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Almighty say to me, I desire to have this person love me, and therefore have I made him to love thee: do thou but set before him an example of goodness and virtue, and his love to thy person shall induce and engage him to direct his actions according to it. This, therefore, is the rule that I fully resolve to guide myself by, with relation to those who are pleased to allow me a share in their esteem and affection, which I hope to improve to their advantage in the end ; that as they love me, and I love them now, so we may all love God, and God love us to all eternity.
Whatsoever comes from God, being a talent to be improved to him, I cannot but think good thoughts to be as precious talents, as it is possible a creature can be blessed with. But let me esteem them as I will, I am sure my Master will reckon them amongst the talents he entrusts me with, and for which he will call me to an account; and, therefore, I ought not to neglect them. The Scripture tells me, “I am not sufficient of myself to think any thing as of myself, but that my sufficiency is of God.” . And if I be not sufficient to think any thing, much less am I able of myself to think of that which is good ; forasmuch as to good thoughts there must always be supposed a special concurrence of God's Spirit; whereas to other thoughts there is only the general concurrence of his presence. Seeing, therefore, they come from God, how must I lay them out for him ? Why, by sublimating good thoughts unto good affections. Does God vouchsafe to send down into my heart a thought of hiniself? I am to send up this thought to him again, in the fiery chariot of love, desire, and joy. Doth he dart into my soul a thought of holiness and purity? I am to dwell and meditate upon it till it break out into a flame of love and affection for him. Doth he raise up in my spirit a thought of sin, and show me the ugliness and deformity of it? I must let it work its desired effect, by making it as loathsome and detestable as that thought represents it to be.
But good thoughts must not only be improved to produce good affections in my heart, but likewise good actions in my life. So that the thoughts of God should not only make me more taken with his beauty, but more active for his glory; and the thoughts of sin should not only damp my affection for it, but likewise deter and reetrain me from the commission of it.
And thus every good thought that God puts into my heart, instead of slipping out, as it does with some others without regard, will be cherished and improved to the producing of good actions; these actions will entitle me to the blessing of God, and that to the kingdom of glory.
Every thing that flows from God to his servants, coming under the notion of talents, to be improved for himself, I am sure afflictions, as well as other mercies, must needs by reckoned amongst those talents God is pleased to vouchsafe. Inreed it is a talent, without which I should be apt to forget the improvement of al. the rest; and which, if well improved, itself will “work wit for me a far more ex
ceeding and eternal weight of glory.” It is the non-improvement of an affliction that makes it a curse; whereas, if improved, it is as great a blessing as any God is pleased to scatter amongst the children of men. And therefore it is, that God most frequently entrusteth this precious talent with his own peculiar people : “ You only have I known of all the families of the carth; thercfore will I punish you for your iniquities." Those that God know the best, with them will he entrust the most, if not of other talents yet be sure of this, which is so useful and necessary to bring us to the knowledge of ourselves and our Creator, that without it we should be apt to forget both.
It is this that shows us the folly and pride of presumption, as well as the vanity and emptiness of all worldly enjoyments; and deters us from incensing and provoking him, from whom all our happiness as well as our afflictions flow. Let, therefore, what crosses or calamities soever befall me, I am still resolved to bear them all, not only with a patient resignation to the divine will, but even to comfort and rejoice myself in them as the greatest blessings. For instance, am I seized with pain and sickness? I shall look upon it as a message from God, sent on purpose to put me in mind of death, and to convince me of the necessity of being always prepared for it by a good life, which a state of uninterrupted health is apt to make us unmindful of. Do I sustain any losses or crosses ? The true use of this is, to make me sensible of the fickleness and inconstancy of this world's blessings, which wo can no sooner cast our eyes upon, but they immediately “take to themselves wings, and fly away from us.” And so all other afflictions God sees fit to lay upon me may, in like manner, be some way or other improved for my happiness,
But besides the particular improvements of particular chastisements, the general improvement of all is the increasing of my love and affection for that God who brings these afflictions upon me. For how runs the mittimus, whereby he is pleased to send me to the dungeon of afflictions? “ Deliver such a one to Satan to be buffeted” in the flesh: “that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” By this it appears that the furnace of afflictions, which God is pleased at any time to thrown me into, is not heated at the fire of his wrath, but at the flames of his affection to me. The consideration whereof, as it should more inflame my love to him, so shall it likewise engage me to express a greater degree of gratitude towards him, when he singles me out, not only to suffer from him, but for him too. For this is an honour indeed peculiar to the saints of God, which if he should ever be pleased to prefer me to, I shall look upon it as upon other afflictions, to be improved for his glory, the good of others, and the everlasting comfort of my own soul.
Thus have I reckoned up the talents God hath or may put into my hands to be improved to his glory. May the same divine Being that entrusteth me with them, and inspired me with these good resolutions concerning them, enable me, by his grace, to make a due use of them, and carefully to put in practice what I have thus ruiigiously resolved upon.
200.-OF HIS OWN STUDIES.
Milton. [IN Milton's Prose Writings, controversial as most of them are, we find the most interesting morsels of autobiography. The following is from The Reason of Church Government.']
Concerning this wayward subject against prelaty, the touching whereof is so distasteful and disquietous to a number of men ; as, by what hath been said, I may deserve of charitable readers to be credited, that neither envy nor gall hath entered me on this controversy ; but the enforcement of conscience only, and a preventive fcar, lest the omitting of this duty should be against me, when I would store up to myself the good provision of peaceful hours. So, lest it should still be imputed to me, as I have found it hath been, that some self-pleasing humour of vain-glory hath incited me to contest with men of high estimation, now, while green years are upon my head, from this needless surmisal I shall hope to dissuade the intelligent and equal auditor, if I can but say successfully that which in this exigent behoves me ; although I would be heard only, if it might be, by the elegant and learned reader, to whom principally for awhile I shall beg leave I may address myself. To him it will be no new thing, though I tell him that, if I hunted after praise, by the ostentation of wit and learning, I should not write thus out of mine own season, when I have neither yet completed to my mind the full circle of my private studies ; although I complain not of any insufficiency to the matter in hand : or were I ready to my wishes, it were a folly to commit anything elaborately composed to the careless and interrupted listening of these tumultuous times. Next, if I were wise only to my own ends, I would certainly take such a subject as of itself might catch applause; whereas this hath all the disadvantages on the contrary, and such a subject as the publishing whereof might be delayed at pleasure, and time enough to pencil it over with all the curious touches of art, even to the perfection of a faultless picture; whenas in this argument, the not deferring is of great moment to the good speeding, that if solidity have leisure to do her office, art cannot have much. Lastly, I should not choose this manner of writing, wherein knowing myself inferior to myself, led by the genial power of nature to another task, I have the use, as I may account it, but of my left hand ; and though I shall be foolish in saying more to this purpose, yet since it will be such a folly as wisest men go about to commit, have only confessed and so committed, I may trust with more reason, because with more folly, to have courteous pardon. For although a poet, soaring in the high region of his fancies, with his garland and singing robes about him, might, without apology, speak more of himself than I mean to do ; yet for me sitting here below in the cool element of prose, a mortal thing among many readers, of no empyreal conceit, to venture and divulge unusual things of myself I shall petition to the gentler sort, it may not be envy to me. I must say, therefore, that after I had, for my first years, by the ceaseless diligence and care of my father,
whom God recompense, been exercised to the tongues, and some sciences, as my ago : would suffer, by sundry masters and teachers, both at home and at tlic schools, it
was found that whether aught was imposed me by them that had the overlooking, or betaken to of mine own choice in English, or other tongue, prosing or versing, but chiefly this latter, the style, by certain vital signs it had, was likely to live. But much latelier, in the private academies of Italy, whither I was favoured to resort, perceiving that some trifles which I had in memory, composed at under twenty or thereabout (for the manner is that every one must give some proof of his wit and reading there), met with acceptance above what was looked for ; and other things which I had shifted in scarcity of books and conveniences, to patch up amongst them, was received with written encomiums, which the Italian is not forward to bestow on men of this side the Alps, I began thus far to assent both to them and divers of my friends here at home, and not less to an inward prompting, which now grew daily upon me, that by labour and intent study, (which I take to be my portion in this life,) joined with the strong propensity of nature, I might perhaps leave, something so written, to after-times, as they should not willingly let it die. These thoughts at once possessed me, and these other ; that if I were certain to write as men buy leases, for three lives and downward, there ought no regard be sooner had than to God's glory, by the honour and instruction of my country. For which cause and not only for that I knew it would be hard to arrive at the second rank among the Latins, I applied myself to that resolution which Ariosto followed against the persuasions of Bembo, to fix all the industry and art I could unite to the adorning of my native tongue ; not to make verbal curiosities the end, (that were a toilsome vanity) but to be an interpreter and relater of the best and sagest things among mine own citizens throughout this island, in the mother dialect. That what the greatest and choicest wits of Athens, Rome, or modern Italy, and those Hebrews of old did for their country, I, in my proportion, with this over and above, of being a Christian, might do for mine ; not caring to be once named abroad, though perhaps I could attain to that, but content with these British islands as my world; whose fortune hath hitherto been, that if the Athenians, as some say, made their small deeds great and renowned by their eloquent writers, England hath had her noble achievements made small by the unskilful handling of monks and mechanics.
