This Age groans under such a surcharge of new Books, that though the many good ones lately published do much balance the great swarms of ill, or at least needless ones ; Yet all men complain of the unnecessary charge and trouble many new Books put them to : The truth of it is, Printing is become a Trade, and the Presses must be kept going, so that if it were but to shuffle out an ill Book, a man may be tempted to keep them at work.
And for Books of Devotion and Piety, we have seen so many excellent ones of late in our own Language, that perhaps no Age or Language can show the like ; in these the Christian Religion is proposed in its own True and Natural Colours, and rescued from those false Representations many are apt to make of it : As if it consisted either in External Performances, or in Mechanical Heats of the Fancy, or in embracing some Opinions or Interests. It is and can be nothing else but a Design to make us like God both in the Inward temper of our Minds, and in our whole deportment and conversation. For this end did Christ both live and die ; this he taught by his Discourses, and discovered in his Life. He died that he might take away sin, not only or chiefly to procure our Pardon, which was done by him for a further end ; that a Universal Indemnity being offered through his Death, all mankind might be thereby encouraged to enter into a course of holy Obedience with all possible advantages, having the hopes of Endless happiness, and the fears of Eternal miseries before them : having the clearest Rule, and the most unblemished Example proposed to them ; being also sure of constant Inward supplies to support and strengthen their endeavours, and an Unerring Providence to direct all things that concern them. Nor are there any Precepts in this whole Doctrine, whose fitness and true excellency, besides the Authority of the Law-giver, has not been fully made good. And the truth of the Principles of Natural Religion, and of the Revelation of the Council of God in Scripture was never since Miracles ceased, demonstrated with fuller and clearer evidence then in our Age, both for stopping the mouths of all daring Hectors, and for silencing the secret doubtings of more Inquisitive Minds. And though so grave a subject should have been rather prejudiced than adorned by Artificial and forced strains of Wit or Eloquence, yet as our Language was never chaster than now, so these Subjects have been handled with all the proper decencies of easy Wit and good Language.
But after all this, into what a torrent of regrets and lamentations must me break out, when we consider the Age we live in. For few do either believe or reflect on those great things. And as if there were a general Conspiracy against God and Religion, how does the greater part among us break loose from all the ties and bonds of that Yoke that is light and easy, and enslave themselves to many base and hurtful lusts and passions : And are not satisfied with being as bad as they can be, but desire that all the world may esteem them such, and glory in their shame ; and enhance their guilt by turning factors for hell, studying to corrupt all about them. This sad prospect must needs deeply affect all that either truly love God, or have a tender compassion for the Souls of Men, and will certainly set them to their secret mournings and wrestlings with God to avert the heavy Judgments that seem to hang over our heads ; and that he may of his great mercy turn the hearts of the froward and disobedient to the wisdom of the just.
And till God arise and bless his Gospel with more of this success, nothing could be such an effectual Mean for convincing the World of the Truth and Excellence of our most holy Faith, as that those who profess and embrace it did walk in all the strictness of a most holy Innocent and Exemplary Life ; keeping the due mean between the affectation of moroseness and hypocrisy, and the levities of irreligion and folly. This is the only argument that is wanting to convince the World of the truth of our Religion ; all people are more wrought on by lively Examples set before their eyes, than by any discourses or reasonings how strong or convincing soever. The one is more easily apprehended, and leaves a deeper Impression then the other, which does not prevail on us till by frequent and serious reflections we be satisfied about them, and when we hear any one speak well, we are not assured he thinks as he says, but do often suspect he is showing his Wit or Eloquence to our cost, that he may persuade us into some Opinions that may prove gainful to himself : but when we see a man pursuing a constant course of holiness in the most painful Instances which do most prejudice his Visible Interests, we have all reason to believe he is in good earnest persuaded of those truths which engage him to such a Conversation.
After the Ages of Miracles, nothing prevailed so much on the World as the exemplary Lives and the painful Martyrdoms of the Christians, which made all sorts of people look with amazement on that Doctrine that wrought so powerfully on all ranks, and did raise persons of the meanest Educations and Dispositions, and of the weaker Sex and tenderer Age ; to do and suffer beyond what their greatest Heroes and most celebrated Philosophers had ever done. And in those days the Apologists for the Christian Religion did appeal to the lives of the Christians to prove their Doctrine holy, concluding that there could be nothing but good in that Doctrine that made all its Votaries such. But alas ! when we write Apologies we must appeal from the Lives of most that pretend to be Religious, to the Rules and Precepts of our most holy Faith, and must decline the putting the trial of Christianity upon that issue ; and though thanks be to God there are beautiful and shining Instances of the power of Religion among us, yet alas there be too few of them, and they lie hid in a vast mixture of others that are naught.
The two great prejudices the Tribe of Libertines and Ruffians are hardened in against Religion, are, 1. that they do not see those that profess they believe the truths of Religion, live like men that do so in good earnest : and I have known them say, That did they believe the great God governed all humane affairs, and did know all we do, and were to call us to an account for it, and reward or punish accordingly in an endless and unchangeable state, they could not live as the greater part of Christians do, but would presently renounce all the vanities and follies of this World, and give themselves up wholly to a holy and exact course of life. The other prejudice is, That for those in whose deportment they find little to blame, yet they have great cause of suspecting there is some hid design under it, which will break out when there is a fit opportunity for it. And they conclude, that such persons are either secretly as bad as others, only disguising it by a decenter deportment, or that all they do is a force upon themselves for some secret end or other. And if there be some on whom they can fasten neither of these ( as it is hardly possible but one that is resolved to possess himself with prejudices, will either find or pretend some colours for them ) then at last they judge such persons are morose and sullen, and find either from the disposition of their Body or their Education as much satisfaction in their sour gravity, as others do in all their wanton and extravagant follies.
These prejudices, especially the first, must be discussed by real Confutations, and the strict conduct of our lives, as well as our grave and solemn devotions must show we are over-ruled by a strong belief of the authority of that Law which governs our whole actions. Nor will our abstaining from gross Immoralities be argument enough, since even decency may prevail so far ( though alas never so little as now when fools do so generally mock at the shame and sense of sin, as if that were only the peevishness of a strict and illiberal education ) but we must abstain from all those things that are below the gravity of a Christian, and strengthen a corrupt generation in their Vices. What signifies endless gaming, especially when joined with so much avarice and passion as accompany it generally, but that people know not to dispose of their time, and therefore must play it away idly at best. What shall be said of those constant crowds at Plays ( especially when the Stage is so defiled with Atheism, and all sorts of Immorality ) but that so many persons know not how to fill up so many hours of the day, and therefore this contrivance must serve to waste them, and they must feed their eyes and ears with debauching objects, which will either corrupt their Minds, or at least fill their Imaginations with very unpleasant and hateful representations. As if there were not a sufficient growth of ill thoughts ready to spring up within us, but this must be cultivated and improved by Art. What are those perpetual visits in the giving or receiving of which most spend the better half of the time in which they are awake : And how trifling at best, but generally how hurtful the discourses that pass in those visits are, I leave to those who live in them to declare. How much time is spent in vain dressing, ( not to mention those indecent Arts of Painting, and other contrivances to corrupt the World ) and all either to feed vanity or kindle lust. And after all this, many that live in these things desire to be thought good Christians, are constant to Church and frequent at the Sacrament. What wonder then if our Libertines seeing such things in persons that pass for very Religious, and having wit enough to discern that such a deportment does not agree with the belief of an account to be made for all we do, conclude they do not believe that, otherwise they would not behave themselves as they do. Some failures now and then could not justify such an Inference, but a habit and course of those things is an argument against the reality of that belief which I confess I cannot answer.
But when we have got so far as to escape those things that are blame-worthy, it is far from being all we must aim at ; it is not enough not to be ill ; we must be good, and express it in all the instances which our state of life and circumstances call for. Doing good to all, forgiving injuries, comforting all in trouble, supplying the necessities of the poor ; but chiefly studying to advance the good of all peoples souls as much as we can ; improving whatever Interest we have in any persons to this end of raising them to a sense of God and another Life ; The chief motive we offer to this, being the unaffected strictness of our own deportment, which will make all our discourses have the greater weight and force in them.
And for the other prejudices, it is true, there is no fence or security against Jealousy, yet we ought carefully to avoid every thing may be an occasion of it, as all secret converse with suspected persons, the doing any thing that without sin we may forbear, which is singular, or may bring a dis-esteem on others, or make us be observed or talked of : And in a word, to shun all forced gestures, or modes of speech, and every thing that is not native and genuine. For let men think what they will, nothing that is constrained can ever become so natural, but it will appear loathsome and affected to others : which must needs afford matter of jealousy and dis-esteem, especially to all prying and Critical observers.
Were there many who did live thus, the Atheists would be more convinced, at least more ashamed and out of countenance, than the most learned Writings or laboured Sermons will ever make them : Especially if a spirit of Universal Love and goodness did appear more among Christians, and those factions and animosities were laid aside, which both weaken the inward vitals of holiness, and expose them to the scorn of their Adversaries, and make them an easy prey to every aggressor. There is scarce a more unaccountable thing to be imagined, then to see a Company of Men professing that Religion, a great and main precept whereof is mutual love, forbearance, gentleness of spirit, and Compassion to all sorts of persons, and agreeing in all the essential parts of that Doctrine, differing only in some less material and more disputable things, yet maintain those differences with a Zeal so disproportioned to the value of them, prosecuting all that disagree from them with all possible violence, or if they want means to use outward force, with all bitterness of Spirit. This must needs astonish every Impartial beholder, and raise great prejudices against those persons Religious, as made up of Contradictions, professing love, but breaking out in all the acts of hatred.
But the deep sense I have of these things has carried me too far, my design in this Preface being only to Introduce the following Discourse, which was written by a Pious and Learned Countryman of mine, for the private use of a Noble Friend of his, without the least design of making it more public. Others seeing it, were much taken both with the Excellent purposes it contained, and the great clearness and pleasantness of the Style, the natural Method and the shortness of it, and desired it might be made a more public good. And knowing some Interest I had with the Author, it was referred to me, whether it should lie in a private Closet, or be let go abroad. I was not long in suspense, having read it over, and the rather knowing so well as I do, that the Author has written out nothing here but what he himself did well feel and know, and therefore it being a Transcript of those divine Impressions that are upon his own heart, I hope the Native and unforced genuineness of it will both more delight and edify the Reader. I know those things have been often discoursed with great advantages both of Reason, Wit and Eloquence, but the more Witnesses that concur in sealing these Divine Truths with their Testimonies, the more evidence is thereby given.
It was upon this account that the Author having seen a Letter written by a Friend of his to a Person of great Honour, but of far greater Worth, of the rise and progress of a Spiritual Life ( wherein as there were many things which he had not touched so in those things of which they both discourse, the harmony was so great, that he believed they would mutually strengthen one another ) was earnest with his Friend that both might go abroad together, and the other pressing him to let his Discourse be published, he would not yield to it unless he granted the same consent for his.
My Dear Friend,
This The Occasion of this Discourse.designation doth give you a Title to all the Endeavours whereby I can serve your Interests ; and your Pious Inclinations do so happily conspire with my Duty, that I shall not need to step out of my road to gratify you ; but I may at once perform an office of Friendship, and discharge an exercise of my Function, since the advancing of Virtue and Holiness ( which I hope you make your greatest study ) is the peculiar business of my employment. This therefore is the most proper instance wherein I can vent my affection, and express my gratitude towards you, and I shall not any longer delay the performance of what promise I made you to this purpose : for though I know you are provided with better helps of this nature, then any I can offer you ; nor are you like to meet with any thing here which you knew not before, yet I am hopeful, that what cometh from one whom you are pleased to honour with your Friendship, and which is more particularly designed for your use, will be kindly accepted by you, and God’s Providence perhaps may so direct my thoughts, that something or other may prove useful to you. Nor shall I doubt your pardon, if for moulding my discourse into the better frame, I lay a low foundation, beginning with the Nature, and Properties of Religion, and all along give such way to my thoughts in the prosecution of the subject, as may bring me to say many things which were not necessary, did I only consider to whom I am writing.
Mistakes about Religion.
