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DISCIPLE. 6. Thy words, O Lord, distil as dew,
“ sweeter" to my taste “ than honey, or the honey-comb."? What would become of me, in the midst of so much darkness, corruption, and misery, without thy HOLY SPIRIT to illuminate, sanctify, and comfort me? I will regard not what nor how much I suffer, if I can but be made capable of enjoying thee, my supreme and only good! Be mindful of me, O most merciful God! grant me a safe passage through this vale of sin and sorrow, and in the true path conduct me to thy heavenly kingdom! Amen.
CHAP. XLIV. AGAINST THE VAIN AND PRESUMPTUOUS IN.
QUIRIES OF REASON INTO SUBJECTS THAT ARE ABOVE THE COMPREHENSION OF THE NATURAL MAN.
CHRIST. 1. FORBEAR to reason, my son, upon deep and mysterious subjects, especially the secret judgments of God. Ask not, why this man is forsaken and that distinguished by a profusion of grace; why one is so deeply humbled, and another so eminently exalted. These things surpass the limits of human understanding; nor can the deepest reasoning investigate the proceedings of the Most High. When, therefore, such questions are either suggested by the enemy, or proposed by the vain curiosity of men, answer, in the words of the Royal Prophet, “ Righteous art thou, O LORD; and just are thy judgments! The judgments of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether.” My judgments are to be feared, not discussed; for they are incomprehensible to
every understanding but my own. -.. 2. Forbear also to inquire and dispute concerning the pre-eminence of the saints; who is the most holy,
and who the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, These questions produce the strife of unprofitable debate, and nourish the presumption and vain glory of which they are born : and while one, in the pride of human wisdom, insolently contends for the superior excellence of this saint, and another for that ; it is impossible, but that envyings and dissensions must rise among those who should « love as brethren :" but I am not a God of dissension, but of peace ; and the interests of peace are promoted by meekness and humility, not by strife and self-exaltation.
3. That love, which, with such passionate ardour, preferreth and exalteth one saint above another, is not born of THE SPIRIT, but is earthly and sensual. I am he, who formed all the saints ; I
and desire the same unchangeable good; and all love one another in the Unity of His Spirit, who is all in all.
4. They are raised far above the influence of unredeemed nature, which is ever tending to the love of self: and are passed into my love, in which they dwell with unutterable peace and joy. This love no power is able to alter or suppress; for it is the inextinguishable fire of their own life,“ delivered from the bondage of darkness," and restored to its union with Eternal Truth. Let not, therefore, vain and sensual men, who have no conception of higher good than is found in the selfish enjoyments of their earthly life, presume any longer to dispute concerning the state of the saints, and their different degrees of perfection and glory : their decisions are governed by the heat of animal passions, not directed by the Spirit of Truth; and they give honour to one saint, and take it away from another, in conformity to their predominant humour, or in subserviency to their prevailing interest.
5. There are some, indeed, in whom these mistaken notions and partial attachments proceed from ignorance, without any mixture of interest or design ; who, having attained but an inferior degree of illumination, know not the power of Divine Love. They are determined in the preference both of angels and men, by natural instincts, and those personal singularities which are the foundation of private friendship; and the same distinctions of opinion and affection, are made in the characters of the glorified inhabitants of heaven, as prevail among the inferior characters of imperfect men on earth. But these characters are totally incommensurate ; a truth which the unenlightened know not, and which the enlightened only know by the teaching of the Spirit of Truth.
6. Beware then, my son, of being led by vain curiosity to "search the things that are above thy strength ;" and let all thy faculties be employed in that only needful and important inquiry, how thou thyself mayst be found in the kingdom of heaven, though in the least and lowest place. If it was possible for any one to know, who is the most holy, and who the greatest there, what would that knowledge avail him, unless it made him more humble, and excited in him greater ardour to glorify my name? He, who, in constant attention to the state of his own soul, laments the multitude and enormity of his sins, and the small number and imperfection of his virtues ; and when he thinks on the saints, thinks only how exceedingly remote he is from the perfection which they have attained; is more acceptable to me, than he who employs his time and thoughts in considering and disputing about the different degrees of excellence and glory, that distinguish the particular members of that illustrious assembly. It is infinitely more useful, and more safe, with tears and prayers to implore grace to imitate the great examples they have left upon earth ; than to labour, by fruitless inquiries into their state in heaven, to know what no human understanding is able to comprehend.
7. The saints are highly blest and perfectly content; and men should be content with the imperfect knowledge of their fallen state, and suppress their vain curiosity, and refrain from their vainer disputes. They glory not in any personal excellence ; for they
; arrogate no good themselves, but ascribe all to me, who with infinite liberality have freely given them
whatever they possess :
and the consummation of their own honour and happiness is found in their boundless love of God, and their joyful celebration of his praise. The more exalted their state is, the more humble is their spirit, and the more conformable and dear to me : and, therefore, it is written, that. " the four and twenty elders,” who were seated round the throne of heaven, “ cast their crowns before the throne ; and fell dowon before him that sat on the throne ; and worshipped him, that liveth forever and ever."
8. Many solicitously inquire, who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven ; that utterly neglect the only important inquiry, whether they themselves shall be thought worthy to be numbered among the least. To be the least, where all are great, is to be great ; and all in heaven are great, for they are the adopted sons and heirs of God: a little one shall become a thousand, and the child shall die an hundred years old; but the sinner an hundred years old shall be accursed."
9. When the disciples whom I had chosen to attend my ministry upon earth, clamorously inquir, ed, who should be “the greatest in the kingdom of hea. ven;" it was answered, " Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. But whosoever shall humble himself as a little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”. Wo be to them, therefore, who, in the pride of human attainments, disdain the spontaneous and meek humility of little children ; for the gate of the kingdom of heaven is too low to give them enfrance ! 6 Wo: unto them that are rich, who say they are increased in mental riches and have need of nothing, for they have received their consolation;" and whilst