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an undressed tree spends all its juice in suckers and irregular branches, in leaves and gum, and after all such goodly outsides you should never eat an apple, or be delighted with the beauties, or the perfumes of a hopeful blossom. But the religion of this excellent lady was of another constitution; it took root downward in humility, and brought forth fruit upward in the substantial graces of a christian, in charity and justice, in chastity and modesty, in fair friendships and sweetness of society: she had not very much of the forms and outsides of godliness, but she was hugely careful for the power of it, for the moral, essential, and useful parts : such which would make her be, not seem to be, religious.
In all her religion, and in all her actions of relation towards God, she had a strange evenness and untroubled passage, sliding toward her ocean of God and of infinity with a certain and silent motion. So have I seen a river deep and smooth passing with a still foot and a sober face, and paying to the Fiscus, the great exchequer of the sea, the prince of all the watery bodies, a tribute large and full: and hard by it a little brook skipping and making a noise upon its unequal and neighbour bottom; and after all its talking and bragged motion, it payed to its common audit no more than the revenues of a little cloud, or a contemptible vessel : so have I sometimes compared the issues of her religion to the solemnities and famed outsides of another's piety. It dwelt upon her spirit, and was incorporated with the periodical work of every day: she did not believe that religion was intended to minister to fame and reputation, but to pardon of sins, to the pleasure of God, and the salvation of souls. For religion is like the breath of heaven; if it goes abroad into the open air, it scatters and dissolves.
THE DANGER OF PROSPERITY.
As long as the waters of persecutions are upon the earth, so long we dwell in the ark; but where the land is dry, the dove itself will be tempted to a wandering course of life, and never to return to the house of her safety.t
Many are not able to suffer and endure prosperity; it is like the Sf the sun to a weak eye,--glorious inde self, but not proportioned to such an instrument.
In the tomb of Terentia certain lamps burned under ground many ages together; but as soon as ever they were brought into the air, and saw a bigger light, they went out, never to be reenkindled. So long as we are in the retirements of sorrow, of want, of fear, of sickness, or of any sad accident, we are burning and shining lamps :
† The Faith and Patience of the Saints; Serm. x. 272. # The Mercy of the Divine Judgments; Serm. xii. 290.
“ We are as safe at sea, safer in the storm which God sends us, than in a calm when we are befriended with the world.”
but when God comes with his avoxn, with his forbearance, and lifts us up from the gates of death, and carries us abroad into the open air, that we converse with prosperity and temptation, we go out in darkness; and we cannot be preserved in heat and light, but by still dwelling in the regions of sorrow.t
If God suffers men to go on in sins, and punishes them not, it is not a mercy, it is not a forbearance ; it is a hardening them, a consigning them to ruin and reprobation : and themselves give the best argument to prove it; for they continue in their sin, they multiply their iniquity, and every day grow more enemy to God; and that is no mercy that increases their hostility and enmity with God. A prosperous iniquity is the most unprosperous condition in the whole world. When he slew them, they sought him and turned them early, and enquired after God; but as long as they prevailed upon their enemies, they forgat that God was their strength, and the high God was their redeemer. It was well observed by the Persian ambassador of old; when he was telling the king a sad story of the overthrow of all his army by the Athenians, he adds this of his own ; that the day before the fight, the young Persian gallants, being confident they should destroy their enemies, were drinking drunk, and railing at the timorousness and fears of religion, and against all their gods, saying, there were no such things,
+ The Mercy of the Divine Judgments, Serm. xii. 292.
and that all things came by chance and industry, nothing by the providence of the supreme power. But the next day, when they had fought unprosperously, and, flying from their enemies, who were eager in their pursuit, they came to the river Strymon, which was so frozen that their boats could not launch, and yet it began to thaw, so that they feared the ice would not bear them; then you should see the bold gallants, that the day before said there was no God, most timorously and superstitiously fall upon their faces, and beg of God that the river Strymon might bear them over from their enemies. What wisdom and philosophy, and perpetual experience, and revelation, and promises, and blessings cannot do, a mighty fear can; it can allay the confidences of bold lust and imperious sin, and soften our spirit into the lowness of a child, our revenge into charity of prayers, our impudence into the blushings of a chidden girl ; and therefore God hath taken a course proportionable : for he is not so unmercifully merciful as to give milk to an infirm lust, and hatch the egg to the bigness of a cockatrice. And therefore observe how it is that God's
mercy prevails over all his works ; it is even then when nothing can be discerned but bis judgments, for as when a famine had been in Israel in the days of Ahab for three years and a half, when the angry prophet Elijah met the king, and presently a great wind arose, and the dust blew into the eyes of them that walked abroad, and the face of the heavens was black and all tempest, yet then
the prophet was most gentle, and God began to forgive, and the heavens were more beautiful than when the sun puts on the brightest ornaments of a bridegroom, going from his chambers of the east. So it is in the
of the divine mercy : when God makes our faces black, and the winds blow so loud till the cordage cracks, and our gay fortunes split, and our houses are dressed with cypress and hew, and the mourners go about the streets, this is nothing but the pompa misericordiæ, this is the funeral of our sins, dressed indeed with emblems of mourning, and proclaimed with sad accents of death; but the sight is refreshing, as the beauties of the field which God had blessed, and the sounds are healthful as the noise of a physician.t
The caresses of a pleasant fortune are apt to swell into extravagances of spirit, and burst into the dissolution of manners; and unmixt joy is dangerous : but if in our fairest flowers we spy a locust, or feel the uneasiness of a sackcloth under our fine linen, or our purple be tied with an uneven and a rude cord; any little trouble, but to correct our wildnesses, though it be but a death's-head served up at our feasts, it will make our tables fuller of health, and freer from snare, it will allay our spirits, making them to retire from the weakness of dispersion, to the union and strength of a sober recollection.
+ The Mercy of the Divine Judgments; Serm. xii. pages 286, 288, 295.