I cannot speak of Religion, but I must regret that among so many pretenders to it, so few understand what it means ; some placing it in the Understanding, in Orthodox Notions and Opinions, and all the account they can give of their Religion, is that they are of this or the other persuasion, and have join’d themselves to one of those many Sects whereunto Christendom is most unhappily divided : Others place it in the outward man, in a constant course of external duties, and a model of performances, if they live peaceably with their Neighbours, keep a temperate diet, observe the returns of Worship, frequenting the Church, or their Closet, and sometimes extend their hands to the relief of the Poor, they think they have sufficiently acquitted themselves. Others again put all Religion in the affections, in rapturous heats, and ecstatic devotion, and all they aim at, is to pray with passion, and think of Heaven with pleasure, and to be affected with those kind, and melting expressions wherewith they court their Saviour, till they persuade themselves that they are mightily in love with him, and from thence assume a great confidence of their salvation, which they esteem the chief of Christian Graces. Thus are these things which have any resemblance of Piety, and at the best are but means for obtaining it, or particular exercises of it, frequently mistaken for the whole of Religion : nay sometimes Wickedness and Vice pretends to that name ; I speak not now of those gross Impieties wherewith the Heathens were wont to worship their Gods ; there are but too many Christians who would consecrate their vices, and hallow their corrupt affections, whose rugged humour, and sullen pride must pass for Christian severity, whose fierce wrath, and bitter rage against their enemies must be called holy zeal, whose petulancy toward their Superiours, or rebellion against their Governours must have the name of Christian courage and resolution.
What Religion is.
But certainly Religion is quite another thing, and they who are acquainted with it, will entertain far different thoughts, and disdain all those shadows and false imitations of it. They know by experience that true Religion is an Union of the Soul with God, a real participation of the Divine Nature, the very Image of God drawn upon the Soul, or in the Apostle’s phrase, it is Christ formed within us. Briefly, I know not how the nature of Religion can be more fully expressed than by calling it a Divine Life ; and under these terms I shall discourse of it, showing first how it is called a Life, and then how it is termed Divine.
The permanency and stability of Religion.
I choose to express it by the name of life, first because of its permanency and stability : Religion is not a sudden start, or passion of the Mind, not though it should rise to the height of a rapture, and seem to transport a man to extraordinary performances. There are few but have convictions of the necessity of doing something for the salvation of their Souls, which may push them forward some steps, with a 6 great deal of seeming hast ; but anon they flag and give over ; they were in hot mood, but now they are cooled ; they did shoot forth fresh and high, but are quickly withered, because they had no root in themselves. These sudden fits may be compared to the violent and convulsive motions of Bodies newly beheaded, caused by the agitations of the animal spirits, after the Soul is departed, which however violent and impetuous, can be of no long continuance ; whereas the motions of holy Souls are constant and regular, proceeding from a permanent, and lively principle. It is true, this Divine life continueth not always in that same strength and vigour, but many times suffers sad decays, and holy men find greater difficulty in resisting temptations, and less alacrity in the performance of their duties ; yet it is not quite extinguished, nor are they abandoned to the power of these corrupt affections, which sway and over-rule the rest of the world.
The freedom and unconstrainedness of Religion.
Again, Religion may be designed by the name of Life, because it is an inward, free, and self-moving principle, and those who have made progress in it, are not acted only by external Motives, driven merely by threatenings, nor bribed by promises, nor constrain’d by Laws ; but are powerfully inclined to that which is good, and delight in the performance of it : The love which a Pious man carries to God, and goodness, is not so much by virtue of a Command enjoining him so to do, as by a new Nature instructing and prompting him to it ; nor doth he pay his devotions, as an unavoidable tribute only to appease the Divine Justice, or quiet his clamorous Conscience ; but those Religious exercises are the proper emanations of the divine life, the natural employments of the new-born Soul. He prays and gives thanks, and repents, not only because these things are commanded, but rather because he is sensible of his wants, and of the Divine goodness, and of the folly and misery of a sinful life ; his charity is not forced, nor his alms extorted from him, his love makes him willing to give ; and though there were no outward obligation, his heart would devise liberal things. Injustice or intemperance, and all other vices, are as contrary to his temper, and constitution, as the basest actions are to the most generous spirit, and impudence and scurrility to those who are naturally modest : so that I may well say with St. John, Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin : for his seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin because he is born of God. Though holy and religious persons do much eye the Law of God, and have a great regard unto it, yet is it not so much the sanction of the Law, as its reasonableness, and purity and goodness which doth prevail with them ; they account it excellent and desirable in its self, and that in keeping of it there is great reward : and that Divine Love wherewith they are acted, makes them become a Law unto themselves.1 John iii. 9.
Quis legem det amantibus? Major est amor lex ipse sibi.For who can give a Law to those that love? Love’s a more powerful Law which doth such persons move.
In a word, what our blessed Saviour said of himself, is in some measure applicable to his followers, that it’s their meat and drink to do their Father’s will : and as the natural appetite is carried out toward food, though we should not reflect on the necessity of it for the preservation of our lives ; so are they carried with a natural and unforced propension toward that which is good and commendable. It is true, external motives are many times of great use to excite and stir up this inward principle, especially in its infancy and weakness, when it’s often so languid, that the man himself can scarce discern it, hardly being able to move one step forward, but when he is pushed by his hopes, or his fears, by the pressure of an affliction, or the sense of a mercy, by the authority of the Law, or the persuasion of others. Now if such a person be conscientious and uniform in his obedience, and earnestly groaning under the sense of his dullness, and is desirous to perform his duties with more spirit, and vigor : these are the first motions of the divine life, which though it be faint, and weak, will surely be cherished by the influences of Heaven, and grow unto greater maturity : but he who is utterly destitute of this inward principle, and doth not aspire unto it, but contents himself with those performances whereunto he is prompted by Education or custom, by the fear of Hell, or carnal notions of Heaven, can no more be accounted a religious person, than a Puppet can be call’d a Man. This forced and artificial religion is commonly heavy and languid, like the motion of a weight forced upward, it is cold and spiritless, like the uneasy compliance of a wife married against her will, who carries dutifully toward the husband whom she doth not love, out of some sense of Virtue or Honour. Hence also this religion is scant and niggardly, especially in those duties which do greatest violence to men’s carnal inclinations, and those slavish spirits will be sure to do no more, than is absolutely required, ’tis a Law that compels them, and they will be loath to go beyond what it stints them to, nay, they will ever be putting such glosses on it, as may leave themselves the greatest liberty ; whereas the Spirit of true Religion is franc and liberal, far from such peevish and narrow reckoning ; and he who hath given himself entirely unto God will never think he doth too much for him.John iv. 34.
Religion a Divine Principle.
What the Natural Life is.
Before I descend to a more particular consideration of that Divine Life wherein true Religion doth consist, it will perhaps be fit to speak a little of that natural or animal Life which prevails in those who are strangers to the other : and by this I understand nothing else, but our inclination and propension toward those things which are pleasing and acceptable to Nature : or self-Love issuing forth and spreading it self into as many branches as men have several appetites and inclinations : The root and foundation of the animal life I reckon to be Sense, taking it largely, as it is opposed unto Faith, and importeth our perception and resentment of things, that are either grateful or troublesome unto us. Now those animal affections considered in themselves, and as they are implanted in us by nature, are not vicious or blameable ; nay they are instances of the Wisdom of the Creator furnishing his Creatures with such appetites as tend to the preservation and welfare of their lives : these are instead of a Law unto the brute Beasts, whereby they are directed towards the ends for which they were made ; but Man being made for higher purposes, and to be guided by more excellent Laws, becomes guilty and criminal when he is so far transported by the inclinations of this lower Life, as to violate his duty, or neglect the higher and more noble designs of his creation. Our natural affections are not wholly to be extirpated and destroyed, but only to be moderated and over-ruled by a superiour and more excellent principle. In a word, the difference betwixt a religious and wicked man, is, that in the one the Divine life bears sway, in the other the animal doth prevail.
The different tendencies of the natural life.
But it is strange to observe unto what different courses this natural principle will sometimes carry those who are wholly guided by it, according to the diverse circumstances that concur with it to determine them : and the not considering this doth frequently occasion very dangerous mistakes, making men think well of themselves by reason of that seeming difference which is betwixt them and others, whereas perhaps their actions do all the while flow from one and the same original. If we consider the natural temper and constitution of men’s Souls, we shall find some to be airy, frolic and light, which makes their behaviour extravagant and ridiculous ; whereas others are naturally serious and severe, and their whole carriage composed into such gravity as gains them a great deal of Reverence and Esteem. Some are of an humurous, rugged, and morose temper, and can neither be pleased themselves, nor endure that others should be so ; but all are not born under such sour and unhappy Stars, for some persons have a certain sweetness and benignity rooted in their natures, and they find the greatest pleasure in the endearments of Society, and the mutual complacency of Friends, and covet nothing more than to have every body obliged to them : And it is well that Nature hath provided this complectional tenderness to supply the defect of true charity in the world, and to incline men to do something for one another’s welfare. Again, in regard of Education some have never been taught to follow any other rules, than those of Pleasure or Advantage ; but others are so inured to observe the strictest rules of decency and honour, and some instances of Virtue, that they are hardly capable of doing any thing which they have been accustom’d to look upon as base and unworthy.
In fine, it is no small difference in the deportment of mere natural men that doth arise from the strength or weakness of their Wit or Judgment, and from their care or negligence in using them : intemperance, and lust : injustice and oppression, and all those other impieties which abound in the world, and render it so miserable, are the issues of self-love, the effects of the animal life, when it is neither overpowered by Religion, nor govern’d by natural reason ; but if it once take hold of reason, and get judgment and wit to be of its party, it will many times disdain the grosser sort of vices, and spring up unto fair imitations of Virtue and Goodness. If a man have but so much reason as to consider the prejudice which intemperance and inordinate lust doth bring unto his health, his fortune and his reputation, self-love may suffice to restrain him : and one may observe the rules of Moral Justice in dealing with others, as the best way to secure his own interest, and maintain his credit in the world. But this is not all, this natural principle by the help of reason may take a higher flight, and come nigher the instances of Piety and Religion : it may incline a man to the diligent study of Divine Truths : for why should not these as well as other speculations be pleasant and grateful to curious and inquisitive humors ? It may make men zealous in maintaining and propagating such opinions as they have espoused, and be very desirous that others should submit unto their Judgment, and approve the choice of Religion, which themselves have made : it may make them delight to hear and compose excellent discourses about the matters of Religion ; for Eloquence is very pleasant whatever be the subject : nay some it may dispose to no small height of sensible devotion : the glorious things that are spoken of Heaven may make even a carnal heart in love with it : the Metaphors and Similitudes made use of in Scripture of Crowns and Scepters, and Rivers of pleasure, &c. will easily affect a man’s fancy, and make him wish to be there, though he neither understand nor desire those spiritual pleasures which are described and shadowed forth by these : and when such a person comes to believe that Christ has purchased these glorious things for him, he may feel a kind of tenderness and affection towards so great a Benefactor, and imagine that he is mightily enamoured of him, and yet all the while continue a stranger to the holy temper and spirit of the Blessed Jesus, and so instead of a Deity he may embrace a cloud : and what hand the natural constitution may have in the rapturous devotions of some melancholy persons, hath been excellently discovered of late by several Learned and Judicious Pens.
To conclude ; There is nothing proper to make a man’s life pleasant, or himself eminent and conspicuous in the World, but this natural principle assisted by Wit and Reason may prompt him to it : and tho’ I do not condemn these things in themselves, yet it concerns us nearly to know and consider their nature, both that we may keep within due bounds, and also that we may learn never to value our selves, on the account of such attainments, nor lay the stress of Religion upon our natural appetites or performances.
Wherein the Divine Life doth consist.
It is now time to return to the consideration of that Divine Life whereof I was discoursing before, that life which is hid with Christ in God, and therefore hath no glorious show or appearance in the world, and to the natural spirit will seem a mean and insipid notion. As the Animal life consisteth in that narrow and confined love which is terminated on a man’s self, and in his propension towards those things that are pleasing to Nature ; So the Divine Life stands in an universal and unbounded affection, and in the mastery over our natural inclinations, that they may never be able to betray us to those things which we know to be blameable. The root of the divine life is Faith, the chief branches are Love to God, Charity to Man, Purity, and Humility : For ( as an Excellent Person hath well observed ) however these names be common and vulgar, and make no extraordinary sound, yet do they carry such a mighty sense, that the tongue of Man or Angel can pronounce nothing more weighty or excellent. Faith hath the same place in the Divine life which Sense hath in the natural, being indeed nothing else, but a kind of sense, or feeling persuasion of Spiritual things : It extends it self unto all Divine Truths ; but in our lapsed estate, it hath a peculiar relation to the declarations of God’s mercy and reconcileableness to Sinners through a Mediator, and therefore receiving its denomination from that principal object is ordinarily termed, Faith in Jesus Christ.
