which men esteem, he despiseth those honours which men esteem, he forsaketh those pleasures which men esteem. And having proposed to himself a superior end than is commonly discerned, bears all discouragements, breaks through all difficulties and lives unto it: that having seen the secrets and the secret beauties of the highest reason, orders his conversation, and lives by rule: though in this age it be held never so strange that he should do so. Only he is Divine because he does this upon noble principles; because God is, because Heaven is, because Jesus Christ hath redeemed him, and because he loves 245Him: not only because virtue is amiable, and felicity delightful, but for that also.
Once more we will distinguish of Christians. There are Christians that place and desire all their happiness in another life, and there is another sort of Christians that desire happiness in this. The one can defer their enjoyment of Wisdom till the World to come, and dispense with the increase and perfection of knowledge for a little time: the other are instant and impatient of delay, and would fain see that happiness here, which they shall enjoy hereafter. Not the vain happiness of this world, falsely called happiness, truly vain: but the real joy and glory of the blessed, which consisteth in the enjoyment of the whole world in communion with God; not this only, but the invisible and eternal, which they earnestly covet to enjoy immediately: for which reason they daily pray Thy kingdom come, and travail towards it by learning Wisdom as fast as they can. Whether the first sort be Christians indeed, look you to that. They have much to say for themselves. Yet certainly they that put off felicity with long delays are to be much suspected. For it is against the nature of love and desire to defer. Nor can any reason be given why they should desire it at last, and not now. If they say because God hath commanded them, that is false: for He offereth it now, now they are commanded to have their conversation in 246Heaven, now they may be full of joy and full of glory. Ye are not straitened in me, but in your own bowels. Those Christians that can defer their felicity may be contented with their ignorance.
He that will not exchange his riches now will not forsake them hereafter. He must forsake them but will hardly be persuaded to do it willingly. He will leave them but not forsake them, for which cause two dishonours cleave unto him; and if at death, eternally. First, he comes off the stage unwillingly, which is very unhandsome: and secondly, he prefers his riches above his happiness. Riches are but servants unto happiness; when they are impediments to it they cease to be riches. As long as they are conducive to Felicity they are desirable; but when they are incompatible are abominable. For what end are riches endeavoured, why do we desire them, but that we may be more happy? When we see the pursuit of riches destructive to Felicity, to desire them is of all things in nature the most absurd and the most foolish. I ever thought that nothing was desirable for itself but happiness, and that whatever else we desire, it is of value only in relation, and order to it.
That maxim also which your friend used is of very great and Divine concernment: I will first spend a great 247deal of time in seeking Happiness, and then a great deal more in enjoying it. For if Happiness be worthy to be sought, it is worthy to be enjoyed. As no folly in the world is more vile than that pretended by alchemists, of having the Philosopher’s Stone and being contented without using it: so is no deceit more odious, than that of spending many days in studying, and none in enjoying, happiness. That base pretence is an argument of falsehood and mere forgery in them, that after so much toil in getting it they refuse to use it. Their pretence is that they are so abundantly satisfied in having it, that they care not for the use of it. So the neglect of any man that finds it, shows that indeed he hath lost of happiness. That which he hath found is counterfeit ware, if he neglect to use it: tis only because he cannot; true happiness being too precious to be despised. Shall I forsake all riches and pleasures for happiness, and pursue it many days and months and years, and then neglect and bury it when I have it? I will now spend days and nights in possessing it, as I did before in seeking it. It is better being happy than asleep.
Happiness was not made to be boasted, but enjoyed. Therefore tho others count me miserable, I will not believe them if I know and feel myself to be happy; nor fear them. I was not born to approve myself to them, but God. A man may enjoy great delights, without telling them.248
Tacitus si pasci potuisset Corvus, haberet
Plus dapis & rixae minus invidiaeque.
Could but the crow in lonely silence eat,
She then would have less envy and more meat.
Heaven is a place where our happiness shall be seen of all. We shall there enjoy the happiness of being seen in happiness, without the danger of ostentation: but here men are blind and corrupted, and cannot see; if they could, we are corrupted, and in danger of abusing it. I knew a man that was mightily derided in his pursuit of happiness, till he was understood, and then admired; but he lost all by his miscarriage.
One great discouragement to Felicity, or rather to great souls in the pursuit of Felicity, is the solitariness of the way that leadeth to her temple. A man that studies happiness must sit alone like a sparrow upon the house-top, and like a pelican in the wilderness. And the reason is because all men praise happiness and despise it. Very few shall a man find in the way of wisdom: and few indeed that having given up their names to wisdom and felicity, that will persevere in seeking it. Either he must go on alone, or go back for company. People are tickled with the name of it, and some are persuaded to enterprise a little, but quickly draw back when they see the trouble, yea, cool of themselves without any trouble. Those mysteries 249which while men are ignorant of, they would give all the gold in the world for, I have seen when known to be despised. Not as if the nature of happiness were such that it did need a veil: but the nature of man is such that it is odious and ungrateful. For those things which are most glorious when most naked, are by men when most nakedly revealed, most despised. So that God is fain for His very name’s sake lest His beauties should be scorned, to conceal her beauties: and for the sake of men, which naturally are more prone to pry into secret and forbidden things, than into open and common. Felicity is amiable under a veil, but most amiable when most naked. It hath its times and seasons for both. There is some pleasure in breaking the shell: and many delights in our addresses previous to the sweets in the possession of her, It is some part of Felicity that we must seek her.
In order to this, he furnished himself with this maxim: It is a good thing to be happy alone. It is better to be happy in company, but good to be happy alone. Men owe me the advantage of their society, but if they deny me that just debt, I will not be unjust to myself, and side with them in bereaving me. I will not be discouraged, lest I be miserable for company. More company increases happiness, but does not lighten or diminish misery.250
In order to interior or contemplative happiness, it is a good principle: that apprehensions within are better than their objects. Mornay’s simile of the saw is admirable If a man would cut with a saw, he must not apprehend it to be a knife, but a thing with teeth, otherwise he cannot use it. He that mistakes his knife to be an auger, or his hand to be his meat, confounds himself by misapplications. These mistakes are ocular. But far more absurd ones are unseen. To mistake the world, or the nature of one’s soul, is a more dangerous error. He that thinks the Heavens and the Earth not his, can hardly use them; and he that thinks the sons of men impertinent to his joy and happiness can scarcely love them. But he that knows them to be instruments and what they are, will delight in them; and is able to use them. Whatever we misapprehend we cannot use; nor well enjoy what we cannot use. Nor can anything be our happiness we cannot enjoy. Nothing therefore can be our happiness, but that alone which we rightly apprehend. To apprehend God our enemy destroys our happiness. Inward apprehensions are the very light of blessedness, and the cement of souls and their objects.
Of what vast importance right principles are we may see by this,‑Things prized are enjoyed. All things are ours; all things serve us and minister to us, 251could we find the way: nay they are ours, and serve us so perfectly, that they are best enjoyed in their proper places: even from the sun to a sand, from a cherubim to a worm. I will not except gold and silver, and crowns and precious stones, nor any delights or secret treasures in closets and palaces. For if otherwise God would not be perfect in bounty. But suppose the world were all yours, if this principle be rooted in you, to prize nothing that is yours, it blots out all at one dash, and bereaves you of a whole world in a moment.
If God be yours, and all the joys and inhabitants in Heaven,, if you, be resolved to prize nothing great and excellent, nothing, sublime and eternal, you lay waste your possessions, and make vain your enjoyment of all permanent and glorious things. So that you must be sure to inure yourself frequently to these principles and to impress them deeply; I will prize all I have, and nothing shall with me be less esteemed, because it is excellent. A daily joy shall be more my joy, because it is continual. A common joy is more my delight because it is common. For all mankind are my friends, and everything is enriched in serving them. A little grit in the eye destroyeth the sight of the very heavens, and a little malice or envy a world of joys. One wry principle in the mind is of infinite consequence. I will ever prize what I have, and so much the more because I have it. To prize a thing 252when it is gone breedeth torment and repining; to prize it while we have it joy and thanksgiving.
All these relate to enjoyment, but those principles that relate to communication are more excellent. These are principles of retirement and solitude; but the principles that aid us in conversation are far better and help us, though not so immediately to enjoyment, in a far more blessed and divine manner. For it is more blessed to give than to receive; and we are more happy in communication than enjoyment, but only that communication is enjoyment; as indeed what we give we best receive. For the joy of communicating and the joy of receiving maketh perfect happiness. And therefore are the sons of men our greatest treasures, because they can give and receive: treasures perhaps infinite as well as affections. But this I am sure they are our treasures, and therefore is conversation so delightful, because they are the greatest.
The world is best enjoyed and most immediately while we converse blessedly and wisely with men. I am sure it were desirable that they could give and receive infinite treasures: and perhaps they can. For whomsoever I love as myself, to him I give myself, and all my happiness; which I think is infinite: and I receive 253him and all his happiness, Yea, in him I receive God, for God delighteth me for being his blessedness: so that a man obligeth me infinitely that maketh himself happy; and by making himself happy, giveth me himself and all his happiness. Besides this he loveth me infinitely, as God doth; and he dare do no less for God’s sake. Nay he loveth God for loving me, and delighteth in Him for being good unto me. So that I am magnified in his affections, represented in his understanding, tenderly beloved, carressed and honoured: and this maketh society delightful. But here upon earth it is subject t changes. And therefore this principle is always to be firm, as the foundation of Bliss; God only is my sovereign happiness and friend in the World. Conversation is full of dangers, and friendships are mortal among the sons of men. But communion with God is infinitely secure, and He my Happiness.
