ePub 版

inseparable from all great undertakings, are, indeed, either nobly surmounted, or left to subsist in all their terrors, just as Success is the object of despair or hope. I have, therefore, endeavoured to shew the facility of the method proposed in this treatise, the great advantages to be derived from it, and the certainty of their attainment by those that faithfully persevere. O were we once truly sensible of the Goodness of GoD towards his poor creatures, and of his infinite desire to communicate himself unto them, we should not affright ourselves with ideal monsters, nor despair of obtaining that good which He is so earnest to bestow: "He that spared not his own son, but "delivered him up for us all; how shall he not, with him, "also freely give us all things?" (Rom. vii. 32.) But we want courage and perseverance; we have both, to a high degree, in our temporal concerns, but want them in "the one "thing needful." (Luke x. 42.)

If any think, that God is not easily to be found in this way of Simple Love and Pure Adherence, let them not, on my tes timony, alter their opinion, but rather make trial of it; and their own experience will convince them, that the reality far exceeds all my representations of it.

Beloved reader, peruse this little tract with an humble, sincere, and candid spirit, and not with an inclination to cavil and criticise, and you will not fail to reap some degree of profit from it. It was written with a hearty desire that you might wholly devote yourself to God; receive it then, with a like desire for your own perfection: for nothing more is intended by it, than to invite the Simple and the Child-like to approach their FATHER, who delights in the humble confidence of his children, and is grieved at the smallest instance of their diffidence or distrust. With a sincere desire, therefore, to forsake sin, seek nothing from the inartificial method here proposed, but the LOVE OF GOD, and you shall undoubtedly obtain it.

Without setting up our opinions above those of others, we mean only with truth and candour to declare, from our own experience and the experience of others, the happy effects produced by thus SIMPLY FOLLOWING OUR LORD.

As this treatise was intended only to instruct in PRAYER, there are many things which we respect and esteem totally omitted, as not immediately relative to our main subject: it is, however, certain, that nothing will be found herein to disgust or offend, provided it be read in the spirit with which it was written; and it is still more certain, that those who in right earnest make trial of the way, will find we have written THE TRUTH.

It is Thou alone, O HOLY JESUs, who lovest simplicity and innocence," and whose delight is to dwell with the children " of men;" (Prov. viii. 3.) with those who are, indeed, willing to become "Little Children:" it is Thou alone who canst



render this little work salutary! Imprint it then on the hearts of all who read it, and lead them to seek thee within themselyes, where Thou reposest as in the manger, waiting to receive proofs of their love, and to give them testimony of thine! Yet, alas! they may still lose these unspeakable advantages by their negligence and insensibity! But it belongeth unto Thee, O thou INCREATED LOVE! thou SILENT AND ETERNAL WORD! it belongeth unto Thee, to awaken, attract, and convert; to make Thyself be heard, tasted, and beloved! I know Thou canst do it; and I trust Thou wilt do it by this humble work, which belongeth entirely to Thee, proceedeth wholly from Thee, and tendeth only to Thee! And, O most Gracious and adorable Saviour,








WHAT a dreadful delusion hath prevailed over the greater

part of mankind, in supposing that they are not called to a state prayer! whereas all are capable of prayer, and are called thereto, as all are called to and are capable of salvation.

PRAYER is the application of the heart to Gop, and the internal exercise of love. St Paul hath enjoined us to " pray without ceasing;" (1 Thess. v. 17.) and our Lord saith "

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


say unto you all, watch and pray:" (Mar. xiii. 33, 37.) and all therefore may, and all ought to practise prayer. I grant that meditation is attainable but by few, for few are capable of it; and therefore, my beloved brethren, who are athirst for salvation, meditative prayer is not the prayer which GOD requires of you, nor which we would recommend.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

LET all pray we should live by prayer, as we should live by love. "I counsel you to buy of me gold tried in the fire, "that ye may be rich;" (Rev. iii. 8.) this is much more easily obtained than we can conceive. Come, all ye that are athirst, to these living waters?" nor lose your precious moments in "hewing out cisterns that will hold no water," (John vii. 37. Jerem. ii. 13.) Come, ye famishing souls, who find nought whereon to feed; come and ye shall be fully satisfied! Come, ye poor afflicted ones, who groan beneath your load of wretchedness and pain, and ye shall find ease and comfort! Come, ye sick, to your physician, and be not fearful of approaching him, because you are filled with diseases; expose them to his view, and they shall be healed! Children, draw near to your Father, and he will embrace you in the arms of love! Come, ye poor stray, wandering sheep, return to your shepherd! Come, sinners, to your Saviour! Come, ye dull, ignorant, and illiterate, ye who think yourselves the most incapable of prayer! ye are more peculiarly called and adapted thereto. Let all without exception come, for JESUS CHRIST hath called all. Yet let not those come, who are without a heart; they are not asked; for there must


be a heart that there may be love. But who is without a heart? O come, then, give this to GOD, and here learn how to make the donation! All who are desirous of prayer may easily pray, enabled by those ordinary graces and gifts of the HOLY SPIRIT which are common to all men.

