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kindly, washed his feet, provided supper, and asked him to sit down; but observing that the old man ate and prayed not, nor begged for a blessing on his meat, asked him why he did not worship the God of heaven? The old man told him that he worshipped the fire only, and acknowledged no other God; at which answer Abraham grew so zealously angry, that he thrust the old man out of his tent, and exposed him to all the evils of the night and an unguarded condition.
When the old man was gone, God called to Abraham, and asked him where the stranger was? He replied, "I thrust him away, because he did not worship thee." God answered him, “I have suffered him these hundred years, although he dishonored me ; and couldst thou not endure him one night, when he gave thee no trouble?" Upon this, saith the story, Abraham fetched him back again, and gave him hospitable entertainment and wise instruction. Go thou and do likewise, and thy charity will be rewarded by the God of Abraham.
COMFORTING THE AFFLICTED.
CERTAIN it is, that, as nothing can better do it, so there is nothing greater, for which God made our tongues, next to reciting his praises, than to minister comfort to a weary soul. And what greater measure can we have, than that we should bring joy to our brother, who, with his dreary eyes, looks to heaven and round about, and cannot find so much rest as to lay his eyelids close together, than that thy tongue should be tuned with heavenly accents, and make the weary soul to listen for light and ease; and when he perceives that there is such a thing in the world, and in the order of things, as comfort and joy, to begin to break out from the prison of his sorrows, at the door of sighs and tears, and by little and little melt into showers and refreshment? This is glory to thy voice, and employment fit for the brightest angel. But so have I seen the sun kiss the frozen earth, which was bound up with the images of death, and the colder breath of the north; and then the waters break from their enclosures, and melt with joy, and run in useful channels; and the flies do rise again from their little graves in walls, and dance a while in
the air, to tell that there is joy within, and that the great mother of creatures will open the stock of her new refreshment, become useful to mankind, and sing praises to her Redeemer. So is the heart of a sorrowful man under the discourses of a wise comforter he breaks from the despairs of the grave, and the chains of sorrow; he blesses God, and he blesses thee, and he feels his life returning: for to be miserable is death, but nothing is life but to be comforted; and God is pleased with no music from below so much as in the thanksgiving songs of relieved widows, of supported orphans, of rejoicing, and comforted, and thankful persons.
THE PROGRESS OF SIN.
I HAVE seen the little purls of a spring sweat through the bottom of a bank, and intenerate the stubborn pavement, till it hath made it fit for the impression of a child's foot; and it was despised like the descending pearls of a misty morning, till it had opened its way, and made a stream large enough to carry away the ruins of an undermined strand, and to invade the neighboring gardens; but then the despised drops were grown into an artificial river, and an intolerable mischief. So are the first entrances of sin stopped with the antidotes of a hearty prayer, and checked into sobriety by the eye of a reverend man, or the counsels of a single sermon; but when such beginnings are neglected, and our religion hath not in it so much philosophy as to think anything evil as long as we can endure it, they grow up to pestilential evils; they destroy the soul by their abode, which at their first entry might have been killed by the pressure of a little finger.