He from whom I received these things, always thought, that to be happy in the midst of a generation of vipers was become his duty: for men and he are fallen into sin. Were all men wise and innocent, it were easy to be happy, for no man would injure and molest another. But he that would be happy now, must be happy among ingrateful and infurious persons. That knowledge which would make a man happy among just and holy persons, is unuseful now: and those principles only profitable that will make a man happy, not only in 254peace, but blood, On every side we are environed with enemies, surrounded with reproaches, encompassed with wrongs, besieged with offences, receiving evil for good, being disturbed by fools, and invaded with malice. This is the true estate of this world, which lying in wickedness, as our Saviour witnesseth, yieldeth no better fruits, than the bitter clusters of folly and perverseness, the grapes of Sodom, and the seeds of Gomorrah. Blind wretches that wound themselves offend me. I need therefore the oil of pity and the balm of love to remedy and heal them. Did they see the beauty of Holiness or the face of Happiness, they would not do so. To think the world therefore a general Bedlam, or place of madmen, and oneself a physician, is the most necessary point of present wisdom: an important imagination, and the way to Happiness.
He thought within himself that this world was far better than Paradise had men eyes to see its glory, and their advantages. For the very miseries and sins and offences that are in it are the materials of his joy and triumph and glory. So that he is to learn a diviner art that will now be happy, and that is like a royal chemist to reign among poisons, to turn scorpions into fishes, weeds into flowers, bruises into ornaments, poisons into cordials. And he that cannot learn this art, of extracting good out of evil, is to be accounted nothing. Heretofore, 255 to enjoy beauties, and be grateful for benefits was all the art that was required to felicity, but now a man must, like a God, bring Light out of Darkness, and order out of confusion. Which we are taught to do by His wisdom, that ruleth in the midst of storms and tempests.
He generally held, that whosoever would enjoy the happiness of Paradise must put on the charity of Paradise, And that nothing was his Felicity but his Duty. He called his house the house of Paradise: not only because it was the place wherein he enjoyed the whole world, but because it was every one’s house in the whole world. For observing the methods and studying the nature of charity in Paradise, he found that all men would be brothers and sisters throughout the whole world, and evermore love one another as their own selves, though they had never seen each other before. From whence it would proceed that every man approaching him, would be as welcome as an Angel, and the coming of a stranger as delightful as the Sun; all things in his house being as much the foreigner’s as they were his own: Especially if he could infuse any knowledge or grace unto him.
To establish himself thoroughly is this principle, he made much of another. For he saw that in Paradise a 256great help to this kind of life, was the cheapness of commodities, and the natural fertility of the then innocent and blessed ground. By which means it came to pass that every man had enough for himself, and all. But that now the earth being cursed and barren, there was danger of want, a necessity of toil and labour and care, and maintenance of servants. Therefore he concluded, that the charity of men ought to supply the earth’s sterility, who could never want, were they all of a mind, and liberal to each other. But since this also faileth, and men’s hearts are cursed and barren as the ground, what is wanting in them God will supply. And that to live upon God’s provisions is the most glorious dependence in the whole world. And so he made the love of God his true foundation, and builded not his hopes on the charity of men, but fled unto God as his best refuge, which he thought it very safe and blessed to do, because the trial of his faith was more glorious, and the love of God supplied the defect of charity in men: and he that had commanded had faithfully promised and was able to perform.
He thought the stars as fair now, as they were in Eden, the sun as bright, the sea as pure; and nothing pestered the world with miseries, and destroyed its order, peace, and beauty but sins and vices Rapine, covetousness, envy, oppression, luxury, ambition, pride &c., filled the world with briars and thorns, desolations, 257wars, complaints, and contentions, and that this made enormities to be vices. But universal charity; did it breathe among men, would blow all these away, as the wind doth chaff and stubble; and that then the heavens would be as serene and fair, and the lands as rich as ever they were. And that as all things were improved by the work of redemption, trades and occupations that were left behind, would be pleasant ornaments and innocent recreations; for whence have we all our cities, palaces, and temples, whence all our thrones and magnificent splendours, but from trades and occupations?
But order and charity in the midst of these, is like a bright star in an obscure night, like a summer’s day in the depth of winter, like a sun shining among the clouds, like a giant among his enemies, that receiveth strength from their numbers, like a king sitting in the midst of an army. By how much the more scarce it is, by so much the more glorious, by how much the more assaulted, by so much the more invincible; by how much the more lonely, by so much the more pitied of God and Heaven. And surely He, who being perfect Love, designed the felicity of the world with so much care in the beginning, will now be more tender of the soul that is like Him in its Deordination.258
He thought that men were more to be beloved now than before. And, which is a strange paradox, the worse they are the more they were to be beloved. The worse they are the more they were to be pitied, and tendered and desired, because they had more need, and were more miserable, though the better they are, they are more to be delighted in. But his true meaning in that saying was this: Comparing them with what the were before they were fallen, they are more to be beloved. They are now worse, yet more to be beloved. For Jesus Christ hath been crucified for them. God loved them more, and He gave His Son to die for them and for me also, which are strong obligations leading us to greater charity. So that men’s unworthiness and our virtue are alike increased.
He conceived it his duty and much delighted in the obligation, that he was to treat every man in the whole world as representative of mankind and that he was to meet in him, and to pay unto him all the love of God, Angels and Men.
He thought that he was to treat every man in the person of Christ. That is both as if himself were Christ in the greatness of his love, and also as if the man were 259Christ, he was to use him having respect to all others. For the love of Christ is to dwell within, him, and every man is the object of it. God and he are to become one Spirit, that is one in will, and one in desire. Christ must live within him. He must be filled with the Holy Ghost, which is the God of Love, he must be of the same mind with Christ. Jesus, and led by His Spirit. For on the other side he was well acquainted with this mystery—That every man being the object of our Saviour’s Love, was to be treated as our Saviour, Who hath said, Inasmuch as ye have done it to the least of these my brethren; ye have done it unto me. And thus he is to live upon Earth among sinners.
He had another saying‑He lives most like an Angel that lives least upon himself, and doth most good to others. For the Angels neither eat nor drink, and yet do good to the whole world. Now a man is an incarnate Angel. And he that lives in the midst of riches as a poor man himself, enjoying God and Paradise, or Christendom which is better, conversing with the poor, and seeing the value of their souls through their bodies, and prizing all things clearly with a due esteem, is arrived here to the estate of immortality. He cares little for the delicacies either of food or raiment himself, and delighteth in others. God, Angels, and Men are his treasures. He seeth through all the mists and veils of invention, and possesseth here beneath the true 260riches. And he that doth this always is a rare Phoenix. But he confessed that he had often cause to bewail his infirmities.
I speak not his practises but his principles. I should too much praise your friend did I speak his practises, but it is no shame for any man to declare his principles, though they are the most glorious in the world. Rather they are to be shamed that have no glorious principles, or that are ashamed of them. This he desired me to tell you because of modesty. But with all that indeed his practises are so short of these glorious principles, that to relate them would be to his shame; and that therefore you would never look upon him but as clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Nevertheless I have heard him often say, That he never allowed himself in swerving from any of these, and that he repented deeply every miscarriage and moreover firmly resolved as much as was possible never to err or wander from them again.
I heard him often say that holiness and happiness were the same, and he quoted a mighty place of scripture‑All her ways are pleasantness and her paths are peace. But he delighted in giving the reason of scripture, and therefore said, That holiness and wisdom in effect were one: for no man could be wise that knew excellent things 261without doing them. Now to do their is holiness and to do them wisdom. No man therefore can be further miserable than he severeth from the ways of holiness and wisdom.
If he might have had but one request of God Almighty, it should have been above all other, that he might be a blessing to mankind. That was his daily prayer above all his petitions. He wisely knew that it included all petitions; for he that is a blessing to mankind must be blessed, that he may be so, and must inherit all their affections, and in that their treasures. He could not help it. But he so desired to love them, and to be a joy unto them, that he protested often, that he could never enjoy himself, but as he was enjoyed of others, and that above all delight in all worlds, he desired to be a joy and blessing to others. Though for this he was not to be commended, for he did but right to God and Nature, who had implanted in all that inclination.
The desire of riches was removed from himself pretty early. He often protested, if he had a palace of gold and a paradise of delights, besides that he enjoyed; he could not understand a farthing worth of benefit that he should receive thereby unless in giving it away. But 262for others he sometimes could desire riches; till at last perceiving the root of covetousness in him, and that it would grow as long as it was shrouded under that mould, he rooted it quite up with this principle—Sometimes it may so happen, that to contemn the world in the whole lump was as acceptable to God as first to get it with solicitude and care, and then to retail it out in particular charities.
After this he could say with Luther, that covetousness could never fasten the least hold upon him. And concerning his friends even to the very desire of seeing them rich, he could say, as Phocion the poor Athenian did of his children: Either they will be like me or not; if they are like me they will not need riches; if they are not they will be but needless and hurtful superfluities.
He desired no other riches for his friends but those which cannot be abused; to wit the true treasures, God and Heaven and Earth and Angels and Men, &c. with the riches of wisdom and grace to enjoy them. And it was his principle‑That all the treasures in the whole world would not make a miser happy, a miser happy. A miser is not only a covetous man but a fool. Any needy man, that wanteth the world, is miserable. He wanteth God and all things.263
He thought also that no poverty could befall him that enjoyed Paradise. For when all the things are gone which man can give, a man is still as rich as Adam was in Eden, who was naked there. A naked man is the richest creature in all worlds, and can never be happy till he sees the riches of his very nakedness. He is very poor in knowledge that thinks Adam poor in Eden. See here how one principle helps another. All our disadvantages contracted by the fall are made up and recompensed by the Love of God.
‘Tis not change of place, but glorious principles well practised that establish Heaven in the life and soul. An angel will be happy anywhere, and a devil miserable, because the principles of the one are always good, of the other, bad. From the centre to the utmost bounds of the everlasting hills all is Heaven before God, and full of treasure; and he that walks like God in the midst of them, blessed.
Love God, Angels and Men, triumph in God’s works, delight in God’s laws, take pleasure in God’s ways in all ages, correct sins, bring good out of evil, subdue your lusts, order your senses, conquer the customs and opinions of men and render good for evil, you are in 264Heaven everywhere. Above the stars earthly things will be celestial joys, and here beneath will things delight you that are above the heavens, All things being infinitely beautiful in their places, and wholly yours in all their places. Your riches will be as infinite in value and excellency, as they are in beauty and glory, and that is, as they are in extent.
