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object of our charity. But though, to all mankind in equal need, we ought to be alike in charity, yet we signify this severally, and by limits and distinct measures. The poor man that is near me, he whom I meet, he whom I love, he whom I fancy, he who did me benefit, he who relates to my family,-he rather than another, because my expressions, being finite and narrow, and cannot extend to all in equal significations, must be appropriate to those whose circumstances best fit me. And yet even to all I give my alms, to all the world that need them. I pray for all mankind; I am grieved at every sad story I hear; I am troubled when I hear of a pretty bride murdered in her bride-chamber by an ambitious and enraged rival ; I shed a tear when I am told that a brave king was misunderstood, then slandered, then imprisoned, and then put to death by evil men ; and I can never read the story of the Parisian Massacre or the Sicilian Vespers, but my blood curdles, and I am disordered by two or three affections. A good man is a friend to all the world ; and he is not truly charitable that does not wish well and do good to all mankind in what he can ; but though we must pray for all men, yet we say special litanies for brave kings and holy prelates, and the wise guides of souls, for our brethren and relations, our wives and children.
The effect of this consideration is, that the universal friendship of which I speak must be limited, because we are so. In those things where we stand next to immensity and infinity, as in good wishes and prayers, and a readiness to benefit all mankind, in these our friendships must not be limited, but in other things which pass under our hand and eye, our voices and our material exchanges; our hands can reach no further but to our arm's end, and our voices can but sound till the next air be quiet; and therefore they can have intercourse but within the sphere of their own activity. Our needs and our conversations are served by a few, and they cannot reach to all; where they can, they must; but where it is impossible
it cannot be necessary. It must therefore follow, that our friendships to mankind may admit variety, as does our conversation ; and as by nature we are made sociable to all, so we are friendly. But as all cannot actually be of our society, so neither can all be admitted to a special act of friendship.
Prayer without Wrath.
Prayer is an action of likeness to the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of gentleness and dove-like simplicity; an imitation of the holy Jesus, whose spirit is meek, up to the greatness of the biggest example; and a conformity to God, whose anger is always just, and marches slowly, and is without transportation, and often hindered, and never hasty, and is full of mercy : prayer is the peace of our spirit, the stillness of our thoughts, the evenness of recollection, the seat of meditation, the rest of our cares, and the calm of our tempest : prayer is the issue of a quiet mind, of untroubled thoughts—it is the daughter of charity and the sister of meekness; and he that prays to God with an angry, that is, with a troubled and discomposed spirit, is like him that retires into a battle to meditate, and sets up his closet in the out-quarters of an army, and chooses a frontiergarrison to be wise in. Anger is a perfect alienation of the mind from prayer, and, therefore, is contrary to that attention which presents our prayers in a right line to God.
For so have I seen a lark rising from his bed of grass, and soaring upwards, singing as he rises, and hopes to get to heaven, and climb above the clouds; but the poor bird was beaten back with the loud sighings of an eastern wind, and his motion made irregular and inconstant, descending more at every breath of the tempest, than it could recover by the libration and frequent weighing of his wings, till the little creature was forced to sit down and pant, and stay till the storm was over, and then it made a prosperous flight, and did rise and sing, as
if it had learned music and-motion from an angel, as he passed sometimes through the air about his ministries here below. So is the prayer of a good man : when his affairs have required business, and his business was matter of discipline, and his discipline was to pass upon a sinning person, or had a design of charity, his duty met with the infirmities of a man, and anger was its instrument; and the instrument became stronger than the prime agent, and raised a tempest, and overruled the man; and then his prayer was broken, and his thoughts were troubled, and his words went up towards a cloud ; and his thoughts pulled them back again, and made them without intention; and the good man sighs for his infirmity, but must be content to lose that prayer, and he must recover it when his anger is removed, and his spirit is becalmed, made even as the brow of Jesus, and smooth like the heart of God; and then it ascends to heaven upon the wings of the holy dove, and dwells with God, till it returns, like the useful bee, loaden with a blessing and the dew of heaven.
Prayer without Doubting. He that asks with a doubting mind, and a lazy desire, begs for nothing but to be denied. We must in our prayers be earnest and fervent, or else we shall have but a cold answer; for God gives his grace according as we can receive it. If our desires were strong and fervent, our minds would, in the same proportion, be present. We see it by a certain and regular experience ; what we love passionately, we perpetually think
on, and it returns upon us whether we will or no; and in a great fear, the apprehension cannot be shaken off ; and therefore, if our desires of holy things were strong and earnest, we should most certainly attend our prayers. It is a more violent affection to other things that carries us off from this ; and therefore, if we loved passionately what we ask for daily, we should ask with hearty desires, and an earnest appetite, and a present spirit; and, however it be very easy to have our thoughts wander, yet it is our indifferency and lukewarmness that makes it so natural: and you may observe it, that so long as the light shines bright, and the fires of devotion and desires flame out, so long the mind of a man stands close to the altar, and waits upon the sacrifice; but as the fires die, and desires decay, so the mind steals away, and walks abroad to see the little images of beauty and pleasure, which it beholds in the falling stars and little glow-worms of the world. The river that runs slow and creeps by the banks, and begs leave of every turf to let it pass, is drawn into little hollownesses, and spends itself in smaller portions, and dies with diversion ; but when it runs with vigorousness and a full stream, and breaks down every obstacle, making it even as its own brow, it stays not to be tempted by little avocations, and to creep into holes, but runs into the sea through full and useful channels : so is a man's prayer; if it moves upon the feet of an abated appetite, it wanders into the society of every trifling accident, and stays at the corners of the fancy, and talks with every object it meets, and cannot arrive at heaven ; but when it is carried upon the wings of passion and strong desires, a swift motion and a hungry appetite, it passes on through all the intermedial regions of clouds, and stays not till it dwells at the foot of the throne, where mercy sits, and thence sends holy showers of refreshment. I deny not but some little drops will turn aside, and fall from the full channel by the weakness of the banks, and hollowness of the passage ; but the main course is still continued : and although the most earnest and devout persons feel and complain of some looseness of spirit, and unfixed attentions, yet their love and their desire secure the main portions, and make the prayer to be strong, fervent, and effectual.
affections and passions, and then no temptation will be too strong. “A wise man, and a full resolution, and an earnest spirit, can do anything of duty;" but every temptation prevails when we are willing to die; and we usually lend nothing to devotion but the offices that flatter our passions : we can desire and pray for anything that may serve our lust, or promote those ends which we covet, but ought to fear and flee from ; but the same earnestness, if it were transplanted into religion and our prayers, would serve all the needs of the spirit; but for want of it we do “the Lord's work deceitfully.”
Signs of Humility.
1. The humble man trusts not to his own discretion, but in matters of concernment relies rather upon the judgment of his friends, counsellors, or spiritual guides.
2. He does not pertinaciously pursue the choice of his ow will, but in all things lets God choose for him and his superiors in those things which concern them.
3. He does not murmur against commands.
4. He is not inquisitive into the reasonableness of indifferent and innocent commands; but believes their command to be reason enough in such cases to exact his obedience.
5. He lives according to a rule, and with compliance to public customs, without any affectation of singularity.
6. He is meek and indifferent in all accidents and chances. 7. He patiently bears injuries.
8. He is always unsatisfied in his own conduct, resolutions, and counsels.
9. He is a great lover of good men, and a praiser of wise men, and a censurer of no man.
10. He is modest in his speech, and reserved in his laughter.
11. He fears when he hears himself commended, lest God make another judgment concerning his actions than men do.