« PreviousContinue »
are things that he cannot eafily away with, till he hath been inured and accustomed to them a while, and then they grow more natural and cafie to him; but when he comes to be fenfible of the great Advantages he reaps by his Labour, how it raifes and improves his Understanding, inlarges its profpect, and furnishes its Conception with brave and useful Notions; then do his Labours which were formerly fo grievous, become not only eafie, but delectable to him. And even fo it is with thefe fpiritual Exercises of Religion, which to unexperienced perfons that are yet but newly entered upon them will be very painful and troublefom; but if they have but Patience and Courage to hold on, Cuftom will quickly render them more tolerable, and when they have practifed them fo long as to find and perceive the bleffed Effects of them, how much they have contributed to the reforming their Tempers, reducing their Inclinations, filing and polishing their rough and mif-shapen Natures; with what amiable Graces, divine and godlike Difpofitions they have adorned and beautified them; their Senfe and Feeling of this will convert them all into delightful Recreations. Thus as the Cuftom of them will render them eafie, fo the bleffed Fruits of them will make them delectable; the former will render them facil as Nature, the latter eligible as Reward. And if fo, why should we be difcouraged, faint-hearted Creatures that we are, at thofe little prefent Difficulties, which our Diligence will foon wear off and convert into Ease and Pleasure?
VII. Confider that with the Difficulty of them, there is a world of prefent Peace and Y 4
Satisfaction intermingled. If you fall back again to your old Lufts, instead of these prefent Difficulties you fart at, you must expect to have the Trouble of a guilty Soul to contend with; which, if you have any fenfe of God, and of Good and Evil, will be much more grievous to you than they. But if you go on, you will carry with you a quiet and a fatisfied Mind, a Confcience that will entertain you all along with fuch Sweet and calm Reflections as will abundantly compensate you for all the Hardships and Difficulties you encounter on the way; that with innumerable Iterations will be always refounding to your honeft Endeavours thofe best and Sweetest Echocs, Well done good and profitable fervant, how bravely haft thou acquitted thy felf, how manfully hait thou stood to thy Duty against all Oppofitions, and with what a Gallant Refolution haft thou repulfed those Temptations that bore up against thee? Now for a man to have his own Mind continually applauding him, and crowning his Actions with the Approbations of his Confcience, is Encouragement enough to balance a thoufand Difficulties; and the Senfe that he hath done his Duty, and that the God above, and the Vice-god within him, are both fatisfied and pleafed with him, will give him fuch a grateful Relish of each Action of his Warfare, that the Difficulty will only ferve to inhance the Pleasure of it.
And as he will have great Peace and Satisfaction whilft he is contending with thefe Difficulties, fo when he hath fo far conquered them as that they are no longer able to curb and with-hold him from the free and vigorous Exercife of the heavenly
Vertues, but in defpight of them he can easily moderate his Paffions and Appetites by the Laws of his Reason, and freely love, adore, and imitate, fubmit to, and confide in the ever-bleffed God, and chearfully exert an unforced Plainneẞ and Simplicity, Good-will and Charity, Submiffion and Condefcenfion, Peace and Concord towards all men; when, I fay, he hath fo far furmounted the Difficulties of his Warfare, as that with any Measure of Freedom and Vigour he can put forth all these heavenly Vertues, he will find himself not only in a quiet, but in a heavenly Condition. For these heavenly Graces are the Palate by which the immortal Mind taftes and relishes its Heaven, the bleffed Organs and Senfories by which it feels and perceives the Joys of the World to come, and without which it can no more relish and injoy them, than the fenfeless Hive can the sweetness of the Honey that is in it. And confequently the more quick and vivacious thefe heavenly Organs of the Mind are, and the more they are disburthened of those carnal and devilish Lufts that blunt their Sense and Perception, the more accurately they will taste the Joys and Pleafures of Heaven. So that when by the conftant Practice of the warfaring Duties of Religion, we have conquered those bad Inclinations of our Natures, which render the heavenly Vertues fo difficult to us, and do fo clog and incumber us in the Exercise of them, we fhall find our felves in a Heaven upon Earth, and each Act of Vertue will be a Prefention and Foretaste of the Joys of the celeftial Life. And being arrived at this blessed State in which all heavenly Vèrtue is fo connaturalized to us, the fweet
Experience we shall have of the unspeakable Joys and Pleasures it abounds with, will caufe us to look back with wondrous Content and Satisfaction upon all thofe Difficulties we contended with in our Way to it, and bless those Prayers and Tears, and Strivings with our felves, thofe tedious Watchings and Self-examinations, &c. by which we have now at laft conquered and fubdued them.
Wherefore fince the Practice of these our warfaring Duties hath fo much prefent Peace going along with it, and fince by its natural Drift and Tendency it's leading us forward to a State of fo much Pleasure and Satisfaction, what a Madnefs is it, for a man to be beaten off from it, by thofe prefent little Difficulties that attend it! What man that confults his own Interest would ever defift from the profecuting fuch a gainful Warfare, in which to make him amends for the prefent pains it puts him to, he is not only poffeft of Peace of Confcience for the prefent, but affured of a happy Life for the future, when he hath conquered the Difficulties he contends with.
VIII. Confider that the Difficulty of these Duties is abundantly compenfated by the Reward of them. A generous Mind will think no Means too hard which tend to noble and worthy Ends; in the profecution of which, Oppofition only whets its Courage and Refolution. So that doubtlefs had we any Spark of Generofity in us, the Vaftnefs and Excellency of the End we purfue, would make us defpife all Difficulties in the Way to it, What a Meannes of Spirit therefore doth it argue
in us to ftand bogling, as we do, at the Difficulties of Religion; to think much of spending a few Days or Tears in this World in striving and contending with our Inclinations, in Confideration and Watchfulnes, in earneft Prayer and fevere Reflections on our felves, when we are affured before-hand that at the Conclufion of this fhort Conflict we fhall be carried off by Angels in Triumph to Heaven, and there receive from the Captain of our Salvation a Crown of everlasting Joys and Pleasures; when after a few Moments Pains and Labour, we fhall live Millions of Millions of most happy Ages in the ravishing Fruition of a boundlefs Good, and after thefe are expired have as many Millions of Millions more to live. What an unconscionable thing is it for us to complain of any Difficulty, who have fuch a vaft Recompence of Reward in our View? In the name of God, Sirs, what would you have? Why we would have Heaven drop down into our Mouths, and not put us to all this Trouble of reaching and climbing after it. Would you fo? 'tis a very modeft Defire indeed; that is, you would have the God of Heaven thrust his Favours upon you while you fcorn and defpife them, and prostitute his Heaven to a company of Drones that don't think it worth their while to go out of their Hives to gather it. O! for fhame look once more upon Heaven, and confider again what it is to dwell in the Paradife of the World with God and Angels and Saints, and in their bleffed Company to live out an Eternity in the most rapturous Contemplations and Loves and Joys; to bath our dilated Faculties in an overflowing River of Pleasures,