Thus he was possessor of the whole world, and held it his treasure, not only as the gift of God, but as the theatre of virtues. Esteeming it principally his because it upheld and ministered to many objects of his love and goodness. Towards whom, before whom, among whom he might do the work of fidelity and wisdom, exercise his courage and prudence, show his temperance and bring forth the fruits of faith and repentance. For all those are the objects of our joy that are the objects of our care. They are our true treasures about whom we are wisely employed.
He had one maxim of notable concernment, and that was, That God, having reserved all other things in his own disposal, had left his heart to him. Those things that were in God’s care he would commit to God, those things that were committed to his, he would take care about. He said therefore, that he had but one thing to 265do, and that was to order and keep his heart which alone being well guided, would order all other things blessedly and successfully. The things about him were innumerable and out of his power, but they were in God’s power. And if he pleased God in that which was committed to him, God would be sure to please him in things without committed unto God. For He was faithful that had promised; in all that belonged unto Him God was perfect; all the danger being lest we should be imperfect in ours, and unfaithful in those things that pertain unto us.
Having these principles nothing was more easy than to enjoy the world. Which being enjoyed, he had nothing more to do, than to spend his life in praises and thanksgivings. All his care being to be sensible of God’s mercies, and to behave himself as the friend of God in the Universe. If anything were amiss, he still would have recourse to his own heart, and found nothing but that out of frame: by restoring which all things were rectified, and made delightful: As much as that had swerved from the rule of justice, equity and right, so far was he miserable, and no more so that by experience he found the words of the wise man true, and worthy of all acceptation: In all thy keeping, keep thy heart, for out of it core the issues of life and death.266
One thing he saw, which is not commonly discerned, and that is, that God made man a free agent for his own advantage, and left him in the hand of his own counsel, that he might be the more glorious. It is hard, to conceive how much this tended to his satisfaction. For all the things in Heaven and Earth being so beautiful, and made, as it were, on purpose for his own enjoyment; he infinitely admired God’s wisdom, in that it salved his and all men’s exigencies, in which it fully answered his desires. For his desire was that all men should be happy as well as he. And he admired his goodness, which had enjoined no other duty, than what pertained to the more convenient fruition of the world which he had given: and at the marvellous excellency of His love, in committing that duty to the sons of men to be performed freely. For thereby He adventured such a power into the hands of His creatures, which Angels and Cherubims wonder at, and which when it is understood all Eternity will admire the bounty of giving. For He thereby committed to their hands a power to do that which He infinitely hated, which nothing certainly could move Him to entrust them with, but some infinite benefit which might be attained thereby, What that was, if you desire to know, it was the excellency, dignity and exaltation of His creature.267
O Adorable and Eternal God! Hast Thou made me a free agent! And enabled me if I please to offend Thee infinitely! What other end couldst Thou intend by this, but that I might please Thee infinitely! That having the power of pleasing or displeasing, I might be the friend of God! Of all exaltations in all worlds this is the greatest. To make a world for me was much, to prepare eternal joys for me was more. But to give me a power to displease thee, or to set a sin before Thy face, which Thou infinitely hatest, to profane Eternity, or to defile Thy works, is more stupendous than all these. What other couldst Thou intend by it but that I might infinitely please Thee? And having the power of pleasing or displeasing, might please Thee and myself infinitely, in being pleasing! Hereby Thou hast prepared a new fountain and torrent of joy greater than all that went before, seated us in the Throne of God, made us Thy companions, endued us with a power most dreadful to ourselves, that we might live in sublime and incomprehensible blessedness for evermore. For the satisfaction of our goodness is the most sovereign delight of which we are capable. And that by our own actions we should be well pleasing to Thee, is the greatest Felicity Nature can contain. O Thou who art infinitely delightful to the sons of men, make me, and the sons of men, infinitely delightful unto Thee. Replenish our actions with amiableness and beauty, that they may be answerable to thine, and like unto 268Thine in sweetness and value. That as Thou in all Thy works art pleasing to us, we in all our works may be so to Thee; our own actions as they are pleasing to Thee being an offspring of pleasures sweeter than all.
This he thought a principle at the bottom of Nature, That whatsoever satisfied the goodness of Nature, was the greatest treasure. Certainly men therefore err because they know not this principle. For all inclinations and desires in the soul flow from and tend to the satisfaction of goodness. ‘Tis strange that an excess of goodness should be the fountain of all evil. An ambition to please, a desire to gratify, a great desire to delight others being the greatest snare in the world. Hence is it that all hypocrisies and honours arise, I mean esteem of honours. Hence all imitations of human customs, hence all compliances and submissions to the vanities and errors of this world. For men being mistaken in the nature of Felicity, and we by a strong inclination prone to please them, follow a multitude to do evil. We naturally desire to approve ourselves to them, and above all things covet to be excellent, to be greatly beloved, to be esteemed, and magnified, and therefore endeavour what they endeavour, prize what they prize, magnify what they desire, desire what they magnify: ever doing that which will render us accepted to them; and coveting that which they admire and praise, that 269so we might be delightful. And the more there are that delight in us the more great and happy we account ourselves.
This principle of nature, when you remove the rust it hath contracted by corruption, is pure gold; and the most orient jewel that shines in man. Few consider it either in itself, or in the design of the implanter. No man doubts but it is blessed to receive: to be made as glorious creature, and to have worlds given to one is excellent. But to be a glorious creature and to give, is a blessedness unknown. It is a kind of paradox in our Saviour, and not (as we read of) revealed upon earth, but to St. Paul from Heaven, It is more blessed to active than to receive. It is a blessedness too high to be understood. To give is the happiness of God; to receive, of man. But O the mystery of His loving kindness, even that also hath He imparted to us. Will you that I ascend higher? In giving us Himself, in giving us the world, in giving us our souls and bodies, he hath done much, but all this had been nothing, unless He had given us a power to have given Him, ourselves, in which is contained the greatest pleasure and honour. We love ourselves earnestly, and therefore rejoice to have palaces and kingdoms. But when we have these, yea Haven and Earth, unless we can be delightful and joyous to others they will be of no value. One soul to whom we may be pleasing is of greater worth than all 270dead things. Some unsearchable good lieth in this without which the other is but a vile and desolate estate; So that to have all worlds, with a certain sense that they are infinitely beautiful and rich and glorious is miserable vanity, and leaves us forlorn, if all things are dead, or if ourselves are not Divine and illustrious creatures.
O the superlative Bounty of God! Where all power seemeth to cease, He proceedeth in goodness, and is wholly infinite, unsearchable, and endless. He seemeth to have made as many things depend upon man’s liberty, as His own. When all that could be wrought by the use of His own liberty were attained, by man’s liberty He attained more. This is incredible, but experience will make it plain. By His own liberty He could but create worlds and give Himself to creatures, make Images and endow them with faculties, or seat them in glory. But to see them obedient, or to enjoy the pleasure of their amity and praises, to make them fountains of actions like His own (without which indeed they could not be glorious) or to enjoy the beauty of their free imitation, this could by no means be without the liberty of His creatures intervening. Nor indeed could the world be glorious, or they blessed without this attainment. For can the world be glorious unless it be useful? And to what use could the world serve Him, if it served not those, that in this were supremely glorious that they could obey and admire and love and 271praise and imitate their Creator? Would it not be wholly useless without such creatures? In creating liberty therefore and giving it to His creatures He glorified all things: Himself, His work, and the subjects of His Kingdom.
You may feel in yourself how conducive this is to your highest happiness. For that you should be exalted to the fruition of worlds, and in the midst of innumerable most glorious creatures, be vile and ingrateful, injurious and dishonourable, hateful and evil, is the greatest misery and dissatisfaction imaginable. But to be the joy and delight of innumerable thousands, to be admired as the similitude of God, to be amiable and honourable, to be an illustrious and beautiful creature, to be a blessing, O the good we perceive in this! O the suavity! O the contentation! O the infinite and unspeakable pleasure! Then indeed we reign and triumph when we are delighted in. Then are we blessed when we are a blessing. When all the world is at peace with us and takes pleasure in us, when our actions are delightful, and our persons lovely, when our spirits amiable, and our affections inestimable, then are we exalted to the Throne of Glory. For things when they are useful are most glorious, and it is impossible for you or me to be useful but as we are delightful to God and His attendants. And that the Head of the World, or the End for which all worlds were made 272should be useless, as it is improportioned to the glory of the means, and methods of His exaltation, so is it the reproach of His nature and the utter undoing of all His glory. It is improportionable to the beauty of His ways, Who made the world, and to the expectation of His creatures.
By this you may see, that the works or actions flowing from your own liberty are of greater concernment to you than all that could possibly happen besides. And that it is more to your happiness what you are, than what you enjoy. Should God give Himself and all worlds to you, and you refuse them, it would be to no purpose. Should He love you and magnify you, should He give His Son to die for you, and command all Angels and Men to love you, should He exalt you in His Throne, and give you dominion over all His works, and you neglect them it would be to no purpose. Should He make you in His Image, and employ all His wisdom and power to fill Eternity with treasures, and you despise them, it would be in vain. In all these things you have to do; and therefore your actions are great and magnificent, being of infinite importance in all eyes; while all creatures stand in expectation what will be the result of your liberty. Your exterior works, are little in comparison of these. And God infinitely desires you should demean yourself wisely in these affairs, that is, rightly. Esteeming and receiving what 273He gives, with veneration and joy and infinite thanksgiving. Many other works there are, but this is the great work of all works to be performed. Consider whether more depends upon God’s love to you, or your love to Him. From His love all the things in Heaven and Earth flow unto you; but if you love neither Him nor them, you bereave yourself of all, and make them infinitely evil and hurtful to you. So that upon your love naturally depends your own excellency and the enjoyment of His. It is by your love that you enjoy all His delights, and are delightful to Him.
