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[§ 30.] I. Of the changefulness of all that is in the world. Nothing is more certain than death, nothing more uncertain than the hour of death. Let us then reflect how short our life is, how slippery our path; how certain our death, how uncertain the hour of our death. Let us consider what bitternesses are mixed up with whatever of sweet or pleasant chances to allure us if we come within its reach in the course of our life’s journey. O, how deceitful and how false, how changeful and how fugitive, is all the offspring of this world’s love, all the pretence of transitory grace and beauty, all the promise of carnal pleasure! And let us also ponder well the sweetness and loveliness, the serenity and calm, of our own heavenly home; let us think well whence it is that we have fallen and where we lie, what we have lost and what found, that so we may learn from either consideration what good need we have to mourn and lament in this our banishment. It is for this reason that Solomon declares, ‘He that addeth knowledge 82addeth also labour’ (Eccles. i. 18); for the more thoroughly a man understands what are his soul’s maladies, the more abundant food has he for sighs and grief. Thus, in truth, meditation engenders knowledge, knowledge invites to compunction, compunction urges to devotion, and devotion leads to prayer. By habits of unremitting meditation man is so enlightened as to know himself, whilst in the practice of compunction his heart is touched with an intimate sorrow from the contemplation of its ills.

[§ 31.] II. Of the manifold blessings of Almighty God. Poor me, how ardently ought I to love my Lord for creating me when I was not, and for redeeming me when I was lost. I was not, and He made me out of nothing; nor did He make me one amongst His many creatures that are devoid of reason, as a tree, a bird, or one of the brute creation; but He willed that I should be a man, and endowed me with the gifts of life, sensation, and discourse of reason. I was lost, and to save me He stooped to my dying lot; immortal, He assumed mortality, endured suffering, vanquished death, and thus restored me to my first estate. Thus, thus have His grace and mercy always prevented 83me, and from many dangers He my deliverer has set me free. When I was going astray He led me back; when I knew nothing He taught me; when I sinned He chastened me; in my griefs He consoled me; in my despair He comforted; when I was fallen He raised me up; when I stood He held me; when I moved He guided me; when I came to Him He welcomed and received me. All this, and very much besides, has my Lord Jesus Christ done for me; and sweet will be the task of giving Him in return unceasing thanks for all, so may I for all His benefits be able to love and praise Him evermore. I have nothing that I can offer Him for all these things, except only that I love Him with all my heart; and there is no better and no fitter offering than what is given out of love.

[§ 32.] III. Here the sinner chides himself for his ingratitude. Alas, alas, alas, Lord God, is it so that I dare to come, that I dare to present myself in the presence of Thy saints; I of all men the most wretched and most sad; I that am so ungrateful for so many and so great blessings; I that have so shamelessly and so gracelessly abused Thy gifts; I that have not blushed out of those very 84gifts to make weapons wherewith to fight against Thee, and that so often and so long; I that have not blushed, so often and so long, though the recipient of Thy bounty, to fight on the devil’s side against Thee, my King; I that have dared to turn Thy very gifts into arms in the devil’s service; I that have presumed so infamously to misuse my very self, and dared to hire myself as a slave to the devil, and make my members his; and in those very members do battle against Thee, my Creator, against Thee, Thou that didst make them and didst give them me.

Am I not he, O Lord my God, that has so often put himself as a sharp sword in the hands of the graceless fiend for the devouring of souls? O, how often have I set myself in array against Thee to compass my neighbour’s death! And as often as I have aimed the arrows of detraction or of flattery at other men, so often have I turned it into a bow of falsehood. O most merciful, O sweetest Father, I cannot count the times that I have infamously misused my bodily members, so giving arms to the devil, and fighting against Thee, for all that Thou art utmost gentleness and goodness.