The love of God is a delightful and affectionate sense of the Divine perfections, which makes the Soul resign and sacrifice it self wholly unto him, desiring above all things to please him, and delighting in nothing so much as in fellowship and communion with him, and being ready to do or suffer any thing for his sake, or at his pleasure. Though this affection may have its first rise from the Favours and Mercies of God toward our selves, yet doth it in its growth and progress transcend such particular considerations, and ground it self on his infinite goodness manifested in all the Works of Creation and Providence. A Soul thus possessed with Divine Love, must needs be enlarged towards all Mankind in a sincere and unbounded, affection because of the relation they carry unto God being his Creatures, and having something of his Image stamped upon them : and this is that Charity I named as the second branch of Religion, and under which all the parts of Justice, all the duties we owe to our Neighbour are eminently comprehended : for he who doth truly love all the world will be nearly concerned in the interests of every one, and so far from wronging or injuring any person, that he will resent any evil that befalls to others, as if it happened to himself.
By Purity, I understand a due abstractedness from the body, and mastery over the inferiour appetites : or such a temper and disposition of mind, as makes a man despise & abstain from all pleasures and delights of sense or fancy which are sinful in themselves, or tend to extinguish or lessen our relish of more divine and intellectual pleasures ; which doth also infer a resoluteness to undergo all those hardships he may meet with in the performance of his duty : so that not only Chastity and Temperance, but also Christian Courage and Magnanimity may come under this head.
Humility imports a deep sense of our own meanness, with a hearty and affectionate acknowledgment of our owing all that we are to the Divine Bounty ; which is always accompanied with a profound submission to the Will of God, and great deadness toward the glory of the world, and applause of men.
These are the highest Perfections that either Men or Angels are capable of, the very foundation of Heaven laid in the Soul, and he who hath attain’d them needs not desire to pry into the hidden Rolls of God’s Decrees, or search the Volumes of Heaven to know what’s determined about his everlasting condition, but he may find a Copy of God’s Thoughts concerning him written in his own breast. His love to God may give him assurance of God’s favour to him, and those beginnings of happiness which he feels in the conformity of the powers of his Soul to the Nature of God, and compliance with his Will, is a sure pledge that his felicity shall be perfected, and continued unto all Eternity : And it is not without reason that one said, I had rather see the real impressions of a Godlike Nature upon my own Soul, then have a Vision from Heaven, or an Angel sent to tell me that my name were enroll’d in the Book of Life.
Religion better understood by actions, than by words.
Divine Love exemplified in our Saviour.
His Diligence in doing God’s Will.His Patience in bearing it.That sincere and devout Affection wherewith his Blessed Soul did constantly burn toward his Heavenly Father, did express it self in an entire resignation to his Will, it was his very meat to do the will and finish the work of him that sent him. This was the exercise of his Childhood, and the constant employment of his riper age ; he spared no travail or pains while he was about his Father’s business, but took such infinite Content and Satisfaction in the performance of it, that when being faint and weary with his Journey he rested him on Jacob‘s Well, and entreated a drink of the Samaritan Woman, the success of his Conference with her, and the accession that was made to the Kingdom of God, filled his Mind with such delight, as seemed to have redounded to his very Body, refreshing his spirits, and making him forget the thirst whereof he complain’d before, and refuse the meat which he had sent the Disciples to buy. Nor was he less patient and submissive in suffering the Will of God, than diligent in doing of it : he endured the sharpest Afflictions, and extremest Miseries that ever were inflicted on any mortal, without a repining thought, or discontented word. For tho he was far from a stupid insensibility, or a fantastic or Stoical obstinacy, and had as quick a sense of pain as other men, and the deepest apprehension of what he was to suffer in his Soul ( as his Bloody Sweat, and the sore amazement and sorrow which he profess’d, do abundantly declare ) yet did he entirely submit to that severe dispensation of Providence, and willingly acquiesced in it.
And he prayed to God, that if it were possible ( or as one of the Evangelists hath, if he were willing, ) that Cup might be removed ; yet he gently added, nevertheless, not my will but thine be done. Of what strange importance are the expressions, John. xii. 27. where he first acknowledgeth the anguish of his spirit, Now is my Soul troubled, which would seem to produce a kind of demur, And what shall I say ; and then he goes to deprecate his Sufferings, Father, save me from this hour ; which he had no sooner uttered, but he doth, as it were, on second thoughts recall it in these words, But for this cause came I into the world ; and concludes, Father glorify thy Name. Now we must not look on this as any levity, or blameable weakness in the Blessed Jesus, he knew all along what he was to suffer, and did most resolutely undergo it ; but it shows us the inconceiveable weight and pressure that he was to bear, which being so afflicting and contrary to Nature, he could not think of without terrour ; yet considering the Will of God, and the glory which was to redound to him from thence, he was not only content but desirous to suffer it.
Our Saviour’s constant Devotion.
Another instance of his Love to God, was his delight in conversing with him by Prayer, which made him frequently retire himself from the world, and with the greatest Devotion and Pleasure spend whole Nights in that Heavenly Exercise, though he had no sins to confess, and but few secular Interests to pray for ; which alas ! are almost the only things that are wont to drive us to our devotions : nay, we may say his whole Life was a kind of Prayer, a constant course of Communion with God : if the Sacrifice was not always offering, yet was the fire still kept alive : nor was ever the Blessed Jesus surprized with that dullness or tepidity of spirit which we must many times wrestle with, before we can be fit for the exercise of devotion.
Our Saviour’s Charity to men.
In the second place, I should speak of his Love and Charity toward men ; but he who would express it, must transcribe the History of the Gospel, and comment upon it ; for scarce any thing is recorded to have been done or spoken by him which was not designed for the good and advantage of some one or other. All his Miraculous Works were instances of his Goodness as well as his Power, and they benefited those on whom they were wrought, as well as they amazed the beholders. His Charity was not confined to his Kindred, or Relations ; nor was all his kindness swallowed up in the endearments of that peculiar friendship which he carried toward the beloved Disciple, but every one was his Friend who obeyed his holy Commands, John xv. 4. and whosoever did the will of his Father, the same was to him as his Brother, and Sister and Mother.
Never was any unwelcome to him who came with an honest intention, nor did he deny any request which tended to the good of those that asked it : So what was spoken of that Roman Emperour, whom for his goodness they called the Darling of Mankind, was really performed by him, that never any departed from him with a heavy countenance : except that rich Youth, Mark x. who was sorry to hear that the Kingdom of Heaven stood at so high a rate, and that he could not save his Soul and his Money too. And certainly it troubled our Saviour to see that when a price was in his hand to get wisdom, yet he had no heart to it ; the ingenuity that appeared in his first address, had already procured some kindness for him ; for it is said, And Jesus, beholding him, loved him : But must he for his sake cut out a new way to Heaven, and alter the nature of things which make it impossible that a covetous man should be happy ?
And what shall I speak of his meekness, who could encounter the monstrous ingratitude and dissimulation of that miscreant who betrayed him, in no harsher terms then these, Judas betrayest thou the Son of Man with a Kiss ? What further evidence could we desire of his fervent and unbounded Charity, then that he willingly laid down his life even for his most bitter Enemies, and mingling his Prayers with his Blood, besought the Father that his Death might not be laid to their charge, but might become the means of Eternal Life to those very persons who procured it ?
Our Saviour’s Purity.
The Third Branch of the Divine Life is Purity, which, as I said, consists in a neglect of worldly enjoyments and accommodations, and a resolute enduring of all such troubles as we meet with in the doing of our duty. Now surely if ever any person was wholly dead to all the pleasures of the natural Life, it was the Blessed Jesus, who seldom tasted them when they came in his way, but never stepp’d out of his road to seek them. Though he allowed others the comforts of Wedlock, and honoured Marriage with his Presence, yet he chose the severity of a Virgin Life, and never knew the Nuptial Bed : and though at the same time he supplied the want of Wine with a Miracle, yet he would not work one for the relief of his own hunger in the Wilderness. So Gracious and Divine was the temper of his Soul, in allowing to others such lawful gratifications as himself thought good to abstain from, and supplying not only their more extreme and pressing necessities, but also their smaller and less considerable wants. We many times hear of our Saviour’s sighs, and groans, and tears ; but never that he laughed, and but once that he rejoyced in spirit ; so that through his whole Life he did exactly answer that Character given of him by the Prophet of old, That he was a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. Nor were the troubles and disaccommodations of his Life rather his fate than choice, for never did there any appear on the Stage of the World with greater advantages to have raised himself to the highest secular felicity. He who could convene such a prodigious number of Fishes into his Disciples Net, and at another time received that tribute from a Fish which he was to pay to the Temple, might easily have made himself the richest Person in the world. Nay, without any money he could have maintained an Army powerful enough to have jostled Caesar out of his Throne, having oftner than once fed Seven Thousand with a few loaves and small fishes. But to show how small esteem he had of all the Enjoyments in the world, he choosed to live in so poor and mean a condition, that though the Foxes had holes, and the Birds of the Air had nests, yet he, who was Lord and Heir of all things, had not whereon to lay his head : He did not frequent the Courts of Princes, nor affect the acquaintance and converse of great Ones, but being reputed the Son of a Carpenter, he had Fisher-men, and such other poor people for his Companions, and lived at such a rate as suited with the meanness of that quality.
Our Saviour’s Humility.
And thus I am brought unawares to speak of his Humility, the last branch of the Divine Life, wherein he was a most Eminent Pattern to us, that we might learn of him to be meek and lowly in heart. I shall not now speak of that infinite condescention of the Eternal Son of God, in taking our Nature upon him ; but only reflect on our Saviour’s lowly and humble deportment while he was in the world. He had none of those sins and imperfections which may justly humble the best of men ; but he was so entirely swallowed up with a deep sense of the infinite Perfections of God, that he appeared as nothing in his own eyes, I mean in so far as he was a Creature. He considered those Eminent Perfections which shined in his Blessed Soul as not his own but the gifts of God ; and therefore assumed nothing to himself for them, but with the profoundest humility renounced all pretences to them. Hence did he refuse that ordinary compellation of Good Master, when address’d to his humane Nature by one who it seems was ignorant of his Divinity : Why callest thou me Good ? ( saith he ) there is none good, but God only. As if he had said, The goodness of any creature ( and such only thou takest me to be ) is not worthy to be named or taken notice of, ’tis God alone who is originally and essentially Good. He never made use of his Miraculous Power for vanity or ostentation ; he would not gratify the curiosity of the Jews with a sign from Heaven, some Prodigious appearance in the Air : nor would he follow the advice of his Countrymen and Kindred, who would have had all his great Works performed in the eyes of the World, for gaining him the greater fame. But when his Charity had prompted him to the relief of the miserable, his humility made him many times enjoin the concealment of the Miracle ; and when the glory of God, and the design for which he came unto the world, required the publication of them, he ascribed the honour of all to his Father, telling them, That of himself he was able to do nothing.
I cannot insist on all the instances of Humility in his deportment towards men : his withdrawing himself when they would have made him a King, his subjection not only to his Blessed Mother, but to her husband during his younger years, and his submission to all the indignities and affronts, which his rude and malitious Enemies did put upon him. The history of his holy Life, recorded by those who conversed with him, is full of such passages as these : and indeed the serious and attentive study of it, is the best way to get right measures of humility, and all the other parts of Religion, which I have been endeavouring to describe.
The Excellency and advantage of Religion.
And now, my dear Friend, having discovered the nature of True Religion, before I proceed any further, it will not perhaps be unfit to fix our Meditations a little on the Excellency and advantages of it, that we may be excited to the more vigorous and diligent prosecution of those Methods whereby we may attain so great a felicity. But alas! what words shall we find to express that inward satisfaction, those hidden pleasures which can never be rightly understood, but by those holy Souls who feel them ? A stranger intermeddleth not with their joy. Holiness is the right temper, the vigorous and healthful constitution of the Soul : its faculties had formerly been enfeebled and disordered so that they could not exercise their natural functions : it had wearied it self with endless tossings and rollings, and was never able to find any rest : now that distemper is removed, and it feels it self well, there is a due harmony in its faculties, and a sprightly vigour possesseth every part. The understanding can discern what is good, and the will can cleave unto it, the affections are not tied to the motions of Sense, and the influence of External objects ; but they are stirred by more Divine impressions, are touched by a sense of invisible things.Prov. xiv. 10.
The Excellency of Divine Love.