It is very observable by what small principles infusing them in the beginning God attaineth infinite ends. By infusing the principle of self-love He bath made a creature capable of enjoying all worlds: to whom, did he not love himself, nothing could be given. By infusing grateful principles, and inclinations to thanksgiving He hath made the creature capable of more than all worlds, yea, of more than enjoying the Deity in a simple way: though we should suppose it to be infinite. For to enjoy God as the fountain of infinite treasures, and as the giver of all, is infinite pleasure: but He by His wisdom infusing grateful principles, hath made us upon the very account of self-love to love Him more than ourselves. And us, who without self-love could not be pleased at all, even as we love ourselves He halt so infinitely pleased, that we are able to rejoice in Him, 274and to love Him more than ourselves. And by loving Him more than ourselves, in very gratitude and honour, to take more pleasure in His felicity, than in our own, by which way we best enjoy Him. To see His wisdom, goodness, and power employed in creating all worlds for our enjoyment, and infinitely magnified in beautifying them for us, and governing them for us satisfies our self-love; but with all it so obligeth us that in love to Him, which it createth in us, it maketh us more to delight in those attributes as they are His, than as they are our own. And the truth is, without this we could not fully delight in them, for the most excellent and glorious effect of all had been unachieved. But now there is an infinite union between Him and us, He being infinitely delightful to us, and we to Him. For He infinitely delighteth to see creatures act upon such illustrious and eternal principles, in a manner so divine, heroic, and most truly blessed; and we delight in seeing Him giving us the power.
That I am to receive all the things in Heaven and Earth is a principle not to be slighted. That in receiving I am to behave myself in a Divine and illustrious manner, is equally glorious. That God and all Eternity are mine is surely considerable: that I am His, is more. How ought I to adorn myself, who am made for his enjoyment? If man’s heart be a rock of stone, these things ought to be engraven in it with a pen of a 275diamond, and every letter to be filled up with gold that it may eternally shine in Him and before Him! Wherever we are living, whatever we are doing, these things ought always to be felt within him. Above all trades, above all occupations this is most sublime. This is the greatest of all affairs. Whatever else we do, it is only in order to this end that we may live conveniently to enjoy the world, and God within it; which is the sovereign employment including and crowning all: the celestial life of a glorious creature, without which all other estates are servile and impertinent.
Man being to live in the Image of God, and thus of necessity to become productive of glorious actions, was made good, that he might rejoice in the fruits, which himself did yield. That goodness which by error and corruption becomes a snare, being in the clear and pure estate of innocency, the fountain and the channel of all his joys.
Thus you see how God has perfectly pleased me: it ought also to be my care perfectly to please Him. He has given me freedom, and adventured the power of sinning into my hands: it ought to be a principle engraven in me, to use it nobly, to be illustrious and 276faithful, to please Him in the use of it, to consult His honour, and having all the creatures in all worlds by His gift ministering unto me, to behave myself as a faithful friend to so great a Majesty, so bountiful a Lord, so Divine a Benefactor. Nothing is so easy as to yield one’s assent to glorious principles, nothing so clear in upright nature, nothing so obscure to find in perverted, nothing so difficult to practise at all. In the rubbish of depraved Nature they are lost, though when they are found by any one, and shewn, like jewels they shine by their native splendour.
If you ask, what is become of us since the fall? because all these things now lately named semi to pertain to the estate of innocence; truly now we have super-added treasures, Jesus Christ, and are restored to the exercise of the same principles, upon higher obligations: I will not say with more advantage, though perhaps obligations themselves are to us advantage. For what enabled Adam to love God? Was it not that God loved him? What constrained him to be averse from God? Was it not that God was averse from him? When he was fallen he thought God would hate him, and be his enemy eternally. And this was the miserable bondage that enslaved him. But when he was restored, O the infinite and eternal change! His very love to himself made him to praise His eternal Love: I mean his Redeemer’s. Do we 277not all love ourselves? Self-love maketh us to love those that love us, and to hate all those that hate us. So that obligations themselves are to us advantage. How we come to lose those advantages I will not stand here to relate. In a clear light it is certain no man can perish. For God is more delightful than He was in Eden. Then He was as delightful as was possible, but he had not that occasion, as by Sin was afforded, to superadd many more delights than before. Being more delightful and more amiable, He is more desirable, and may now be more easily, yea strongly beloved: for the amiableness of the object enables us to love it.
It was your friend’s delight to meditate the principles of upright nature, and to see how things stood in Paradise before they were muddied, and blended, and confounded. For now they are lost and buried in ruins, nothing appearing but fragments, that are worthless shreds and parcels of them. To see the entire piece ravisheth the Angels. It was his desire to recover them and to exhibit them again to the eyes of men. Above all things he desired to see those principles which a stranger in this world would covet to behold upon his first appearance. And that is, what principles those were by which the inhabitants of this world are to live blessedly and to enjoy the same. He found them very easy, and infinitely noble: very noble, and productive of unspeakable good, were they well 278pursued. We have named them, and they are such as these: A man should know the blessings he enjoyeth: A man should prize the blessings which he knoweth: A man should be thankful for the benefits which he prizeth: A man should rejoice in that for which he is thankful. These are easy things, and so are those also which are drowned in a deluge of errors and customs; That blessings the more they are, are the sweeter; the more they serve, if lovers and friends, the more delightful, yet these are the hard lessons, in a perverse and retrograde world, to be practised: and almost the only lessons necessary to its enjoyment.
He was a strict and severe applier of all things to himself, and would first have his self-love satisfied, and then his love of all others. It is true that self-love is dishonourable, but then it is when it is alone. And self-endedness is mercenary, but then it is when it endeth in oneself. It is more glorious to love others, and more desirable, but by natural means to be attained. That pool must first be filled that shall be made to overflow. He was ten years studying before he could satisfy his self-love. And now finds nothing more easy than to love others better than oneself: and that to love mankind so is the comprehensive method to all Felicity. For it makes a man delightful to God and men, to himself and spectators, and God and men delightful to him, and all creatures infinitely in them. 279But as not to love oneself at all is brutish, or rather absurd and stonish, (for the beasts do love themselves) so hath God by rational methods enabled us to love others better than ourselves, and thereby made us the most glorious creatures. Had we not loved ourselves at all, we could never have been obliged to love anything. So that self-love is the basis of all love. But when we do love ourselves, and self-love is satisfied infinitely in all its desires and possible demands, then it is easily led to regard the Benefactor more than itself, and for His sake overflows abundantly to all others. So that God by satisfying my self-love, hath enabled and engaged me to love others.
No man loves, but he loves another more than himself. In mean instances this is apparent. If you come into an orchard with a person you love, and there be but one ripe cherry you prefer it to the other. If two lovers delight in the same piece of meat, either takes pleasure in the other, and more esteems the beloved’s satisfaction. What ails men that they do not see it? In greater cases this is evident. A mother runs upon a sword to save her beloved. A father leaps into the fire to fetch out his beloved. Love brought Christ from Heaven to die for His beloved. It is in the nature of love to despise itself, and to think only of its beloved’s welfare. Look to it, it is not right love that is otherwise. Moses and St. Paul were no fools. God 280make me one of their number. I am sure nothing is more acceptable to Him, than to love others so as to be willing to imperil even one’s own soul for their benefit and welfare.
Nevertheless it is infinitely rewarded, though it seemeth difficult. For by this love do we become heirs of all men’s joys, and co-heirs with Christ. For, what is the reason of your own joys, when you are blessed with benefits? Is it not self-love? Did you love others as you love yourself, you would be as much affected with their joys. Did you love them more, more. For according to the measure of your love to others will you be happy in them. For, according thereto you will be delightful to them, and delighted in your felicity. The more you love men, the more delightful you will be to God, and the more delight you will take in God, and the more you will enjoy Him. So that the more like you are to Him in goodness, the more abundantly you will enjoy His goodness. By loving others you live in others to receive it.
Shall I not love him infinitely for whom God made the world and gave His Son? Shall I not love him infinitely who loveth me infinitely? Examine yourself well, and you will find it a difficult matter to love God 281so as to die for Him, and not to love your brother so as to die for him in like manner. Shall I not love Him infinitely whom God loveth infinitely, and commendeth to my love, as the representative of Himself, with such a saying, What ye do to him is done unto Me? And if I love him so, can I forbear to help him? Verily had I but one crown in the world, being in an open field, where both he and I were ready to perish, and ‘twere necessary that one of us must have it all or be destroyed, though I knew not where to have relief, he should have it, and I would die with comfort. I will not say, How small a comfort so small a succour is did I keep it: but how great a joy, to be the occasion of another’s life! Love knows not how to be timorous, because it receives what it gives away, and is unavoidably the end of its own afflictions and another’s happiness. Let him that pleases keep his money, I am more rich in this noble charity to all the world, and more enjoy myself in it, than he can be in both the Indies.
Is it unnatural to do what Jesus Christ hath done? He that would not in the same cases do the same things can never be saved. For unless we are led by the Spirit of Christ we are none of His. Love in him that in the same cases would do the same things, will be an oracle always inspiring and teaching him what to do how far to adventure upon all occasions. And certainly 282 he whose love is like his Saviour’s, will be far greater than any that is now alive, in goodness and love to God and men. This is a sure rule: Love studies not to be scanty in its measures, but how to abound and overflow with benefits. He that pincheth and studieth to spare is a pitiful lover, unless it be for other’s sakes Love studieth to be pleasing, magnificent and noble, and would in all things be glorious and divine unto its object. Its whole being is to its object, and its whole felicity in its object, and it hath no other thing to take care for. It doth good to its own soul while it doth good to another.
