CENTURIES OF MEDITATIONS
edited by Bertram Dobell
THE THIRD CENTURY
WILL you see the infancy of this sublime and celestial greatness? Those pure and virgin apprehensions I had from the womb, and that divine light wherewith I was born are the best unto this day, wherein I can see the Universe. By the Gift of God they attended me into the world, and by His special favour I remember them till now. Verily they seem the greatest gifts His wisdom could bestow, for without them all other gifts had been dead and vain. They are unattainable by book, and therefore I will teach them by experience. Pray for them earnestly: for they will make you angelical, and wholly celestial. Certainly Adam in Paradise had not more sweet and curious apprehensions of the world, than I when I was a child.
All appeared new, and strange at first, inexpressibly rare and delightful and beautiful. I was a little stranger, which at my entrance into the world was saluted and surrounded with innumerable joys. My knowledge was Divine. I knew by intuition those things which since my Apostasy, I collected again by the highest reason. My very ignorance was advantageous. I seemed as one brought into the Estate of Innocence. All things were spotless and pure and glorious: yea, and infinitely mine, and joyful and precious, I knew not that there were any sins, or complaints or laws. I dreamed not of poverties, contentions or vices. All tears and quarrels were hidden from mine eyes. Everything was at rest, free and immortal. I knew nothing of sickness or death or rents or exaction, either for tribute or bread. In the absence of these I was entertained like an Angel with the works of God in their splendour. and glory, I saw all in the peace of Eden; Heaven and Earth did sing my Creator's praises, and could not make more melody to Adam, than to me: All Time was Eternity, and a perpetual Sabbath. Is it not strange, that an infant should be heir of the whole World, and see those mysteries which the books of the learned never unfold?
The corn was orient and immortal wheat, which never should be reaped, nor was ever sown. I thought it had stood from everlasting to everlasting. The dust and stones of the street were as precious as gold: the gates were at first the end of the world. The green trees when I saw them first through one of the gates transported and ravished me, their sweetness and unusual beauty made my heart to leap, and almost mad with ecstasy, they were such strange and wonderful things: The Men! O what venerable and reverend creatures did the aged seem! Immortal Cherubims! And young men glittering and sparkling Angels, and maids strange seraphic pieces of life and beauty! Boys and girls tumbling in the street, and playing, were moving jewels. I knew not that they were born or should die; But all things abided eternally as they were in their proper places. Eternity was manifest in the Light of the Day, and something infinite behind everything appeared which talked with my expectation and moved my desire. The city seemed to stand in Eden, or to be built in Heaven. The streets were mine, the temple was mine, the people were mine, their clothes and gold and silver were mine, as much as their sparkling eyes, fair skins and ruddy faces. The skies were mine, and so were the sun and moon and stars, and all the World was mine; and I the only spectator and enjoyer of it. I knew no churlish proprieties, nor bounds, nor divisions: but all proprieties* and divisions were mine: all treasures and the possessors of them. So that with much ado I was corrupted, and made to learn the dirty devices of this world. Which now I unlearn, and become, as it were, a little child again that I may enter into the Kingdom of God.
* This word is used here and elsewhere in its original sense, where we should now say "properties."
Upon those pure and virgin apprehensions which I had in my infancy, I made this poem:
That childish thoughts such jogs inspire,
Doth make my wonder, and His glory higher,
His bounty, and my wealth more great
It chews His Kingdom, and His work complete.
In which there is not anything,
Not meet to be the joy of Cherubim.
He in our childhood with us walks,
And with our thoughts mysteriously He talks;
He often visiteth our minds,
But cold acceptance in us ever finds:
We send Him often grieved away,
Who else would show us all His Kingdom's joy.
O Lord, I wonder at Thy Love,
Which did my infancy so early move:
But more at that which did forbear
And move so long, though slighted many a year:
But most of all, at last that Thou
Thyself shouldst me convert, I scarce know how.
Thy gracious motions oft in vain
Assaulted me: my heart did hard remain
Long time! I sent my God away
Grieved much, that He could not give me His joy.
I careless was, nor did regard
The End for which He all those thoughts prepared.
But now, with new and open eyes,
I see beneath, as if above the skies,
And as I backward look again
See all His thoughts and mine most clear arid plain.
He did approach, He me did woo;
I wonder that my God this thing would do,
From nothing taken first ,I was;
What wondrous things His glory brought to pass!
Now in the World I Him behold,
And me, enveloped in precious gold;
In deep abysses of delights,
In present hidden glorious benefits.
These thoughts His goodness long before
Prepared as precious and celestial store
With curious art in me inlaid,
That childhood might itself alone be said
My Tutor, Teacher, Guide to be,
Instructed then even by the Deitie.
Our Saviour's meaning, when He said, He must be born again and become a little child that will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven is deeper far than is generally believed. It is not only in a careless reliance upon Divine Providence, that we are to become little children, or in the feebleness and shortness of our anger and simplicity of our passions, but in the peace and purity of all our soul. Which purity also is a deeper thing than is commonly apprehended. For we must disrobe ourselves of all false colours, and unclothe our souls of evil habits; all our thoughts must be infant-like and clear; the powers of our soul free from the leaven of this world, and disentangled from men's conceits and customs. Grit in the eye or yellow jaundice will not let a man see those objects truly that are before it. And therefore it is requisite that we should be as very strangers to the thoughts, customs, and opinions of men in this world, as if we were but little children. So those things would appear to us only which do to children when they are first born. Ambitions, trades, luxuries, inordinate affections, casual and accidental riches invented since the fall, would be gone, and only those things appear, which did to Adam in Paradise, in the same light and in the same colours: God in His works, Glory in the light, Love in our parents, men, ourselves, and the face of Heaven: Every man naturally seeing those things, to the enjoyment of which he is naturally born.
Every one provideth objects, but few prepare senses whereby, and light wherein, to see them. Since therefore we are born to be a burning and shining light, and whatever men learn of others, they see in the light of others' souls: I will in the light of my soul show you the Universe. Perhaps it is celestial, and will teach you how beneficial we may be to each other. I am sure it is a sweet and curious light to me: which had I wanted I would have given all the gold and silver in all worlds to have purchased. But it was the Gift of God and could not be bought with money. And by what steps and degrees I proceeded to that enjoyment of all Eternity which now I possess I will likewise shew you. A clear and familiar light it may prove unto you.
The first Light which shined in my Infancy in its primitive and innocent clarity was totally eclipsed insomuch that I was fain to learn all again. If you ask me how it was eclipsed? Truly by the customs and manners of men, which like contrary winds blew it out: by an innumerable company of other objects, rude, vulgar and worthless things, that like so many loads of earth and dung did overwhelm and bury it by the impetuous torrent of wrong desires in all others whom I saw or knew that carried me away and alienated me from it: by a whole sea of other matters and concernments that covered and drowned it: finally by the evil influence of a bad education that did not foster and cherish it. All men's thoughts and words were about other matters, They all prized new things which I did not dream of. I was a stranger and unacquainted with them; I was little and reverenced their authority; I was weak, and easily guided by their example; ambitious also, and desirous to approve myself unto them. And finding no one syllable in any man's mouth of those things, by degrees they vanished, my thoughts (as indeed what is more fleeting than a thought?) were blotted out; and at last all the celestial, great, and stable treasures to which I was born, as wholly forgotten, as if they had never been.
Had any man spoken of it, it had been the most easy thing in the world, to have taught me, and to have made me believe that Heaven and Earth was God's House, and that He gave it me. That the Sun was mine, and that men were mine, and that cities and kingdoms were mine also: that Earth was better than gold, and that water, every drop of it was a precious jewel. And that these were great and living treasures and that all riches whatsoever else was dross in comparison. From whence I clearly find how docible our Nature is in natural things, were it rightly entreated. And that our misery proceedeth ten thousand times more from the outward bondage of opinion and custom, than from any inward corruption or depravation of Nature: And that it is not our parents' loins, so much as our parents' lives, that enthrals and blinds us. Yet is all our corruption derived from Adam inasmuch as all the evil examples and inclinations of the world arise from his sin. But I speak it in the presence of God and of our Lord Jesus Christ, in my pure primitive virgin Light, while my apprehensions were natural, and unmixed, I cannot remember but that I was ten thousand times more prone to good and excellent things than evil. But I was quickly tainted and fell by others.
It was a difficult matter to persuade me that the tinseled ware upon a hobby-horse was a fine thing. They did impose upon me, and obtrude their gifts that made me believe a ribbon or a feather curious. I could not see where was the curiousness or fineness: And to teach me that a purse of gold was at any value seemed impossible, the art by which it becomes so, and the reasons for which it is accounted so, were so deep and hidden to my inexperience. So that Nature is still nearest to natural things, and farthest off from preternatural; and to esteem that the reproach of Nature, is an error in them only who are unacquainted with it. Natural things are glorious, and to know them glorious but to call things preternatural, natural, monstrous. Yet all they do it, who esteem gold, silver, houses, lands, clothes, &c., the riches of Nature, which are indeed the riches of invention. Nature knows no such riches: but art. and error make them. Not the God of Nature, but Sin only was the parent of them. The riches of Nature are our Souls and Bodies, with all their faculties, senses, and endowments. And it had been the easiest thing in the whole world to teach me that all felicity consisted in the enjoyment of all the world, that it was prepared for me before I was born, and that nothing was more divine and beautiful.
Thoughts are the most present things to thoughts, and of the most powerful influence. My soul was only apt and disposed to great things; but souls to souls are like apples to apples, one being rotten rots another. When I began to speak and go, nothing began to be present to me, but what was present to me in their thoughts. Nor was anything present to me any other way, than it was so to them. The glass of imagination was the only mirror, wherein anything was represented or appeared to me. All things were absent which they talked not of. So I began among my play-fellows to prize a drum, a fine coat, a penny, a gilded book, &c., who before never dreamed of any such wealth. Goodly objects to drown all the knowledge of Heaven and Earth! As for the Heavens and the Sun and Stars they disappeared, and were no more unto me than the bare walls, So that the strange riches of man's invention quite overcame the riches of Nature, being learned more laboriously and in the second place.
By this let nurses, and those parents that desire Holy Children learn to make them possessors of Heaven and Earth betimes; to remove silly objects from before them, to magnify nothing but what is great indeed, and to talk of God to them, and of His works and ways before they can either speak or go. For nothing is so easy as to teach the truth because the nature of the thing confirms the doctrine: As when we say the sun is glorious, a man is a beautiful creature, sovereign over beasts and fowls and fishes, the stars minister unto us, the world was made for you, &c. But to say this house is yours, and these lands are another man's, and this bauble is a jewel and this gew-gaw a fine thing, thus rattle makes music, &c., is deadly barbarous and uncouth to a little child; and makes him suspect all you say, because the nature of the thing contradicts your words. Yet doth that blot out all noble and divine ideas, dissettle his foundation, render him uncertain in all things, and divide him from God. To teach him those objects are little vanities, and that though God made them, by the ministry of man, yet better and more glorious things are more to be esteemed, is natural and easy.