Prayer is the guide to perfection, and the sovereign good; it delivers us from every vice, and obtains us every virtue; for the one great means to become perfect, is to walk in the presence of GOD: he himself has said, "Walk in my presence, "and be ye perfect." (Gen, xvii. 1.) It is by prayer alone that we are brought into this presence, and maintained in it without interruption.

You must then learn a species of prayer, which may be exercised at all times; which doth not obstruct outward employments; and which may be equally practised by kings, princes, prelates, priests and magistrates, soldiers and children, tradesmen, labourers, women, and sick persons. It cannot, therefore, be the prayer of the head, but of the heart; not a prayer of the understanding alone, which is so limited in its operations that it can have but one object at one time; but the prayer of the heart is not interrupted by the exercises of reason. Indeed nothing can interrupt this prayer but irregular and disordered affections: and when once we have tasted of GOD, and the sweetness of his love, we shall find it impossible to relish ought but himself.

Nothing is so easily obtained as the possession and enjoyment of God, for "in him we live, move, and have our being;" and he is more desirous to give himself into us, than we can be to receive him; and to seek aright, is easier and more natural to us than breathing. Though you think yourselves ever so stupid, dull, incapable of sublime attainments, yet, by prayer, you may live in God himself with less difficulty or interruption than you live in the vital air. Will it not be highly sinful to neglect prayer? But I trust you will not, when you have learnt the method, which is exceedingly easy.



THERE are two ways of introducing a soul into prayer, which should for some time be pursued; the one is meditation, the other is reading accompanied with meditation.

Meditative reading is the choosing some important practical or speculative truth, always preferring the practical, and proceeding thus:whatever truth you have chosen, read only a small portion of it, endeavouring to taste and digest it, to extract the essence and substance thereof, and proceed no farther while any savour or relish remains in the passage: when this subsides, take up your book again, and proceed as before,


seldom reading more than half a page at a time; for it is not the quantity that is read, but the manner of reading, that yields us profit. Those who read fast, reap no more advantage than a bee would by only skimming over the surface of the flower, instead of waiting to penetrate into it, and extract its sweets. Much reading is rather for scholastic subjects, than divine truths: indeed, to receive real profit from spiritual books, we must read as I have described; and I am certain if that method were pursued, we should become gradually habituated to, and more fully disposed, for prayer.

Meditation, which is the other method, is to be practised at an appointed season, and not in the time of reading. I believe the best manner of meditating is as follows. When by any act of lively faith, you are placed in the presence of God, recollect some truth wherein there is substance and food: pause gently and sweetly thereon, not to employ the reason, but merely to calm and fix the mind: for you must observe, that your particular exercise should ever be the presence of God; your subject, therefore, should rather serve to stay the mind, than exercise the understanding. From this procedure, it will necessarily follow, that the lively faith in a GoD immediately present in our inmost soul, will produce an eager and vehement pressing inwardly into ourselves, and restraining all our senses from wandering abroad: this serves to extricate us speedily from numberless distractions, to remove us far from external objects, and to bring us nigh unto our God, who is only to be found in our inmost centre, which is the Holy of Holies wherein he dwelleth. He hath even promised" to come and make his abode with him that doth his will." (John xiv. 23.) St. Augustine accuses himself of wasting his time, by not having from the first sought GOD in this manner of prayer.

When we are thus fully introverted, and warmly penetrated throughout with a lively sense of the Divine Presence; when the senses are all recollected, and withdrawn from the circumference to the centre, and the soul is sweetly and silently employed on the truths we have read, not in reasoning, but in the feeding thereon, and animating the will by affection, rather than fatiguing the understanding by study; when, I say, the affections are in this state, which, however difficult it may appear at first, is, as I shall hereafter shew, easily attainable; we must allow them sweetly to repose, and peacefully to drink in that of which they have tasted: for as a person may enjoy the flavour of the finest viand in mastication, yet receive no nourishment therefrom, if he does not cease the action and swallow the food; so, when our affections are enkindled, if we endea vour to stir them up yet more, we extinguish the flame, and the soul is deprived of its nourishment: we should, therefore, in stillness and repose, with respect, confidence, and love, swallow the blessed food of which we have tasted: this me


« 上一頁繼續 »