« ZurückWeiter »
and of the Vanity of the World, even in its most charming dress. They shew, how little those things must needs be worth, which God permits those, whom he least loves, so plentifully to enjoy. They teach us, where to fix our Hopes and our Affections; that we ought to have none in Heaven it self but Him, much less any thing upon earth, that we desire in comparison of him : and, that our great Endeavour and most earnest Wish should be, to be guided by his Counsel, and after that to be received with Glory; that so, when not only all the World without and its false Comforts forsake us, but when even a part of our own selves, this Body, shall, as very shortly it must, decay and die, and moulder into dust, when our flesh and our beart fail ; God may then, then especially, be the strength of our heart, and our portion
for ever. Where, again, can we see the Gracefulness of Virtue set off to better Advantage, where the Deformity of Vice more juftiy exposed? The Equity of God's Laws, Their happy Influences on all that submit to them, The Wisdom, the Comforts, the Delights of Religion, are so admirably characterized in the xixth, cxixth particularly, and in several other Psalms ; that we may truly say, Asno Subject is so noble, so none ever had better reason done it than this. Nor does all end in amere Commendation, but useful and seasonable Instructions are frequently intermixt, with regard to particular Occasions and Exigencies. Nothing, that can adorn or accomplish a Good Man, is omitted ; No Sin almost, but hath its Temptations and Snares detected. And we may promise our selves much the same Security and present Remedy from these holy Writings, that Saul felt from their Author. For, we no sooner betake our selves to the Divine Applications of this wife Charmer, than the Powers of Hell are bound up and subdued, and the Evil Spirit finds it self unable to stand before them.
Farther yet. Here are laid the Foundations of Christianity, so very perspicuous, that no Book in the Old Testament is so often referred to, throughout the whole Course of the New. The most Eminent Mysteries of our Faith, the Sufferings and Death, Resurrection and Ascension of our Blessed Lord, the Malice of the stubborn Jews, the Treachery of Judas, the Success of the Gospel, the Calling of the Gentiles, the Kingdom of Antichrist
, foretold, in Terms clear and peremptory enough, to condemn all the Gainsaying, and Unbelie
So that nothing could be beiter accommodated for informing our Judgments, in all necessary Points of Faith and Practice. And, if we next proceed to the other Use I mentioned, it will appear, that they are no less fitted to delight and entertain our Affections, than they are proved already, to enlighten our Understandings.
The Delight I mean, is a truly rational and Innocent Delight. Such, as consists in moving the Passions fweetly, by tender Thoughts and proper Expressions, that strike in with the virtuous Inclinations of the Mind, assist and improve Nature, suit the several Exigencies of Human Life, and the different Affections they of necessity raise in us.
this Subject, Where shall I begin, where make an end ? For, what Fortune, what Circumstance is it, to which the use of these Heavenly Meditations does not accommodate it felf?
Do the Riches and Glories of the World exalt our Spirits, and make our Breasts overflow with Joy? Here are the noblest Raptures of Praise and Thankfgiving; Such as at once express our Satisfaction, and direct our Views to the Bountiful Hand that gave it. Do these Gayeties (as God knows they are but too apt to do) swell our Minds with carnal Pride, and a false Security, with vain Imaginations of our own fufficiency, a haughty Contempt of those to whom
Psal. ciii. 15,
xxxix. 6, 7.
Providence hath dealt them less liberally, and a wicked Forgetfulness of our great Benefactor ? Here are most seasonable Remonstrances of the Falshood and Fickleness of all Worldly Advantages, the Frailty of our Nature, and the Shortness of our own Continuance. That Man is as Grass, and his most flourishing Estate, like a Flower of the Field, which as soon as the Wind goeth over it, is gone, and the place thereof Jhall know it no more. That his Days are but the length of a Span, and, in that narrow compass, be walks in a shadow, disquieting bimself to little or no purpose, and heaping up Riches, which he cannot tell who fall gather. For thus much only is certain in the case, that though
xlix. 16, 17. One's Substance be increased, and the glory of bis House never so much exalted, yet he can carry nothing away with him when he dieth, neither shall his pomp follow him.