By this you may see who are the rude and barbarous Indians: For verily there is no savage nation under the cope of Heaven, that is more absurdly barbarous than the Christian World. They that go naked and drink water and live upon roots are like Adam, or Angels in comparison of us. But they indeed that call beads and glass buttons jewels, and dress themselves with feather, and buy pieces of brass and broken hafts of knives of our merchants are somewhat like us. But we pass them in barbarous opinions, and monstrous apprehensions, which we nick-name civility and the mode, amongst us. I am sure those barbarous people that go naked, come nearer to Adam, God, and Angels in the simplicity of their wealth, though not in knowledge.
You would not think how these barbarous inventions spoil your knowledge. They put grubs and worms in men's heads that are enemies to all pure and true apprehensions, and eat out all their happiness. They make it impossible for them, in whom they reign, to believe there is any excellency in the Works of God, or to taste any sweetness in the nobility of Nature, or to prize any common, though never so great a blessing. They alienate men from the Life of God, and at last make them to live without God in the World. To live the Life of God is to live to all the Works of God, and to enjoy them in His Image, from which they are wholly diverted that follow fashions. Their fancies are corrupted with other gingles.
Being swallowed up therefore in the miserable gulf of idle talk and worthless vanities, thenceforth I lived among dreams and shadows, like a prodigal son feeding upon husks with swine. A comfortless wilderness full of thorns and troubles the world was, or worse: a waste place covered with idleness and play, and shops, and markets, and taverns. As for Churches they were things I did not understand, and schools were a burden so that there was nothing in the world worth the having, or enjoying, but my game and sport, which also was a dream, and being passed wholly forgotten. So that I had utterly forgotten all goodness, bounty, comfort, and glory: which things are the very brightness of the Glory of God for lack of which therefore He was unknown.
Yet sometimes in the midst of these dreams, I should come a little to myself, so far as to feel I wanted something, secretly to expostulate with God for not giving me riches, to long after an unknown happiness, to grieve that the World was so empty, and to be dissatisfied with my present state because it was vain and forlorn. I had heard of Angels, and much admired that here upon earth nothing should be but dirt and streets and gutters; for as for the pleasures that were in great men's houses I had not seen them: and it was my real happiness they were unknown. For because nothing deluded me, I was the more inquisitive.
Once I remember (I think I was about 4 years old when) I thus reasoned with myself, sitting in a little obscure room in my father's poor house: If there be a God, certainly He must be infinite in Goodness: and that I was prompted to, by a real whispering instinct of Nature. And if He be infinite in Goodness, and a perfect Being in Wisdom and Love, certainly He must do most glorious things, and give us infinite riches; how comes it to pass therefore that I am so poor? Of so scanty and narrow a fortune, enjoying few and obscure comforts? I thought I could not believe Him a God to me, unless all His power were employed to glorify me. I knew not then my Soul, or Body; nor did I think of the Heavens and the Earth, the rivers and the stars, the sun or the seas : all those were lost, and absent from me. But when I found them made out of nothing for me, then I had a God indeed, whom I could praise, and rejoice in.
Sometimes I should be alone, and without employment, when suddenly my Soul would return to itself, and forgetting all things in the whole world which mine eyes had seen, would be carried away to the ends of the earth: and my thoughts would be deeply engaged with enquiries: How the Earth did end? Whether walls did bound it, or sudden precipices? Or whether the Heavens by degrees did come to touch it; so that the face of the Earth and Heaven were so near, that a man with difficulty could creep under? Whatever I could imagine was inconvenient, and my reason being posed was quickly wearied. What also upheld the Earth (because it was heavy) and kept it from falling; whether pillars, or dark waters? And if any of these, what then upheld those, and what again those, of which I saw there would be no end? Little did I think that the Earth was round, and the world so full of beauty, light, and wisdom. When I saw that, I knew by the perfection of the work there was a God, and was satisfied, and rejoiced. People underneath, and fields and flowers, with another sun and another day, pleased me mightily: but more when I knew it was the same sun that served them by night, that served us by day.
Sometimes I should soar above the stars, and enquire how the Heavens ended, and what was beyond them ? Concerning which by no means could I receive satisfaction. Sometimes my thoughts would carry me to the Creation, for I had heard now, that the World which at first I thought was eternal, had a beginning: how therefore that beginning was, and why it was, why it was no sooner, and what was before, I mightily desired to know. By all which I easily perceive that my Soul was made to live in communion with God, in all places of His dominion, and to be satisfied with the highest reason in all things, After which it so eagerly aspired, that I thought all the gold and silver in the world but dirt, in comparison of satisfaction in any of these. Sometimes I wondered why men were made no bigger? I would have had a man as big as a giant, a giant as big as a castle, and a castle as big as the Heavens. Which yet would not serve: for there was infinite space beyond the Heavens, and all was defective and but little in comparison; and for him to be made infinite, I thought it would be to no purpose, and it would be inconvenient. Why also there was not a better sun, and better stars, a better sea, and better creatures I much admired. Which thoughts produced that poem upon moderation, which afterwards was written. Some part of the verses are these,
In making bodies Love could not express
Itself, or art, unless it made them less.
O what a monster had in man been seen,
Had every thumb or toe a mountain been!
What worlds must he devour when he did eat?
What oceans drink! yet could not all his meat,
Or stature, make him like an angel shine;
Or make his Soul in Glory more Divine.
A Soul it is that makes us truly great,
Whose little bodies make us more complete.
An understanding that is infinite,
An endless, wide, and everlasting sight,
That can enjoy all things and nought exclude,
Is the most sacred greatness may be viewed.
'Twas inconvenient that his bulk should be
An endless hill ; he nothing then could see:
No figure have, no motion, beauty, place,
No colour, feature, member, light, or grace.
A body like a mountain is but cumber.
An endless body is but idle lumber:
It spoils converse, and time itself devours,
While meat in vain, in feeding idle powers;
Excessive bulk being most injurious found,
To those conveniences which men have crowned:
His wisdom did His power here repress,
God made man greater while He made him less.
The excellencies of the Sun I found to be of another kind than that splendour after which I sought, even in unknown and invisible services: and that God by moderation wisely bounding His almighty power, had to my eternal amazement and wonder, made all bodies far greater than if they were infinite: there not being a sand nor mote in the air that is not more excellent than if it were infinite. How rich and admirable then is the Kingdom of God, where the smallest is greater than an infinite treasure! Is not this incredible? Certainly to the placits and doctrines of the schools: Till we all consider, That infinite worth shut up in the limits of a material being, is the only way to a real infinity. God made nothing infinite in bulk, but everything there where it ought to be. Which, because moderation is a virtue observing the golden mean, in some other parts of the former poem, is thus expressed.
His Power bounded, greater is in might,
Than if let loose, 'twere wholly infinite.
He could have made an endless sea by this,
But then it had not been a sea of bliss.
Did waters from the centre to the skies
Ascend, 'twould drown whatever else we prize.
The ocean bounded in a finite shore,
Is better far because it is no more.
No use nor glory would in that be seen,
His power made it endless in esteem.
Had not the Sun been bounded in its sphere,
Did all the world in one fair flame appear,
And were that flame a real Infinite
'Twould yield no profit, splendor, nor delight.
Its corps confined, and beams extended be
Effects of Wisdom in the Deity.
One star made infinite would all exclude,
An earth made infinite could ne'er be viewed:
But one being fashioned for the other's sake,
He, bounding all, did all most useful make
And which is best, in profit and delight
Tho' not in bulk, they all are infinite.
These liquid, clear satisfactions were the emanations of the highest reason, but not achieved till a long time afterwards. In the meantime I was sometimes, though seldom, visited and inspired with new and more vigorous desires after that bliss which Nature whispered and suggested to me. Every new thing quickened my curiosity, and raised my expectation. I remember once the first time I came into a magnificent or noble dining room, and was left there alone, I rejoiced to see the gold and state and carved imagery, but when all was dead, and there was no motion, I was weary of it, and departed dissatisfied. But afterwards, when I saw it full of lords and ladies, and music and dancing, the place which once seemed not to differ from a solitary den, had now entertainment, and nothing of tediousness but pleasure in it. By which I perceived (upon a reflection made long after) that men and women are when well understood a principal part of our true felicity. By this I found also that nothing that stood still, could by doing so be a part of Happiness: and that affection, though it were invisible, was the best of motions. But the august and glorious exercise of virtue, was more solemn and divine, which Yet I saw not. And that all Men and Angels should appear in heaven.
Another time in a lowering and sad evening, being alone in the field, when all things were dead and quiet, a certain want and horror fell upon me, beyond imagination. The unprofitableness and silence of the place dissatisfied me; its wideness terrified me; from the utmost ends of the earth fears surrounded me. How did I know but dangers might suddenly arise from the East, and invade me from the unknown regions beyond the seas? I was a weak and little child, and had forgotten there was a man alive in the earth. Yet something also of hope and expectation comforted me from every border. This taught me that I was concerned in all the world: and that in the remotest borders the causes of peace delight me, and the beauties of the earth when seen were made to entertain me: that I was made to hold a communion with the secrets of Divine Providence in all the world: that a remembrance of all the joys I had from my birth ought always to be with me: that the presence of Cities, Temples, and Kingdoms ought to sustain me, and that to be alone in the world was to be desolate and miserable. The comfort of houses and friends, the clear assurance of treasures everywhere, God's care and love, His goodness, wisdom, and power, His presence and watchfulness in all the ends of the earth, were my strength and assurance for ever: and that these things being absent to my eye, were my joys and consolations, as present to my understanding as the wideness and emptiness of the Universe which I saw before me.
When I heard of any new kingdom beyond the seas, the light and glory of it pleased me immediately, it rose up within me, and I was enlarged wonderfully. I entered into it, I saw its commodities, rarities, springs, meadows, riches, inhabitants, and became possessor of that new room, as if it had been prepared for me, so much was I magnified and delighted in it. When the Bible was read, my spirit was present in other ages. I saw the light and splendour of them: the land of Canaan, the Israelites entering into it, the ancient glory of the Amorites, their peace and riches, their cities, houses, vines and fig-trees, the long prosperity of their kings, their milk and honey, their slaughter and destruction, with the joys and triumphs of God's people; all which entered into me, and God among them. I saw all and felt all in such a lively manner, as if there had been no other way to those places, but in spirit only. This showed me the liveliness of interior presence, and that all ages were for most glorious ends, accessible to my understanding, yea with it, yea within it. For without changing place in myself I could behold and enjoy all those: Anything when it was proposed, though it was a thousand ages ago, being always before me.
