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not suffer us to lose our way for want of light; we have his promise, that if in all our ways we acknowledge him, he will direct our paths. While we are consulting about the turns and new motions of life, it is sliding away, but if our great work in it be going on, all is well. Pray for
Dunblaine, Jan. 13th.
Your poor Friend,
My Dear Friend,
I HAVE received from you the kindest letter that ever you writ me; and, that you may know I take it so, I return you the free and friendly advice, never to judge any man before you hear him, nor any business by one side of it. Were you here to see the other, I am confident your thoughts and mine would be the same. You have both too much knowledge of me, and too much charity to think, that either such little contemptible scraps of honour or riches sought in that part of the world, with so much reproach, or any human complacency in the world, will be admitted to decide so grave a question, or that I would sell (to speak no higher) the very sensual pleasure of my retirement for a rattle, far less deliberately do any thing that I judge offends God. For the offence of good people, in cases indifferent in themselves, but not accounted so by them; whatsoever you do or do not, you shall offend some good people on the one side or other And for those with you, the great fallacy in this business is, that they have misreckoned themselves in taking my silence and their zeals to have been consent and participation, which, how great a mistake it is, few know better or so well ast yourself; and the truth is, I did see approaching an inevitable necessity to strain with them in divers. practices, in what station soever, remaining in Britain, and to have escaped further off (which hath been in my thoughts) would have been the greatest scandal of all. And what will you say, if there be in this thing somewhat of that you mention, and would allow, of reconciling the devout on different
sides, and of enlarging those good souls you meet with from their little fetters, though possibly with little success? yet the design is commendable, pardonable at least. However, one comfort I have, that in what is pressed on me, there is the least of my own choice, yea, on the contrary, the strongest aversion that ever I had in any thing in all my life; the difficulty, in short, lies in a necessity, of either owning a scruple which I have not, or the rudest disobedience to authority that may be. The truth is, I am yet importuning and struggling for a liberation, and look upward for it; but whatsoever be the issue, I look beyond it, and this weary weary wretched life, through which the hand I have resigned to, I trust, will lead me in the paths of his own choosing; and so I may please him, I am satisfied. I hope, if ever we meet, you shall find me in the love of solitude and a devout life.
Your unalter'd Brother and Friend,
When I set pen to paper, I intended not to exceed half-a-dozen lines, but slid on insensibly thus far; but though I should fill the paper on all sides, still the right view of this business would be necessarily suspended till meeting. Meanwhile hope well of me, and pray for me. This word I will add, that as there hath been nothing of my choice in the thing, so I undergo it (if it must me) as a mortification, and that greater than a cell and hair-cloth; and whether any will believe this or no, I am not careful.
It is highly probable this has been wrote when he was deliberating about accepting a bishoprick.
RULES AND INSTRUCTIONS
OR disposing you the better to observe these rules and profit by them, be pleased to take the following advices:
1. Put all your trust in the special and singular mercy of God, that he, for his mercy's sake, and of his only goodness, will help and bring you to perfection; not that absolute perfection is attainable here, but the meaning is, to high degrees of that spiritual and divine life, which is always growing, and tending towards the absolute perfection above; but in some persons comes nearer to that, and riseth higher, even here, than in the most. If you, with hearty and fervent desires, do continually wish and long for it, and with most humble devotion, daily pray unto God, and call for it, and with all diligence do busily labour and travel to come to it, undoubtedly it shall be given you; for you must not think it sufficient to use exercises, as though they had such virtues in them, that, of themselves alone, they could make such as do use them perfect; for neither those, nor any other, whatever they be, can of themselves (by their use only) bring unto perfection. But our merciful Lord God, of his own goodness, when you seek with hearty desires and fervent sighings, maketh you to find it: When you ask daily with devout prayer, then he giveth it to you; and when you continually, with unwearied labour and travel, knock perseveringly, then he doth mercifully open unto you: and because that those exercises do teach you to seek, ask, and knock; yea, they are none other but very
devout petitions, seekings, and spiritual pulsations, for the merciful help of God; therefore they are very profitable means to come to perfection by God's
2. Let no particular exercise hinder your public and standing duties to God and your neighbours; but for these, rather intermit the other for a time, and then return to it as soon as you can.
3. If, in time of your spiritual exercise, you find yourself drawn to any better, or to as good a contemplation as that is, follow the track of that good motion so long as it shall last.
4. Always take care to follow such exercises of devout thoughts, withal putting in practice such lessons as they contain and excite to.
5. Though at first ye feel no sweetness in such exercises, yet be not discouraged, nor induced to leave them, but continue in them faithfully, whatsoever pain or spiritual trouble ye feel; for, doing them for God and his honour, and finding none other present fruit, yet you shall have an excellent reward for your diligent labour and your pure intentions: and let not your falling short of these models and rules, nor your daily manifold imperfections and faults, dishearten you; but continue stedfast in your desires, purposes and endeavours; and ever ask the best, aim at the best, and hope the best, being sorry that you can do no better; and they shall be a most acceptable sacrifice in the sight of God, and in due time you shall reap if you faint not: And of all such instructions, let your rule be to follow them as much as you can; but not too scrupulously thinking your labour lost if you do not exactly and strictly answer them in every thing: purpose still better, and by God's grace all shall be well.
Rule 1. Exercise thyself in the knowledge and deep consideration of our Lord God, calling humbly to mind how excellent and incomprehensible he is;
and this knowledge shalt thou rather endeavour to obtain by fervent desire and devout prayer, than by high study and outward labour: It is the singular gift of God, and certainly very precious. Pray then,
2. "Most gracious Lord, whom to know is the very bliss and felicity of man's soul, and yet none can know thee, unless thou wilt open and shew thyself unto him, vouchsafe of thy infinite mercy, now and ever, to enlighten my heart and mind to know thee, and thy most holy and perfect will, to the honour and glory of thy name. Amen."
3. Then lift up thy heart to consider (not with too great violence, but soberly) the eternal and infinite power of God, who created all things by his excellent wisdom; his unmeasurable goodness, and incomprehensible love: for he is very and only God, most excellent, most high, most glorious, the everlasting and unchangeable goodness, an eternal substance, a charity infinite, so excellent and ineffable in himself, that all dignity, perfection and goodness, that is possible to be spoken or thought of, cannot sufficiently express the smallest part thereof.
4. Consider that he is the natural place, the centre and rest of thy soul: if thou then think of the most blessed Trinity, muse not too much thereon, but with devout and obedient faith, meekly and lowly adore and worship.
5. Consider Jesus, the Redeemer and Husband of thy soul, and walk with him as becomes a chaste spouse, with reverence and lowly shamefulness, obedience and submission.
6. Then turn to the deep, profound consideration of thyself, thine own nothingness, and thy extreme defilement and pollution, thy natural aversion from God, and that thou must, by conversion to him again, and union with him, be made happy.
7. Consider thyself and all creatures as nothing, in comparison of thy Lord; that so thou mayest not only be content, but desirous to be unknown,