Let us descend, if you please, into a nearer and more particular view of Religion in those several branches of it which were named before : let us consider that love and affection wherewith holy Souls are united to God, that we may see what Excellency and Felicity is involved in it. Love is that powerful and prevalent passion, by which all the faculties and inclinations of the Soul are determined, and on which both its perfection and happiness doth depend. The worth and excellency of a Soul is to be measured by the object of its love : he who loveth mean and fordid things, doth hereby become base and vile ; but a noble and well-placed affection doth advance and improve the spirit unto a confirmity with the perfections which it loves. The images of these do frequently present themselves unto the Mind, and by a secret force and energy insinuate into the very constitution of the Soul, and mould and fashion it unto their own likeness. Hence we may see how easily Lovers or Friends do slide unto the imitation of the person whom they affect ; and how, even before they are aware, they begin to resemble them, not only in the more considerable instances of their deportment, but also in their voice and gesture, and that which we call their mien and air ; and certainly we should as well transcribe the virtues and inward beauties of the Soul, if they were the object and motive of our love. But now as all the Creatures we converse with have their mixture and alloy, we are always in hazard to be sullied and corrupted by placing our affection on them. Passion doth easily blind our eyes, so that we first approve, and then imitate the things that are blameable in them : The true way to improve and ennoble our Souls, is by fixing our love on the Divine Perfections, that we may have them alwayes before us, and derive an impression of them on our selves ; And beholding with open face, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord, we may be changed into the same Image from glory to glory. He who with a generous and holy ambition had raised his eyes toward that uncreated Beauty and Goodness, and fixed his affection there, is quite of another spirit, a more excellent and heroic temper than the rest of the world, and cannot but infinitely disdain all mean and unworthy things ; will not entertain any low or base thoughts, which might disparage his high and noble pretensions. Love is the greatest and most excellent thing we are masters of, and therefore it is folly and baseness to bestow it unworthily ; it is indeed the only thing we can call our own ; other things may be taken from us by violence, but none can ravish our love. If any thing else be counted ours, by giving our love, we give all, in so far as we make over our hearts and wills, by which we possess our other enjoyments. It is not possible to refuse him any thing, to whom by love we have given our selves ; nay, since it is the priviledge of gifts to receive their value from the mind of the giver, and not to be measured by the event, but by the desire. He who loveth may in some sense be said not only to bestow all that he hath, but all things else which may make the beloved person happy, since he doth heartily wish them, and would really give them, if they were in his power : in which sense it is that one makes bold to say, That Divine Love doth in a manner give God unto himself, by the complacency it takes in the happiness and perfection of his Nature : But though this may seem too big an expression, certainly love is the worthiest Present we can offer unto God, and it is extremely debased when we bestow it another way.
When this affection is misplaced, it doth often vent it self, in such expressions, as point at its genuine and proper object, and insinuate where it ought to be placed. The flattering and blasphemous terms of adoration, wherein men do sometimes express their Passion, are the language of that affection which was made and designed for God : as he who is accustomed to speak to some great Person, doth perhaps unawares accost another with those Titles he was wont to give to him. But certainly that Passion which accounteth its object a Deity, ought to be bestowed on him who is really so : Those unlimited submissions, which would debase the Soul, if directed to any other, will exalt and ennoble it, when placed here : those chains and cords of love are infinitely more glorious than liberty itself ; this slavery is more noble than all the Empires in the World.
The Advantages of Divine Love.
Again, As Divine Love doth advance and elevate the Soul, so it is that alone which can make it happy : the highest and most ravishing pleasures, the most soiid and substantial delights, that human Nature is capable of, are those which arise from the endearments of a well-placed and successful affection. That which embitters Love, and makes it ordinarily a very troublesome and hurtful Passion, is the placing it on those who have not worth enough to deserve it, or affection and gratitude to requite it, or whose absence may deprive us of the pleasure of their converse, or their miseries occasion our trouble. To all these Evils are they exposed, whose chief and supreme affection is placed on Creatures like themselves ; but the Love of God delivers us from them all.
The worth of the Object.
First, I say, Love must needs be miserable, and full of trouble and disquietude, when there is not worth and excellency enough in the Object to answer the vastness of its capacity : so eager and violent a Passion cannot but fret and torment the spirit, when it finds not wherewith to satisfy its cravings. And indeed, so large and unbounded is its nature, that it must be extremely pinched and straitened, when confined to any Creature : nothing below an Infinite Good can afford it room to stretch it self, and exert its activity and vigour : what is a little skin-deep beauty, or some small degrees of goodness to match or satisfy a Passion which was made for God, designed to embrace an Infinite Good ? No wonder Lovers do so hardly suffer any Rival, and do not desire that others should approve their passion by imitating it : they know the scantiness and narrowness of the good which they love, that it cannot suffice two, being in effect too little for one. Hence Love, which is strong as death, occasioneth Jealousy which is cruel as the grave ; the coals whereof are coals of fire, which hath a most violent flame.
But Divine Love hath no mixture of this gall : when once the Soul is fixed on that Supreme and All-sufficient Good, it finds so much perfection and goodness, as doth not only answer and satisfy its affection, but master and over-power it too : it finds all its love to be too faint and languid for such a noble object, and is only sorry that it can command no more. It wisheth for the Flames of a Seraph, and longs for the time when it shall be wholly melted and dissolved into love : and because it can do so little it self, it desires the assistance of the whole Creation, that Angels and Men would concur with it in the admiration and love of those Infinite Perfections.
The certainty to be beloved again.
Again, Love is accompanied with trouble, when it misseth a suitable return of affection : Love is the most valuable thing we can bestow, and by giving it, we do in effect give all that we have ; and therefore it must needs be afflicting to find so great a gift despised, that the Present which one hath made of his whole Heart, cannot prevail to obtain any favour for him. Perfect love is a kind of self-dereliction, a wandering out of our selves ; it is a kind of voluntary death, wherein the lover dies to himself, and all his own interests, not thinking of them, nor caring for them any more, and minding nothing but how he may please and gratify the party whom he loves. Thus is he quite undone unless he meet with reciprocal affection, he neglects himself, and the other hath no regard to him ; but if he be beloved, he is revived, as it were, and liveth in the soul and care of the person whom he loves, and now he begins to mind his own concernments, not so much because they are his, as because the beloved is pleased to own an interest in them : he becomes dear unto himself, because he is so unto the other.
But why should I enlarge in so known a matter ? Nothing can be more clear than that the happiness of Love depends on the return it meets with ; and herein the Divine Lover hath unspeakably the advantage, having placed his affection on him whose Nature is Love, whose Goodness is as Infinite as his Being, whose Mercy prevented us, when we were his enemies, therefore cannot choose but embrace us, when we are become his friends. It is utterly impossible that God should hide his Face, and deny his Love to a Soul wholly devoted to him, and which desires nothing so much as to serve and please him : he cannot disdain his own Image, nor the heart in which it is engraven : Love is all the tribute which we can pay him, and it is the Sacrifice which he will not despise.
The Presence of the beloved person.
Another thing which disturbs the pleasure of Love, and renders it a miserable and disquiet Passion, is absence and separation from those we love. It is not without a sensible affliction that friends do part, though for some little time ; it is sad to be deprived of that society which is so delightful ; our life becomes tedious, being spent in an impatient expectation of the happy hour wherein we may meet again : but if death have made the separation, as some time or other it must, this occasions a grief scarce to be paralleled by all the misfortunes of human life, and wherein we pay dear enough for the comforts of our friendship. But O how happy are those who have placed their love on him who can never be absent from them ! they need but to open their eyes, and they shall every where behold the traces of his Presence and Glory, and converse with him whom their Soul loveth : and this makes the darkest Prison, or wildest Desert, not only supportable, but delightful to them.
The Divine Love makes us partake in an infinite happiness.
In fine, a Lover is miserable if the person whom he loveth be so : They who have made an exchange of hearts by love, get thereby an interest in one anothers happiness and misery : and this makes Love a troublesome Passion, when placed on Earth. The most fortunate person hath grief enough to mar the tranquillity of his friend, and it is hard to hold out, when we are attacked on all hands, and suffer not only in our own person, but in another’s. But if God were the Object of our Love, we should share in an infinite happiness without any mixture, or possibility of diminution : we should rejoice to behold the Glory of God, and receive comfort and pleasure from all the Praises wherewith Men and Angels do Extol him. It should delight us beyond all expression to consider, that the Beloved of our Souls is infinitely happy in himself, and that all his Enemies cannot shake or unsettle his Throne : That our God is in the Heavens, and doth whatsoever he pleaseth.
Behold, on what sure foundations his happiness is built, whose Soul is possessed with Divine Love, whose will is transformed into the Will of God, and whose greatest desire is that his Maker should be pleased : O the peace, the rest, the satisfaction that attendeth such a temper of mind !
He that loveth God finds sweetness in every dispensation.
What an infinite pleasure must it needs be, thus as it were to lose our selves in him, and being swallowed up in the overcoming sense of his goodness, to offer our selves a living Sacrifice, always ascending unto him in flames of love. Never doth a Soul know what a solid Joy and substantial pleasure is, till once being weary of it self, it renounce all propriety, give it self fully up unto the Author of its being, and feel it self become a hallowed and devoted thing ; and can say from an inward sense and feeling, My Beloved is mine, ( I account all his interest mine own, ) and I am his : I am content to be any thing for him, and care not for my self, but that I may serve him. A person moulded unto this temper, would find pleasure in all the dispensations of Providence : Temporal Enjoyments would have another relish, when he should taste the Divine Goodness in them, and consider them as tokens of Love sent by his dearest Lord and Maker ; And chastisements though they be not joyful but grievous, would hereby lose their sting ; the rod as well as the staff would comfort him : he would snatch a kiss from the hand that were smiting him, and gather sweetness from that severity : nay, he would rejoice that though God did not the will of such a worthless and foolish creature as himself, yet he did his own Will, and accomplished his own designs, which are infinitely more holy and wise.
The duties of Religion are delightful to him.
The Exercises of Religion which to others are insipid and tedious, do yield the highest pleasure and delight to Souls possessed with Divine Love : they rejoice when they are called to go up to the house of the Lord, that they may see his power and his glory, as they have formerly seen it in his Sanctuary. They never think themselves so happy, as when, having retired from the world, and gotten free from the noise and hurry of affairs, and silenced all their clamorous passions, ( those troublesome guests within, ) they have placed themselves in the presence of God, and entertain Fellowship and Communion with him : they delight to adore his Perfections, and recount his Favours, and to protest their affection to him, and tell him a thousand times that they love him ; to lay out their troubles or wants before him, and disburthen their hearts in his Bosom. Repentance it self is a delightful exercise when it floweth from the principle of love ; there is a secret sweetness which accompanieth those tears of remorse, those meltings and relentings of a Soul returning unto God, and regretting its former unkindness. The heightened endearments of Lovers newly reconciled after some estrangements of their affections, are a very imperfect shadow and resemblance of this.Psalm lxiii. 2.
The severities of a holy Life, and that constant watch which we are obliged to keep over our hearts and ways, are very troublesome to those who are only ruled and acted by an External Law, and have no law in their Minds inclining them to the performance of their duty ; but where Divine Love possesseth the Soul, it stands as Sentinel to keep out every thing that may offend the Beloved, and doth disdainfully repulse those temptations which assault it : it complieth cheerfully, not only with explicit Commands, but with the most secret Notices of the Beloved’s pleasure, and is ingenious in discovering what will be most grateful and acceptable unto him : it makes Mortification and Self-denial almost change their harsh and dreadful names, and become easy, sweet and delightful things.
The Excellency of Charity.
The next Branch of the Divine Life is an Universal Charity and Love. The Excellency of this Grace will be easily acknowledged ; for what can be more noble and generous than a Heart enlarged to embrace the whole World, whose wishes and designs are levelled at the good and welfare of the Universe, which considereth every man’s interest as it’s own ? He who loveth his Neighbour as himself, can never entertain any base or injurious thought, or be wanting in expressions of bounty : he had rather suffer a thousand wrongs, than be guilty of one ; and never accounts himself happy, but when some one or other hath been benefited by him : the malice or ingratitude of men is not able to resist his love ; he overlooks their injuries, and pities their folly, and overcomes their evil with good, and never designs any other revenge against his most bitter and malitious Enemies, than to put all the obligations he can upon them, whether they will or not. Is it any wonder that such a Person be reverenced and admired, and accounted the Darling of Mankind ? This inward goodness and benignity of spirit reflects a certain sweetness and serenity upon the very countenance, and makes it amiable and lovely : it inspireth the Soul with a noble resolution and courage, and makes it capable of enterprising and effectuating the highest things. Those Heroic Actions which we are wont to read with admiration, have for the most part been the effects of the Love of one’s Country, or of particular Friendships ; and certainly a more extensive and universal affection, must be much more powerful and efficacious.
The Pleasure that attends Charity.
The Excellency of Purity.