When I heard any news I received it with greediness and delight, because my expectation was awakened with some hope that my happiness and the thing I wanted was concealed in it. Glad tidings, you know, from a far country brings us our salvation: and I was not deceived. In Jury was Jesus killed, and from Jerusalem the Gospel came. Which when I once knew, I was very confident that every kingdom contained like wonders and causes of joy, though that was the fountain of them. As it was the first fruits, so was it the pledge of what I shall receive in other countries. Thus also when any curious cabinet, or secret in chemistry geometry, or physic was offered to me, I diligently looked into it, but when I saw it to the bottom and not my happiness I despised it. These imaginations and this thirst of news occasioned these reflections.
News from a foreign country came,
As if my treasure and my wealth lay there:
So much it did my heart enflame
'Twas wont to call my soul into mine ear!
Which thither went, to meet
The approaching sweet:
And on the threshold stood,
To entertain the unknown good.
It hovered there,
As if 'twould leave mine ear,
And was so eager to embrace
The joyful tidings as they came,
'Twould almost leave its dwelling place,
To entertain the same.
As if the tidings were the things,
My very joys themselves, my foreign treasure,
Or else did bear them on their wings;
With so much joy they came, with so much pleasure.
My soul stood at the gate
Itself with bliss: and to
Be pleased with speed. A fuller view
It fain would take
Yet journeys back would make
Unto my heart : as if 'twould fain
Go out to meet, yet stay within
To fit a place, to entertain,
And bring the tidings in.
What sacred instinct did inspire
My soul in childhood with a hope so strong?
What secret force moved my desire,
To expect my joys beyond the seas, so young ?
Felicity I knew
Was out of view
And being here alone,
I saw that happiness was gone
From me! For this
I thirsted absent bliss,
And thought that sure beyond the seas,
Or else in something near at hand
I knew not yet, (since nought did please
I knew,) my bliss did stand.
But little did the Infant dream
That all the treasures of the World were by:
And that himself was so the cream
And crown of all, which round about did lie:
Yet thus it was. The gem,
The ring enclosing all
That stood upon this earthly ball;
The heavenly eye,
Much wider than the sky,
Wherein they all included were
The glorious soul that was the king
Made to possess them, did appear
A small and little thing!
Among other things there befel me a most infinite desire of a book from Heaven. For observing all things to be rude and superfluous here upon earth, I thought the ways of felicity to be known only among the Holy Angels: and that unless I could receive information from them, I could never be happy. This thirst hung upon me a long time; till at last I perceived that the God of Angels had taken care of me, and prevented my desires. For He had sent the book I wanted before I was born: and prepared it for me, and also commended and sent it unto me, in a far better manner than I was able to imagine. Had some Angel brought it to me, which was the best way wherein I could then. desire it, it would have been a peculiar favour, and I should have thought myself therein honoured above all mankind. It would have been the Soul of this world, the light of my Soul, the spring of life, and a fountain of Happiness. You cannot think what riches and delights I promised myself therein. It would have been a mint of rarities, curiosities and wonders, to have entertained the powers of my Soul, to have directed me in the way of life, and to have fed me with pleasures unknown to the whole world.
Had some Angel brought it miraculously from heaven, and left it at my foot, it had been a present meet for Seraphims. Yet had it been a dream in comparison of the glorious way wherein God prepared it. I must, have spent time in studying it, and with great diligence have read it daily to drink in the precepts and instructions it contained. It had in a narrow, obscure manner come unto me, and all the world had been ignorant of felicity but I. Whereas now there are thousands in the world, of whom I, being a poor child, was ignorant, that in temples, universities, and secret closets; enjoy felicity, whom I saw not in shops, or schools, or trades; whom I found not in streets or at feasts, or taverns, and therefore thought not to be in the world, who enjoy communion with God, and have fellowship with the Angels every day. And. these I discerned to be a great help unto me.
This put me upon two things: upon enquiring into the matter contained in the Bible, and into the manner wherein it came unto me. In the matter I found all the glad tidings my soul longed after in its desire of news; in the manner, that the Wisdom of God was infinitely greater than mine, and that He had appeared in His Wisdom exceeding my desires. Above all things I desired some Great Lord, or Mighty King, that having power in His hand, to give me all Kingdoms, Riches, and Honours, was willing to do it. And by that book I found that there was an eternal God, who loved me infinitely, that I was His son, that I was to overcome death and to live for ever, that He created the world for me, that I was to reign in His throne and to inherit all things. Who would have believed this had not that Book told me? It told me also that I was to live in communion with Him, in the image of His life and glory, that I was to enjoy all His treasures and pleasures, in a more perfect manner than I could devise, and that all the truly amiable and glorious persons in the world were to be my friends and companions.
Upon this I had enough. I desired no more the honours and pleasures of this world, but gave myself to the illimited and clear fruition of that: and to this day see nothing wanting to my Felicity but mine own perfection. All other things are well; I only, and the sons of men about me, are disordered. Nevertheless could I be what I ought, their very disorders would be my enjoyments. For all things should work together for good to them that love God. And if the disorders, then certainly the troubles, and if the troubles, much more the vanities of men would be mine. Not only their enjoyments, but their very errors and distractions increasing my Felicity. So that being heir of the whole world alone, I was to walk in it, as in a strange, marvellous, and amiable possession, and alone to render praises unto God for its enjoyment.
This taught me that those fashions and tinseled vanities, which you and I despise erewhile, fetching a little course about, became ours. And that the Wisdom of God in them also was very conspicuous. For it becometh His Goodness to make all things treasures: and His Power is able to bring Light out of Darkness, and Good out of Evil. Nor would His love endure, but that I also should have a wisdom, whereby I could draw order out of confusion. So that it is my admiration and joy, that while so many thousand wander in Darkness, I am in the Light, and that while so many dote upon false treasures and pierce themselves through with many sorrows, I live in peace, and enjoy the delights of God and Heaven.
In respect of the matter, I was very sure that Angels and Cherubims could not bring unto me better tidings than were in the Scriptures contained, could I but believe them to be true, but I was dissatisfied about the manner, and that was the ground of my unbelief. For I could. not think that God being Love would neglect His Son, and therefore surely I was not His son, nor He Love: because He had not ascertained* me more carefully, that the Bible was His book from Heaven. Yet I was encouraged to hope well, because the matter was so excellent, above my expectation. And when I searched into it, I found the Way infinitely better than if all the Angels in Heaven had brought it to me.
*This word, though it seems peculiar to us, is here used quite properly and according to its derivation.
Had the Angels brought it to me alone, these several inconveniences had attended the vision:—(1) It had been but one sudden act wherein it was sent me whereas now God hath been all ages in preparing it: (2) It had been done by inferior. ministers; whereas now it is done by God Himself: (3) Being Satan is able to transform himself into an Angel of Light, I had been still dubious, till having recourse to the excellency of the matter; by it I was informed and satisfied: (4) Being corrupted, that one miracle would have been but like a single spark upon green wood, it would have gone out immediately: whereas I needed a thousand miracles to seal it, yea and to awaken me to the meditation of the matter that was revealed to me: (5) Had it been revealed no other way, all the world, had been dark and empty round about me: whereas now it is my joy and my delight and treasure, being full of knowledge and light and glory: (6) Had it been revealed at no other time, God had now only been good unto me; whereas He hath manifested His love in all ages; and been carefully and most wisely revealing it from the beginning of the world: (7) Had He revealed it to no other person, I had been weak in faith, being solitary and sitting alone like a sparrow upon the house-top, who now have the concurrent and joint affections of Kingdoms and ages, Yea, notwithstanding the disadvantage of this weakness, I must have gone abroad; and published this faith to others; both in love to God, and love to men. For I must have done my duty, or the book would have done me no good, and love to God and men must have been my duty, for without that I could never be happy. Yea finally, had not the Book been revealed before, neither had God been glorious, nor I blessed, for He had been negligent of other persons, His goodness had been defective to all ages, whom now I know to be God by the universality of His love unto Mankind, and the perfection of His wisdom to every person.
To talk now of the necessity of bearing all calamities and persecutions in preaching is little; to consider the reproaches, mockings and derisions I must have endured of all the world, while they scoffed at me for pretending to be the only man that had a Book from Heaven is nothing: nor is it much to mention the impossibility of convincing others, all the world having been full of darkness, and God always silent before. All ages had been void of treasure had not the Bible been revealed till the other day, wherein now I can expatiate with perfect liberty, and everywhere see the Love of God to all mankind Love to me alone. All the world being adorned with miracles, prophets, patriarchs, apostles, martyrs, revelations from Heaven, lively examples, holy Souls, divine affairs for my enjoyment. The Glory of God and the Light of Heaven appearing everywhere, as much as it would have done in that seeming instant, had the Book I desired come unto me any other way.
You will not believe what a world of joy this one satisfaction and pleasure brought me. Thenceforth I thought the Light of Heaven was in this world: I saw it possible, and very probable, that I was infinitely beloved of Almighty God, the delights of Paradise were round about me, Heaven and Earth were open to me, all riches were little things; this one pleasure being so great that it exceeded all the joys of Eden. So great a thing it was to me, to be satisfied in the manner of God's revealing Himself unto mankind. Many other enquiries I had concerning the manner of His revealing Himself, in all which I am infinitely satisfied.
Having been at the University, and received there the taste and tincture of another education, I saw that there were things in this world of which I never dreamed; glorious secrets, and glorious persons past imagination. There I saw that Logic, Ethics, Physics, Metaphysics, Geometry, Astronomy, Poesy, Medicine, Grammar, Music, Rhetoric all kinds of Arts, Trades, and Mechanisms that adorned the world pertained to felicity; at least there I saw those things, which afterwards I knew to pertain unto it: and was delighted in it. There I saw into the nature of the Sea, the Heavens, the Sun, the Moon and Stars, the Elements, Minerals, and Vegetables. All which appeared like the King's Daughter, all glorious within; and those things which my nurses, and parents, should have talked of there were taught unto me.
Nevertheless some things were defective too. There was never a tutor that did professly teach Felicity, though that be the mistress of all other sciences. Nor did any of us study these things but as aliena, which we ought to have studied as our enjoyments. We studied to inform our knowledge, but knew not for what end we so studied. And for lack of aiming at a certain end we erred in the manner. Howbeit there we received all those seeds of knowledge that were afterwards improved; and our souls were awakened to a discerning of their faculties, and exercise of their powers.
The manner is in everything of greatest concernment. Whatever good thing we do, neither can we please God, unless we do it well: nor can He please us, what. ever good He does, unless He do it well. Should He give us the most perfect things in Heaven and Earth to make us happy, and not give them to us in the best of all possible manners, He would but displease us; and it were impossible for Him to make us happy. It is not sufficient therefore for us to study the most excellent things unless we do it in the most excellent of manners. And what that is, it is impossible to find, till we are guided thereunto by the most excellent end, with a desire of which I flagrantly burned.
