« PrécédentContinuer »
these, as they are unable to effect that, for which they are propounded *
Nature teacheth thee all these should be done ; she cannot teach thee to do them: and yet do all these and no more, let me never have rest, if thou have it. For, neither are here the greatest enemies of our peace so much as descried afar off; nor those, that are noted, are hereby so prevented, that, upon most diligent practice, we can promise ourselves any security: wherewith whoso instructed, dare confidently give challenge to all sinister events, is like to some skilful fencer, who stands upon his usual wards, and plays well; but, if there come a strange fetch of an unwonted blow, is put
beside the rules of his art, and with much shame overtaken. And, for those, that are known, believe me, the mind of man is too weak to bear out itself hereby, against all onsets. There are light crosses, that wil take an easy repulse; others yet stronger, that shake the house side, but break not in upon us; others vehement, which by force make way to the heart; where they find none, breaking open the door of the soul, that denies entrance; others violent, that lift the mind of the hinges, or rend the bars of it in pieces; others furious, that tear up the very foundations from the bottom, leaving no monument behind them, but ruin. The wisest and most resolute moralist, that ever was, looked pale when he should taste of his hemlock; and, by his timorousness, made sport to those, that envied his speculations. The best 7 of the heathen emperors, that was honoured with the title of piety, justly magnified that courage of Christians, which made them insult over their tormentors; and, by their fearlessness of earthquakes and deaths, argued the truth of their religion. It must be, it can be, none but a divine power, that can uphold the mind against the rage of many afflictions: and yet, the greatest crosses are not the greatest enemies to inward peace. Let us, therefore, look up above ourselves; and, from the rules of a higher art, supply the defects of natural wisdom: give ing such infallible directions for Tranquillity, that whosoever shall follow cannot but live sweetly with continual delight; applauding himself at home, when all the world beside him shall be miserable,
To which purpose, it shall be requisite, first, to remove all causes of unquietness; and then, to set down the grounds of our happy
SECT. IV. Enemies of inward Peace divided into their ranks.-The Torment
of an Evil Conscience.—The joy and peace of the guilty but dis
sembled. I FIND, on the one hand, two universal enemies of Tranquillity; conscience of evil done, sense or fear of evil suffered. The former in one word, we call Sins; the latter, Crosses: the first of these
* Allowed yet by Seneca in his last chapter of Tranquillity. † Antoninus Pius, in an Epistle to the Asians concerning the persecuted Christians. must be quite taken away, the second duly tempered, ere the heart can be at rest. For, first, how can that man be at peace, that is at variance with God and himself? How should peace be God's gift, if it could be without him, if it could be against him? It is the profession of sin, although fair spoken at the first closing, to be a perpetual make-bait betwixt God and man, betwixt a man and him. self.
And this enmity, though it do not continually shew itself, as the mortallest enemies are not always in pitched fields one against the other; for that the conscience is not ever clamorous, but somewhile is silent, otherwhile with still murmurings bewrays his mislikes; yet doth evermore work secret unquietness to the heart. The guilty man may have a seeming truce; a true peace, he cannot have. Look upon the face of the guilty heart, and thou shalt see it pale and ghastly; the smiles and laughters, faint and heartless ; the speeches, doubtful and fuil of abrupt stops and unseasonable turnings; the purposes and motions, unsteady and savouring of much distraction, arguing plainly that sin is not so smooth at her first motions, as turbulent afterwards : hence are those vain wearyings of places and companies, together with ourselves; that the galled soul doth, after the wont of sick patients, seek refreshing in variety, and, after many tossed and turned sides, complains of remediless and unabated torment. Nero, after so much innocent blood, may change his bed-chamber; but his fiends ever attend him, ever are within him, and are as parts of himself. Alas, what avails it, to seek outward reliefs, when thou hast thine executioner within thee? If thou couldst shift from thyself, thou mightest have some hope of ease: now, thou shalt never want furies, so long as thou hast thyself. Yea, what if thou wouldst run from thyself? Thy soul may fly from thy body : thy conscience will not tiy from thy soul, nor thy sin from thy conscience. Some men, indeed, in the bitterness of these pangs of sin, like unto those fondly impatient fishes that leap out of the pan into the fame, have leapt out of this private heil, that is in themselves, into the common pit; chusing to adventure upon the future pains that they have feared, rather than to endure the present horrors they have felt: wherein what have they gained, but to that heil which was within them, a second hell without? The conscience leaves not, where the fiends begin; but both join together in torture.
