Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

7. But “ Joseph and Mary wondered at those things which were spoken,” and treasured them in their hearts, and they became matter of devotion and mental prayer, or meditation.

THE PRAYER.

O eternal God, who, by the inspirations of thy Holy Spirit,

didst direct thy servants, Simeon and Anna, to the temple, at the instant of the presentation of the holy child Jesus, that so thou mightest verify thy promise, and manifest thy Son, and reward the piety of holy people, who longed for redemption by the coming of the Messias ; give me the perpetual assistance of the same Spirit to be as a monitor and a guide to me, leading me to all holy actions, and to the embracements and possessions of thy glorious Son; and remember all thy faithful people, who wait for the consolation and redemption of the church from all her miseries and persecutions, and at last satisfy their desires by the revelations of thy mercies and salvation. Thou hast advanced thy holy Child, and set him up for a sign of thy mercies, and a representation of thy glories. Lord, let no act, or thought, or word of mine, ever be in contradiction to this blessed sign; but let it be for the ruin of all my vices, and all the powers the devil employs against the church, and for the raising up all those virtues and graces, which thou didst design me in the purposes of eternity : but let my portion never be amongst the incredulous, or the scornful, or the heretical, or the profane, or any of those who stumble at this stone, which thou hast laid for the foundation of thy church, and the structures of a virtuous life. Remember me with much mercy and compassion, when the sword of sorrows or afflictions shall pierce my heart; first transfix me with love, and then all the troubles of this world will be consignations to the joys of a better : which grant for the mercies and the name's sake of thy holy child Jesus. Amen.

DISCOURSE III.

Of Meditation.

1. If, in the definition of meditation, I should call it an unaccustomed and unpractised duty, I should speak a truth, though somewhat inartificially : for not only the interior beauties and brighter excellencies are as unfelt as ideas and abstractions are, but also the practice and common knowledge of the duty itself are strangers to us, like the retirements of the deep, or the undiscovered treasures of the Indian bills. And this is a very great cause of the dryness and expiration of men's devotion, because our souls are so little refreshed with the waters and holy dews of meditation. We go to our prayers by chance, or order, or by determination of accidental occurrences; and we recite them, as we read a book; and sometimes we are sensible of the duty, and a flash of lightning makes the room bright, and our prayers end, and the lightning is gone, and we as dark as ever.

We draw our water from standing pools, which never are filled but with sudden showers, and therefore we are dry so often: whereas if we would draw water from the fountains of our Saviour, and derive them through the channel of diligent and prudent meditations, our devotion would be a continual current, and safe against the barrenness of frequent droughts.

2. For meditation is an attention and application of spirit to Divine things; a searching out all instruments to a holy life, a devout consideration of them, and a production of those affections, which are in a direct order to the love of God and a pious conversation. Indeed meditation is all that great instrument of piety, whereby it is made prudent, and reasonable, and orderly, and perpetual. For, supposing our memory instructed with the knowledge of such mysteries and revelations, as are apt to entertain the spirit, the understanding is first and best employed in the consideration of them, and then the will in their reception, when they are duly prepared and so transmitted ; and both these in such manner, and to such purposes, that they become the magazine and

great repositories of grace, and instrumental to all designs of virtue.

3. For the understanding is not to consider the matter of any meditation in itself, or as it determines in natural excellencies or unworthiness respectively, or with a purpose to furnish itself with notion and riches of knowledge; for that is like the winter sun : it shines, but warms not; but in such order as themselves are put in the designations of theology, in the order of Divine laws, in their spiritual capacity, and as they have influence upon holiness : for the understanding here is something else besides the intellectual power of the soul, it is the spirit; that is, it is celestial in its application, as it is spiritual in its nature; and we may understand it well by considering the beatifical portions of soul and body in their future glories. For therefore, even our bodies in the resurrection shall be spiritual, because the operation of them shall be in order to spiritual glories, and their natural actions (such as are seeing and speaking) shall have a spiritual object and supernatural end; and here, as we partake of such excellencies and co-operate to such purposes, men are more or less spiritual. And so is the understanding taken from its first and lowest ends of resting in notion and ineffective contemplation, and is made spirit; that is, wholly ruled and guided by God's Spirit to supernatural ends and spiritual employments; so that it understands and considers the motions of the “heavens, to declare the glory of God,” the prodigies and alterations in the firmament, to demonstrate his handy work; it considers the excellent order of creatures, that we may not disturb the order of creation, or dissolve the golden chain of subordination. Aristotle and Porphyry, and the other Greek philosophers, studied the heavens, to search out their natural causes and production of bodies; the wiser Chaldees and Assyrians studied the same things, that they might learn their influences upon us, and make predictions of contingencies; the more moral Egyptian described his theorems in hieroglyphics and fantastic representments, to teach principles of policy, economy, and other prudences of morality and secular negotiation : but the same philosophy, when it is made Christian, considers as they did, but to greater purposes, even that from the book of the creatures we may glorify the Creator, and hence derive arguments of worship and religion ; this is Christian philosophy.