The best of all possible ends is the Glory of God, but happiness was that I thirsted after. And yet I did not err, for the Glory of God is to make us happy. Which can never be done but by giving us most excellent natures and satisfying those natures: by creating all treasures of infinite value, and giving them to us in an infinite manner, to wit, both in the best that to omnipotence was possible. This led me to enquire whether all things were excellent, and of perfect value, and whether they were mine in propriety?
It is the Glory of God to give all things to us in the best of all possible manners. To study things therefore under the double notion of interest and treasure, is to study all things in the best of all possible manners. Because in studying so we enquire after God's Glory, and our own happiness. And indeed enter into the way that leadeth to all contentments, joys, and satisfactions, to all praises triumphs and thanksgivings, to all virtues, beauties, adorations and graces, to all dominion, exaltation, wisdom, and glory, to all Holiness, Union, and Communication with God, to all patience, and courage and blessedness, which it is impossible to meet any other way. So that to study objects for ostentation, vain knowledge or curiosity is fruitless impertinence, tho' God Himself and Angels be the object. But to study that which will oblige us to love Him, and feed us with nobility and goodness toward men, that is blessed. And so is it to study that which will lead us to the Temple of Wisdom, and seat us in the Throne of Glory.
Many men study the same things which have not the taste of, nor delight in them. And their palates vary according to the ends at which they aim. He that studies polity, men and manners, merely that he may know how to behave himself, and get honour in this world, has not that delight in his studies as he that contemplates these things that he might see the ways of God among them, and walk in communion with Him. The attainments of the one are narrow, the other grows a celestial King of all Kingdoms. Kings minister unto him, temples are his own, thrones are his peculiar treasure. Governments, officers, magistrates and courts of judicature are his delights, in a way ineffable, and a manner inconceivable to the other's imagination. He that knows the secrets of nature with Albertus Magnus, or the motions of the heavens with Galileo, or the cosmography of the moon with Hevelius, or the body of man with Galen, or the nature of diseases with Hippocrates, or the harmonies in melody with Orpheus, or of poesy with Homer, or of Grammar with Lilly, or of whatever else with the greatest artist; he is nothing, if he knows them merely for talk or idle speculation, or transient and external use. But he that knows them for value, and knows them his own shall profit infinitely. And therefore of all kinds of learnings, humanity and divinity are the most excellent.
By humanity we search into the powers and faculties of the Soul, enquire into the excellencies of human nature, consider its wants, survey its inclinations, propensities and desires, ponder its principles, proposals, and ends, examine the causes and fitness of all, the worth of all, the excellency of all. Whereby we come to know what man is in this world, what his sovereign end and happiness, and what is the best means by which he may attain it. And by this we come to see what wisdom is: which namely is a knowledge exercised in finding out the way to perfect happiness, by discerning man's real wants and sovereign desires. We come moreover to know God's goodness, in seeing into the causes wherefore He implanted such faculties and inclinations in us, and the objects and ends prepared for them. This leadeth us to Divinity. For God gave man an endless intellect to see all things, and a proneness to covet them, because they are His treasures; and an infinite variety of apprehensions and affections, that he might have an all sufficiency in himself to enjoy them; a curiosity profound and unsatiable to stir him up to look into them: an ambition great and everlasting to carry him to the highest honours, thrones, and dignities: an emulation whereby he might be animated and quickened by all examples, a tenderness and compassion whereby he may be united to all persons, a sympathy and love to virtue; a tenderness of his credit in every soul, that he might delight to be honoured in all persons; an eye to behold Eternity and the omnipresence of God, that he might see Eternity, and dwell within it; a power of admiring, loving, and prizing, that seeing the beauty and goodness of God, he might be united to it for evermore.
In Divinity we are entertained with all objects from everlasting to everlasting: because with Him whose outgoings from everlasting: being to contemplate God, and to walk with Him in all His ways; and therefore to be entertained with all objects, as He is the fountain, governor, and end of them. We are to contemplate God in the unity of His essence, in the trinity of persons, in His manifold attributes, in all His works, internal and external, in His counsels and decrees, in the work of creation, and in His works of providence. And man, as he is a creature of God, capable of celestial; blessedness, and a subject, in His Kingdom, in his fourfold estate of innocency, misery, grace and glory. In the estate of innocency we are to contemplate the nature and manner of his happiness, the laws under which he was governed, the joys of paradise, and the immaculate powers of his immortal soul. In the estate of misery, we have his fall, the nature of Sin, original and actual; his manifold punishments, calamity, sickness, death, &c. In the estate of grace; the tenour of the new covenant, the manner of its exhibition under the various dispensations of the Old and New Testament, the Mediator of the covenant, the conditions of it, faith and repentance, the sacraments or seals of it, the Scriptures, ministers, and sabbaths, the nature and government of the Church, its histories and successions from the beginning to the end of the world, &c. In the state of Glory, the nature of separate Souls, their advantages, excellencies and privileges, the resurrection of the body, the day of judgment, and life everlasting. Wherein further we are to see and understand the communion of Saints, Heavenly joys, and our society with Angels. To all which I was naturally born, to the fruition of all, which I was by Grace redeemed, and in the enjoyment of all which I am to live eternally.
Natural philosophy teaches us the causes and effects of all bodies simply and in themselves. But if you extend it a little further, to that indeed which its name imports, signifying the love of nature, it leads us into a diligent inquisition into all natures, their qualities, affections, relations, causes and ends, so far forth as by nature and reason they may be known. And this noble science, as such, is most sublime and perfect: it includes all Humanity and Divinity together. God, Angels, Men, Affections, Habits, Actions, Virtues, everything as it is a solid, entire object singly proposed, being a subject of it, as well as material and visible things. But taking it as it is usually bounded in its terms, it treateth only of corporeal things, as Heaven, Earth, Air, Water, Fire, the Sun and Stars, Trees, Herbs, Flowers, Influences, Winds, Fowls, Beasts, Fishes, Minerals, and Precious Stones, with all other beings of that kind. And as thus it is taken it is nobly subservient to the highest ends: for it openeth the riches of God's Kingdom and the natures of. His territories, ,works, and creatures in a wonderful manner, clearing and preparing the eyes of the enjoyer.
Ethics teach us the mysteries of morality, and the nature of affections, virtues, and manners, as by them we may be guided to our highest happiness. The former for speculation, this for practice. The former furnisheth us with riches, this with honours and delights, the former feasteth us, and this instructeth us. For by this we are taught to live honourably among men, and to make ourselves noble and useful among them. It teacheth us how to manage our passions, to exercise virtues, and to form our manners, so as to live happily in this world. And all these put together discover the materials of religion to be so great, that it plainly manifesteth the Revelation of God to be deep and infinite. For it is impossible for language, miracles, or apparitions to teach us the infallibility of God's word, or to shew us the certainty of true religion, without a clear sight into truth itself, that is unto the truth of things. Which will themselves when truly seen, by the very beauty and glory of them, best discover, and prove religion.
When I came into the country, and being seated among silent trees, and meads and hills, had all my time in mine own hands, I resolved to spend it all, whatever it cost me, in the search of happiness, and to satiate that burning thirst which Nature had enkindled in me from my youth. In which I was so resolute, that I chose rather to live upon ten pounds a year, and to go in leather clothes, and feed upon bread and water, so that I might have all my time clearly to myself, than to keep many thousands per annum in an estate of life where my time would be devoured in care and labour. And God was so pleased to accept of that desire, that from that time to this, I have had all things plentifully provided for me, without any care at all, my very study of Felicity making me more to prosper, than all the care in the whole world. So that through His blessing I live a free and a kingly life as if the world were turned again into Eden, or much more, as it is at this day.
A life of Sabbaths here beneath!
Continual jubilees and joys!
The days of Heaven, while we breathe
On Earth! where Sin all Bliss destroys:
This is a triumph of delights
That doth exceed all appetites:
No joy can be compared to this,
It is a life of perfect Bliss.
Of perfect Bliss! How can it be?
To conquer Satan, and to reign
In such a vale of misery,
Where vipers, stings, and tears remain,
Is to be crowned with victory.
To be content, divine, and free,
Even here beneath is great delight
And next the Beatific Sight.
But inward lusts do oft assail,
Temptations work us much annoy
We'll therefore weep, and to prevail
Shall be a more celestial joy.
To have no other enemy
But one; and to that one to die:
To fight with that and conquer it,
Is better than in peace to sit.
'Tis better for a little time;
For he that all his lusts doth quell,
Shall find this life to be his prime
And vanquish Sin, and conquer Hell.
The next shall be his double joy;
And that which here seemed to destroy
Shall in the other life appear
A root of bliss; a pearl each tear.
Thus you see I can make merry with calamities, and while I grieve at Sins, and war against them, abhorring the world, and myself more, descend into the abyss of humility, and there admire a new offspring and torrent of joys—God's Mercies. Which accepteth of our fidelity in bloody battles, though every wound defile and poison; and when we slip or fall, turneth our true penitent tears into solid pearl, that shall abide with Him for evermore. But oh let us take heed that we never willingly commit a sin against so gracious a Redeemer, and so great a Father:
O only fatal woe,
That mak'st me sad and mourning go!
That all my joys dost spoil,
His Kingdom and my Soul defile!
I never can agree
Only thou! O thou alone,
And my obdurate heart of stone,
The poison and the foes
Of my enjoyments and repose,
The only bitter ill,
I cannot meet with thee,
Nor once approach thy memory,
But all my joys are dead,
And all my sacred Treasures fled
As if I now did dwell
O hear how short I breathe 1
See how I tremble here beneath
A Sin! Its ugly face
More terror, than its dwelling place
Contains (O dreadful Sin!)
Sin! wilt thou vanquish me?
And shall I yield the victory ?
Shall all my joys be spoil'd,
And pleasures soil'd
Shall I remain
As one that's slain
And never more lift up the head?
Is not my Saviour dead?
His blood, thy bane, my balsam, bliss, joy, wine,
Shall thee destroy; heal, feed, make me divine.
I cannot meet with Sin, but it kills me, and 'tis only by Jesus Christ that I can kill it, and escape. Would you blame me to be confounded, when I have offended my Eternal Father, who gave me all the things in Heaven and Earth? One sin is a dreadful stumbling-block in the way to heaven. It breeds a long parenthesis in the fruition of our joys. Do you not see, my friend, how it disorders and disturbs my proceeding? There is no calamity but Sin alone.