That which I named as a Third Branch of Religion was Purity, and you may remember I described it to consist in a contempt of sensual Pleasures, and resoluteness to undergo those troubles and pains we may meet with in the performance of our duty. : Now the naming of this may suffice to recommend it as a most Noble and Excellent Quality. There is no slavery so base as that whereby a man becomes drudge to his own Lusts ; nor any Victory so glorious as that which is obtain’d over them. Never can that person be capable of any thing that is Noble and Worthy, who is sunk in the gross and feculent pleasures of Sense, or bewitched with the light and airy gratifications of fancy ; but the Religious Soul is of a more Sublime and Divine temper, it knows it was made for higher things, and scorns to step aside one foot out of the ways of Holiness, for the obtaining of any of these.
The Delight afforded by Purity.
The Excellency of Humility.
The last Branch of Religion is Humility ; and however to vulgar and carnal eyes this may appear an abject, base, and despicable quality, yet really the Soul of man is not capable of an higher and more noble endowment. It is a silly ignorance that begets pride ; but Humility arises from a nearer acquaintance with excellent things, which keeps men from doting on trifles, or admiring themselves because of some petty attainments. Noble and well Educated Souls have no such high opinion of Riches, Beauty, Strength, and other such like advantages, as to value themselves for them, or despise those that want them : and as for inward worth and real goodness, the sense they have of the Divine Perfections, makes them think very meanly of any thing they have hitherto attain’d, and be still endeavouring to surmount themselves, and make nearer approaches to those infinite Excellencies which they admire.
I know not what thoughts people may have of Humility, but I see almost every person pretending unto it, and shunning such expressions and actions as may make them be accounted arrogant and presumptuous, so that those who are most desirous of praise, will be loath to commend themselves. What are all those compliments and modes of Civility so frequent in our ordinary converse, but so many protestations of our esteem of others, and the low thoughts we have of our selves ; and must not that Humility be a noble and excellent endowment, when the very shadows of it are accounted so necessary a part of good breeding ?
The pleasure and sweetness of an humble temper.
Again, this Grace is accompanied with a great deal of happiness and tranquility : the proud and arrogant person is a trouble to all that converse with him, but most of all unto himself : every thing is enough to vex him ; but scarce any thing sufficient to content and please him. He is ready to quarrel with every thing that falls out, as if he himself were such a considerable person, that God Almighty should do every thing to gratify him, and all the Creatures of Heaven and Earth should wait upon him, and obey his will. The leaves of high Trees do shake with every blast of wind ; and every breath, every evil word will disquiet and torment an arrogant man : but the humble person hath the advantage when he is despised, that none can think more meanly of him than he doth of himself ; and therefore he is not troubled at the matter, but can easily bear those reproaches which wound the other to the Soul. And withal, as he is less affected with injuries, so indeed he is less obnoxious unto them : Contention, which cometh of Pride, betrays a man into a thousand inconveniencies, which those of a meek and lowly temper are seldom meeting with. True and genuine humility begetteth both a veneration and love among all, wise and discerning persons, while Pride defeateth its own design, and depriveth a man of that honour it makes him pretend to.
But as the chief Exercises of Humility are those which relate unto Almighty God, so these are accompany’d with the greatest satisfaction and sweetness ; it is impossible to express the great pleasure and delight which Religious persons feel in the lowest prostrations of their Soul before God, when having a deep sense of the Divine Majesty and Glory, they sink ( if I may so speak ) unto the very bottom of their beings, and vanish and disappear in the presence of God, by a serious and affectionate acknowledgment of their own nothingness, and the shortness and imperfections of all their attainments ; when they understand the full sense and emphasis of the Psalmist’s exclamation, Lord, what is Man ! and can utter it with the same affection. Neither did any haughty and ambitious person receive the praises and applauses of men with so much pleasure, as the humble and religious do renounce them, Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy Name give glory, &c.
The despondent Thoughts of some, newly awakened to a right sense of Things.
I have hitherto considered wherein True Religion doth consist, and how desirable a thing it is ; but when one sees how infinitely distant the common temper and frame of men is from it, he may perhaps be ready to despond, and give over and think it utterly impossible to be attain’d. He may sit down in sadness, and bemoan himself and say in the anguish and bitterness of his spirit, They are happy indeed whose Souls are awakened unto the Divine Life, who are thus renew’d in the spirit of their minds ; but alas ! I am quite of another constitution, and am not able to effectuate so mighty a change : if outward observances could have done the business, I might have hoped to acquit my self by diligence and care ; but since nothing but a new Nature can serve the turn, what am I able to do ? I could bestow all my Goods in Oblations to God, or Alms to the Poor, but cannot command that Love and Charity, without which this expence would profit me nothing. This gift of God cannot be purchased with money : if a man should give all the substance of his house for love it would utterly be condemned : I could pine and macerate my body, and undergo many hardships and troubles, but I cannot get all my corruptions starved, nor my affections wholly wean’d from Earthly things : there is still some worldly desires lurking in my heart, and those vanities that I have shut out of doors, are always getting in by the windows. I am many times convinced of my own meanness, of the weakness of my body, and the far greater weakness of my Soul ; but this doth rather beget indignation and discontent, than true humility in my spirit : and though I should come to think meanly of my self, yet I cannot endure that others should think so too. In a word, when I reflect on my highest and most specious attainments, I have reason to suspect that they are all but the effects of Nature, the issues of Self-love acting under several disguises : and this principle is so powerful and so deeply rooted in me, that I can never hope to be delivered from the dominion of it. I may toss and turn, as a door on the hinges, but can never get clear off, or be quite unhing’d of Self, which is still the center of all my motions : So that all the advantage I can draw from the discovery of Religion, is but to see at a huge distance that felicity which I am not able to reach ; like a man in a shipwrack, who discerns the Land, and envies the happiness of those who are there ; but thinks it impossible for himself to get ashore.Act. 8. 20. Cant. 8. 7.
The unreasonableness of these Fears.
These, I say, or such like desponding Thoughts may arise in the Minds of those persons who begin to conceive somewhat more of the Nature and Excellency of Religion than before : they have spied the Land, and seen that it’s exceeding good, that it floweth with milk and honey ; but they find they have the Children of Anak to grapple with, many powerful lusts and corruptions to overcome, and they fear they shall never prevail against them. But why should we give way to such discouraging suggestions ? Why should we entertain such unreasonable fears, which damp our spirits and weaken our hands, and augment the difficulties of our way ? Let us encourage our selves, my dear Friend, let us encourage our selves with those mighty aids we are to expect in this Spiritual Warfare, for greater is he that is for us, then all that can rise up against us ; The Eternal God is our refuge, and underneath are the Everlasting Arms. Let us be strong in the Lord, and the power of his might, for he it is that shall tread down our Enemies : God hath a tender regard unto the Souls of men, and is infinitely willing to promote their welfare : he hath condescended to our weakness, and declared with an Oath, that he hath no pleasure in our destruction. There is no such thing as despite or envy lodged in the Bosom of that ever-blessed Being, whose Name and Nature is Love. He created us at first in a happy condition, and now when we are fallen from it, He hath laid help upon One that is Mighty to Save, hath committed the Care of our Souls to no meaner Person than the Eternal Son of his Love. It is he that is the Captain of our Salvation, and what Enemies can be too strong for us, when we are fighting under his Banners ? Did not the Son of God come down from the Bosom of his Father and pitch his Tabernacle amongst the Sons of Men, that he might recover and propagate the Divine Life, and restore the Image of God in their Souls ? All the Mighty Works which he perform’d, all the Sad Afflictions which he sustain’d had this for their scope and design, for this did he labour and toil, for this did he bleed and die ; He was with child, he was in pain, and hath he brought forth nothing but wind, hath he wrought no deliverance in the Earth ? Shall he not see of the travel of his Soul ? Certainly it is impossible that this Great Contrivance of Heaven should prove abortive, that such a mighty undertaking should fail and miscarry : It hath already been effectual for the Salvation of many Thousands, who were once as far from the Kingdom of Heaven as we can suppose our selves to be, and our High Priest continueth for ever, and is able to save then to the uttermost that come unto God by him : He is tender and compassionate, he knoweth our infirmities, and had experience of our temptations. A bruised reed will he not break, and a smoking flax will he not quench, till he send forth Judgment unto victory. He hath sent out his Holy Spirit, whose sweet but powerful breathings are still moving up and down in the World, to quicken and revive the Souls of men, and awaken them unto the Sense and feeling of those Divine things for which they were made, and is ready to assist such weak and languishing Creatures as we are in our Essays towards holiness and felicity ; and when once it hath taken hold of a Soul, and kindled in it the smallest spark of Divine Love, it will be sure to preserve and cherish, and bring it forth into a flame, which many waters shall not quench, neither shall the floods be able to drown it. When ever this day begins to dawn, and the Day-Star to arise in the heart, it will easily dispel the powers of darkness, and make ignorance and folly, and all the corrupt and selfish affections of men flee away as fast before it as the shades of the Night, when the Sun cometh out of his Chambers : for the path of the Just is as the shining light which shineth more and more unto the perfect day : They shall go on from strength to strength, till every one of them appear before God in Sion.Deut. 33. 27. Psalm 89. 19. Isaiah 26. ver. 19. Isaiah 53. ver. 11. Heb. vii. 24, 25. Matth. xii. 20. Cant. viii. 7. 2 Peter i. 19. Prov. iv. 18. Psalm 84. 7.
Why should we think it impossible that True Goodness and Universal Love should ever come to sway and prevail in our Souls ? Is not this their Primitive state and condition, their native and genuine constitution as they came first from the hands of their Maker ? Sin and corruption are but usurpers, and though they have long kept the possession, yet from the begining it was not so. That inordinate Self-love which one would think were rooted in our very being, and interwoven with the constitution of our Nature, is nevertheless of foreign extraction, and had no place at all in the state of integrity. We have still so much reason left us to condemn it : our Understandings are easily convinced, that we ought to be wholly devoted to him from whom we have our being, and to love him infinitely more than our selves, who is infinitely better than we ; and our wills would readily comply with this, if they were not disordered and put out of tune : and is not he who made our Souls able to rectify and mend them again ? Shall we not be able by his assistance to vanquish and expel those violent intruders, and turn unto flight the Arms of the Aliens.Heb. xi. 34.
No sooner shall we take up Arms in this holy War, but we shall have all the Saints on Earth, and all the Angels in Heaven, engaged on our party : the holy Church throughout the World is daily interceding with God for the success of all such endeavours, and doubtless those heavenly Hosts above are nearly concerned in the Interests of Religion, and infinitely desirous to see the Divine Life thriving and prevailing in this inferiour World ; and that the Will of God may be done by us on Earth, as it is done by themselves in Heaven : and may we not then encourage our selves as the Prophet did his Servant, when he showed him the Horses and Chariors of fire, Fear not, for they that be with us are more then they that be against us.2 Kings vi. 16, 17.
We must do what we can, and depend on the Divine Assistance.
Away then with all perplexing fears and desponding thoughts : to undertake vigorously, and rely confidently on the Divine assistance is more than half the conquest : Let us arise and be doing, and the Lord will be with us. It is true, Religion in the Souls of men is the immediate work of God, and all our natural endeavours can neither produce it alone, nor merit those supernatural aids by which it must be wrought : The Holy Ghost must come upon us, and the power of the Highest must overshadow us, before that holy thing can be begotten and Christ be formed in us. But yet we must not expect that this whole work should be done without any concurring endeavours of ours : we must not lie loitering in the ditch and wait till Omnipotence pull us from thence : no, no, we must bestir our selves and actuate these powers which we have already received : We must put forth our selves in our utmost capacities, and then we may hope that our Labour shall not be in vain in the Lord. All the art and industry of Man cannot form the smallest herb, or make a stalk of Corn to grow in the field ; it is the energy of Nature, and the influences of Heaven, which produce this effect ; it is God who causeth the grass to grow, and herb for the service of man ; and yet no body will say that the Labours of the Husbandman are useless or unnecessary. So likewise the human Soul is immediately created by God ; it is he who both formeth and enliveneth the child, and yet he hath appointed the Marriage-bed as the ordinary mean for the propagation of Mankind. Though there must intervene a stroke of Omnipotence to effectuate this mighty change in our Souls, yet ought we to do what we can to fit and prepare our selves, for we must break up our fallow ground and root out the weeds, and pull up the thorns, that so we may be the more ready to receive the Seeds of Grace and the Dew of Heaven. It is true, God hath been found of some who sought him not ; he hath cast himself in their way who were quite out of his ; he hath laid hold upon them, and stopped their course on a sudden ; for so was St. Paul converted in his Journey to Damascus. But certainly this is not God’s ordinary method of dealing with men ; though he hath not tied himself to means, yet he hath tied us to the use of them ; and we have never more reason to expect the Divine assistance, but when we are doing our utmost endeavours. It shall therefore be my next work to show what course we ought to take for attaining that blessed temper I have hitherto described. But here if in delivering my own thoughts, I shall chance to differ any thing from what is or may be said by others in this matter, I would not be therefore thought to contradict and oppose them, more than Physicians do when they prescribe several Remedies for the same Disease, which perhaps are all useful and good : Every one may propose the Method which he judgeth most proper and convenient, but he doth not thereby pretend that the Cure can never be effectuated, unless that be exactly observed. I doubt it hath occasioned much unnecessary disquietude to some holy persons, that they have not found such a regular and orderly transaction in their Souls, as they have seen described in Books ; that they have not passed through all those steps and stages of Conversion, which some ( who perhaps have felt them in themselves ) have too peremptorily prescribed unto others : God hath several wayes of dealing with the Souls of men, and it sufficeth if the work be accomplish’d, whatever the Methods have been.1 Chron. xxi. 16. 1 Cor. xv. 58. Psalm 104. 14. Jer. iv. 3.