But, there are some firm and obdurate foreheads, whose resolus tion can laugh their sins out of countenance. There are so large and able gorges, as that they can swallow and digest bloody mur. ders, without complaint; who, with the same hands, which they have since their last meal embrued in blood, can freely carve to themselves large morsels at the next sitting. Believest thou, that such a man's heart laughs with his face? will not he dare to be a hypocrite, that durst be a villain ? These glow-worms, when a night of sorrow compasses them, make a lightsome and fiery shew of joyi when, if thou press them, thou findest nothing but a cold and crude moisture. Knowest thou not, that there are those, which count it no shame to sin; yet count it a shame to be checked with remorse, especially so as others' eyes may descry: to whom repentance seems base-mindedness, unworthy of him, that professes wisdom and valour? Such a man can grieve, when none sees it; but bimself can laugh, when others see it ; himself, feels not. Assure thyself, that man's heart bleedeth, when his face counterfeits a smile : he wears out many waking hours, when thou thinkest le resteth: yea, as his thoughts afford him not sleep, so his very sleep affords him not rest; but, while his senses are tied up, his sin is loose; representing itself to him in the ugliest shape, and frighting him with horrible and hellish dreams. And if, perhaps, custom hath bred a carelessness in him, as we see that usual whipping makes the child not care for the rod : yet an unwonted extremity of the blow shall fetch blood of the soul; and make the back, that is most hardened, sensible of smart; and, the further the blow is fetched, through intermission of remorse, the harder it must needs alight. Therefore, I may confidently tell the careless sinner, as that bold tragedian said to his great Pompey: “The time shall come, wherein thou shalt fetch deep sighs; and therefore shalt sorrow desperately, because thou sorrowedst not sooner.” The fire of the conscience may lie, for a time, smothered with a pile of green wood, that it cannot be discerned; whose moisture when once it hath mastered, it sends
so much greater flame, by how much it had greater resistance. Hope not then, to stop the mouth of thy conscience from exclaiming, while thy sin continues : that endeavour is both vain and hurtful. So I have seen them, that have stopt the nostril for bleeding, in hope to stay the issue; when the blood, hindered in his former course, hath broken out of the mouth, or found way down into the stomach. The conscience is not pacifiable, while sin is within to vex it; no more than an angry swelling can cease throbbing and aching, while the thorn or the corrupted matter lies rotting underneath. Time, that remedies all other evils of the mind, increaseth this; which, like to bodily diseases, proves worse with continuance, and grows upon us
with our age.
SECT. V. The Remedy of an Unquiet Conscience, There can be, therefore, no peace, without reconciliation : thou canst not be friends with thyself, till with God : for thy conscience, which is thy best friend while thou sinnest not, like an honest servant takes his Master's part against thee when thou hast sinned; and will not look straight upon thee, tili thou upon God; not daring to be so kind to thee, as to be unfaithful to his Maker.
There can be no reconciliation, without remission. God can neither forget the injury of sin, nor dissemble hatred. It is for men and those of hollow hearts, to make pretences contrary to their affections: soothings, and smiles, and embracements, where we mean not love, are from weakness; either for that we fear our insufficiency of present revenge, or hope for a fitter opportunity afterwards, or for that we desire to make our further advantage of him to whom we mean evil. These courses are not incident into an Almighty power; who, having the command of all vengeance, can smite where he list, without all doubtings or delays.
There can be no remission, without satisfaction. Neither dealeth God with us, as we men with some desperate debtors ; whom, after long dilations of payments and many days broken, we altogether let go for disability, or at least dismiss them upon an easy composition. All sins are debts : all God's debts must be discharged. It is a bold word, but a true; God should not be just, if any of his debts should pass unsatisfied. The conceit of the profane vulgar makes him a God ali of Mercies; and, thereupon, hopes for pardon, without payment. Fond and ignorant presumption, to disjoin mercy and justice in him, to whom they are both essential; to make mercy exceed justice in him, in whom both are infinite! Darest thou hope God can be so kind to thee, as to be unjust to himself? God will be just: go thou on to presume and perish.