When I came into the country, and saw that I had all time in my own hands, having devoted it wholly to the study of Felicity, I knew. not where to begin or end; nor what objects to choose, upon which most profitably I might fix my contemplation. I saw myself like some traveller, that had destined his life to journeys, and was resolved to spend his days in visiting strange places: who might wander in vain, unless his undertakings were guided by some certain rule, and that innumerable millions of objects were presented before me, unto any of which I might take my journey. Fain would I have visited them all, but that was impossible. What then should I do? Even imitate a traveller, who because he cannot visit all coasts, wildernesses, sandy deserts, seas, hills, springs and mountains, chooseth the most populous and flourishing cities, where he might see the fairest prospects, wonders, and rarities, and be entertained with greatest courtesy: and where indeed he might most benefit himself with knowledge, profit and delight: leaving the rest, even the naked and empty places unseen. For which cause I made it my prayer to God Almighty that He, whose eyes are open upon all things, would guide me to the fairest and divinest.
And what rule do you think I walked by? Truly a strange one, but the best in the whole world. I was guided by an implicit faith in God's goodness: and therefore led to the study of the most obvious and common things. For thus I thought within myself God being, as we generally believe, infinite in goodness, it is most consonant and agreeable with His nature, that the best things should be most common. For nothing is more natural to infinite goodness, than to make the best things most frequent; and only things worthless scarce. Then I began to enquire what things were most common: Air, Light, Heaven and Earth, Water, the Sun, Trees, Men and Women, Cities, Temples, &c. These I found common and obvious to all: Rubies, Pearls, Diamonds, Gold and Silver, these I found scarce, and to the most denied. Then began I to consider and compare the value of them which I measured by their serviceableness, and by the excellencies which would be found in them, should they be taken away. And in conclusion, I saw clearly, that there was a real valuableness in all the common things; in the scarce, a feigned.
Besides these common things I have named, there were others as common, but invisible. The Laws of God, the Soul of Man, Jesus Christ and His Passion on the Cross, with the ways of God in all Ages. And these by the general credit they had obtained in the world confirmed me more. For the ways of God were transient things, they were past and gone; our Saviour's sufferings were in one particular, obscure place, the Laws of God were no object of the eye, but only found in the minds of men: these therefore which were so secret in their own nature, and made common only by the esteem men had of them, must of necessity include unspeakable worth for which they were celebrated of all, and so generally remembered. As yet I did not see the wisdom and depths of knowledge, the clear principles, and certain evidences whereby the wise and holy, the ancients and the learned that were abroad in the world knew these things but was led to them only by the fame which they had vulgarly received. Howbeit I believed that there were unspeakable mysteries contained in them, and tho' they were generally talked of their value was unknown. These therefore I resolved to study, and no other, But to my unspeakable wonder, they brought me to all the things in Heaven and in Earth, in Time and Eternity, possible and impossible, great and little, common and scarce; and discovered them all to be infinite treasures.
That anything may be found to be an infinite treasure, its place must be found in Eternity and in God's esteem. For as there is a time, so there is a place for all things. Everything in its place is admirable, deep, and glorious; out of its place like a wandering bird, is desolate and good for nothing. How therefore it relateth to God and all creatures must be seen before it can be enjoyed. And this I found by many instances. The Sun is good, only as it relateth to the stars, to the seas, to your eye, to the fields, &c. As it relateth to the stars it raiseth their influences; as to the Seas, it melteth them and maketh the waters flow; as to your eye, it bringeth in the beauty of the world; as to the fields, it clotheth them with fruits and flowers. Did it not relate to others it would not be good. Divest it of these operations, and divide it from these objects, it is useless and good for nothing, and therefore worthless, because worthless and useless go together. A piece of gold cannot be valued, unless we know how it relates to clothes, to wine, to victuals, to the esteem of men and to the owner. Some little piece, in a kingly monument, severed from the rest, hath no beauty at all. It enjoys its value in its place, by the ornament it gives to, and receives from all the parts. By this I discerned, that even a little knowledge could not be had in the mystery of Felicity, without a great deal. And that that was the reason why so many were ignorant of its nature, and why so few did attain it. For by the labour required to much knowledge they were discouraged, and for lack of much did not see any glorious motives to allure them.
Therefore of necessity they must at first believe that Felicity is a glorious though an unknown thing. And certainly it was the infinite wisdom of God that did implant by instinct so strong a desire of Felicity in the Soul, that we might be excited to labour after it, though we know it not, the very force wherewith we covet it supplying the place of understanding. That there is a Felicity, we all know by the desires after, that there is a most glorious Felicity we know by the strength and vehemence of those desires. And that nothing but Felicity is worthy of our labour, because all other things are the means only which conduce unto it. I was very much animated by the desires of philosophers, which I saw in heathen books aspiring after it. But the misery is It was unknown. An altar was erected to it like that in Athens with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.
Two things in perfect Felicity I saw to be requisite and that Felicity must be perfect, or not Felicity. The first was the perfection of its objects, in nature, serviceableness, number, and excellency. The second was the perfection of the manner wherein they are enjoyed, for sweetness, measure, and duration. And unless in these I could be satisfied, I should never be contented: Especially about the latter. For the manner is always more excellent than the thing. And it far more concerneth us that the manner wherein we enjoy be complete and perfect, than that the matter which we enjoy be complete and perfect. For the manner, as we contemplate its excellency, is itself a great part of the matter of our enjoyment.
In discovering the matter or objects to be enjoyed, I was greatly aided by remembering that we were made in God's Image. For thereupon it must of necessity follow that God's Treasures be our Treasures, and His joys our joys. So that by enquiring what were God's, I found the objects of our Felicity, God's Treasures being ours. For we were made in His Image that we might live in His similitude. And herein I was mightily confirmed by the Apostle's blaming the Gentiles, and charging it upon them as a very great fault that they were alienated from the life of God, for hereby I perceived that we were to live the life of God, when we lived the true life of nature according to knowledge: and that by, blindness and corruption we had strayed from it. Now God's Treasures are His own perfections, and all His creatures.
The Image of God implanted in us, guided me to the manner wherein we were to enjoy. For since we were made in the similitude of God, we were made to enjoy after His similitude. Now to enjoy the treasures of God in the similitude of God, is the most perfect blessedness God could devise. For the treasures of God are the most perfect treasures, and the manner of God is the most perfect manner. To enjoy therefore the treasures of God after the similitude of God is to enjoy the most perfect treasures in the most perfect manner. Upon which I was most infinitely satisfied in God, and knew there was a Deity because I was satisfied. For in exerting Himself wholly in achieving thus an infinite Felicity He was infinitely delightful, great and glorious, and my desires so august and insatiable that nothing less than a Deity could satisfy them.
This spectacle once seen, will never be forgotten. It is a great part of the beatific vision. A sight of Happiness is Happiness. It transforms the Soul and makes it Heavenly, it powerfully calls us to communion with God, and weans us from the customs of this world. It puts a lustre upon God and all His creatures and makes us to see them in a Divine and Eternal Light. I no sooner discerned this but I was (as Plato saith, In summÔ Rationis arce quies habitat) seated in a throne of repose and perfect rest. All things were well in their proper places, I alone was out of frame and had need to be mended. For all things were God's treasures in their proper places, and I was to be restored to God's Image. Whereupon you will not believe, how I was withdrawn from all endeavours of altering and mending outward things. They lay so well, methought, they could not be mended: but I must be mended to enjoy them.
The Image of God is the most perfect creature. Since there cannot be two Gods the utmost endeavour of Almighty Power is the Image of God. It is no blasphemy to say that God cannot make a God: the greatest thing that He can make is His Image: a most perfect creature, to enjoy the most perfect treasures, in the most perfect manner. A creature endued with the most divine and perfect powers, for measure, kind, number, duration, and excellency is the most perfect creature: able to see all eternity with all its objects, and as a mirror to contain all that it seeth : able to love all it contains, and as a Sun to shine upon its caves: able by shining to communicate itself in beams of affection and to illustrate all it illuminates with beauty and glory: able to be wise, holy, glorious, blessed in itself, as God is; being adorned inwardly with the same kind of beauty, and outwardly superior to all creatures.
Upon this I began to believe that all other creatures were such that God was Himself in their creation, that is Almighty Power wholly exerted: and that every creature is indeed as it seemed in my infancy, not as it is commonly apprehended. Every thing being sublimely rich and great and glorious. Every spire of grass is the work of His hand: And I in a world where everything is mine, and far better than the greater sort of children esteem diamonds and pearls to be. Gold and silver being the very refuse of Nature, and the worst things in God's Kingdom: Howbeit truly good in their proper places.
To be satisfied in God is the highest difficulty in the whole world, and yet most easy to be done. To make it possible that we should be satisfied in God was an achievement of infinite weight, before it was attempted, and the most difficult thing in all worlds before it was achieved. For we naturally expect infinite things of God: and can be satisfied only with the highest reason. So that the best of all possible things must be wrought in God, or else we shall remain dissatisfied: But it is most easy at present, because God is. For God. is not a being compounded of body and soul, or substance and accident, or power and act, but is all act; pure act, a Simple Being whose essence is to be, whose Being is to be perfect so that He is most perfect towards all and in all. He is most perfect for all and by all. He is in nothing imperfect, because His Being is to be perfect. It is impossible for Him to be God and imperfect: and therefore do we so ardently and infinitely desire His absolute perfection.
Neither is it possible to be otherwise. All His power being turned into Act, it is all exerted: infinitely and wholly. Neither is there any power in Him which He is not able and willing to use: or which He cannot wisely guide to most excellent ends. So that we may expect most angelical and heavenly rarities in all the creatures. Were there any power in God unemployed He would be compounded of Power and Act. Being therefore God is all Act, He is a God in this, that Himself is Power exerted. An infinite Act because infinite power infinitely exerted. An Eternal Act because infinite power eternally exerted. Wherein consisteth the generation of His Son, the perfection of His Love, and the immutability of God. For God by exerting Himself begot His Son, and doing it wholly for the sake of His creatures, is perfect Love ; and doing it wholly from all Eternity, is an Eternal Act, and therefore unchangeable.
With this we are delighted because it is absolutely impossible that any Power dwelling with Love should continue idle. Since God therefore was infinitely and eternally communicative, all things were contained in Him from all Eternity. As Nazianzen in his 38th Oration admirably expressed it in these words, "Because it was by no means sufficient for GOODNESS to move only in the contemplation of itself: but it became what was GOOD to be diffused and propagated, that more might be affected with the benefit (for this was the part of the Highest GOODNESS:) first He thought upon angelical and celestial virtues, and that thought was the work which he wrought by the WORD and fulfilled by the SPIRIT. Atque ita Secundi Splendores procreati primi splendoris Administri." And so were there second splendours created, and made to minister to the first splendour, so that all motions, successions, creatures, and operations with their beginnings and ends were in Him from Everlasting. To whom nothing can be added because from all Eternity He was whatsoever to all Eternity He can be. All things being now to be seen and contemplated in His bosom; and advanced therefore into a Diviner Light, being infinitely older, and more precious than we were aware. Time itself being in God eternally.