Again, Though in proposing Directions, I must follow that order which the nature of things shall lead to ; yet I do not mean that the same method should be so punctually observed in the practice, as if the latter Rules were never to be heeded till some considerable time have been spent in practicing the former. The Directions I intend are mutually conducive one to another, and are all to be perform’d as occasion shall serve, and we find our selves enabled to perform them.
We must shun all manner of Sin.
But now that I may detain you no longer, if we desire to have our Souls moulded to this holy frame, to become partakers of the Divine Nature, and have Christ formed in our hearts, we must seriously resolve and carefully endeavour to avoid and abandon all Vicious and Sinful practices. There can be no Treaty of Peace, till once we lay down these weapons of Rebellion wherewith we fight against Heaven : nor can we expect to have our distempers cured, if we be daily feeding on poison. Every willful sin gives a mortal wound to the Soul, and puts it at a greater distance from God and goodness ; and we can never hope to have our hearts purified from corrupt affections, unless we cleanse our hands from vicious actions. Now in this case we cannot excuse our selves by the pretence of impossibility ; for sure our outward man is some way in our power, we have some command of our feet, and hands, and tongue, nay, and of our thoughts and fancies too, at least so far as to divert them from impure and sinful objects, and to turn our Mind another way : and we should find this power and authority much strengthened and advanced, if we were careful to manage and exercise it. Mean while I acknowledge our corruptions are so strong, and our temptations so many, that it will require a great deal of steadfastness and resolution, of watchfulness and care to preserve our selves even in this degree of Innocence and Purity.
We must know what things are sinful.
And first let us inform our selves well, what those Sins are from which we ought to abstain. And here we must not take our measures from the Maxims of the World, or the practises of those whom in charity we account good men. Most people have very light apprehensions of these things, and are not sensible of any fault unless it be gross and flagitious, and scarce reckon any so great as that which they call Preciseness : and those who are more serious, do many times allow them selves too great latitude and freedom. Alas ! how much Pride and Vanity, and Passion and Humour, how much weakness and folly and sin doth every day betray it self in their converse and behaviour ? It may be they are humbled for it, and striving against it, and are daily gaining some ground ; but then the progress is so small, and their failings so many, that we had need to choose an exacter Pattern. Every one of us must answer for himself, and the practises of others will never warrant and secure us. It is the highest folly to regulate our Actions by any other standard than that by which they must be Judged. If ever we would cleanse our way, it must be by taking heed thereto according to the Word of God : and that Word which is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing assunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart, will certainly discover many things to be sinful and heinous, which pass for very innocent in the eyes of the World : Let us therefore imitate the Psalmist, who saith, Concerning the works of men, by the words of thy lips, I have kept my self from the path of the destroyer. Let us acquaint our selves well with the strict and holy Laws of our Religion : Let us consider the Discourses of our Blessed Saviour, ( especially that Divine Sermon on the Mount ) and the Writings of his holy Apostles, where an ingenuous and unbiased Mind may clearly discern those limits and bounds by which our actions ought to be confined. And then let us never look upon any Sin as light and inconsiderable ; but be fully persuaded, that the smallest is infinitely heinous in the sight of God, and prejudicial to the Souls of Men ; and that if we had the right sense of things, we would be as deeply affected with the least Irregularities, as now we are with the greatest Crimes.Psalm 119. 9. Heb. iv. 12. Psalm 17. 4.
We must resist the Temptations to Sin, by considering the Evils they will draw on us.
But now amongst those things which we discover to be sinful, there will be some, unto which, through the disposition of our Nature, or long custom, or the endearments of pleasure, we are so much wedded, that it will be like the cutting off the right hand, or pulling out the right eye, to abandon them. But must we therefore sit down and wait till all difficulties be over, and every temptation be gone ? This were to imitate the fool in the Poet, who stood the whole day at the River side, till all the water should run by. We must not indulge our inclinations, as we do little Children, till they grow weary of the thing they are unwilling to let go : We must not continue our sinful practices in hopes that the Divine Grace will one day overpower our spirits, and make us hate them for their own deformity.
Let us suppose the worst, that we are utterly destitute of any Supernatural Principle, and want that taste by which we should discern and abhor perverse things ; yet sure we are capable of some considerations which may be of force to persuade us to this reformation of our lives. If the inward deformity and heinous nature of Sin cannot affect us, at least we may be frighted by those dreadful consequences that attend it : That same selfish principle which pusheth us forward unto the pursuit of sinful Pleasures, will make us loath to buy them at the rate of everlasting misery. Thus we may encounter Self-love with its own weapons, and employ one natural inclination for repressing the exorbitancies of another. Let us therefore accustom our selves to consider seriously, what a fearful thing it must needs be to irritate and offend that infinite Being on whom we hang and depend every moment ; who needs but to withdraw his Mercies to make us miserable, or his assistance to make us nothing. Let us frequently remember the shortness and uncertainty of our lives, and how that after we have taken a few turns more in the World, and conversed a little longer amongst men, we must all go down unto the dark and silent grave, and carry nothing along but anguish and regret of all our Sinful enjoyments ; and then think what horror must needs seize the guilty Soul, to find it self naked and all alone before the Severe and Impartial Judge of the world, to render an exact account not only of its more important and considerable transactions, but of every word that the Tongue hath uttered, and the swiftest and most secret thought that ever passed through the Mind. Let us sometimes represent unto our selves the terrors of that dreadful day, when the foundations of the Earth shall be shaken, and the Heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the Elements shall melt with fervent heat, and the present frame of Nature be dissolved, and our Eyes shall see the Blessed Jesus ( who came once into the World in all Humility to visit us, to purchase pardon for us, and beseech us to accept of it, ) now appearing in the Majesty of his glory, and descending from Heaven in a flaming fire to take vengeance on those that have despised his Mercy, and perished in rebellion against him : when all the hidden things of darkness shall be brought to light, and the counsels of the heart shall be made manifest : when those secret impurities and subtle frauds whereof the World did never suspect us, shall be exposed and laid open to Publick view, and many thousand actions which we never dreamed to be sinful, or else had altogether forgotten, shall be charged home upon our Consciences with such evident convictions of guilt, that we shall neither be able to deny nor excuse them. Then shall all the Angels in Heaven, and all the Saints that ever liv’d on the Earth, approve that dreadful Sentence which shall be passed on wicked men ; and those who perhaps did love and esteem them when they liv’d in the World, shall look upon them with indignation and abhorrence, and never make one request for their deliverance. Let us consider the Eternal punishments of damned Souls which are shadowed forth in Scripture by Metaphors taken from those things that are most terrible and grievous in the World, and yet all do not suffice to convey unto our Minds any full apprehension of them. When we have joined together the importance of all these expressions, and added unto them whatever our fancy can conceive of Misery and Torment, we must still remember that all this comes infinitely short of the truth and the reality of the thing.2 Peter iii. 10. 1 Cor. iv. 5.
It is true, this is a sad and melancholy subject, there is anguish and horror in the consideration of it ; but sure it must be infinitely more dreadful to endure it ; and such thoughts as these may be very useful to fright us from the courses that would lead us thither ; how fond soever we may be of sinful pleasures, the fear of Hell would make us abstain : our most forward inclinations will startle and give back, when pressed with that Question in the Prophet, Who amongst us shall dwell with everlasting burnings ?Isaiah 33. 14.
To this very purpose is it, that the terrors of another World are so frequently represented in holy Writ, and that in such terms as are most proper to affect and influence a carnal Mind : These fears can never suffice to make any person truly good, but certainly they may restrain us from much Evil, and have often made way for more ingenuous and kindly impressions.
We must keep a constant watch over our selves.
But it will not suffice to consider these things once and again, nor to form resolutions of abandoning our sins, unless we maintain a constant guard, and be continually watching against them. Sometimes the Mind is awakened to see the dismal consequences of a Vicious life, and straight we are resolved to reform : but alas ! it presently falleth asleep, and we lose that prospect which we had of things, and then temptations take the advantage, they solicit and importune us continually, and so do frequently engage our consent before we are aware. It is the folly and ruin of most people that they live at adventure, and take part in every thing that comes in their way, seldom considering what they are about to say or do. If we would have our resolution take effect, we must take heed unto our ways, and set a watch unto the door of our lips, and examine the motions that arise in our heart, cause them tell us whence they come, and whither they go ; whether it be Pride or Passion, or any corrupt and vicious humour that prompteth us to any design, and whether God will be offended, or any body harmed by it. And if we have no time for long reasonings, let us at least turn our eyes toward God, and place our selves in his Presence to ask his leave and approbation for what we do : Let us consider our selves under the All-seeing Eye of that Divine Majesty, as in the midst of an infinite Globe of light, which compasseth us about both behind and before, and pierceth to the innermost corners of our Soul. The Sense and remembrance of the Divine Presence, is the most ready and effectual mean, both to discover what is unlawful, and to restrain us from it. There are some things a person could have a shift to palliate or defend, and yet he dares not look Almighty God in the face and adventure upon them. If we look into him we shall be lightned ; if we set him always before us, he will guide us by his Eye, and instruct us in the way wherein we ought to walk.
We must often examine our Actions.
This Care and Watchfulness over our Actions, must be seconded by frequent and serious reflections upon them, not only that we may obtain the Divine Mercy and Pardon for our Sins, by an humble and sorrowful acknowledgment of them ; but also that we may reinforce and strengthen our resolutions, and learn to decline or resist the temptations, by which we have been formerly foil’d. It is an advice worthy of a Christian, though it did first drop from a Heathen Pen ; That before we betake our selves to rest, we renew and examine all the passages of the day, that we may have the comfort of what we have done aright, and may redress what we find to have been amiss, and make the shipwracks of one day be as marks to direct our course in another. This may be called the very art of Virtuous living, and would contribute wonderfully to advance our reformation, and preserve our innocency. But withal we must not forget to implore the Divine assistance, especially against those Sins that do most easily beset us : and though it be supposed that our hearts are not yet moulded unto that Spiritual frame, which should render our Devotions acceptable, yet methinks such considerations as have been proposed to deter us from Sin, may also stir us up to some natural seriousness, and make our Prayers against it as earnest at least, as they are wont to be against other Calamities : and I doubt not God who heareth the cry of the Ravens, will have some regard even to such Petitions as proceed from those natural Passions which himself hath implanted in us. Besides that those Prayers against Sin will be powerful engagements on our selves to excite us to watchfulness and care, and common ingenuity will make us asham’d to relapse unto those faults, which we have lately regretted before God, and against which we have begged his assistance.
It is fit to restrain our selves in many lawful things.
Thus are we to make the first essay for recovering the Divine Life, by restraining the natural inclinations that they break not out into sinful practicses : but now I must add, that Christian Prudence will teach us to abstain from gratifications that are not simply unlawful, and that not only that we may secure our innocence, which would be in continual hazard if we should strain our liberty to the utmost point ; but also, that hereby we may weaken the forces of Nature, and teach our appetites to obey. We must do with our selves as prudent Parents with their Children, who cross their wills in many little indifferent things, to make them manageable and submissive in more considerable instances. He who would mortify the pride and vanity of his spirit, should stop his ears to the most deserved praises, and sometimes forbear his just vindication, from the Censures and aspersions of others, especially if they reflect only upon his prudence and conduct, and not on his Virtue and Innocence. He who would check a vindictive humour, would do well to deny himself the Satisfaction of representing unto others the Injuries which he hath sustain’d ; and if we would so take heed to our ways, that we sin not with our tongue, we must accustom our selves much to solitude and silence, and sometimes with the Psalmist, Hold our peace even from good, till once we have gotten some command of that unruly member. Thus, I say, we may bind up our natural inclinations, and make our appetites more moderate in their cravings, by accustoming them to frequent refusals : but it is not enough to have them under violence and restraint.