Here upon Earth, it is under many disadvantages and impediments that maim it in its exercise, but in Heaven it is most glorious. And it is my happiness that I can see it on both sides the veil or screen. There it appeareth in all its advantages, for every soul being full and fully satisfied, at ease, in rest, and wanting nothing, easily overflows and shines upon all. It is its perfect interest so to do, and nothing hinders it, self-love therefore being swallowed up and made perfect in the love of others. But here it is pinched and straitened by wants: here it is awakened and put in mind of itself: here it is divided and distracted between two. It has a body to provide for, necessities to relieve, and a person to supply. Therefore is it in this world the more glorious, if in the midst of these disadvantages 283it exert itself in its operations. In the other world it swimmeth down the stream, and acteth with its interest. Here therefore is the place of its trial where its operations and its interests are divided. And if our Lord Jesus Christ, as some think, knew the glory to which He should ascend, by dying for others, and that all was safe which He undertook, because in humbling Himself to the death of the cross He did not forsake but attain His glory: The like fate shall follow us, only let us expect it after death as He did: and remember that this and the other life are made of a piece, but this is the time of trial, that, of rewards. The greatest disadvantages of love are its highest advantages. In the great hazards it achieveth to itself the greatest glory. It is seldom considered; but a love to others stronger than what we bear to ourselves, is the mother of all the heroic actions that have made histories pleasant, and beautified the world.
Since Love will thrust in itself as the greatest of all principles, let us at last willingly allow it room. I was once a stranger to it, now I am familiar with it as a daily acquaintance. ‘Tis the only heir and benefactor of the world. It seems it will break in everywhere, as that without which the world could not be enjoyed. Nay as that without which it would not be worthy to be enjoyed. For it was beautified by love, and commandeth the love of a Donor to us. Love is a Phoenix 284that will revive in its own ashes, inherit death, and smell sweetly in the grave.
These two properties are in it—that it can attempt all and suffer all. And the more it suffers the more it is delighted, and the more it attempteth the more it is enriched. For it seems that all love is so mysterious that there is something in it which needs expression and can never be understood by any manifestation, (of itself, in itself) but only by mighty doings and sufferings. This moved God the Father to create the world, and Gad the Son to die for it. Nor is this all. There are many other ways whereby it manifests itself as well as these, there being still something infinite in it behind: In its laws, in its tenderness, in its provisions, in its caresses, in its joys as well as in its hazards, is its honours as well as in its cares: nor does it ever cease till it has poured out itself in all its communications. In all which it ever rights and satisfies itself; for above all things in all worlds it desires to be magnified, and taketh pleasure in being glorified before its object. For which cause also it does all those things, which magnify its object and increase its happiness.
Whether Love principally intends its own glory or its objects, happiness is a great question, and of the more importance, because the right ordering of our own 285affections depends much upon the solution of it. For on the one side, to be self-ended is mercenary and base and slavish; and to do all things for one’s own glory is servile, and vainglory. On the other God doth all things for Himself, and seeketh His glory as His last end, and is Himself the end whom He seeks and attains in all His ways. How shall we reconcile this riddle? or untie this knot? For some men have taken occasion hereby seeing this in Love, to affirm that there is no true love in the world, but it is all self-love whatsoever a man doth. Implying also that it was self-love in our Saviour that made Him to undertake for us. Whereupon we might justly question, whether it were more for his own ends, or more for ours? As also whether it were for His own end that God created the world or more for ours? For extraordinary much of our duty and felicity hangeth upon this point: and whatsoever sword untieth this Gordian knot, will open a world of benefit and instruction to us.
God doth desire glory as His sovereign end, but true glory. From whence it followeth that He doth sovereignly and supremely desire both His own glory and man’s happiness. Though that be miraculous, yet it is very plain. For true glory is to love another for his own sake, and to prefer his welfare and to seek his happiness. Which God doth because it is true glory. So that He seeks the happiness of Angels and Men as His last end, and in that His glory: to wit, His true 286glory. False and vain glory is inconsistent with His nature, but true glory is the very essence of His being. Which is Love unto His beloved, Love unto Himself, Love unto His creatures.
How can God be Love unto Himself, without the imputation of self-love? Did He love Himself under any other notion than as He is the lover of His beloved there might be some danger. But the reason why He loves Himself being because He is Love, nothing is more glorious than His self-love. For He loves Himself because He is infinite and eternal Love to others. Because He loves Himself He cannot endure that His love should be displeased. And loving others vehemently and infinitely all the love He bears to Himself is tenderness towards them. All that wherein He pleaseth Himself is delightful to them: He magnifieth Himself in magnifying them. And in fine, His love unto Himself is His love unto them, and His love unto them is love unto Himself. They are individually one, which it is very amiable and beautiful to behold, because therein the simplicity of God doth evidently appear. The more He loveth them, the greater He is and the more glorious. The more He loveth them, the more precious and dear they are to him. The more He loveth them, the more joys and treasures He possesseth. The more He loveth them the more He 287delighteth in their felicity. The more He loveth them, the more He rejoiceth in all His works for serving them: and in all His kingdoms for delighting them. And being Love to them the more He loveth Himself, and the more jealous He is lest Himself should be displeased, the more He loveth and tendereth them and secureth their welfare. And the more He desires His own cry, the more good He doth for them, in the more divine and genuine manner. You must love after His similitude.
He from whom I derived these things delighted always that I should be acquainted with principles that would make me fit for all ages. And truly in love there are enough of them. For since Nature never created anything in vain, and love of all other is the most glorious there is not any relic or parcel of that that shall be unused. It is not like gold made to be buried and concealed in darkness, but like the sun to communicate itself wholly in its beams unto all. It is more excellent and more communicative. It is hid in a centre and nowhere at all, if we respect its body. But if you regard its soul, it is an interminable sphere, which as some say of the sun, is infinities infinita, in the extension of its beams, being equally vigorous in all places, equally near to all objects, equally acceptable to all persons, and equally abundant in all its overflowing: Infinitely everywhere. This of naked and divested Love in its true perfection. Its own age is too little to contain it, its greatness is spiritual, like the Deity’s. It 288filleth the world, and exceeds what it filleth. It is present with all objects, and tastes all excellencies, and meeteth the infiniteness of God in everything. So that in length it is infinite as well as in breadth, being equally vigorous at the utmost bound to which it can extend as here, and as wholly there as here, and wholly everywhere. Thence also it can see into further spaces; things present and things to come; height and depth being open before it, and all things in Heaven, Eternity, and Time, equally near.
Were not Love the darling of God; this would be a rash and a bold sally. But since it is His Image, and the Love of God, I may almost say the God of God, because His beloved, all this happeneth unto Love. And this Love is your true self when you are in act what you are in power: the great Daemon of the world, the End of all things, the desire of Angels and of all nations. A creature so glorious, that having seen it, it puts an end to all curiosity and swallows up all admiration. Holy, wise, and just towards all things, blessed in all things, the Bride of God, glorious before all, His offspring and first born, and so like Him, that being described, one would think it He. I should be afraid to say all this of it, but that I know Him, how He delighteth to have it magnified: And how He hath magnified it infinitely before because it is His bride and first-born. I will speak only a little of its violence and 289vigour afar off. It can love an act of virtue in the utmost Indies, and hate a vice in the highest heavens. It can see into hell and adore the justice of God among the damned; it can behold and admire His Love from everlasting. It can be present with His infinite and eternal Love, it can rejoice in the joys which it foreseeth: Can Love Adam in Eden, Moses in the wilderness, Aaron in the tabernacle, David before the Ark, S. Paul among the nations, and Jesus either in the manger or on the Cross: All these it can love with violence. And when it is restored from all that is terrene and sensual to its true spiritual being, it can love these, or any of these, as violently as any person in the living age.
Shall it not love violently what God loveth, what Jesus Christ loveth, what all Saints and Angels love? Moses glorified God in a wonderful manner; he prophesied of Christ, he plagued the Egyptians, he brought the Israelites out of the land of Egypt, he guided them in the wilderness, he gave us the law, he loved the people more than his own life: yea, than his own self and all the possible glory that might have accrued to him. And what shall we think of Christ Himself? Shall not all our love be where He is? Shall it not wholly follow and attend Him? Yet shall it not forsake other objects, but love them all in Him, and Him in them, and them the more because of Him, and Him the more because of them; for by Him it is redeemed 290 to them. So that as God is omnipresent our love shall be at once with all: that is we: having these strengths to animate and quicken our affection.
To love one person with a private love is poor and miserable: to love all is glorious. To love all persons in all ages, all angels, all worlds, is Divine and Heavenly. To love all cities and all kingdoms, all kings and all peasants, and every person in all worlds with a natural intimate familiar love, as if him alone, is Blessed. This makes a man effectually blessed in all worlds, a delightful Lord of all things, a glorious friend to all persons, a concerned person in all transactions, and ever present with all affairs. So that he must ever be filled with company, ever in the midst of all nations, ever joyful, and ever blessed. The greatness of this man’s love no man can measure; it is stable like the Sun, it endureth for ever as the Moon, it is a faithful witness in Heaven. It is stronger and more great than all private affections. It representeth every person in the light of Eternity, and loveth him with the love of all worlds, with a love conformable to God’s, guided to the same ends, and founded upon the same causes. Which however lofty and divine it is, is ready to humble itself into the dust to serve the person beloved. And by how much the more sublime and glorious it is, is so much the more sweet and truly delightful: Majesty and Pleasure concurring together.291
Now you may see what it is to be a Son of God more clearly. Love in its glory is the friend of the most High. It was begotten of Him, and is to sit in His Throne, and to reign in communion with Him. It is to please Him and to be pleased by Him, in all His works, ways, and operations. It is ordained to hold an eternal correspondence with Him in the highest Heavens. It is here in its infancy, there in its manhood and perfect stature. He wills and commands that it should be reverenced of all, and takes pleasure to see it admired in its excellencies, If Love thus displayed be so glorious a being, how much more glorious and great is He that is sovereign Lord of all Lords, and the Heavenly King of all these? So many monarchs under one Supreme mightily set forth the glory of His Kingdom. If you ask by what certainty, or by what rules we discover this? As by the seed we conjecture what plant will arise, and know by the acorn what tree will grow forth, or by the eagle’s egg what kind of bird; so do we by the powers of the soul upon Earth, know what kind of Being, Person, and Glory it will be in the Heavens, Its blind and latent power shall be turned into Act, its inclinations shall be completed, and its capacities filled, for by this means is it made perfect. A Spiritual King is an eternal Spirit. Love in the abstract is a soul exerted. Neither do you esteem yourself to be any other than Love alone. God is Love, and you are never like Him till you are so: Love unto all objects in like manner.292
To sit in the Throne of God is the most supreme estate that can befall a creature. It is promised in the Revelations. But few understand what is promised there, and but few believe it.