Little did I imagine that, while I was thinking these things, I was conversing with God. I was so ignorant that I did not think any man in the World had had such thoughts before. Seeing them therefore so amiable I wondered not a little, that nothing was spoken of them in former ages: but as I read the Bible I was here and there surprised with such thoughts, and found by degrees that these things had been written of before, not only in the Scriptures, but in many of the Fathers, and that this was the way of communion with God in all Saints, as I saw clearly in the person of David. Methought a new light darted in into all his psalms, and finally spread abroad over the whole Bible. So that things which for their obscurity I thought not in being were there contained: things which for their greatness were incredible were made evident, and things obscure plain. God by this means bringing me into the very heart of His Kingdom.
There I saw Moses blessing the Lord for the precious things of Heaven, for the dew and for the deep that coucheth beneath: and for the precious fruits brought forth by the Sun, and for the precious things put forth by the moon: and for the chief things of the ancient mountains, and for the precious things of the lasting hills; and for the precious things of the earth, and fullness thereof. There I saw Jacob with awful apprehensions admiring the glory of the world, when awaking out of his dream, he said, How dreadful is this place. This is none other than the House of God, and the Gate of Heaven. There I saw God leading forth Abraham, and showing him the stars of Heaven; and all the countries round about him, and saying, All these will I give thee, and thy seed after thee. There I saw Adam in Paradise, surrounded with the beauty of Heaven and Earth, void of all earthly comforts, to wit, such as were devised, gorgeous apparel, palaces, gold and silver, coaches, musical instruments, &c; and entertained only with celestial joys, the sun and moon and stars, beasts and fowls and fishes, trees and fruits, and flowers, with the other naked and simple delights of nature. By which I evidently saw that the way to become rich and blessed was not by heaping accidental and devised riches to make ourselves great in the vulgar manner, but to approach more near, or to see more clearly with he eye of our understanding, the beauties and glories of the whole world: and to have communion with the Deity in the riches of God and Nature.
I saw moreover that it did not so much concern us what objects were before us, as with what eyes we beheld them, with what affections we esteemed them, and what apprehensions we had about them. All men see the same objects, but do not equally understand them. Intelligence is the tongue that discerns and tastes them, Knowledge is the Light of Heaven, Love is the Wisdom and Glory of God, Life extended to all objects is the sense that enjoys them. So that Knowledge, Life, and Love are the very means of all enjoyment, which above all things we must seek for and labour after. All objects are in God Eternal: which we by perfecting our faculties are made to enjoy. Which then are turned into Act, when they are exercised about their objects; but without them are desolate and idle; or discontented and forlorn. Whereby I perceived the meaning of the definition wherein Aristotle describeth Felicity, when he saith, Felicity is the perfect exercise of perfect virtue in a perfect Life. For that life is perfect when it is perfectly extended to all objects, and perfectly sees them, and perfectly loves them: which is done by a perfect exercise of virtue about them.
In Salem dwelt a glorious King,
Raised from a shepherd's lowly state;
That did His praises like an angel sing
Who did the World create.
By many great and bloody wars
He was advanced unto Thrones
But more delighted in the stars
Than in the splendour of his precious stones;
Nor gold nor silver did his eye regard
The Works of God were his sublime reward,
A warlike champion he had been,
And many feats of chivalry
Had done: in kingly courts his eye had seen
A vast variety
Of earthly joys: Yet he despis'd
Those fading honours, and false pleasures
Which are by mortals so much prized;
And placed his happiness in other treasures
No state of life which in this world we find
Could yield contentment to his greater mind.
His fingers touched his trembling lyre,
And every quavering string did yield
A sound that filled all the Jewish quire,
And echoed in the field.
No pleasure was so great to him
As in a silent night to see
The moon and stars: A cherubim
Above them, even here, he seem'd to be:
Enflam'd with Love it was his great desire,
To sing, contemplate, ponder, and admire.
He was a prophet, and foresaw
Things extant in the world to come:
He was a judge, and ruled by a law
That than the honeycomb
Was sweeter far: he was a sage,
And all his people could advise;
An oracle, whose every page
Contained in verse the greatest mysteries;
But most he then enjoyed himself when he
Did as a poet praise the Deity.
A shepherd, soldier, and divine,
A judge, a courtier, and a king,
Priest, angel, prophet, oracle, did shine
At once when he did sing.
Philosopher and poet too
Did in his melody appear;
All these in him did please the view
Of those that did his heavenly music hear
And every drop that from his flowing quill
Came down, did all the world with nectar fill
He had a deep and perfect sense
Of all the glories and the pleasures
That in God's works are hid: the excellence
Of such transcendent treasures
Made him on earth an heavenly king,
And filled his solitudes with joy ;
He never did more sweetly sing
Than when alone, though that doth mirth destroy:*
Sense did his soul with heavenly life inspire,
And made him seem in God's celestial quire.
Rich, sacred, deep and precious things
Did here on earth the man surround:
With all the Glory of the King of Kings
He was most strangely crowned.
His clear soul and open sight
Among the Sons of God did see
Things filling Angels with delight:
His ear did hear their heavenly melody,
And when he was alone he all became
That Bliss implied, or did increase his fame.
All arts he then did exercise;
And as his God he did adore
By secret ravishments above the skies
He carried was before
He died. His soul did see and feel
What others know not; and became,
While he before his God did kneel,
A constant, heavenly, pure, seraphic flame.
Oh that I might unto his throne aspire,
And all his joys above the stars admire!
* In this line "removed from all annoy" was first written, but afterwards crossed out, and the above reading substituted.
When I saw those objects celebrated in his psalms which God and Nature had proposed to me, and which I thought chance only presented to my view, you cannot imagine how unspeakably I was delighted, to see so glorious a person, so great a prince, so divine a sage, that was a man after God's own heart, by the testimony of God Himself, rejoicing in the same things, meditating on the same, and praising God for the same. For by this I perceived we were led by one Spirit, and that following the clue of Nature into this labyrinth, I was brought into the midst of celestial joys: and that to be retired from earthly cares and fears and distractions that we might in sweet and heavenly peace contemplate all the Works of God, was to live in Heaven, and the only way to become what David was, a man after God's own heart. There we might be enflamed with those causes for which we ought to love Him: there we might see those viands which feed the Soul with Angels' food: there we might bathe in those streams of pleasure that flow at His right hand for evermore.
That hymn of David in the eighth Psalm was supposed to be made by night, wherein he celebrateth the Works of God; because he mentioneth the moon and stars, but not the sun in his meditation. When I consider the Heavens which Thou hast made, the moon and stars, which are the work of Thy fingers, what is man that Thou art mindful of him, or the Son of man that Thou visitest him? Thou hast made him a little lower than the Angels, and past crowned him with glory and honour. Thou hast given him dominion over the works of Thy hands, Thou hast Put all things in subjection under his feet; all sheep and oxen, yea and the beasts of the fields; the fowls of the air, and the fishes of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the sea. This glory and honour wherewith man is crowned ought to affect every person that is grateful, with celestial joy: and so much the rather because it is every man's proper and sole inheritance.
His joyful meditation in the nineteenth psalm directeth every man to consider the glory of Heaven and Earth. The Heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone throughout all the earth, and their voice to the end of the world. In them hath He set a tabernacle for the sun, which is as a bridegroom corning out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run his race. His going forth is from the end of the heaven and his circuit to the ends of it; and nothing is hid from the heat thereof. From thence he proceedeth to the laws of God, as things more excellent in their nature than His works. The Law of the Lord is perfect, converting the Soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever; the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Whereby he plainly showeth that Divine and Kingly delights are in the laws and works of God to be taken by all those that would be angelical and celestial creatures. For that in the Kingdom of Heaven every one being disentangled from particular relations and private riches, as if he were newly taken out of nothing to the fruition of all Eternity, was in these alone to solace himself as his peculiar treasures.
Ye that fear the Lord, praise Him; all ye seed of Jacob, glorify Him, and fear Him all ye seed of Israel. For He hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, neither hath He hid His Face from him, but when he cried unto Him He heard. My praise shall be of Thee in the great Congregation; I will pay my vows before them that fear Him. The meek shall eat and be satisfied. They shall praise the Lord that seek Him ; your heart shall live for ever. fill the ends of the World shall remember and turn unto the Lord, all the kindreds of the Nations shall worship before Thee. For the Kingdom is the Lord's, and He is the governor among the Nations. All they that be fat upon Earth shall eat and worship: all they that go down to the deed shall bow bore Him, and none can keep alive his own Soul. A seed shall serve Him, it shall be counted to the Lord for a generation. They shall come and declare His righteousness to a people that shall be born, that He hath done this. Here he sheweth that it was his desire and delight to have all Nations praising God: and that the condescension of the Almighty in stooping down to the poor and needy was the joy of his soul. He prophesieth also of the conversion of the Gentiles to the knowledge of Jesus Christ, which to see was to him an exceeding pleasure.
The Earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof, the round world and they that dwell therein. He observeth here that God by a comprehensive possession, and by way of eminence, enjoyeth the whole world; all mankind and all the Earth, with all that is therein, being His peculiar treasures. Since therefore we are made in the image of God, to live in His similitude, as they are His, they must be our treasures, We being wise and righteous over all as He is. Because they regard not the Works of the Lord, nor the operations of His hands, therefore shall He destroy them, and not build them up.
By the Word of the Lord were the Heavens made, and all the Host of them by the breath of His mouth. He gathereth the waters of the sea together, He layeth up the depth in storehouses. Let all the Earth fear the Lord, let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. For He spake, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast. He frequently meditateth upon the Works of God, and affirmeth the contemplation of them to beget His fear in our hearts. For that He being great in strength, not one faileth.
All my bones shall say, Lord, who is like unto Thee, who delivered the poor from him that is too strong for him; yea, the door and the needy from. hint that spoileth him! Thy mercy, O Lord, is above the Heavens, and Thy faithfulness reacheth to the clouds. Thy righteousness is like the great mountains, Thy judgments are a great deed: O Lord, thou preservest man and beast. How excellent is Thy loving kindness, O God! Therefore the children of men but their trust in the shadow of Thy wings. They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of Thy house; and Thou shalt make them drink of the river of Thy pleasures: For with Thee is the Fountain of Life. In Thy light we shall see light. The judgments of God, and His loving kindness, His mercy and faithfulness, are the fatness of His house, and His righteousness being seen in the Light of Glory is the torrent of pleasure at His right hand for evermore.