Do Adversities or Injuries of any sort press us hard, Want or Disgrace, the Treachery of false Friends, or the Malice of profess’d Enemies, the Mischiefs of open Violence, or the secret Stabs of nanderous and envenom'd Tongues? We are provided here with suitable Applications ; Directed in Poverty to that watchful Care, that takes us up, and cherishes us, when even our Father and Mother forsake us : Set upon that Rock, which cannot be shook by any overflowings of Ungodliness ; referr’d to that Judge of Hearts, who knows our Innocence, and who, when Men hate us without a cause, and lay to our charge things that we know not ; will awake, and stand up to anyenge our quarrel, and not suffer our Enemies to triumph over us ungodly.
Are we intangled in the toils of Satan, and assaulted by violent Temptations to Sin ? If, through our Frailty, or our Folly, we have provoked the Majesty
of Heaven, to withdraw the cheering Light of his Countenance ; In all Attacks and Combats with the Adversary of Souls, in all the bitter Anguish of Remorse, in all the anxious Concern to recover that loving Kindness, which is better than Life it self ; we are supplied with the best Advice, the tenderest Reflections, the most prevailing Methods of Endearment, the most zealous and most successful Example to this purpose. And sure it was an act of Mercy to the whole World, that God permitted David to fall fo grievousy, and be punished so severely ; since this not only teaches us, that the Best Men may fail, and do not stand out of the reach of Danger and Temptation; but makes both his Sin and his Sufferings, his Prayers and his Tears, an everlasting Monument and Pattern, to all succeeding Ages.
In a word, (for I must force my self to contract this Point) Whether the Precepts, or the Promises of God, his Exhortations or his Threatnings; Whether Praises or Prayers employ us: There is no Exigence of our Souls, no Condition of Person or Fortune, no Mercy we can desire, none that we would return Thanks for; No posture of Affairs, in the Church, or in the State, of our Friends, or of our Enemies, but these Psalms would regulate our Behaviour under them, and suggest seasonable Supplications for them. Of so wondrous happy a Composition are the Divine Poems ; So instructive, so pleasurable; So entertaining while they teach, so improving while they delight ; So ready, so effectual a Cure to those Pains and Passions, which they charm and afswage.
Of these Excellencies the good and wife Men, that have gone before us, declared a due Sense, by constantly commending this Book as an excellent Subject for private Meditation, and by allowing it a more than ordinary share in the publick Devotions of the Church. Concerning both these Uses I will add somewhat, and so conclude.
1. And First, For Private Meditation. The Care taken in this respect was formerly so great, that the most, and the meanest, had a considerable part, and the Men of better Capacity, seem to have had the whole of it perfectly by Heart. St. Chryfoftom describes the Labourer at his Work, the good Woman at her Houshold Affairs, nay, even the young Children, mixing such pious Ejaculations, in the Intervals of their Business and Diversions. And happy were it fure, if the Memories of all People were so profitably stored, and the vacant spaces of their time so virtuously filled up. For it is the Mind's peculiar Excellence, that, as its Thoughts are never weary, so neither can they be absolutely idle. Here then (instead of those polluted Images, which nurse up Vice, and poyson their Sobriety, and Chastity) Men might make a Virtue of Necessity; and, in the midst of a laborious Care to provide for themselves and Family, might deceive their Time and Toil, by making sweet Musick to God, might thus repair that want of Leisure-hours, and more composed Devotions, which Business will not suffer them to have. But that in- . deed, which should most powerfully recommend such a Practice, is, that this is doing the Work of Heaven, while upon Earth. For a great part of what we know, concerning that place of Bliss, and its glorious Inhabitants, is, that they live in perfect Harmony and Love, perpetually singing Praise before the Throne of God. And sure, if there be any Sense of, any Pantings after, that happy State ; we cannot but delight in joyning with that Blessed Choir, by raising our Hearts as high, and labouring to get such fore-tastes of their Joys, as our present Distance, and the frailties of mortal Flesh and Blood, will now admit us to do.
2. But then indeed do we approach nearest to those blissful Regions, when with united Hearts and