To sit in the Throne of God is to inhabit Eternity. To reign there is to be pleased with all things in Heaven and Earth from everlasting to everlasting, as if we had the sovereign disposal of them. For He is to dwell in us, and we in Him, because He liveth in our knowledge and we in His. His will is to be in our will; and our will is to be in His will, so that both being joined and becoming one, we are pleased in all His works as He is; and herein the Image of God perfectly consisteth. No artist maketh a Throne too wide for the person. God is the greatest and divinest artist. Thrones proper and fit for the persons, are always prepared by the wisest Kings. For little bodies, bodily thrones: for Spirits, invisible. God’s Throne is His omnipresence, and that is infinite, who dwelleth in Himself, or in that Light which is inaccessible. The Omnipresence therefore, and the Eternity of God are our Throne, wherein we are to reign for evermore. His infinite and eternal Love are the borders of it, which everywhere we are to meet, and everywhere to see for evermore. In this Throne our Saviour sitteth, who is the Alpha and 293Omega; the first end the last, the Amen; and the faithful witness who said, The Glory which Thou hast given me, I have given them, that they may be one, as we are one. In Him the fulness of the Godhead dwelleth bodily,. If that be too great to be applied to men, remember what follows, His Church is the fulness of Him that filleth all in all. The fulness of the Godhead dwelleth in Him for our sakes. And if yet it seemeth too great to be enjoyed: by the surpassing excellency of His Eternal Power, it is made more than ours. For in Him we shall more enjoy it than if it were infinitely and wholly all in ourselves.
If anything yet remaineth that is dreadful, or terrible or doubtful, that seemeth to startle us, there is more behind that will more amaze us. For God is infinite in the expression of His Love; as we shall all find to our eternal comfort. Objects are so far from diminishing, that they magnify the faculties of the soul beholding them. A sand in your conception conformeth your soul, and reduceth it to the size and similitude of a sand, A tree apprehended is a tree in your mind; the whole hemisphere and the heavens magnify your soul to the wideness of the heavens; all the spaces above the heavens enlarge it wider to their own dimensions. And what is without limit maketh your conception illimited and endless. The infinity of God is infinitely profitable as well as great: as glorious as incomprehensible: 294 so far from straitening that it magnifieth all things. And must be seen in you, or God will be absent: Nothing less than infinite is God, and as finite He cannot be enjoyed.
But what is there more that will more amaze us? Can anything be behind such glorious mysteries? Is God more Sovereign in other excellencies? Hath He showed Himself glorious in anything besides? Verily there is no end of all His greatness, His understanding is infinite, and His ways innumerable. How precious, saith the psalmist, are Thy thoughts to me, O God; when I would count them they are more than can be numbered. There is no man that reckoneth them up in order unto Thee. O my Lord I will endeavour it: and I will glorify Thee for evermore. The most perfect laws are agreeable only to the most perfect creatures. Since therefore Thy laws are the most perfect of all that are possible; so are Thy creatures. And if infinite power be wholly expressed O Lord, what creatures! what creatures shall we become! What Divine, what illustrious Beings! Souls worthy of so great a love, blessed forever. Made worthy, though not found; for Love either findeth or maketh an object worthy of itself. For which cause Picus Mirandula admirably saith, in his tract De Dignitate Hominis, I have read in the monuments of Arabia, that Abdala, the Saracen, being asked, Quid in hâc quasi mundanâ Scenâ admirandum maxime 295spectaretur? What in this world was most admirable? answered, MAN: Than whom he saw nothing more to be admired. Which sentence of his is seconded, by that of Mercurius Trismegistus, Magnum, O Asclepiades, Miraculum, Homo; Man is a great and wonderful miracle: Ruminating upon the reason of these sayings, those things did not satisfy me, which many have spoken concerning the excellency of Human Nature. As that man was Creaturarum Internuncius; Superis familiaris, Inferiorum Rex; sensuum perspicaciâ, Rationis Indagine, Intelligentiae Lumine, Naturae Interpres, Stabilis Aevi et fluxi Temporis Interstitium, et (qd. Persae dicunt) Mundi Copula immo Hymenaeus: A messenger between the creatures, Lord of inferior things, and familiar to those above; by the keenness of his sense, the piercing of his reasons, and the light of knowledge, the interpreter of nature, a seeming interval between time and eternity, and the inhabitant of both, the golden link or tie of the world, yea, the Hymenaeus marrying the Creator and His creatures together; made as David witnesseth a little lower than the angels. All these things are great, but they are not the principal: that is, they are not those which rightly challenge the name and title of most admirable: And so he goeth on; admiring and exceeding all that had been spoken before concerning the excellency of man. Why do we not rather admire the Angels and the Quires above the Heaven? At length I seemed to understand, why man was the most happy, and therefore the most worthy to be admired of all the creatures: and to 296know that estate; which in the order of things he doth enjoy, not only above the beasts but above the stars and that might be envied even of the supra-celestial spirits, which he styleth, ultra-mundanis mentibus invidiosam.
The Supreme Architect and our Everlasting Father, having made the world, this most glorious house and magnificent Temple of His divinity, by the secret laws of His hidden Wisdom; He adorned the regions above the heavens with most glorious spirits, the spheres he enlivened with Eternal Souls, the dreggy parts of the inferior world he filled with all kinds of herds of living creatures. Sed Opere Consummato; but His work being completed, He desired some one that might weigh and reason, and love the beauty, and admire the vastness of so great a work. All things therefore being (as Moses and Timaeus witness) already finished, at last He thought of creating man. But there was not in all the platforms before conceived any being after whom He might form this new offspring. Nor in all His treasures what He might give this new son by way of inheritance, nor yet a place in all the regions of the world, wherein this contemplator of the universe might be seated. All things were already full; all things were already distributed into their various orders of supreme, middle and inferior. But it was not the part of infinite power to fail as defective in the 297last production; it was not the part of infinite wisdom, for want of council to fluctuate in so necessary an affair; it was not the part of infinite goodness or sovereign love, that he, who should be raised up to praise the Divine Bounty in other things, should condemn it in himself. Statuit tandem opt. Opifex, ut cui dari nihil proprium poterat commune esset, quod privatum singulis fuit: The wisest, and best of workmen appointed therefore, that he to whom nothing proper to himself could be added, should have something of all that was peculiar to everything, and therefore he took man, the Image of all His work, and placing him in the middle of the world, spake thus unto him,‑
“O Adam, we have given thee neither a certain seat, nor a private face, nor a peculiar office, that whatsoever seat or face or office thou dost desire thou mayest enjoy. All other things have a nature bounded within certain laws; thou only art loose from all, and according to thy own council in the hand of which I have put thee, may’st choose and prescribe what nature thou wilt to thyself. I have placed thee in the middle of the world, that from thence thou mayest behold on every side more commodiously everything in the whole world. We have made thee neither heavenly nor earthly, neither mortal nor immortal, that being the honoured former and framer of thyself, thou mayest shape thyself into what nature thyself pleasest!”298
”O infinite liberality of God the Father! O admirable and supreme Felicity of Man! to whom it is given to have what he desires, and to be what he wishes. The brutes when they are brought forth bring into the world with them what they are to possess continually. The spirits that are above were, either from the beginning or a little after, that which they are about to be to all Eternities. Nascenti Homini omnigena vitae germina indidit Pater; God infused the seeds of every kind of life into man: whatever seeds every one chooseth those spring up with him, and the fruits of those shall he bear and enjoy. If sensual things are chosen by him, he shall become a beast; if reasonable a celestial creature; if intellectual an Angel and a Son of God; and if being content with the lot of no creatures, he withdraws himself into the centre of his own unity, he shall be one Spirit with God, and dwell above all in the solitary darkness of His Eternal Father.”
This Picus Mirandula spake in an oration made before a most learned assembly in a famous university. Any man may perceive that he permitteth his fancy to wander a little wantonly after the manner of a poet but most deep and serious things are secretly hidden under his free and luxuriant language. The changeable power he ascribeth to man is not to be referred to his 299body, for as he wisely saith, neither doth the bark make a plant, but its stupid and nothing-perceiving nature neither doth the skin make a beast, but his brutish and sensual nature, neither doth separation from a body, make an Angel but his Spiritual intelligence. So neither doth his rind or coat or skin or body make a man to be this or that, but the interior stupidness, or sensuality, or angelical intelligence of his soul, make him accordingly a plant, a beast, or an Angel. The deformity or excellency is within.
Neither is it to be believed, that God filled all the world with creatures before he thought of man: but by that little fable he teacheth us the excellency of man. Man is the end, and therefore the perfection of all the creatures; but as Eusebius Pamphilus saith (in the Nicene Council), he was first in the intention, though last in the execution. All Angels were spectators as well as he, all Angels were free agents as well as he: as we see by their trial, and the fall of some; all angels were seated in as convenient a place as he. But this is true, that he was the end of all and the last of all: and the comprehensive head and the bond of all, and in that more excellent than all the Angels. As for whom the visible and invisible worlds were made, and to whom all creatures ministered: as one also, that contained more species in his nature than the Angels, which is not as some have thought derogatory, but perfective to his 300being: It is true also that God hath prevented him; and satisfied all wishes, in giving him such a being as he now enjoyeth. And that for infinite reasons it was best that he should be in a changeable estate, and have power to choose what himself listed: For he may so choose as to become one Spirit with God Almighty.
By choosing a man may be turned and converted into Love, which, as it is an universal sun filling and shining in the Eternity of God, so is it infinitely more glorious than the Sun is, not only shedding abroad more amiable arid delightful beams, illuminating and comforting all objects: yea glorifying them in the supreme and sovereign manner, but is of all sensibles the most quick and tender, being able to feel like the long-legged spider; at the utmost end of its divaricated feet; and to be wholly present in every place where any beam of itself extends. The sweetness of its healing influences is inexpressible. And of all beings such a being would I choose to be for ever: One that might inherit all in the most exquisite manner; and be the joy of all in the most perfect measure.