Hearken, O Daughter, and consider and incline thine ear, forget also Mine own people and thy father's house. So shall the King greatly desire thy beauty, for He is thy Lord, and worship thou Him. The King's daughter is all glorious within, her clothing is of wrought gold. She shall be brought unto the King in raiment of needlework, the virgins her companions that follow her shall be brought unto Thee. With gladness and rejoicing shall they be brought, they shall enter into the King's Palace. Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children, whom thou mayest make princes in all the Earth. The psalmist here singeth an Epithalamium upon the marriage between Christ and His Church: whom he persuadeth to forsake her country and her father's house together with all the customs and vanities of this World: and to dedicate herself wholly to our Saviour's Service. Since she is in exchange to enter into His palace, and become a bride to so glorious a person. The Bridegroom and the Bride, the Palace (which is all the world) with all that is therein, being David's joy and his true possession. Nay every child of this Bride is if a male, a Prince over all the earth; if a female, Bride to the King of Heaven. And every Soul that is a spouse of Jesus Christ, esteemeth all the Saints her own children and her own bowels.
There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the City of God, the holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High. He praiseth the means of grace which in the midst of this world are great consolations, and in all distresses, refresh our souls. Come behold the Works of the Lord, what desolations He hath made in the Earth. He exhorteth us to contemplate God's Works, which are so perfect, that when His secret and just judgments are seen, the very destruction of Nations, and laying waste of Cities, shall be sweet and delightful.
O clap your hands, all ye people, shout unto Cod with the voice of triumph. For the Lord most high is terrible, He is a Great King over all the Earth. He shall choose our inheritance for us, the excellency of Jacob whom He loved. Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth is Mount Sion; on the sides of the north, the city of the Great King. God is known in her palaces for a refuge. Walk about Sion and go round about her, tell the towers thereof; mark ye well her bulwarks, consider her palaces, that ye may tell it to the generation following For this God is our God for ever and ever. He will be our guide even unto death.
As in the former psalms he propeseth true and celestial joys, so in this following he discovereth the vanity of false imaginations. They that trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches, none of them can by any means redeem his brother, or give unto God a ransom for him. For the redemption of their soul is precious and it ceaseth forever. For he seeth that wise men die, likewise the fool and brutish person perish; and leave their wealth to others. Their inward thought is, that their houses shall continue forever, and their dwelling places to all generations. They call their lands after their own names. This their way is their folly, yet their Posterity reprove their sayings. Like sheep they are laid in the grave, death shall feed sweetly on them, and the upright shall have dominion over them in the morning, and their beauty shall consume in the grave from their dwelling. Man that is in honour and understandeth not, is like the beast that perisheth.
Hear, O my people, and I will speak; O Israel, and I will testify against thee. I am God, even thy God. I will not reprove thee for thy sacrifices or thy burnt oferings, to have been continually before me. I will take no bullock out of thy house, nor he-goats out of thy folds. For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. I know all the fowls of the mountains, and the wild beasts of the field are mine. If I were hungry I would not tell thee; for the World is mine, and the fulness thereof. Will I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats? Offer unto God thanksgiving, and pay thy vows to the Most High. And call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me. When I was a little child, I thought that everyone that lifted up his eyes to behold the sun, did me in looking on it, wonderful service. And certainly being moved thereby to praise my Creator, it was in itself a service wonderfully delightful. For since God so much esteemeth praises, that He preferreth them above thousands of rams and tens of thousands of rivers of oil: if I love Him with that inflamed ardour and zeal I ought His praises must needs be delightful to me above all services and riches whatsoever. That which hinders us from seeing the glory and discerning the sweetness of praises hinders us also from knowing the manner how we are concerned in them. But God knoweth infinite reasons, for which He preferreth them. If I should tell you what they are, you would be apt to despise them. Divine and heavenly mysteries being thirsted after till they are known, but by corrupted nature undervalued. Howbeit since grace correcteth the perverseness of nature, and tasteth in a better manner, it shall not be long, till somewhere we disclose them.
Are not praises the very end for which the world was created? Do they not consist as it were of knowledge, complacency, and thanksgiving? Are they not better than all the fowls and beasts and fishes in the world? What are the cattle upon a thousand hills but carcases, without creatures that can rejoice in God, and enjoy them? It is evident that praises are infinitely more excellent than all the creatures because they proceed from men and angels. For as streams do, they derive an excellency from their fountains, and are the last tribute that can possibly be paid to the Creator. Praises are the breathings of interior love, the marks and symptoms of a happy life, overflowing gratitude, returning benefits, an oblation of the soul, and the heart ascending upon the wings of divine affection to the Throne of God. God is a Spirit and cannot feed on carcases: but He can be delighted with thanksgivings, and is infinitely pleased with the emanations of our joy, because Himself is admired and His works are esteemed. What can be more acceptable to love than that it should be prized and magnified? Because therefore God is love, and His measure infinite, He infinitely desires to be admired and beloved, and so our praises enter into the very secret of His Eternal Bosom, and mingle with Him who dwelleth in that light which is inaccessible. What strengths are there even in flattery to please a great affection? Are not your bowels moved, and your affections melted with delight and pleasure, when your soul is precious in the eye of those you love? When your affection is pleased, your love prized, and they satisfied? To prize love is the highest service in the whole world that can be done unto it. But there are a thousand causes moving God to esteem our praises, more than we can well apprehend. However, let these inflame you, and move you to praise Him night and day forever.
Of our Saviour it is said, Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldst not, but a body hast Thou prepared me, all Sacrifices being but types and figures of Himself, and Himself infinitely more excellent than they all. Of a broken heart also it is said, Thou. desirest not sacrifice else I would give it. Thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise. One deep and serious groan is more acceptable to God than the creation of a world. In spiritual things we find the greatest excellency. As praises, because they are the pledges of our mutual affection, so groans, because they are pledges of a due contrition, are the greatest sacrifices. Both proceed from love, and in both we manifest and exercise our friendship. In contrition we show our penitence for having offended, and by that are fitted to rehearse His praises. All the desire wherewith He longs after a returning sinner, makes Him to esteem a broken heart. What can more melt and dissolve a lover than the tears of an offending and returning friend? Here also is the sailing verified, The falling out of lovers is the beginning of love, the renewing, the repairing, and the strengthening of it.
An enlarged soul that seeth all the world praising God, or penitent by bewailing their offences and converting to Him, hath his eye fixed upon the joy of Angels. It needeth nothing but the sense of God to inherit all things. We must borrow and derive it from Him by seeing His, and aspiring after it. Do but clothe yourself with Divine resentments and the world shall be to you the valley of vision, and all the nations and kingdoms of the world shall appear in splendour and celestial glory.
The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance, he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked. But I will sing of Thy power, yea I will sing aloud of Thy mercy in the morning. For Thou host been my defence in the day of my trouble. The deliverances of your former life are objects of your felicity, and so is the vengeance of the wicked. With both which in all times and places you are ever to be present in your memory and understanding. For lack of considering its objects the soul is desolate.
My soul thirsteth for Thee, my flesh longeth for Thee in a dry and thirsty land where no water is. To see Thy power and Thy glory so as I have seen Thee in the Sanctuary. Because Thy loving-kindness is better than life, my lips shall praise Thee. Thus will I bless Thee while I live, I will lift up mine hands in Thy name. My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth shall raise Thee with joyful lips. O Thou that Nearest prayer, unto Thee shall all flesh come. Blessed is the man whom Thou choosest and causest to approach unto Thee, that he may dwell in Thy courts. We shall be satisfied with the goodness of this house, even of this Holy Temple. See how is the 65th psalm he introduceth the: meditation of God's visible works sweetly into the Tabernacle and maketh them to be the fatness of His house, even of His Holy Temple. God is seen when His love is manifested. God is enjoyed when His love is prized. When we see the glory of His wisdom and goodness and His power exerted, then we see His glory. And these we cannot see till we see their works. When therefore we see His works, in them as in a mirror we see His glory.
>Make a joyful noise unto God, all ye lands, sing forth the honour of His name, make His praise glorious. Say unto God,, how terrible art Thou in Thy works? Through the greatness of Thy power shall Thine enemies submit themselves unto Thee. All the earth shall worship Thee, and sing unto Thee, they shall sing to Thy name. Come and see the works of God, He is terrible in his doing towards the children of man. The prospect of all. Nations praising Him is far sweeter than the prospect of the fields or silent Heavens serving them, though you see the skies adorned with stars, and the fields covered with corn and flocks of sheep and cattle. When the eye of your understanding shineth upon them, they are yours in Him, and all your joys.
God is my King, of old working salvation in the midst of the Earth. He divided the sea by His strength. He brake the heads of Leviathan in pieces. His heart is always abroad in the midst of the earth; seeing and rejoicing in His wonders there. His soul is busied in the ancient works of God for His people Israel. The day is thine, the night also is thine, Thou hast prepared the Light and the Sun. Thou hast set all the borders of the earth. Thou hast made summer and winter. He proposeth more objects of our felicity in which we ought to meet the goodness of God, that we might rejoice before Him. The day and night, the light and the sun are God's treasures, and ours also.
In the 78th psalm, he commandeth all ages to record the ancient ways of God, and recommendeth them to our meditation, shewing the ordinance of God, that fathers should teach their children, and they another generation: which certainly since they are not to be seen in the visible world, but only in the memory and minds of men. The memory and mind are a strange region of celestial light, and a wonderful place, as well as a large and sublime one, in which they may be seen. What is contained in the souls of men being as visible to us as the very heavens.
In the 84th psalm he longeth earnestly after the Tabernacle of God, and preferreth a day in His courts above a thousand. Because there, as Deborah speaketh in her song, was the place of drawing waters, that is of repentance; and of rehearsing the righteous acts of the Lord, which it is more blessed to do than to inherit the palaces of wicked men.
Among the Gods there is none like unto Thee. Neither are there any works like unto Thy works. All nations whom Thou hast made, shall come and worship Thee, O Lord, and shall glorify Thy name. For Thou art great, and doest wondrous things. Thou art God alone. This is a glorious meditation, wherein the psalmist gives himself liberty to examine the excellency of God's works, and finding them infinitely great and above all that can be besides, rejoiceth and admireth the goodness of God, and resteth satisfied with complacency in them. That they were all his, he knew well, being the gifts of God made unto him, and that he was to have communion with God in the enjoyment of them. But their excellency was a thing unsearchable and their incomparableness above all imagination, which he found by much study to his infinite delectation.