4. I instance only in considerations natural to spiritual purposes ; but the same is the manner in all meditation, whether the matter of it be nature or revelation. For if we think of hell, and consider the infinity of its duration, and that its flames last as long as God lasts, and thence conjecture, upon the rules of proportion, why a finite creature may have an infinite, unnatural duration; or think by what ways a material fire can torment an immaterial substance; or why the devils, who are intelligent and wise creatures, should be so foolish as to hate God, from whom they know every rivulet of amability derives; this is to study, not to meditate: for meditation considers any thing, that may best make us to avoid the place, and to quit a vicious habit, or master and rectify an untoward inclination, or purchase a virtue, or exercise one : so that meditation is an act of the understanding put to the right use.

5. For the holy Jesus, coming to redeem us from the bottomless pit, did it, by lifting us up out of the puddles of impurity and the unwholesome waters of vanity; “ he redeemed us from our vain conversation;" and our understandings had so many vanities, that they were made instruments of great impiety. The unlearned and ruder nations had fewer virtues; but they had also fewer vices than the wise empires, that ruled the world with violence and wit together. The softer Asiansa had lust and intemperance in a full chalice; but their understandings were ruder than the finer Latins; for these men's understandings distilled wickedness as through a limbeck, and the Romans drank spirits and the sublimed quintessences of villany; whereas the other made themselves drunk with the lees and cheaper instances of sin: so that the understanding is not an idle and useless faculty ; but naturally drives to practice, and brings guests into the inward cabinet of the will, and there they are entertained and feasted. And those understandings, which did not serve the baser end of vices, yet were unprofitable for the most part, and furnished their inward rooms with glasses and beads, and trifles fit for

2 Τους Περσών βασιλείς υσο τρυφής προκηρύττειν τοϊς εφευρίσκεσί τινα καινήν ηδονήν ágyugiou 775805. -- Athen. lib. iv.

an American mart. From all these impurities and vanities, Jesus hath redeemed all his disciples, and not only thrown out of his temples all the impure rites of Flora and Cybele, but also the trifling and unprofitable ceremonies of the more sober deities; not only vices, but useless and unprofitable speculations; and hath consecrated our head into a temple, our understanding to spirit, our reason to religion, our study to meditation : and this is the first part of the sanctification of our spirit.

6. And this was the cause, holy Scripture commands the duty of meditation in proportion still to the excellencies of piety and a holy life, to which it is highly and aptly instrumental. “ Blessed is the man, that meditates in the law of the Lord, day and night b.” And the reason of the proposition, and the use of the duty, is expressed to this purpose :

Thy words have I hid in my heart, that I should not sin against thee.” The placing and fixing those Divine considerations in our understandings, and hiding them there, are designs of high Christian prudence, that they, with advantage, may come forth in the expresses of a holy life. For what in the world is more apt and natural to produce humility, than to meditate upon the low stoopings and descents of the holy Jesus, to the nature of a man, to the weaknesses of a child, to the poverties of a stable, to the ignobleness of a servant, to the shame of the cross, to the pains of cruelty, to the dust of death, to the title of a sinner, and to the wrath of God ? By this instance, poverty is made honourable, and humility is sanctified and made noble, and the contradictions of nature are amiable, and fitted for a wise election. Thus hatred of sin, shame of ourselves, confusion at the sense of human misery, the love of God, confidence in his promises, desires of heaven, holy resolutions, resignation of our own appetites, conformity to Divine will, oblations of ourselves, repentance and mortification, are the proper emanations from meditation of the sordidness of sin, our proneness to it, our daily miseries as issues of Divine vengeance, the glories of God, his infinite unalterable veracity, the satisfactions in the vision of God, the rewards of piety, the rectitude of the laws of God, and perfection of his sanctions, God's supreme and

b Psalm i. 2,

e Psalm cxix. 11.

« ZurückWeiter »