There can be no satisfaction, by any recompence of ours. An infinite justice is offended : an infinite punishment is deserved by every sin: and every man's sins are as near to infinite, as number can make them. Our best endeavour is worse than finite, imperfect, and faulty: if it could be perfect, we owe it all in present : what we are bound to do in present, cannot make amends for what we have not done in time past; which while we offer to God as good payment, we do, with the profane traveller, think to please him with empty date-shells, in lieu of preservation. Where shall we then find a payment of infinite value, but in him, which is only and all infinite ? the dignity of whose person, being infinite, gave such worth to his satisfaction, that what he suffered in short time, was proportionable to what we should have suffered beyond all times. He did all, suffered all, paid all: he did it for us; we, in him.
Where shall I begin to wonder at thee, O thou divine and eterna! Peace-Maker, the Saviour of Men, the Anointed of God, Mediator between God and Man: in whom there is nothing, which doth not exceed, not only the conceit, but the very wonder of Angels; who saw thee in thy humiliation with silence, and adore thee in thy glory with perpetual praises and rejoicings? Thou wast for erer of thyself, as God; of the Father, as the Son; the Eternal Son, of an Eternal Father; not later in being, not less in dignity, not other in substance; begotten, without diminution of him that begot thee, while he communicated that wholly to thee, which he retained wholly in himself, because both were infinite without inequality of nature, without division of essence: when, being in this estate, thine infinite love and mercy to desperate mankind caused thee, () Saviour, to empty thyself of thy glory, that thou mightest put on our shame and misery. Wherefore, not ceasing to be God as thou wert, thou beganst to be what thou wert not, Man; to the end that thou mightest be a perfect Mediator betwixt God and man, which wert both in one person; God, that thou mightest sa. tisfy; Man, that thou mightest suffer: that, since man had sinned, and God was offended, thou, which wert God and Man, mightest satisfy God for man. None but thyself, which art the ETERNAL Word, can express the depth of this mystery, that God should be clothed with flesh, come down to men, and become man ; that man might be exalted into the highest heavens, and that our nature might be taken into the fellowship of the Deity: that he, to whom all powers in heaven bowed, and thought it their honour to be serviceable, should come down to be a servant to his slaves, a ransom for his enemies; together with our nature taking up our very infirmities, our shame, our torments, and bearing our sins without sin: that thou, whom the heavens were too strait to contain, shouldest lay thyself in an obscure cratch ; thou, which wert attended of an. gels, shouldest be derided of men, rejected of thine own, persecuted by tyrants, tempted with devils, betrayed of thy servant, crucified among thieves, and, which was worse than all these, in thine own apprehension, for the time, as forsaken of thy Father : that thou, whom our sins had pierced, shouldest, for our sins, both sweat drops of blood in the garden, and pour out streams of blood upon
the cross. Oh, the invaluable purchase of our peace! O ransom enough for more worlds! Thou, which wert, in the counsel of thy Father, the Lamb slain from the beginning of time, camest now, in fulness of time, to be slain by man, for man; being, at once, the Sacrifice offered, the Priest that did offer, and the God to whom it was offered. How graciously didst thou both proclaim our peace, as a Prophet, in the time of thy life upon earth ; and purchase it, by thy blood, as a Priest, at thy death; and now confirmest and appliest it, as a King, in heaven! By thee only it was procured; by thee, it is proffered. O mercy without example, without measure! God oilers peace to man: the holy seeks to the unjust ; the potter, to the clay ; the king, to the traitor. We are unworthy, that we should be received to peace, though we desired it: what are we then, that we should have peace offered for the receiving? An easy condition of so great a benefit! he requires us not to earn it, but to accept it of him : what could he give more? what could be require less of us!
SECT. VI. The Receipt of our Peace offered by Faith.- A corollary of the benefit
of this receipt. The vain shifts of the guilty. The purchase, therefore, of our peace was paid at once; yet must be severally reckoned to every soul, whom it shall benefit. If we have not a hand to take what Christ's hand doth either hold or offer, what is sufficient in him cannot be ellectual to us. The spiritual hand, whereby we apprehend the sweet o lers of our Saviour, is Faith ; which, in short, is no other, than an alliance in the Mediator: receive peace, and be happy ; believe, and thou hast received, From hence it is, that we are interested in all, that either God hath promised, or Christ hath performed: hence have we from God, both forgiveness and love; the ground of all, either peace or glory: