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service, and sometimes be refreshed with the to receive him into their local communion, light of his countenance, and the communications though he repent: for as to local communion, I of his love. But of this more afterwards. think such a case may be. 4. In case a man, IV. The advantages of solitude.
through custom and ill company, be so captivated We see our example and our encouragements. to some fleshly lust, as that he is not able to bear Let us now, as followers of Christ, endeavour to the temptations that are found in human conimitate him in this, and to live upon God when verse: but falls by them into frequent heinous men forsake us, and to know that while God is sinning: in this case the right hand or eye is with us, we are not alone, nor indeed forsaken rather to be parted with, than their salvation. while he forsakes us not.
Though a mere restraint by distance of temptaI shall, 1. Show you here, negatively, what tions and opportunities of sinning, will not prove you must not do. 2. Affirmatively, what you a man sanctified, nor save the soul that loves must do, for the performance of your duty in the sin, and fain would live in it: yet, 1. Grace this imitation of Christ.
may sonietimes appear in the strength and self1. You must not make this your pretence for denial which is exercised in the very avoiding the undervaluing your useful friends, nor for of temptations, when yet perhaps the person hath your unthankfulness for so great a benefit as a not strength enough to have stood against the godly friend : nor for the neglect of your duty temptations if they had not been avoided. 2. in improving the company and help of your The distance of temptations, and opportunity of friends : two is better than one: the communion serious and frequent consideration, may be a of saints, and help of those that are wise and means to help them to sincerity that want it. 5. faithful, is a mercy highly to be esteemed. The In case a man by age or sickness find himself so undervaluing of it is at least a sign of a de- near to death, as that he hath now a more speclining soul.
cial call to look after his present actual prepar2. You must not hence fetch any pretence to ation, than to endeavour any more the good of slight your friends, and disoblige them, or ne- others ; and find withal, that solitude will help glect any duty that you owe them, or any means him in his preparations, his society being such therein necessary to the continuation of their as would but hinder him. In these five cases, I friendship.
suppose it lawful to retire from human converse 3. You must not causelessly withdraw from into solitude. human society into solitude. A weariness of But when there is no such necessity or call, it converse with men is often joined with a weari. usually proceeds from one of these vicious disness of our duty: a retiring voluntarily into so- tempers: 1. From cowardice and fear of sufferlitude, when God doth not call or drive us thi- ing, when the soldiers of Christ do hide their ther, is often but a retiring from the place and heads, instead of confessing him before men. 2. work which God hath appointed us: consequently From a laziness of mind and weariness of duty : a retiring rather from God, than to God. Like when slothful and unprofitable servants hide their some idle servants that think they should not talents, pretending their fear of the austerity of work so hard, because it is but worldly business, their Lord. It is easier to run away from our work and think their masters deal not religiously by than to do it: and to go out of the reach of ignothem, unless they let them neglect their labour, rance, malice, contradiction and ungodliness, that they may spend more time in serving God: than to encounter them, and conquer them by as if it were not serving God to be faithful in truth and holy lives. So many persons as we their master's service.
converse with, so many are there to whoin we I deny not but very holy persons have lived owe some duty: this is not so easy as it is to in a state of retirement from human converse: over-run our work, and to hide ourselves in some in such cases as these, it may become a duty: 1. wilderness or cell, whilst others are fighting the In case of such persecution as at present leaves battles of the Lord. 3. Or it may proceed us no opportunity of serving or honouring God from mere impatience : when men cannot bear so much in any other place or state. 2. In case the frown, scorns, and violence of the ungodly, that natural infirmity, or disability, or any other they fly from sufferings, which by patience they accident, shall make one less serviceable to God should overcome. 4. Or it may come from huand his church in society, than he is in solitude.mour and mutability of mind, and discontent 3. In case he hath committed a sin so heinous, with one's condition : many retire from human and of indelible scandal and reproach, as that converse to please a discontented passionate it is not fit for the servants of Christ any more mind; or expecting to find that in privacy, whicb in public they could not find, nor is any where the most profitable to others. No man can live to be found on earth. 5. Some do it in melan- well, that looketh but to himself: thou must live choly, merely to please a sick imagination, which to another, if thou wilt live to thyself.' is vexed in company, and a little eases itself in O the delight that there is in doing good to living as the possessed man among the tombs. many! None knows it that hath not tried it: 6. Sometimes it proceeds from self-ignorance, not upon any account of merit ; but as it pleases and an unhumbled state of soul : when men God, and as goodness itself is amiable and think much better of themselves than others, they sweet ; and as we receive by communicating ; think they can more comfortably converse with and as we are under promise; and as charity themselves than with others : whereas if they makes all the good that is done to another to be well understood that they are the worst or great- to us as our own! est enemies, or troubles to themselves, they 5. We are dark, and partial, and heedless of would more fear their own company than other ourselves, and hardly brought or kept in acmen's: they would then consider what proud, quaintance with our hearts; and therefore have fleshly, worldly, selfish, and disordered hearts the more need of the eye of others : even an they are likely to carry with them into their soli- enemy's eye may be useful, though malicious ; tude, and there to be annoyed with from day to and may do us good, while he intends us evil. day: that the nearest enemy is the worst, and Saith Bernard, • The evil that none seeth, none the nearest trouble is the greatest.
