« السابقةمتابعة »
If a King should fend a Meflenger with a Pardon to a Malefactor that's ready to be turn'd off of the Ladder, there is no Man but a stranger to Pity and Compaffion, but would fpeak in commendation of the Royal Mercy; but fhould the King himself approach the place of Execution, and abfolve him, it's like the unexpected bounty would caft the Malefactor into a Swoon. And then, when the Great God of Heaven and Earth made his Favour exftatical, went out of the common road of Mercy, ftept beyond all Precedents and Examples, encreased his kindness into perfect Miracles, Miracles which the Ages before cannot parallel, and the Son of God made his way through all the Clouds of Heaven, to tell Men how God longed for their Society and Happiness; we cannot fuppofe a poffibility of greater condefcenfion. And that which ftill increases the wonder, this Son of God intreats, wooes, and befeeches Men to bethink themselves, and dress up their Souls for the next World's Glory. He that might have come (as one day most certainly. he will) with flames of Fire, and taken Venge. ance on the obftinate, and terrified and startled them into seriousness, and might, without a Metaphor, as it is, Pfal. 45. 3. have girded his Sword upon his Thigh, and looked ftern on the Rebels, that would not have him reign over them, and frowned them into Hell. That this Son of God, this Sovereign Prince, whom all the Elements ferve, at whose command the Waters drown, and the Fire burns, and the Earth swallows up,that hé fhould come, and draw near the City, and, instead
of confuming, weep over it, as if he meant to quench the Fire of God's indignation against it: and inftead of dooming it outright to Eternal Vengeance, wish, O that thou hadst known in this thy day what belongs unto thy peace! Call like a tender compaffionate Father, How often would I have ga. thered you as a Hen doth gather her Chickens under her wings, and ye would not! That he should bear affronts, and in the midst of those injuries, entreat Men to be reconciled to him, and seek for a Pardon! That he should make nothing of being flandered, so he might but win them to Repentance; be content to undergo Reproaches, fo he might but allure them to God's ways; fuffer himfelf to be abused, fo he might but undeceive them in their ftrong delufions; bear with their peevishness and frowardness, fo he might but perfwade them to mind their Eternal Intereft. That like his Apostle afterward, thô free from all Men, he should yet make himself a fervant to all, that he might gain the more; unto the Jews become as a Jew, that he might gain the Jews; to them that are under the Law, as under the Law, that he might gain them that are under the Law; to them that are without Law,as without Law, being not without Law to God, that he might gain them that are without Law; to the weak, become as weak, that he might gain the weak, and be made all things to all Men, that he might by all means fave fome; that he should conjure Mankind by Tears and Wounds, and his own Blood, by those very Torments and Agonies he endured for them. to have Mercy on themselves; to take a view of the
the burning Lake beneath, and run away; to look upon the Joys above, and be ravished with the fight! That he fhould court them by the sweetest Invitations, and the kindest Calls; by the greateft Offers, and the foftest Promises; Promises of Affiftance, and of his Holy Spirit, of Peace and Joy in the Holy Ghoft; and feal his ftrong defires and longings after their Holinefs, with his own death; and after his Death, being rifen again, fend Apoftles, and whole Armies of Confeffors and Martyrs to establish those Defires, ordain a Function of Men, that might preach those Defires in Men's Ears to the World's End; this indeed is a condescension which the great miniftring Spirits in Heaven ftand amazed at, and may justly be looked upon to be one of those things, the Angels defire to pry into.
By fuch astonishing Means hath the great Immortal God endeavoured to effect that Holiness in Men, that Seriousness, that Piety, that Heavenly-mindedness, which he hath appointed to be the only way to endless Bliss. Glorious Means indeed! But then they are no more but Pearls thrown before Swine, where Men confider not how far they are concerned in the Heavenly Call; and what can be the meaning of all these Arts and Stratagems of Divine Compaffion, and what fhould make God thus folicitous and careful to procure Man's happiness; and how dreadful it must be to neglect fo great Salvation; what God defigns by all this; and what the intent of these umufual Endeavours must be; whether things are so, or no; and if they be fo, what monftrous
ftupidity it must be to lie ftill, and fleep under fuch strong and powerful Invitations. To lay all this Labour and Industry, and indefatigable pains of God before the Eyes of Men, when they will not fix their Contemplations on the remedies intended for their recovery; what is it but to make a Learned Oration to a Flock of Sheep; and, with the Popish St. Francis, to addrefs our felves to Falcons and Pheasants, and other Birds; or,with him in Sulpitius Severus, to speak to Woolves, to talk to a blind Man of Colours, to discourse Mathematicks to one in a Fever, and to prepare Elixirs and Cordials for Men deprived of Life and Sense? Without Confideration, we have little but Shape and Speech left to us to diftinguish us from Beafts and God clearly lofes the Vertue of his Exhortations and Entreaties, except Confideration fets them home, digefts and applies them to the Soul, and the inward Thoughts, like Sun-beams in a Burning-Glafs, unite and continue so long upon these Spiritual objects, till they fet the Heart on fire.
CHA P. II.
Confideration no tranfitory view of Spiritual Things, imports laying the Heart and Mind clofely unto Spiritual Concerns; refembles Magnifying Glaffes which difcover Things Imperceptible by the naked Eye. The great Ingredients of a Self-Examination, Expoftulation, and strong Refolution.
Ow Confideration, Thinking, Pondering, Meditation, Contemplation, do differ, is not Material to enquire. Confideration includes all these, and is nothing but exercifing and improving that Rational Faculty the great Architect hath bestowed on us, to the Glory of God, and the Felicity of our immortal Souls. The CharaEter St. Bernard gives of it, may help to illuftrate this Defcription: It distinguisheth (faith he) things confufed, collecteth fuch as lie difperfed; Searches and dives into fuch as are concealed and hid,examines probabilities, reflects upon what is done, refolves what to do, and preffes towards the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Chrift Fefus.
The School-men are in the right, when they call it, Employing the whole understanding about a thing; for indeed, a flash of Thinking is no more Confideration than a few wandring sparks can be said to warm a fpacious Room: As well may a Man hope to fet a Mill a going, by sparkling fome drops upon the Wheels, as imagine that a few tranfient Thoughts will reform the Soul: And