[§ 33.] IV. An acknowledgment of sin. I am the maddest of all madmen, who, created by Thee out of nothing, chosen out of the mass of sin and perdition to be a child of Thy grace, adopted by Thee to be a joint-heir of Thy dearest and only-begotten Son Jesus Christ our Lord and God, designed for the honours and the glories of Thy Kingdom, and filled with abundance of undeserved grace, yet forgot all this Thy lavish bounty, even though he saw full well that these so great blessings had been given him by Thee. Yes, indeed, I have spurned the honours of Thy heavenly kingdom, disdained Thy glory, and reduced myself to the condition of a bastard and degenerate child, and given myself over to the devil, to be dragged at his will over the dung hills of luxury and through the thorny brakes of avarice, and to be beaten on the rocks by the waves and breakers of pride.

I am the blind trader, who bartered away the priceless riches of the talents Thou gavest him, bartered them away, poor wretch, for want, for nakedness, for unending sighs; yes, I have exchanged peace the most delightsome and most joyous for thorns and a dunghill, that is to say, for riches and luxury; and pawned everlasting light for 86everlasting darkness, endless joys for endless griefs, eternal glory for eternal shame, and a throne in Thy kingdom for thraldom to devils.

I am that weakest of the sons of men who exposed himself as a butt for the arrow; for I have set myself to be pierced by the shafts of sin and torn from head to foot with wounds.

I am the mortal that, cast forth as a corpse to be torn and dragged to pieces by dogs of hell and all filthy carrion birds, cast forth from Thy holy city, the city of Thy holy ones, Thy friends, from the holy gladsome society of the blessed spirits of heaven, have given myself up to be consumed by vices as if by worms. O, how loathsome do I show in Thy holy eyes; stained and befouled with hideous noisome filth of luxury, scorched with fire of anger and avarice, my limbs infested with worms of hatred and envy, inflated and swollen by pride, from head to foot a mass of ulcers, scars, and wounds, stamped and scored with so many and so great sins, the lines and characters of diabolical foulness. I know, O merciful Lord, that Thou mayest deservedly and very justly say that I am none of Thine, and refuse to own in such a thing as I am, I will not say Thy child, but even Thy creation. For this hideous monstrous 87spectacle of all sorts of foulness is not Thy creation and re-creation; this hateful thing is no just image and similitude of Thee. It was quite an other creation that Thou madest me. Ah me! This likeness to the devil in all his foulness shows me hitherto to have been a child of the devil, an heir of the torments that await the unbelieving. Such, such is the exchange and the barter that I have made, fool, fool, blind fool that I have been, of pawning the glory and the dignity of bearing Thy likeness for most hateful and most vile deformity.

[§ 34. The sinner’s review of himself.] O holy Father, Thou didst not therefore intrust those precious talents of Thine to me, as to have me yield Thee for usury so hateful an offence. Thou didst not therefore shed so many and so great benefits upon me, that Thou shouldest reap no better fruit from the seed sown than worthless weeds and thorns and thistles. Thou didst not therefore fill me and enrich me with so many and so great benefits, that I should turn them into weapons against Thee my God. It was not the design of Thy loving-kindness to give me arms against Thyself, nor to increase the devil’s power by arms of Thy giving. And 88now behold me. See, see, I am stricken with all these wounds, these fearful wounds, yet I do not suffer. Ah, surely, I am blind; for with all their foulnesses and this utter nakedness, yet I am not ashamed.

Yes, yes indeed; I am senseless and dull of heart, not to grieve over the so many and the so sad losses that I have suffered; not even to have spirit left in me to bewail the death that I am dying. Yes, yes indeed; my heart must be of stone, that I am so hardened as not even now and then upon occasion to dread the eternal torments that overhang me. Yes, yes indeed; this heart is a rock of ice, for all the fires of my all-pitiful Father’s love and His love’s blessings do not avail to warm it. Yes, yes indeed; I take shame to myself and chide myself, for the trumpet-cry of preaching and the thunders of Thy threatenings are alike in effectual to arouse me.

