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it is not given unto all, to renounce this fallen state ; and, in abstraction from the cares and pleasures of the world, to follow thee in the narrow path that leadeth unto life.”
6. But is it a foundation of boasting, thus to serve thee, whom all creatures are bound to serve ? Instead, therefore, of considering this call from vanity and sin, with self-complacency and approbation, as a superior distinction from other men ; I ought rather to be lost in admiration and praise of thy condescending goodness, which has received so poor and unwor. thy a creature into thy family, and exalted him to the fellowship of thy faithful and beloved servants.
7. LORD, all that I have, all the ability by which I am made capable of serving thee, is thine ; and thou, therefore, rather servest me. Behold, the heavens and the earth, which are continually ready to execute thy will are made subservient to the redemption of fallen man ; and what is more, thy holy “ angels are ordained ministring spirits, and sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation !” and what infinitely transcendeth all, thou, the God of angels, hast condescended to take upon thee “ the form of a servant” to man, and hast promised to give him thyself!
8. What returns of love and duty can I make thee for these innumerable and astonishing dignities and blessings? O that I were able to serve thee all the days of my life ! that I were able to serve thee truly, though but for one day! Thou art everlastingly worthy of all service, and honour, and all praise ! Thou art my gracious LORD; and I am thy poor vassad, under infinite obligations to serve thee with all my. strength, and perpetually to celebrate thy glorious
name. - To do this, is the sole wish and desire of my heart; and whatever ability is wanting in me to accomplish it, do thou in mucli mercy supply !
9. What exalted honour, what unsullied glory, to be devoted to thy service: and, for thy sake, to despise this fallen life, and all that is at enmity against thee? What large measures of grace are poured upon those, who voluntarily subject themselves to thy most holy laws! What ravishing consolations do they receive from thy Holy Spirit, who, for the love of thee, renounce the delights of the filesh! What Divine freedom do they enjoy, who, for the glory of thy holy name, leave “ the broad way” of the world “ that leadeth to destruction," and entering in at “the strait gate" persevere in the narrow' way that leadeth unto life .!”
10. O happy and honourable service, that makes man truly free and truly holy ! O blessed privilege of filial adoption, that numbers him with the family of heaven, makes him equal to the angels, and renders him terrible to evil spirits, and delightful to all that are sanctified ! O service forever to be desired and embraced; in which alone we can recover the Divine life we have lost, and enjoy the supreme and everlasting good!
THAT THE GOOD DESIRES OF THE HEART ARE
TO BE CAREFULLY EXAMINED AND REGU.
1. Soy, there are many things in which thou art not yet sufficiently instructed.
DISCIPLE. LORD, shew me what they are, and enable me to understand and to do them.
CHRIST. Thy desires must be wholly referred to me; and instead of loving thyself, and following thy own partial views, thou must love only my will, and in resignation and obedience be zealous to fulfil it.
2. When desire burns in thy heart, and urges thee on some pursuit, suspend its influence for a while, and consider, whether it is kindled by the love of my honour, or thy own personal advantage. If I am the pure principle that gives it birth, thou mayst yield thyself to its impulse without fear; and whatever I ordain, thou wilt enjoy the event in tranquillity and peace : but if it be self-seeking, hidden under the disguise of zeal for me, behold, this will produce obstruction, disappointment, and distress. Beware, therefore, of trusting to the fervour of any new desire, before thou hast consulted me; lest thou disapprove and repent of that as evil, which thou hast eagerly admitted and ardently indulged as good: and as no desire must he immediately cherished, because it has the appearance of good; so neither must any because it has not that appearance, be immediately suppressed. Even those desires and pursuits that are known to be good, it is often expedient to moderate and-restrain ; lest by too much impetuosity thou incur distraction, or by apparent irregularity give of fence to others, or by unexpected opposition become impatient, and fall from thy holy purpose.
3. But it is always necessary to resist the sensual appetite, and by steady opposition subdue its power ; to regard not what the flesh likes or dislikes, but to labour to bring it, whether with or against its will, under subjection to the spirit. And, it must be thus op
posed, and thus compelled to absolute obedience, till it is ready to obey in all things; and has learned to be content in every condition, to accept of the most ordinary accommodations, and not to murmur at the greatest inconvenience.
DISCIPLE. 4. O Lord my God, from thy instructions, and my own experience, I learn the absolute necessity of patience: for this fallen state is full of adversity; and whatever care I take to secure peace, my present life is a continual trouble and warfare.
CHRIST. This, my son, will be the invariable condition of man, till every root of evil is taken from him. But peace, so far from being found in a state that is free from temptation and undisturbed by adversity, is derived only from the exercise of much tribulation, and the trial of many sufferings. If thou sayest, thou art not able to suffer much here, how wilt thou be able to endure the purifying fire of an hereafter? Of two evils, the least is to be chosen ; and to escape the awful punishments of futurity, thou -must, for the sake of God, bear with equanimity and patience the evils of the present life.
5. Thinkest thou, that the men of this world are exempt from suffering, or have but an inconsiderable portion? Thou wilt not find it thus, though thou searchest among the most prosperous and the most ; luxurious. But thou wilt say, that in the free indulgence of their own will, and the enjoyment of perpetual delight, their hearts are insensible: to sorrow. And how long, dost thou think, this uncontrolled licentiousness, and this uninterrupted enjoyment of sensual pleasure, will last? Behold, the mighty, the wise, and the rich, shall vanish like the cloud that is driven by the tempest, and there shall be no remem.
brance of their honours and delights ! Even while they live, the enjoyinent of what they have is embittered by the want of what they have not ; is either made tasteless by satiety; or disturbed by fear; and that from which they expected to derive pleasure and joy, becomes the source of pain and sorrow; for as this earthly and animal life is the fallen state of the human soul, it is just that the inordinate desire of its good should produce distraction and trouble ; and that still wandering, and still unsatisfied, it should be its own torment..
6. O how transient and false, 'how impure and disgraceful are all these pleasures ! And yet, wretched inan, intoxicated by perpetual draughts, and blinded by custom, is insensible of the poison he imbibes ; and for the momentary delights of an animal and corruptible life, incurs the danger of eternal death!
7. Do thou, therefore, iny son, restrain the appetites of the flesh, and turn away from thy own will : " delight thyself in the LORD, and he shall give thee the . desires of thy heari.." If thou wouldst truly delight in me, and be plentifully enriched with the joys of my Spirit, know, that such blessedness depends upon the conquest of the world, and the renunciation of its sordid and transitory pleasures ; and the more thou abandonest the desire of creaturely and finite good, the more truly wilt thou enjoy that infinite good which dwells in me.
8. But to the enjoyment of infinite good, thou canst not attain at once ; nor without much patient perseverance, and laborious conflict. Inveterate evil habits will produce an opposition, which can only be overcome by habits of holiness: the flesh will murmur and rebel ; and it is only by increasing fervour