We must strive to put our selves out of love with the World.
Our next Essay must be to wean our affections from created things, and all the delights and entertainments of the lower life, which sink and depress the Souls of men, and retard their motions toward God and Heaven : And this we must do by possessing our Minds with a deep persuasion of the vanity and emptiness of worldly enjoyments. This is an ordinary theme, and every body can make declamations upon it ; but alas ! how few understand and believe what they say ? These Notions float in our Brains, and come sliding off our Tongues, but we have no deep impression of them on our spirits, we feel not the truth which we pretend to believe. We can tell that all the glory and splendour, all the pleasures and enjoyments of the World, are vanity and nothing ; and yet these nothings take up all our thoughts, and engross all our affections ; they stifle the better inclinations of our Soul, and inveigle us into many a Sin. It may be, in a sober mood, we give them the slight, and resolve to be no longer deluded with them ; but these thoughts seldom outlive the next temptation ; the vanities which we have shut out at the door get in at a postern : there are still some pretensions, some hopes that flatter us ; and after we have been frustrated a thousand times, we must continually be repeating the experiment : The leaft difference of circumstances is enough to delude us, and make us expect that satisfaction in one thing, which we have missed in another : but could we once get clearly off, and come to a real and serious contempt of worldly things, this were a very considerable advancement in our way. The Soul of Man is of a vigorous and active nature, and hath in it a raging and unextinguishable thirst, an immaterial kind of fire, always catching at some object or other, in conjunction wherewith it thinks to be happy ; and were it once rent from the World, and all the bewitching enjoyments under the Sun, it would quickly search after some higher and more excellent Object, to satisfy its ardent and importunate cravings, and being no longer dazzl’d with glittering vanities, would fix on that Supreme and All-sufficient Good, where it should discover such beauty and sweetness as would charm and over-power all its affections. The love of the World, and the love of God, are like the scales of a balance, as the one falleth, the other doth rise : when our natural inclinations prosper, and the creature is exalted in our Soul, Religion is faint, and doth languish ; but when earthly objects wither away, and lose their beauty, and the Soul begins to cool and flagg in its prosecution of them, then the seeds of Grace take root, and the Divine Life begins to flourish and prevail. It doth therefore nearly concern us to convince our selves of the emptiness and vanity of Creature-enjoyments, and reason our heart out of love of them : let us Seriously consider all that our Reason, or our Faith, our own Experience, or the observation of others, can suggest to this effect. Let us ponder the matter over and over, and fix our thoughts on this truth, till we become really persuaded of it. Amidst all our pursuits and designs, let us stop and ask our selves, For what end is all this ? At what do I aim ? Can the gross and muddy pleasures of Sense, or a heap of white or yellow Earth, or the esteem and affection of silly creatures like my self satisfy a rational and immortal Soul ? Have I not tried these things already ? Will they have a higher relish, and yield me more contentment to morrow than yesterday, or the next year than they did the last ? There may be some little difference betwixt that which I am now pursuing,and that which I enjoy’d before ; but sure my former Enjoyments did show as pleasant, and promise as fair before I attain’d them : like the Rainbow, they looked very glorious at a distance, but when I approached, I found nothing but emptiness and vapor. O what a poor thing should the life of man be, if it were capable of no higher enjoyments !
I cannot insist on this subject, and there is the less need when I remember to whom I am writing. Yes ( my dear Friend ) you have had as great Experience of the emptiness and vanity of human things, and have at present as few worldly engagements as any that I know : I have sometimes reflected on those passages of your life wherewith you have been pleased to acquaint me : and methinks through all I can discern a design of the Divine Providence to wean your affections from every thing here below. The Trials you have had of those things which the World dotes upon, hath taught you to despise them, and you have found by experience that neither the endowments of Nature, nor the advantages of Fortune are sufficient for happiness : that every Rose hath its thorn, and there may be a Worm at the root of the fairest Gourd, some secret and undiscerned grief which may make a person deserve the pity of those who perhaps do admire or envy their supposed felicity. If any earthly comforts have got too much of your heart, I think they have been your Relations and Friends ; and the dearest of those are removed out of the World, so that you must raise your Mind towards Heaven, when you would think upon them. Thus God hath provided that your heart may be loosed from the World, and he may not have any Rival in your affection, which I have always observed to be so large and unbounded, so noble and disinteressed, that no inferiour object can answer or deserve it.
We must do those outward Actions that are commanded.
When we have got our corruptions restrain’d, and our natural appetites and inclinations towards worldly things in some measure subdued, we must proceed to such exercises as have a more immediate tendance to excite and awaken the Divine Life. And first let us endeavour conscientiously to perform those duties which Religion doth require, and whereunto it would incline us if it did prevail in our Souls. If we cannot get our inward disposition presently changed, let us study at least to regulate our outward deportment : if our hearts be not yet inflam’d with Divine Love, let us however own our alleagiance to that infinite Majesty, by attending his Service, and listening to his Word, by speaking reverently of his Name, and praising his goodness, and exhorting others to serve and obey him. If we want that charity and those bowels of compassion which we ought to have towards our Neighbours, yet must we not omit any occasion of doing them good : If our hearts be haughty and proud, we must nevertheless study a modest and humble Deportment. These external performances are of little value in themselves, yet may they help us forward to better things : The Apostle indeed telleth us, that bodily exercise profiteth little ; but he seems not to affirm that it is altogether useless ; it is always good to be doing what we can, for then God is wont to pity our weakness, and assist our feeble endeavours : and when true Charity and Humility and other Graces of the Divine Spirit come to take root in our Souls, they will actuate themselves more freely and with the less difficulty, if we have been accustomed to express them in our outward conversations. Nor need we fear the imputation of hypocrisy, tho’ our actions do thus somewhat out-run our affections, seeing they do still proceed from a sense of our Duty ; and our Design is not to appear better then we are, but that we may really become so.
We must endeavour to form internal Acts of Devotion, Charity, &c.
But as inward acts have a more immediate influence on the Soul, to mould it to a right temper and frame, so ought we to be most frequent and sedulous in the exercise of them. Let us be often lifting up our hearts towards God ; and if we do not say that we love him above all things, let us at least acknowledge that it is our Duty and would be our Happiness so to do : Let us regret the dishonour done unto him by foolish and sinful men, and applaud the Praises and Adorations that are given him by that Blessed and Glorious Company above : Let us resign and yield our selves up unto him a thousand times to be governed by his Laws, and disposed upon at his pleasure : and though our stubborn hearts should start back and refuse, yet let us tell him we are convinced that his Will is always Just and Good, and therefore desire him to do with us whatsoever he pleaseth, whether we will or not. And so, for begetting in us an universal Charity towards men, we must be frequently putting up wishes for their happiness, and blessing every person that we see ; and when we have done any thing for the relief of the miserable, we may second it with earnest desires that God would take care of them, and deliver them out of all their distresses.
Thus should we exercise our selves unto godliness, and when we are employing the powers that we have, the Spirit of God is wont to strike in, and elevate these acts of our Soul beyond the pitch of Nature, and give them a Divine impression ; and after the frequent reiteration of these, we will find our selves more inclined unto them, they flowing with greater freedom and ease.
Consideration a great instrument of Religion.Heb. i. 3.
To beget Divine Love, we must consider the excellency of the Divine Nature.
The Serious and frequent consideration of these and such other Divine Truths, is the most proper Method to beget that lively Faith which is the Foundation of Religion, the spring and root of the Divine Life. Let me further suggest some particular subjects of Meditation for producing the Several branches of it. And first, to enflame our Souls with the love of God, let us consider the excellency of his Nature, and his Love and Kindness towards us. It is little we know of the Divine Perfections, and yet that little may suffice to fill our Souls with admiration and Love, to ravish our affections, as well as to raise our Wonder ; for we are not merely Creatures of Sense, that we should be incapable of any other affection but that which entereth by the Eyes. The character of any excellent Person whom we have never seen will many times engage our Hearts, and make us hugely concerned in all his interests : and what is it, I pray you, that engages us so much to those with whom we converse ? I cannot think that it is merely the colour of their face, or their comely proportions, else we should fall in Love with statues and pictures, and flowers : these outward accomplishments may a little delight the Eye, but would never be able to prevail so much on the Heart, if they did not represent some vital Perfection. We either see or apprehend some greatness of mind, or vigor of Spirit, or sweetness of disposition, some sprightliness, or Wisdom, or Goodness which charms our spirit and commands our Love. Now these perfections are not obvious to the Sight, the Eyes can only discern the signs and effects of them : and if it be the understanding that directs the affection, and vital perfections prevail with it, certainly the excellencies of the Divine Nature ( the Traces whereof we cannot but discover in every thing we behold ) would not fail to engage our Hearts if we did seriously view and regard them. Shall we not be Infinitely more transported with that Almighty Wisdom and Goodness which fills the Universe, and displays it self in all the parts of the creation, which establisheth the Frame of Nature, and turneth the mighty Wheels of Providence, and keepeth the World from disorder and ruin, than with the faint rays of the same perfections which we meet with in our fellow-creatures ? Shall we dote on the scattered pieces of a rude and imperfect picture, and never be affected with the original beauty ? This were an unaccountable stupidity and blindness : whatever we find lovely in a friend, or in a Saint, ought not to engross but to Elevate our affection : we should conclude with our selves, that if there be so much sweetness in a drop, there must be Infinitely more in the Fountain ; if there be so much splendor in a ray, what must the Sun be in its Glory ?
Nor can we pretend the remoteness of the object, as if God were at too great a distance for our converse or our Love : he is not far from every one of us, for in him we live, and move, and have our being : we cannot open our Eyes, but we must behold some footsteps of his Glory, and we cannot turn them toward him, but we shall be sure to find his intent upon us, waiting as it were to catch a look, ready to intertain the most intimate fellowship and communion with us. Let us therefore endeavour to raise our minds to the clearest conceptions of the Divine Nature : Let us consider all that his works do declare, or his Word doth discover of him unto us ; and let us especially contemplate that visible representation of him which was made in our own Nature by his Son, who was the brightness of his Glory, and the express Image of his Person ; and who appeared in the World, to discover at once what God is, and what we ought to be. Let us represent him unto our minds as we find him described in the Gospel ; and there we shall behold the Perfections of the Divine Nature though covered with the vail of human Infirmities : and when we have fram’d unto our selves the clearest Notion that we can of a Being Infinite in Power, in Wisdom, and Goodness, the Author and Fountain of all Perfections, let us fix the Eyes of our Soul upon it, that our Eyes may affect our Heart, and while we are Musing the fire will burn.Acts xvii. 27. Heb. i. 3. Lam. iii. 31. Psalm 39. 3.
We should meditate on his Goodness and Love.
Especially if hereunto we add the consideration of God’s Favour and Good-will towards us ; nothing is more Powerful to engage our affection, than to find that we are beloved. Expressions of Kindness are always pleasing and acceptable unto us, though the person should be otherways mean and contemptible : but to have the love of one who is altogether lovely, to know that the Glorious Majesty of Heaven hath any regard unto us, how must it astonish and delight us ! how must it overcome our Spirits, and melt our Hearts, and put our whole Soul unto a Flame ! Now as the Word of God is full of the expressions of his Love towards Man, so all his Works do loudly proclaim it : he gave us our being, and by preserving us in it, doth renew the donation every moment. He hath placed us in a rich and well furnished World, and liberally provided for all our necessities : he raineth down blessings from Heaven upon us, and causeth the Earth to bring forth our provision : he giveth us our Food and Raiment, and while we are spending the productions of one year, he is preparing for us against another. He sweetneth our lives with innumerable comforts, and gratifieth every faculty with suitable objects : The Eye of his Providence is always upon us, and he watcheth for our safety when we are fast asleep, neither minding him, nor our selves. But least we should think these Testimonles of his kindness less considerable, because they are the easy issues of his Omnipotent Power, and do not put him into any trouble or pain, he hath taken a more wonderful Method to endear himself to us : he hath testified his affection to us, by suffering as well as by doing ; and because he could not suffer in his own Nature, he assumed ours. The Eternal Son of God, did cloathe himself with the Infirmities of our flesh, and left the company of those Innocent and Blessed Spirits, who knew well how to Love and adore him, that he might dwell among Men, and wrestle with the obstinacy of that rebellious race, to reduce them to their Alleagiance and felicity and then to offer himself up as a Sacrifice and Propitiation for them. I remember one of the Poets hath an Ingenious fancy to Express the Passion wherewith he found himself overcome after a long resistance ; That the god of Love had shot all his Golden arrows at him, but could never pierce his Heart, till at length he put himself unto the bow and darted himself straight into his breast. Methinks this doth some way adumbrate God’s Method of dealing with Men : he had long contended with a stubborn World, and thrown down many a blessing upon them, and when all his other gifts could not prevail, he at last made a Gift of himself, to testify his affection, and engage theirs. The account which we have of our Saviour’s Life in the Gospel doth all along present us with the story of his Love, all the pains that he took and the troubles that he endured were the wonderfull effects and uncontrollable evidences of it. But O that last, that dismal Scene ! Is it possible to remember it and question his kindness, or deny him ours ? Here here it is ( my dear Friend ) that we should fix our most serious and solemn thoughts, that Christ may dwell in our Hearts by Faith : and we may be rooted and grounded in Love, comprehending with all the Saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height : and to know the Love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that so we may be filled with all the fullness of God.Eph. iii. 17, 18, 19.