In his other psalms he proceedeth to speak of the works of God over and over again: sometimes stirring up all creatures to praise God for the very delight he took in their admirable perfections, sometimes shewing. God's goodness and mercy by them, and sometimes rejoicing himself and triumphing in them. By all this teaching us what we ought to do, that we might become divine and heavenly. In the 103rd psalm he openeth the nature of God's present mercies, both towards himself in particular, and towards all in general, turning emergencies in this world into celestial joys. In the 104th psalm he insisteth wholly upon the beauty of God's works in the creation, making all things in Heaven and Earth, and in the heaven of heavens, in the wilderness and the sea his private and personal delights. In the 105th and 106th psalms he celebrateth the ways of God in former ages with as much vehemency, zeal and pleasure as if they were new things, and as if he were present with them seeing their beauty and tasting their delight that very moment. In the 107th psalm he contemplates the ways of God in the dispensations of His providence, over travellers, sick men, seamen, &c., shewing that the way to be much in heaven is to be much employed here upon Earth in the meditation of divine and celestial things. For such are these, though they seem terrestrial. All which he concludeth thus: Whoso considereth these things, even he shall understand this lovingkindness of the Lord. In the 119th psalm, like an enamoured person, and a man ravished in spirit with joy and pleasure, he treateth upon Divine laws, and over and over again maketh mention of their beauty and perfection. By all which we may see what inward life we ought to lead with God in the Temple. And that to be much in the meditation of God's works, and laws, to see their excellency, to taste their sweetness; to behold their glory, to admire, and rejoice and overflow with praises is to live in Heaven. But unless we have a communion with David in a rational knowledge of their nature and excellency, we can never understand the grounds of his complacency, or depth of his resentments*.
*This word is here and elsewhere used in its original and proper sense of a deep feeling or sentiment.-Ed.
In our outward life towards men the psalmist also is an admirable precedent: In weeping for those that forget God's law, in publishing His praises in the congregation of the righteous, in speaking of His testimonies without cowardice or shame even before princes, in delighting in the saints, in keeping promises though made to his hurt, in tendering the life of his enemies, and clothing himself with sack-cloth when they were sick, in showing mercy to the poor, in enduring the songs and mockings of the drunkards, in taking care to glorify the Author of all Bounty; with a splendid temple arid musical instruments in this world, in putting his trust and confidence in God among all his enemies, evermore promoting His honour and glory, instructing others in the excellency of His ways, and endeavouring to establish His worship in Israel. Thus ought we to the best of our power to express our gratitude and friendships to so great a benefactor in all the effects of love and fidelity, doing His pleasure with all our might, and promoting His honour with all our power.
There are psalms more clear wherein he expresseth the joy he taketh in God's works and the glory of them. Wherein he teacheth us at divers times and in divers manner to ponder on them. Among which the 145th psalm (and so onward to the last) are very eminent. In which he openeth the nature of God's Kingdom, and so vigorously and vehemently exciteth all creatures to praise Him, and all men to do it with all kind of musical instruments by all expressions, in all nations for all things, as ten thousand vents were not sufficient to ease his fulness, as if all the world were but one Celestial Temple in which he was delighted, as if all nations were present before him, and he saw God face to face in this earthly Tabernacle, as if his soul like an infinite ocean were full of joys, and all these but springs and channels overflowing. So purely, so joyfully, so powerfully he walked with God, all creatures, as they brought a confluence of joys unto him, being pipes to ease him.
His soul recovered its pristine liberty, and saw through the mud walls of flesh and blood. Being alive, he was in the spirit all his days. While his body therefore was inclosed in this world, his soul was in the temple of Eternity, and clearly beheld the infinite life and omnipresence of God: Having conversation with invisible, spiritual, and immaterial things, which were its companions, itself being invisible, spiritual and immaterial. Kingdoms and Ages did surround him, as clearly as the hills and mountains: and therefore the Kingdom of God was ever round about him. Everything was one way or other his sovereign delight and transcendent pleasure, as in Heaven everything will be everyone's peculiar treasure.
He saw these things only in the light of faith, and yet rejoiced as if he had seen them by the Light of Heaven, which argued the strength and glory of his faith. And whereas he so rejoiced in all the nations of the earth for praising God, he saw them doing it in the light of prophesy, not of history: Much more therefore should we rejoice, who see these prophecies fulfilled, since the fulfilling of them is so blessed, divine, and glorious, that the very prevision of their accomplishment transported and ravished this glorious person. But we wither and for lack of sense shrivel up into nothing, who should be filled with the delights of ages.
By this we understand what it is to be the Sons of God, and what it is to live in communion with Him, what it is to be advanced to His Throne, and to reign in His Kingdom, with all those other glorious and marvellous expressions that are applied to men in the Holy Scriptures. To be the Sons of God is not only to enjoy the privileges and the freedom of His house, and to bear the relation of children to so great a Father, but it is to be like Him, and to share with Him in all His glory, and in all His treasures. To be like Him in spirit and understanding, to be exalted above all creatures as the end of them, to be present as He is by sight and love, without limit and without bounds, with all His works, to be Holy towards all and wise towards all, as He is. Prizing all His goodness in all with infinite ardour, that as glorious and eternal kings being pleased in all, we might reign over all for evermore.
This greatness both of God towards us, and of ourselves towards Him, we ought always as much as possible to retain in our understanding. And when we cannot effectually keep it alive in our senses, to cherish the memory of it in the centre of our hearts, and do all things in the power of it. For the Angels when they come to us, so fulfill their outward ministry, that within they nevertheless maintain the beatific vision ministering before the Throne of God, and among the sons of men at the same time. The reason where of St. Gregory with is this: Tho' the Spirit of an Angel be limited and circumscribed in itself, yet the Supreme Spirit, which is God, is uncircumscribed. He is everywhere and wholly everywhere: which makes their knowledge to be dilated everywhere. For being wholly everywhere, they are immediately present with His omnipresence in every place and wholly. It filleth them for ever.
This sense that God is so great in goodness, and we so great in glory, as to be His sons, and so rich as to live in communion with Him, and so individually united to Him, that He is in us, and we in Him, will make us do all our duties not only with incomparable joy but courage also. It will fill us with zeal and fidelity, and make us to overflow with praises. For if which one cause alone the knowledge of it ought infinitely to be esteemed. For to be ignorant of this, is to sit in darkness, and to be a child of darkness: it maketh us to be without God in the world, exceeding weak, timorous, and feeble, comfortless and barren, dead and unfruitful, luke-warm, indifferent, dumb, unfaithful. To which I may add, that it makes us uncertain. For so glorious is the face of God and true religion, that it is impossible to see it, but in transcendent splendour. Nor can we know that God is till we see Him infinite in goodness. Nothing therefore will make us certain of His Being but His Glory.
To enjoy communion with God is to abide with Him in the fruition of His Divine and Eternal Glory, in all His attributes, in all His thoughts, in all His creatures, in His Eternity, Infinity, Almighty Power, Sovereignty, &c. In all those works which from all Eternity He wrought in Himself; as the generation of His Son, the proceeding of the Holy Ghost, the eternal union and communion of the blessed Trinity, the counsels of His bosom, the attainment of the end of all His endeavours, wherein we shall see ourselves exalted and beloved from all Eternity. We are to enjoy communion with Him in the creation of the world, in the government of Angels, in the redemption of mankind, in the dispensations of His providence, in the incarnation of His Son, in His passion, resurrection and ascension, in His shedding abroad the Holy Ghost, in His government of the Church, in His judgment of the world, in the punishment of His enemies, in the rewarding of His friends, in Eternal Glory. All these therefore particularly ought to be near us, and to be esteemed by us as our riches; being those delectable things that adorn the house of God which is Eternity; and those living fountains, from whence we seek forth the streams of joy, that everlastingly overflow to refresh our souls.
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Notes on the Third Century
Meditation 5. He must be born again, &c. This is a compound citation from John iii. 3, and Mark x. 15, in the order named.
Meditation 30. For all things should work together, &c. See Romans viii. 28.
Meditation 33. Being Satan is able, &c. 2 Corinthians xi. 14.
Meditation 33. Like a sparrow, &c. Psalm cii.
Meditation 36. Mechanisms. This word is, in the original MS., 'mechanicismes.'
Meditation 36. Like the King's daughter, &c. Psalm xlv. 14.
Meditation 39. The best of all possible ends, &c. Traherne is here thinking of the Shorter Catechism, 1645: 'What is the chief end of Man? To glorify God: and enjoy Him for ever.'
Meditation 43. first sentence. This is slightly obscure, and it looks as if the word 'are' had been accidentally omitted after 'outgoings.' If we read the sentence, after the first clause, as follows, the meaning becomes quite clear: "because we are with Him whose outgoings are everlasting: our duty being to contemplate God, and to walk with Him in all His ways: and therefore to be entertained with everything He has created, since He is the fountain, governor, and end of them.'
Meditation 56. Acts xvii. 23.
Meditation 58. Alienated from the life of God, &c. Ephesians iv. 18.
Meditation 67. Blessing the Lord . . . and fullness thereof. Deuteronomy xxxiii. 13-16.
Meditation 67. All these will I give thee, &c. Genesis xiii. 15.
Meditation 69. This poem in many ways anticipates Christopher Smarts "Song to David," and should be compared with it. Of course Smart could have known nothing of it.
Meditation 73. Quoted from Psalm xxii. 23-31.
Meditation 74. The Earth is the lord's, &c. Psalm xxiv. 1.
Meditation 74. Because they regard not, & c. Psalm xxxviii. 5.
Meditation 75. The passage here quoted is from Psalm xxxiii. 6-9.
Meditation 76. All my bones shall say, &c. Psalm xxxv. 10.
Meditation 76. Thy mercy, O Lord, etc. Psalm xxxvi. 5-9.
Meditation 77. The quotation here is from Psalm xlv. 10, 13-16.
Meditation 78. The quotations here are from Psalm xlvi. 4 and 8.
Meditation 79. The quotations here are from Psalm xlviii. 2, 3, and 12-14.
Meditation 80. By "this following" in the second line Traherne means Psalm xlix., he having quoted from Psalm xlviii. in the previous Meditation.
Meditation 80. They that trust in their wealth, &c. This quotation is from Psalm xlix. 6, 7, 8, 10, I1, 13, 14, and 20.
Meditation 81. The quotation here is from Psalm 1. 7-I5.
Meditation 83. The quotation here is from Hebrews x. 5, itself a quotation from Psalm xl. 6, altered.
Meditation 83. Thou desirest not sacrifice, &c. Psalm li. 16 and 17.
Meditation 84. Converting to Him, &c. "Converting" is here used, as was then not uncommon, in the sense of ░' being converted."
Meditation 85. The quotations here are from Psalms lviii. 10 and lix. 16.
Meditation 86. The quotations here are from Psalms lxiii. 1-5 and lxv. 2-4.
Meditation 87. The quotation here is from Psalm lxvi. 1-5.
Meditation 88. The quotation here is from Psalm lxxxiv. 12-14.
Meditation 91. The quotation here is from Psalm lxxxvi. 8-10.
Meditation 92. Whoso considereth these things, &c. Psalm cvii. 43.
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And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of compassion and supplication, so that, when they look on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a first-born.
What we offer is drawn from us by what He offers. Our self-oblation stands on His; and the spirit of prayer flows from the gift of the Holy Ghost, the great Intercessor.
Peter Taylor Forsyth
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