Nazianzen professed himself to be a lover of right reason, and by it did undertake even to speak oracles. Even so may we by the Reason discover all 301the mysteries of heaven. And what our author here observeth, is very considerable,. That man by retiring from all externals and withdrawing into himself in the centre of his own unity becometh most Like unto God. What Mercurius said in the dialogue is most true, Man is of all other the greatest miracle, yea verily, should all the miracles that ever were done be drawn together, Man is a miracle greater than they. And as much may be written of him alone as of the whole world. The dividing of the sea, the commanding of the sun, the making of the world is nothing to the single creation of one soul: There is so much wisdom and power expressed in its faculties and inclinations. Yet is this greatest of all miracles unknown because men are addicted only to sensible and visible things. So great a world in explication of its parts is easy: but here the dimensions of innumerable worlds are shut, up in a centre. Where it should lodge such innumerable objects, as it doth by knowing, whence it should derive such infinite streams as flow from it by Loving, how it should be a mirror of all Eternity, being made of nothing, how it should be a fountain or a sun of Eternity out of which such abundant rivers of affection flow, it is impossible to declare. But above all how, having no material or bodily existence, its substance, though invisible, should be so rich and precious. The consideration of one Soul is sufficient to convince all the Atheists in the whole world.302
The abundance of its beams, the reality of its beams, the freedom of its beams, the excellency and value of its beams are all transcendent. They shine upon all the things in Heaven and Earth and cover them all with celestial waters: waters of refreshment, beams of comfort. They flow freely from a mind desiring to be obedient, pleasing and good. The soul communicates itself wholly by them: and is richer in its communications than all odors and spices whatsoever. It containeth in its nature the influences of the stars by way of eminence, the splendour of the sun, the verdure of trees, the value of gold, the lustre of precious stones, the sense of beasts and the life of Angels: the fatness of feasts, the magnificence of palaces, the melody of music, the sweetness of wine, the beauty of the excellent, the excellency of virtue, and the glory of cherubims. The harmony and the joys of Heaven appear in Love, for all these were made for her, and all these are to be enjoyed in her.
Whether it be the Soul itself, or God in the Soul, that shines by Love, or both, it is difficult to tell: but certainly the love of the Soul is the sweetest thing in the world. I have often admired what should make it so excellent. If it be God that loves, it is the shining of His essence; if it be the Soul, it is His Image: if it be both, it is a double benefit.303
That God should love in the Soul is most easy to believe, because it is most easy to conceive, But it is a greater mystery that the Soul should love in itself. If God loveth in the Soul it is the more precious, if the Soul loveth it is the more marvellous. If you ask how a Soul that was made of nothing can return so many flames of Love? Where it should have them, or out of what ocean it should communicate them? it is impossible to declare—(For it can return those flames upon all Eternity, and upon all the creatures and objects in it)—unless we say, as a mirror returneth the very self-same beams it receiveth from the Sun, so the Soul returneth those beams of love that shine upon it from God. For as a looking-glass is nothing in comparison of the world, yet containeth all the world in it, and seems a real fountain of those beams which flow from it, so the Soul is nothing in respect of God, yet all Eternity is contained in it, and it is the real fountain of that Love that proceedeth from it. They are the sun-beams which the glass returneth: yet they flow from the glass and from the Sun within it. The mirror is the well-spring of them, because they shine from the Sun within the mirror, which is as deep within the glass as it is high within the Heavens. And this showeth the exceeding richness and preciousness of love, it is the love of God shining upon, and dwelling in the Soul. For the beams that shine, upon it reflect upon others and shine from it.304
That the Soul shineth of itself is equally manifest, for it can love with a love distinct from God’s. It can love irregularly; and no irregular love is the love of God. It can forbear to love while God loveth. It can love while God forbeareth. It can love a wicked man, wickedly and in his wickedness. This shows plainly that it can love regularly, with a love that is not merely the reflection of God’s. For which cause it is not called a mirror, but esteemed more, a real fountain. Cant.: My love is a spring shut up, a fountain sealed. That is, shut up like a letter, and concealed yet: but in the Kingdom of Heaven, her contents and secrets shall be known, and her beauty read of all men. Her own waters whence she should receive them: it is most admirable, considering the reality and beauty of them: But in this God hath magnified His infinite power, that He hath made them. Made them freely, made them her own, out of herself to flow from her: creatures as it were to which herself gives their existence. For indeed she could not love, were not her beams of love her own. Before she loves they are not, when she loves they are. And so she gives them their being. Being Good herself because she can love: Who else would be a dry and withered stick, having neither life nor value. But now she can exalt a creature above all the things in Heaven and Earth, in herself: esteem it most dear, admire it, honour it, tender it, desire it, delight in it, be united to it, prefer it, forsake all things 305for it, give all things to it, die for it. It can languish after it when absent; take pleasure in it when present; rejoice in its happiness, live only to it, study to please it, delight in suffering for it, feed it with pleasures, honours, and caresses, do all things for its sake, esteem gold and pearl but dross in comparison, lay crowns and sceptres at its feet, make it a lord of palaces, delight in its own beauties, riches, and pleasures, as they feed only and satisfy its beloved; be ravished with it. It can desire infinitely that good things should be added to it. And all this shall we enjoy in every soul in the Kingdom of Heaven. All there being like so many Suns shining upon one. All this goodness is so like God’s, that nothing can be more. And yet that it is distinct from His, is manifest because it is the return or recompense of it: the only thing which for and above all worlds He infinitely desires.
Here upon Earth souls love what God hates, and hate what God loves. Did they keep their eye open always upon what He loves, and see His love to them, and to all, they could not choose but love as He does. And were they mirrors only that return His love, one would think it impossible, while He shines upon them, to forbear to shine, but they are like the eye, mirrors with lids, and the lid of ignorance or inconsideration interposing, they are oftentimes eclipsed or shine only through some crannies; so that here upon earth 306having free power to hold open or shut their lids, to send or turn away their beams, they may love me or forbear. The loss of their love is an evil past imagination, for it is the removal of the end of Heaven and Earth, the extinction of a Sun infinitely more glorious than that in the Heavens. The Sun was made to serve this more divine and glorious creature. The love of this creature is the end of Heaven and Earth, because the end for which Heaven and Earth were made was for it. And in recompense for all that God hath done for it it is to love me. So that God hath Glorified me, by giving me a communion with Himself in the end for which the world was made. And hath made that creature to love me, and given me so great a certainty of its love and title to it, that first it must cease to love itself, or to love God before it bereave me. It must cease to be wise, and forfeit all its interest in Heaven and Earth, before it can cease to love me. In doing it, it ruins itself and apostatizeth from all its happiness.
In the estate of innocency the love of man seemed nothing but the beams of love reverted upon another. For they loved no person but of whom he was beloved. All that he loved was good, and nothing evil. His love seemed the goodness of a being expressed in the Soul, or apprehended in the lover, and returned upon itself. But in the estate of misery (or rather Grace), a soul loves freely and purely of its own self, with God’s 307love, things that seem incapable of love, naught and evil. For as God showed His eternity and omnipotency in that He could shine upon nothing and love an object when it was nought or evil; as He did Adam when He raised him out of nothing, and mankind when He redeemed them from evil: so now we can love sinners, and them that deserve nothing at our hands. Which as it is a Diviner Love and more glorious than the other, so were we redeemed to this power, and it, was purchased for us with a greater price.
It is a generous and heavenly principle, that where a benefit is fairly intended we are equally obliged for the intention or success. He is an ungrateful debtor, that measureth a benefactor by the success of his kindness. A clear soul and a generous mind is as much obliged for the intent of his friend, as the prosperity of it: and far more, if we separate the prosperity from the intent. For the goodness lies principally in the intention. Since therefore God intended me all the joys in Heaven and Earth, I am as much obliged for them as if I received them. Whatever intervening accident bereaved me of them, He really intended them. And in that I contemplate the riches of His goodness. Whether men’s wickedness in the present age, or my own perverseness, or the fall of Adam; He intended me all the joys of Paradise, and all the honours in the world, whatever hinders me. In the glass of His 308intention therefore I enjoy them all: and I do confess my obligation. It is as great as if nothing had intervened, and I had wholly received them. Seeing and knowing Him to be infinitely wise and great and glorious, I rejoice that He loved me, and confide in His love. His goodness is my sovereign and supreme delight. That God is of such a nature in Himself is my infinite treasure. Being He is my friend, and delighteth in my honour, though I rob myself of all my happiness, He is justified. That He intended it, is His grace and glory. But it animates me, as well as comforts me, to see the perfection of His Love towards me. As things stood, He used power enough before the fall to make me happy. If He refuseth to use any more since the fall, I am obliged. But He hath used more. New occasions begot new abilities. He redeemed me by His Son. If He refuseth to use any more, I cannot complain. If He refuseth to curb my perverseness unless I consent, His love was infinitely showed. He desireth that I should by prayers and endeavours clothe myself with grace. If in default of mine, He doth it Himself, freely giving His Holy Spirit to me, it is an infinite mercy, but infinitely new and superadded. If He refuseth to overrule the rebellion of other men, and to bring me to Honour, notwithstanding their malice; or refuseth to make them love me, whether they will or no, I cannot repine. By other signs, He hath plainly showed, that He loveth me infinitely, which is enough for me, and that He desireth my obedience.309
This estate wherein I am placed is the best for me tho’ encompassed with difficulties. It is my duty to think so, and I cannot do otherwise. I cannot do otherwise without reproaching my Maker: that is, without suspecting, and in that offending His goodness and Wisdom. Riches are but tarnish and gilded vanities, honours are but airy and empty bubbles, affections are but winds, perhaps too great for such a ship as mine, of too light a ballast: pleasures, yea, all these, are but witches that draw and steal us away from God; dangerous allurements, interposing screens, unseasonable companions, counterfeit realities, honied poison, cumbersome distractions. I have found them so. At least they lull us into lethargies: and we need to be quickened. Sometimes they puff us up with vain-glory and we need to be humbled. Always they delude us if we place any confidence in them, and therefore it is as good always to be without them. But it is as good also, were it not for our weakness, sometimes to have them, because a good use may be made of them. And therefore they are not to be contemned when God doth offer them. But He is to be admired that maketh it good on both sides, to have them, and to be without them. Riches are not to be hated, nor coveted: but I am to bless God in all estates, Who hath given me the world, my Soul, and Himself: and ever to be great in the true treasures. Riches are good, and therefore is it good sometimes to want them that we might shew our 310obedience and resignation to God, even in being without those things that are good, at His appointment: and that also we might clothe ourselves with patience and faith and courage, which are greater ornaments than gold and silver, and of greater price: and that shall stand us instead of all the splendour of alms deeds. Assure yourself, till you prize one virtue above a trunk of money you can never be happy. One virtue before the face of God, is better than all the gold in the whole world.
