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duties; to confound them by praying for what is already given us, is put into our hand, or lies within our reach; for which therefore we are not to pray, but to render thanks; also by giving thanks formally for that, which perhaps we are far from possessing, and do most want; so, I say, we shall be apt to confound and misplace, to render vain and chimerical in a sort our spiritual addresses, as wanting due ground and object; yea to pervert them by asking for things really prejudicial and hurtful to us, (in the circumstances we stand,) and thanking God for what in anger and judgment he dispenseth to us, (so indeed are many appearing goods, grateful to present sense,) as also deprecating things most beneficial and useful, and healthful to our souls ; neglecting to return thanks for what God disposeth in mercy, (so are many things at present bitter and unsavory to our carnal appetite and fancy :) thus from ignorance of ourselves, and what we truly need, are we apt to pervert our devotions, not only defeating ourselves of the advantages they might yield us, but (if God be pot more gracious than to hearken to us, and to grant our wishes) bringing lamentable mischief on ourselves. Many examples of these confusions and perverse misapplications of devotion both Scripture affords, and experience will suggest, if we observe them. You know the comparison in the gospel between the devotions of the Pharisee and the Publican, with the different acceptance they found : the one was prompt enough to give thanks for the graces he had received, and the advantages he conceived that he had in his qualities, and in his performances above others; but not having duly studied himself, did not perceive that he was rather bound to ask pardon for the pride of his heart, and the vanity that adhered to his performances, which rendered his thanksgiving very improper and unseasonable. The other being conscious of his demerits and wants, with a manner suitable to his condition, in words few, but full and fit, did confess his unworthiness, (which to do did best beseem him,) and implored mercy, (which was the thing he chiefly needed ;) so was his discreet prayer better accepted than the other's impertinent thanksgiving: “I tell you,' saith our Saviour, 'this man went down to his house justified rather than the other.' The two sons of Zebedee, conceiting that our Lord would shortly
become a great prince, and affecting to become favorites then, did confidently sue for the next place of dignity about him; our Lord repressed their fond ambition by downright telling them first, that they knew not what they asked ;' then by demanding of them whether they were able to undergo the trials they should meet with; implying what they should rather have requested, that they more needed humility and patience than pomp and pleasure: and it was the same two persons, whose intemperate zeal he otherwhere checked with an oủk oidare viov aretuaros, “Ye know not of what spirit ye are :' and no wonder, if they, who knew not what they were, did ask they knew not what; that, being ignorant of their own hearts, they should endite absurd petitions; that in such a case they should desire things not only incongruous and inconvenient, but dangerous and destructive to themselves. For to make a right distinction of these duties; to be able discreetly and pertinently, if I may so speak, to converse with God, it is requisite to look into our hearts, and from them to take fit matter, due measure, right season of request, and of acknowlegement respectively; things commonly not being as they appear to our present sense, or to our gross conceit, in themselves, or in their degree, good or bad; but according to the disposition of our hearts, and the effects they work on them. That is not good, which pleaseth our sense and fancy ; nor that bad, which disgusts then ; but that is good, which rendereth our heart wiser and better, which correcteth our inclinations, composeth our affections, informeth our judgments rightly, and purifieth our intentions; that is bad, which hath contrary effects within us. We, it is likely, should pray with greatest seriousness and earnestness for the removal of those infirmities, for ease from those afflictions; which we see the holy Apostles (being better instructed in things, being more acquainted with themselves) did rejoice, did glory in, did give thanks for; as finding the wholesome operation they had on their hearts; that by them their virtues were exercised and improved, their faith tried, their patience increased, their hope confirmed; that, to use the Apostle's words, they did in the sequel return the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who were exercised by them :' but leaving this point, though deserving perhaps farther consideration, I proceed, and say farther, that,