Where is the piercing grief of which they tell, the grief of compunction, with which to crush and fling away all this hell-inspired hardness, and annihilate all the stone, the stubbornness, the rebellion? Where, my God, is the shame that should cover me with confusion before Thine eyes and the eyes of all the whole court of heaven? Where is the 89dread of Thy vengeance, that should make me tremble through and through before Thee? Where is the love, and the desire of recovering Thy peace and love and grace, that ought to burn within me? Where are the torrents of tears with which I should wash away my stains and my defilements from before Thee? Where is the prayerful devotion by which I should strive to appease and propitiate Thee? Whither shall I turn, O tender and compassionate Father, having, as I have, nothing worthy of Thy regard that I can offer to Thy majesty? Whither shall I fly, most merciful Father, I that am empty of all good; nay, that stand displayed full of all evil; beneath the gaze of Thy saints and the holy armies of Thy celestial hosts?

[§ 35. The sinner’s cry to God.] I know, O Lord God, Thou Ruler of my life, that every best gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father and Fountain of lights (St. James i. 16). I know that I can offer no acceptable pleasing thing to Thee, unless I have first drawn it from the Fountain of Thy goodness: and this only if Thou enlighten and if Thou teach me. I know that this earnest of Thy mercy must go before all effort of mine. I know, dearest Father, 90that if I cannot pilfer or filch away Thy good things from Thee, equally impossible is it for me, by any merits of mine, to procure the means whereby to return to Thee and please Thee. For what due can merits of mine procure me but the punishment of eternal death? I know that it rests with Thy good pleasure whether Thou destroy me, according to the multitude of my evil deeds, my offences, my neglects, and my omissions; or remake me, and make me acceptable to Thee after the inestimable riches of Thy mercy; for Thou, the sole maker of Thy creature, canst alone remake it.

Now do I fly to Thee, O merciful Father, knowing that Thou art my only refuge from Thyself. Who can deliver me from Thy Hands but Thou only? Thy mercy can deliver me—the mercy which I have not only demerited but resisted and rebelled against—can deliver me from Thy all-just anger, which I have so wretchedly and so gratuitously provoked. Deign, therefore, to receive me, O Lord, now that I return to Thee. Turn away, I pray Thee, Thy all-holy eyes from my foulnesses and my ingratitudes; and bend them on Thyself, from whom none ever asks forgiveness without hope of winning it. In Thyself wilt Thou 91find at once the source and the justification of any mercy Thou mayest show, according to the abundance of Thy sweetness and the immensity of Thy mercy. Do not, I pray Thee, look upon me; for in me Thou wilt find nothing but what well deserves Thy wrath, or is all worthy of eternal death. Then turn away Thy holy eyes, O Lord, from the sight of all that is so base and vile in me; the which, if I could see and scan them in Thy clear and blazing light, for very horror I could not endure it, but should abhor and shun my very self. Turn, turn away from my noisome foulness, and turn Thee to Thyself. I know, O Lord of mercy, that Thy holy eyes are pure, and cannot look upon horrible deformity, unless Thou give me goodness wherewithal to please Thee. I know that all Thy heavenly court turn away their eyes and shut their ears, unable to endure my hateful offences. But Thou, O merciful Father, turn, turn to that Fountain of Mercy, whose mercy knows no measure and no end, and so look upon me Thy creature with merciful and tender regard. I am Thy creature, O Lord, and the work of Thy hands.

Remake, therefore, I beseech Thee, what Thou, didst make in me, and destroy what I have done in myself against Thy commandments. Destroy, 92I mean, whatever Thou hatest in me, and what ever not Thou hast made, but I, poor I. Remake and recreate what Thou didst create and make; for this is Thine, O Lord my God; and to hate what is Thine is an impossible reach of hatred, for ‘Thou hatest none of the things which Thou hast made’ (Wisdom xi. 25). Destroy in me that which is mine, that, in short, which Thou hast not made; that is to say, all my baseness and vileness; but destroy not me. Destroy it, O merciful, com passionate Lord, for Thou hatest it; and that I am beginning to hate it, is Thy good gift.

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