We ought also frequently to reflect on those particular Tokens of Favour and Love, which God hath bestowed on our selves, how long he hath born with our follies and sins, and waited to be gracious unto us, wrestling, as it were, with the stubbornness of our hearts, and essaying every method to reclaim us : We should keep a register in our Minds of all the eminent Blessings and Deliverances we have met with, some whereof have been so conveyed that we might clearly perceive they were not the issues of chance, but the gracious effects of the Divine Favour, and the signal returns of our Prayers. Nor ought we to embitter the thoughts of these things with any harsh or unworthy suspicion, as if they were designed on purpose to enhance our guilt, and heighten our eternal Damnation. No, no, my Friend, God is Love, and he hath no pleasure in the ruin of his Creatures : if they abuse his goodness, and turn his grace into wantonness, and thereby plunge themselves into the greater depth of guilt and misery, this is the effect of their obstinate wickedness, and not the design of those benefits which he bestows.
If these considerations had once begotten in our hearts a real Love and Affection towards Almighty God, that will easily lead us unto the other Branches of Religion, and therefore I shall need say the less unto them.
To beget Charity, we must remember that all men are nearly related unto God.
We shall find our hearts enlarged in Charity towards men, by considering the relation wherein they stand unto God, and the impresses of his Image which are stamped upon them. They are not only his Creatures, the workmanship of his hands, but such of whom he taketh special care, and for whom he hath a very dear and tender regard, having laid the designs of their happiness before the foundations of the World, and being willing to live and converse with them to all the Ages of Eternity. The meanest and most contemptible person whom we behold is the off-spring of Heaven, one of the Children of the Most High ; and however unworthily he might behave himself of that relation, so long as God hath not abdicated and disowned him by a final Sentence, he will have us to acknowledge him as one of his, and as such to embrace him with a sincere and cordial affection. You know what a great concernment we are wont to have for those that do any ways belong to the person whom we love, how gladly we lay hold on every opportunity to gratify the Child or Servant of a Friend ; and sure our Love towards God would as naturally spring forth in Charity towards men, did we mind the interest that he is pleased to take in them, and consider that every Soul is dearer unto him, than all the material World ; and that he did not account the Blood of his Son too great a price for their Redemption.
That they carry God’s Image upon them.
Again, As all men stand in a near relation to God, so they have still so much of his Image stamped on them, as may oblige and excite us to love them : In some this Image is more Eminent and conspicuous, and we can discern the Lovely Treats of Wisdom and Goodness ; and though in others it be miserably sullied and defaced, yet is it not altogether razed, some lineaments at least do still remain. All men are endued with Rational and Immortal Souls, with Understanding and Wills capable of the highest and most excellent things ; and if they be at present disordered and put out of tune by wickedness and folly, this may indeed move our compassion, but ought not in reason to extinguish our Love. When we see a person of a rugged humour and perverse disposition, full of Malice and Dissimulation, very foolish and very proud ; it is hard to fall in love with an object that presents it self unto us under an Idea so little grateful and lovely : but when we shall consider these evil qualities as the Diseases and Distempers of a Soul which in it self is capable of all that wisdom and goodness wherewith the best of Saints have ever been adorned, and which may one day come to be raised unto such heights of perfection as shall render it a fit companion for the holy Angels, this will turn our aversion into pity, and make us behold him with such resentments, as we should have when we did look on a beautiful body that were mangled with wounds, or disfigured by some loathsome disease ; and however we hate the vices, we shall not cease to love the man.
To beget Purity, we should consider the Dignity of our Nature.
In the next place, for purifying our Souls, and disentangling our affections from the Pleasures and Enjoyments of this lower life, let us frequently ponder the excellency and dignity of our Nature, and what a shameful and unworthy thing it is for so noble and divine a Creature as the Soul of Man, to be sunk and immersed in bruitish and sensual Lusts, or amused with airy and fantastical delights, and so to lose the relish of solid and spiritual pleasures ; that the Beast should be fed and pampered, and the Man and the Christian be starved in us. Did we but mind who we are, and for what we were made, this would teach us in a right sense to reverence and stand in awe of our selves, it would beget a holy modesty and shamefacedness, and make us very shy and reserved in the use of the most innocent and allowable pleasures.
We should meditate often on the Joys of Heaven.
It will be very effectual to the same purpose, that we frequently raise our Minds toward Heaven, and represent to our thoughts those Joys that are at God’s right hand, those pleasures that endure for evermore ; for every man that hath this hope in him, purifieth himself, even as he is pure. If our Heavenly Country be much in our thoughts, it will make us, as strangers and pilgrims, to abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the Soul, and keep our selves unspotted in this world, that we may be fit for the enjoyments and felicities of the other. But then we must see that our Notions of Heaven be not gross and carnal, that we dream not of a Mahometan Paradise, nor rest on those Metaphors and Similitudes by which these joys are sometimes represented, for this might perhaps have a quite contrary effect : it might entangle us further in carnal affections, and we should be ready to indulge our selves a very liberal foretaste of those pleasures wherein we had placed our everlasting felicity. But when we come once to conceive aright of those Pure and Spiritual pleasures, when the happiness we propose to our selves is from the sight and love and enjoyment of God, and our minds are filled with the hopes and forethoughts of that Blessed Estate, O how mean and contemptible will all things here below appear in our eyes ! with what disdain will we reject the gross and muddy pleasures that would deprive us of those Celestial enjoyments, or any way unfit and indispose us for them !1 John iii. 3.
Humility ariseth from the consideration of our failings.
The last Branch of Religion is Humility, and sure we can never want matter of consideration for begetting it : all our wickednesses and imperfections, all our follies and our sins, may help to pull down that fond and overweening conceit which we are apt to entertain of our selves. That which makes any body esteem us, is their knowledge or apprehension of some little good, and their ignorance of a great deal of evil that may be in us : were they throughly acquainted with us, they would quickly change their opinion. The thoughts that pass in our heart in the best and most serious day of our life, being exposed unto publick view, would render us either hateful or ridiculous : and now, however we conceal our failings from one another, yet sure we are conscious to them our selves, and some serious reflections upon them, would much qualify and allay the vanity of our spirits. Thus holy Men have come really to think worse of themselves, than of any other person in the world : not but that they knew that gross and scandalous Vices are in their nature more heinous than the surprisals of temptation and infirmity ; but because they were much more intent on their own miscarriages, than on those of their Neighbours, and did consider all the aggravations of the one, and every thing that might be supposed to diminish and alleviate the other.
Thoughts of God give us the lowest thoughts of our selves.
Prayer, another Instrument of Religion.
The advantages of mental Prayer.There remains yet another Means for begetting a Holy and Religious disposition in the Soul ; and that is fervent and hearty Prayer. Holiness is the Gift of God, indeed the greatest gift he doth bestow, or we are capable to receive ; and he hath promised his holy Spirit to those that ask it of him : in Prayer we make the nearest approaches unto God, and lie open to the influences of Heaven : Then it is that the Sun of Righteousness doth visit us with directest rays, and dissipateth our darkness and imprinteth his Image on our Souls. I cannot now insist on the advantages of this exercise, or the dispositions wherewith it ought to be performed ; and there is no need I should, there being so many Books that Treat on this subject : I shall only tell you, That as there is one sort of Prayer wherein we make use of the voice which is necessary in public, and may sometimes have its own advantages in private ; and another, wherein though we utter no sound, yet we conceive the expressions and form the words, as it were, in our Mind, ( which I presume is most commonly used in private devotion ) so there is a third and more sublime kind of prayer, wherein the Soul takes a higher flight, and having collected all its forces by long and serious Meditation, it darteth it self ( so to speak ) towards God in sighs and groans, and thoughts too big for expression. As when, after a deep Contemplation of the Divine Perfections appearing in all his Works of Wonder, it addresseth it self unto him in the profoundest adoration of his Majesty and Glory : or when, after sad reflections on its vileness and miscarriages, it prostrates it self before him with the greatest confusion and sorrow, not daring to lift up its eyes, or utter one word in his presence : or when having well considered the beauty of holiness, and the unspeakable felicity of those that are truly good, it panteth after God, and sendeth up such vigorous and ardent desires as no words should be sufficient to express, continuing and repeating each of these acts as long as it finds it self upheld by the force and impulse of the previous Meditation.
Religion is to be advanced by the same means by which it is begun.
The use of the Holy Sacrament.Thus, my dear Friend, I have briefly proposed the Method which I judge proper for moulding the Soul unto a holy frame ; and the same means which serve to beget this Divine Temper, must still be practiced for strengthening and advancing it : and therefore I shall recommend but one more for that purpose, and it is the frequent and conscientious use of that holy Sacrament, which is peculiarly appointed to nourish and increase the Spiritual Life, when once it is begotten in the Soul. All the Instruments of Religion do meet together in this Ordinance ; and while we address our selves unto it, we are put to practice all the Rules which were mentioned before. Then it is, that we make the severest Survey of our Actions, and lay the strictest Obligations on our selves : Then are our Minds raised to the highest contempt of the World, and every Grace doth exercise it self with the greatest activity and vigour : all the subjects of Contemplation do there present themselves unto us with the greatest advantage ; and then, if ever, doth the Soul make its most powerful Sallies towards Heaven, and assault it with a holy and acceptable force. And certainly the neglect or careless performance of this Duty, is one of the chief causes that bedwarfs our Religion, and makes us continue of so low a size.
And now, O most gracious God, Father and Fountain of Mercy and Goodness, who hast blessed us with the Knowledge of our Happiness, and the way that leadeth unto it, excite in our Souls such ardent desires after the one, as may put us forth to the diligent prosecution of the other. Let us neither presume of our own strength, nor distrust thy Divine Assistance ; but while we are doing our utmost endeavours, teach us still to depend on Thee for the success. Open our Eyes, O God, and teach us out of thy Law. Bless us with an exact and tender sense of our duty, and a taste to discern perverse things. O that our ways were directed to keep thy Statutes, then shall we not be ashamed when we have respect unto all thy Commandments. Possess our hearts with a generous and holy disdain of all those poor enjoyments which this World holdeth out to allure us, that they may never be able to inveigle our Affections, or betray us unto any Sin : Turn away our eyes from beholding vanity, and quicken thou us in thy Law. Fill our Souls with such a deep sense and full persuasion of those great Truths which Thou hast reveal’d in the Gospel, as may influence and regulate our whole Conversation ; and that the life which we henceforth live in the flesh, we may live through Faith, in the Son of God. O that the infinite Perfections of thy Blessed Nature, and the astonishing Expressions of thy Goodness and Love, may conquer and overpower our hearts, that they may be constantly arising towards Thee in flames of Devoutest Affection, and enlarging themselves in Sincere and Cordial Love towards all the World, for thy sake : and that we may cleanse our selves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in thy fear, without which we can never hope to behold and enjoy Thee. Finally, O God, grant that the consideration of what thou art, and what we our selves are, may both humble and lay us low before Thee, and also stir up in us the strongest and most ardent aspirations towards Thee. We desire to resign and give up our selves to the Conduct of thy Holy Spirit : lead us in thy Truth and teach us, for thou art the God of our Salvation : Guide us with thy Counsel, and afterwards receive us unto Glory, for the Merits and Intercession of thy Blessed Son our Saviour.
The nature of religion. Divine life vs. natural life. Divine life exemplified. Prayer for divine life.
Elements of true religion: -divine love.
Prayer for assistance.
Elements of holiness: -spiritual discipline.
-the power of prayer.
-the holy sacrament.
Prayer for holiness.