11. The continual visitation of our inward parts doth not only yield much advantage, (as in some measure hath been showed,) at the long-run, by influence at the spring-head on the principles and causes of action, but doth immediately conduce to good practice, preventing and stifling in the very birth many sinful and vain practices : that so many indiscreet and impertinent, so many irregular and unsavory, so many unjust and uncharitable speeches do issue from our mouths, it is especially because we are not then employed on this duty; are not watching over our hearts, and observing those inward foun. tains, (levity and wantonness of thought, precipitancy and disorder of passion) from whence they overflow: were we intent there, we should perhaps endeavor to stop the current, and contain these inward bad motions from venting themselves. The like we may say concerning many unwarrantable actions, into which we inconsiderately plunge ourselves, not heeding whence they spring : did we regard that such actions were arising from ambitious, covetous, froward dispositions, or from certain ill-grounded prejudices lurking in our minds, we should often surely forbear them : but while we keep none, or bad sentinels; while in the custody of our hearts we sleep, or are drowsy ; while we neglect to examine and weigh our actions what they are, and whence they come, they (although very bad and hurtful) do steal by us, and pass as friends, and we hear no more of them, but in their woful consequences. What efficacy the consideration of God's omnipresent eye, beholding all our doings, hath, and how all wise men do press it as a powerful means to contain us from bad action, you cannot but well know; as likewise that some of them, in order to the same purpose, direct us to conceive ourselves always under the inspection of some person especially venerable for his worth, or for his relation to us, whom we should be afraid or ashamed to displease: and surely were the faith concerning God's presence, or the fancy concerning the presence of a Cato or a Lælius, strong enough, they could not but have great effect : however, did we but live, even in our own presence, under the eye
of our own judgment and conscience; regarding not only the matter and body, but the reason and ground, that is the soul, of our actings; even that would do much ; the love and reverence of ourselves would somewhat check and control us; we should fear to offend, we should be ashamed to vilify even ourselves by fond or foul proceedings; it would, in the philosopher's esteem, supply the room of any other keeper or monitor, if we could thus keep ourselves ; • If,' saith he, ‘we have so far profited, as to have got a reverence of ourselves, we may then well let go a tutor, or pedagogue.'*
12. This practice doth much conduce to the knowlege of human nature, and the general dispositions of mankind, which is an excellent and most useful part of wisdom : for the principal inclinations and first motions of the soul are like in all men ; whence he that by diligent study of himself hath observed them in his own soul, may thence collect them to be in others; he hath at least a great advantage of easily tracing them, of soon descrying them, of clearly perceiving them in those he converseth with; the which knowlege is of great use, as directing us how to accommodate ourselves in our behavior and dealing with others.
No man indeed can be a good instructor or adviser in moral affairs, who hath not attained this skill, and doth not well understand the nature of man: his precepts and rules will certainly be fallacious, or misapplied without it: this is that which rendered the dictates of the Stoics and other such philosophers so extravagant and unpracticable, because they framed them not according to the real nature of man, such as is existent in the world, but according to an idea formed in their own imaginations.
Some caution indeed is in this matter to be used, that those motions of soul, which proceed from particular temper and complexion, from supervenient principles or habits, may be distinguished from those which are natural and common unto all : which distinction to make is of great use and benefit, in order to the governing, restraining, or correcting them.
If there be any in us, which are not observable in any other
* Sen. Ep. 25.
men; or in other men, which are not in us, those do not arise from common nature, but from the particular disposition of one or other respectively. .
13. I add lastly, that universally this practice is requisite and necessary for the well governing of our heart. Politicians inculcate much, that to the well governing of a people, squaring fit laws for it, and keeping it in good order, the nature and humor of that people should be chiefly heeded and well understood; for that the grave Romans, and light Greeks; the soft Persians, and stout Germans; the subtle Africans, and gross Scythians, would not be well managed in the same manner. So to govern any man's heart, (since the hearts of men, as their faces, and as their voices, differ according to diversities of complexion, of age, of education, of custom and manner of living,) it conduceth to know how it is disposed from any of those, or the like causes. But how we are to guide and govern our hearts, and what particular influence this practice hath thereon, I reserve for other meditations; when we shall endeavor more distinctly to show how we may apply our thoughts to due objects; how curb and correct our inclinations; how order our passions ; how rectify our opinions; how purify our intentions : now I conclude with the good psalmist's requests to God Almighty : Teach us thy way, o Lord; unite our hearts to fear thy name.' "Give us understanding, and we shall keep thy law; yea, we shall observe it with our whole heart.' • Search us, O God, and know our hearts; try us, and know our thoughts; see if there be any wicked way in us, and lead us in the way everlasting.' Amen.