Knowing the greatness and sweetness of Love, I can never be poor in any estate. How sweet a thing is it as we go or ride, or eat or drink, or converse abroad to remember that one is the heir of the whole world, and the friend of God! That one has so great a friend as God is: and that one is exalted infinitely by all His Laws! That all the riches and honours in the world are ours in the Divine Image to be enjoyed! That a man is tenderly beloved of God and always walking in His Father’s Kingdom, under His wing, and as the apple of His eye! Verily that God hath done so much for one in His works and laws, and expressed so much love in His word and ways, being as He is Divine and infinite, it should make a man to walk above the stars, and seat him in the bosom of Men and Angels. It should always fill him with joy, and triumph, and lift him up above crowns and empires.311
That a man is beloved of God, should melt him all into esteem and holy veneration. It should make him so courageous as an angel of God. It should make him delight in calamities and distresses for God’s sake. By giving me all things else, He hath made even afflictions themselves my treasures. The sharpest trials, are the finest furbishing. The most tempestuous weather is the best seed-time. A Christian is an oak flourishing in winter. God hath so magnified and glorified His servant, and exalted him so highly in His eternal bosom, that no other joy should be able to move us but that alone. All sorrows should appear but shadows, beside that of His absence, and all the greatness of riches and estates swallowed up in the light of His favour. Incredible Goodness lies in His Love. And it should be joy enough to us to contemplate and possess it. He is poor whom God hates: ‘tis a true proverb. And besides that, we should so love Him, that the joy alone of approving ourselves to Him, and making ourselves amiable and beautiful before Him should be a continual feast, were we starving. A beloved cannot feel hunger in the presence of his beloved. Where martyrdom is pleasant, what can be distasteful. To fight, to famish, to die for one’s beloved, especially with one’s beloved, and in his excellent company, unless it be for his trouble, is truly delightful. God is always present, and always seeth us.312
Knowing myself beloved and so glorified of God Almighty in another world, I ought to honour Him in this always, and to aspire to it. At midnight will I rise to give thanks unto Thee because of Thy righteous judgments. Seven times a day will I praise Thee, for Thy glorious mercy. Early in the morning will I bless Thee, I will triumph in Thy works, I will delight in Thy law day and night; at evening will I praise Thee. I will ever be speaking of Thy marvellous acts, I will tell of Thy greatness, and talk of the glorious majesty of Thy excellent Kingdom; these things ought ever to breathe in our souls. We ought to covet to live in private, and in private ever to overflow in praises. I will boast in Thee all the day long, and be glad in the Lord. My exceeding joy, my life, my glory, what shall I render to Thee, for all Thy benefits? I will sing and be glad. Let all nations sing unto Him, for He covereth the earth as it were with a shield. My lips shall be fain when I sing unto Thee, and my soul, O Lord, which Thou hast redeemed. God is unseen till He be so known: and David’s Spirit an inscrutable mystery, till this is experienced.
Our friendship with God ought to be so pure and so clear, that nakedly and simply for His Divine Love, for His glorious works, and blessed laws, the wisdom of His counsels, His ancient ways and attributes towards 313us, we should ever in public endeavour to honour Him, Always taking care to glorify Him before men: to speak of His goodness, to sanctify His name, to do those things that will stir up others, and occasion others to glorify Him. Doing this so zealously that we would, not forbear the least act wherein we might serve Him for all worlds. It ought to be a firm principle rooted in us, that this life is the most precious season in all Eternity, because all Eternity dependeth on it. Now we may do those actions which hereafter we shall never have occasion to do. And now we are to do them in another manner, which in its place is the most acceptable in all worlds: namely, by faith and hope, in which God infinitely delighteth, with difficulty and danger, which God infinitely commiserates, and greatly esteems. So piecing this life with the life of Heaven, and seeing it as one with all Eternity, a part of it, a life within it: Strangely and stupendously blessed in its place and season.
Having once studied these principles you are eternally to practise them. You are to warm yourselves at these fires, and to have recourse to them every day. When you think not of these things you are in the dark. And if you would walk in the light of them, you must frequently meditate. These principles are like seed in the ground, they must continually be visited with heavenly influences, or else your life will be a barren 314field. Perhaps they might be cast into better frame, and more curiously expressed; but if well cultivated they will be as fruitful, as if every husk were a golden rind. It is the substance that is in them that is productive of joy and good to all.
It is an indelible principle of Eternal truth, that practice and exercise is the Life of all. Should God give you worlds, and laws, and treasures, and worlds upon worlds, and Himself also in the Divinest manner, if you will be lazy and not meditate, you lose all. The soul is made for action, and cannot rest till it be employed. Idleness is its rust. Unless it will up and think and taste and see, all is in vain. Worlds of beauty and treasure and felicity may be round about it, and itself desolate. If therefore you would be happy, your life must be as full of operation as God of treasure: Your operation shall be treasure to Him, as His operation is delightful to you.
To be acquainted with celestial things is not only to know them, but by frequent meditation to be familiar with them. The effects of which are admirable. For by this those things that at first seemed uncertain become evident, those things which seemed remote become near, those things which appeared like shady 315clouds become solid realities: finally, those things which seemed impertinent to us and of little concernment, appear to be our own, according to the strictest rules of propriety and of infinite moment.
General and public concernments seem at first unmanageable, by reason of their greatness; but in the soul there is such a secret sufficiency, that it is able upon trial, to manage all objects with equal ease; things infinite in greatness as well as the smallest sand. But this secret strength is not found in it, but merely upon experience, nor discerned but by exercise. The eternity of God Himself is manageable to the understanding, and may be used in innumerable ways for its benefit; so may His almighty power, and infinite goodness, His omnipresence and immensity, the wideness of the world, and the multitude of Kingdoms. Which argueth a peculiar excellency in the soul, because it is a creature that can never be exceeded. For bodily strength by this is perceived to be finite, that bulk is unwieldy, and by the greatness of its object may easily be overcome. But the soul through God that strengthened her is able to do all things. Nothing is too great, nothing too heavy, nothing unwieldy; it can rule and manage anything with infinite advantage.316
Because the strength of the soul is spiritual it is generally despised: but if ever you would be Divine, you must admit this principle: That spiritual things are the greatest, and that spiritual strength is the most excellent, useful, and delightful. For which cause it is made as easy as it is endless and invincible. Infinity is but one object, almighty power is another, eternal wisdom is another which it can contemplate; from infinity it can go to power, from power to wisdom, from wisdom to goodness, from goodness to glory, and so to blessedness, and from these to any object or all whatsoever, contemplating them as freely as if it had never seen an object before. If any one say, that though it can proceed thus from one object to another, yet it cannot comprehend any one of them, all I shall answer is this. It can comprehend any one of them as much as a creature can possibly do: and the possibility of a creature dependeth purely upon the power of God: for a creature may be made able to do all that which its Creator is able to make it to do. So if there be any defect in His power there must of necessity a limit follow in the power of His creature, which even God Himself cannot make a creature to exceed. But this, you will say, is an argument only of what may be, not of what is. Though considering God’s infinite love, it is sufficient to show what is possible; because His love will do all it can for the glory of itself and its object: yet further to discover what is, we may add 317this, that when a soul hath contemplated the Infinity of God, and passeth from that to another object, all that it is able to contemplate on any other it might have added to its first contemplation. So that its liberty to contemplate all shows its illimitedness to any one. And truly I think it pious to believe that God hath without a metaphor infinitely obliged us.
The reason why learned men have not exactly measured the faculties of the soul, is because they know not to what their endless extent should serve. For till we know the universal beauty of God’s Kingdom, and that all objects in the omnipresence are the treasures of the soul, to enquire into the sufficiency and extent of its powers is impertinent. But when we know this, nothing is more expedient than to consider whether a soul be able to enjoy them. Which if it be, its powers must extend as far as its objects. For no object without the sphere of its power, can be enjoyed by it. It cannot be so much as perceived, much less enjoyed. From whence it will proceed, that the soul will to all Eternity be silent about it. A limitation of praises, and a parsimony in love following hereupon, to the endangering of the perfection of God’s Kingdom.
Upon the infinite extent of the understanding and affection of the soul, strange and wonderful things will 318follow: 1. A manifestation of God’s infinite love. 2. The possession of infinite treasures. 3. A return of infinite thanksgivings. 4. A fulness of joy which no thing can exceed. 5. An infinite beauty and greatness in the soul. 6. An infinite beauty in God’s Kingdom. 7. An infinite union between God and the soul (as well in extent, as fervour). 8. An exact fitness between the powers of the soul, and its objects: neither being desolate, because neither exceedeth the other. 9. An infinite glory in the communion of Saints, every one being a treasure to all the residue and enjoying the residue, and in the residue all the glory of all worlds. 10. A perfect indwelling of the soul in God, and God in the soul. So that as the fulness of the Godhead dwelleth in our Saviour, it shall dwell in us; and the Church shall be the fulness of Him that filleth all in all: God being manifested thereby to be a king infinitely greater, because reigning over infinite subjects. To Whom be all glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
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