PRAYER is the peace of our spirit, the stillness of our thoughts, the evenness of recollection, the seat of meditation, the rest of our cares, and the calm of our tempest; prayer is the issue of a quiet mind, of untroubled thoughts; it is the daughter of Charity, and the sister of Meekness; and he that prays to God with an angry, that is, with a troubled and discomposed
spirit, is like him that retires into a battle to meditate, and sets up his closet in the out-quarters of an army, and chooses a frontier garrison to be wise in. Anger is a perfect alienation of the mind from prayer, and therefore is contrary to that attention which presents our prayers in a right line to God. For so have I seen a lark rising from his bed of grass, and soaring upwards, singing as he rises, and hopes to get to heaven, and climb above the clouds; but the poor bird was beaten back with the loud sighing of an eastern wind, and his motion made irregular and inconstant, descending more at every breath of the tempest than it could recover by the libration and frequent weighing of his wings, till the little creature was forced to sit down and pant, and stay till the storm was over; and then it made a prosperous flight, and did rise and sing, as if it had learned music and motion from an angel, as he passed sometimes through the air, about his ministries here below. So is the prayer of a good man; when his affairs have required business, and his business was matter of discipline, and his discipline was to pass upon a sinning person, or had a design of charity, his duty met with the infirmities of a man, and anger was its instrument, and the instrument became stronger than the prime agent, and raised a tempest, and overruled the man; and then his prayer was broken, and his thoughts were troubled, and his words. went up towards a cloud; and his thoughts pulled them back again, and made them without intention; and the good man sighs for his infirmity, but must be content to lose that prayer, and he must recover it when his anger is removed, and his spirit is becalmed, made even as the brow of Jesus, and smooth as the heart of God; and then it ascends to heaven upon the wings of the holy dove, and dwells with God, still it returns, like the useful bee, loaden with a blessing, and the dew of heaven,
Henry Vaughan was at first devoted to the law, but afterwards became a physician. He published a volume of Miscellaneous Poems, but it is as a sacred poet that he is most esteemed.
[From the "Sacred Poems."]
EARLY RISING AND PRAYER.
WHEN first thy eyes unveil, give thy soul leave To do the like; our bodies but fore-run The spirit's duty; true hearts spread and heave Unto their God, as flowers do to the sun. Give him thy first thoughts, then; so shalt thou keep His company all day, and in him sleep.
Yet never sleep, the sun up; prayer should
Dawn with the day;
'Twixt heaven and us.
there are set awful hours
The manna was not good
After sun-rising; for day sullies flowers.
Rise to prevent the sun; sleep doth sins glut,
Walk with thy fellow-creatures; note the hush And whisperings among them. Not a spring Or leaf but hath his morning hymn; each bush And oak doth know I AM. Canst thou not sing? O, leave thy cares and follies! Go this way, And thou art sure to prosper all the day.
Serve God, before the world; let him not go
Until thou hast a blessing; then resign
The whole unto him, and remember who
Pour oil upon the stones, weep for thy sin,
Then journey on, and have an eye to heaven.
Mornings are mysteries; the first, the world's youth, Man's resurrection, and the future's bud,
Shroud in their births; the crown of life, light, truth, Is styled their star; the stone and hidden food; Three blessings wait upon them, one of which Should move they make us holy, happy, rich.
When the world's up, and every swarm abroad,
Which must be carried on, and safely may;
Baxter's works, amounting to one hundred and sixty-eight, are but little read now, with the exception of The Saint's Everlasting Rest, A Call to the Unconverted, his own Life and Times, and some other practical pieces. He has a work entitled The Certainty of the World of Spirits fully evinced by Unquestionable Histories of Apparitions and Witchcrafts, Operations, Voices, &c., which might afford gratification to the curious. He is considered an eminent divine of his day. He was a non-conformist, and was at one time condemned for sedition, but obtained a release. He was a man of "enlarged and liberal views, who refrained from joining any of those sects into which the dissenters were split, and was consequently regarded with suspicion and dislike by the more narrow-minded of them."
CHANGE IN BAXTER'S ESTIMATE OF HIS OWN AND OTHER MEN'S KNOWLEDGE.
HERETOFORE I knew much less than now, and yet was not half so much acquainted with my ignorance. I had a great delight in the daily new discoveries which I made, and of the light that shined in upon me, like a man that cometh into a country where he never was before; but I little knew, either how imperfectly I understood those very points whose discovery so much delighted me, nor how much might be said against them, nor how many things I was yet a stranger to; but now, I find far greater darkness upon all things, and perceive how very little it is that we know, in comparison of that which we are ignorant of, and have far meaner thoughts of my own understanding, though I must needs know that it is better furnished than it was then.
Accordingly, I had then a far higher opinion of learned persons and books than I have now; for what I wanted myself, I thought every reverend divine had attained, and was familiarly acquainted with; and what books I understood not, by reason