Time serves not now, and perhaps I might seem too profuse, to give any certain account of what the mind at home, in the spacious circuits of her musing, hath liberty to propose to herself, though of highest hope, and hardest attempting. Whether that epic form, whereof the two poems of Homer, and those other two of Virgil and Tasso are a diffuse, and the book of Job a brief model; or whether the rules of Aristotle herein are strictly to be kept, or nature to be followed, which in them that know art, and use judgment, is no transgression, but an enriching of art. And lastly, what king or knight before the conquest, might be chosen, in whom to lay the pattern of a Christian hero. And as Tasso gave to a prince of Italy his choice, whether he would command him to write of Godfrey's expedition against the infidels, or Belisarius against the Goths, or Charlemagne against the Lombards, if to the instinct of nature and the emboldening of art aught may be trusted, and that there be nothing adverse in our climate, or the fate of this age, it haply would be no rashness, from an equal diligence and inclination, to present the like offer in our own ancient stories. Or whether those dramatic constitutions, wherein Sophocles and Euripides reign, shall be found more doctrinal and exemplary to a nation. The Scripture also affords us a divine pastoral drama in the Song of Solomon, consisting of two persons, and a double chorus, as Origen rightly judges ; and the Apocalypse of St. John is the majestic image of a high and stately tragedy, shutting up and intermingling her solemn scenes and acts with a seven-fold chorus of hallelujahs and harping symphonies. And this my opinion, the grave authority of Pareus, commenting that book, is sufficient to confirm. Or if occasion shall lead, to
imitate those magnifio odes and hymns, wherein Pindarus and Callimachus are in most things worthy, some others in their frame judicious, in their matter most an end faulty. But those frequent songs throughout the laws and prophets, beyond all these, not in their divine argument alone, but in the very critical art of composition, may be easily made appear over all the kinds of lyric poesy to be incomparable. These abilities, wheresoever they be found, are the inspired gift of God, rarely bestowed, but yet to some (though most abuse) in every nation ; and are of power, beside the office of a pulpit, to in-breed and cherish in a great people the seeds of virtue and publio civility; to allay the perturbations of the mind, and set the affections in right tune; to celebrate in glorious and lofty hymns the throne and equipage of God's almightiness, and what he suffers to be wrought with high providence in his church ; to sing victorious agonies of martyrs and saints, the deeds and triumphs of just and pious nations, doing valiantly through faith against the enemies of Christ; to deplore the general relapses of kingdoms and states from justice and God's true worship. Lastly, whatsoever in religion is holy and sublime, in virtue amiable or grave, whatsoever hath passion or admiration in all the changes of that which is called fortune from without, or the wily subtleties and refluxes of man's thoughts from within ; all these things, with a solid and treatable smoothness, to point out and describe. Teaching over the whole book of sanctity and virtue, through all the instances of example, with such delight to those especially of soft and delicious temper, who will not so much as look upon truth herself, unless they see her elegantly dressed ; that whereas the paths of honesty and good life appear now rugged and difficult, though they be indeed easy and pleasant, they will then appear to all men both easy and pleasant, though they were ragged and difficult indeed. And what a benefit this would be to our youth and gentry, may be soon guessed by what we know of the corruption and bane which they suck in daily from the writings and interludes of libidinous and ignorant poetasters, who having scarce ever heard of that which is the main consistence of a true poem, the choice of such persons as they ought to introduce, and what is moral and decent to each one, do for the most part lay up vicious principles in sweet pills, to be swallowed down, and make the taste of virtuous documents harsh and sour. But because the spirit of man cannot demean itself lively in this body, without some recreating intermission of labour, and serious things, it were happy for the commonwealth, if our magistrates, as in those famous governments of old, would take into their care, not only the deciding of our contentious law cases and brawls, but the managing of our public sports and festival pastimes, that they might be, not such as were authorized awhile since, the provocations of drunkenness and lust, but such as may inure and harden our bodies, by martial exercises, to all warlike skill and performance ; and may civilize, adorn, and make discreet our minds, by the learned and affable meeting of frequent academies, and the procurement of wise and artful recitations, sweetened with eloquent and graceful enticements to the love and practise of justice, temperance, and fortitude, instructing and bettering the nation at all opportunities, that the call of wisdom and virtue may be heard everywhere, as Solomon saith ; “She crieth without, she uttereth her voice in the streets, in the top of high places, in the chief concourse, and in the openings of the gates." Whether this may rot be only in pulpits, but after another persuasive method, at set and solemn paneguries, in theatres, porches, or what other place or way may win most upon the people, to receive at once both recreation and instruction ; let them in authority consult. The thing which I had to say, and those intentions which have lived within me ever since I could conceive myself anything worth to my country, I return to crave excuse, that urgent reason hath plucked from me, by an abortive and foredated discovery And the accomplishment of them lies not but in a power above man's