reproveth: and where the reprover is not feared, These vices or infirmities carry many into so- the tempter comes more boldly, and the sin is litude; and if they live where popish vanity may committed the more licentiously. It is hard to seduce them, they will perhaps imagine, that know the spots in our own faces, when we have they are serving God, and entering into per- no glass or beholder to acquaint us with them. fection, when they are but sinfully obeying their Saith Chrysostom, • Solitude is the cover of all corruptions : and that they are advanced above vices. In company this cover is laid aside, and others in degrees of grace, while they are pleas- vice being more naked, is more ashamed. It is ing a diseased fancy, and entering into a dan- beholders that cause shame; which solitude is gerous course of sin. No doubt but the duties not acquainted with : and it is a piece of impenof a public life are more in number, and greater itency not to be ashamed of sin. in weight, and of more excellent consequence 6. We are for the most part so weak and and tendency, even to the most public good, and sickly, that we are unable to subsist without the greatest honour of God, than the duties of pri- help of others. ·Unwise men, or infants, or such vacy or retirement.
A good man is a common like men, must not be left to themselves.' God good. And,' saith Seneca, “if every one have not hath left some impotency, insufficiency and nesome share or interest in them, how are they cessity upon all that should keep men sociable, common?' Let me add these few considerations, and make them acknowledge their need of others, to show you the evil of voluntary, unnecessary and be thankful for assistance from them, and solitude.
be ready to do good to others, as we would have 1. You less contribute to the honour of your others to do to us. He that feels not the need of Redeemer, and less promote his kingdom in the others, is so unhumbled as to have the greater world, and less subserve his death and office, need of them. while
you do good but to few, and live but al- 7. Pride will have great advantage in private, most to yourselves.
and repentance great disadvantage, while our 2. You live in the poorest exercise of the sins seem to be all dead, because there is not a grace of charity; and therefore in a low, unde- temptation to draw them out, or an observer to sirable condition.
reprove them. “Many a man seems to himself 3. You will want the communion of saints, patient and humble, while he keeps out of comand benefit of public ordinances, for I account pany; who would return to his own nature, if the not a college life a solitary life. You will want commotion of any occasion did but provoke him.' the help of the charity, graces and gifts of others, It is hard to know what sin or grace is in us, if by which you might be benefited.
we have not such trials as are not to be found in 4. It will be a life of smaller comfort, as it is solitude. a life of smaller benefit to others. They that do 8. Flying from the observation and judgment but little good according to their ability, must of others, is a kind of self-accusation ; as if we expect but little comfort. They have usually confessed ourselves so bad as that we cannot most peace and comfort to themselves that are stand the trial of the light. Seneca says, ' A good
conscience will call in the crowd (or witnesses, I had banished doth return : the conversation of not caring who seeth :) a bad conscience is an- many, I find an enemy to me.' O how many xious and solicitous even in solitude: if they be vain and foolish words corrupt the minds of those things honest which thou dost, let all men know: that converse with an ungodly world, when your if they be dishonest, what good doth it thee that ears and minds who live in solitude, are free from no man else knows it, when thou knowest it thy- such temptations ! You live not in so corrupt self? O miserable man, if thou despise this wit- an air as they : you hear not the filthy speeches, ness! Something is suspected to be amiss with which fight against modesty and chastity, and those that are always in their chambers, and are are the incitements of lust: you hear not the never seen. Tell not men that you cannot bear discontented, complaining words of the impatient; the light; it is he that doth evil that hates the nor the passionate, provoking words of the oflight, lest his deeds should be reproved. fended ; nor the wrangling, quarrelsome words of
9. Solitude is too like death to be desirable: the contentious: nor the censorious, or slanderhe lives that doth good, and he is dead that is ous, or reproachful words of the malicious, who useless. He lives that is profitable to many: think it their interest to have their brethren suphe lives that is observed or perceived: but they posed to be bad, and to have others hate them, that lie hid and drowsy, anticipate their death.' because they themselves hate them ; and who are It is the most culpable death, and therefore the as zealous to quench the charity of others, when worst to have life, and not to use it.
it is destroyed in themselves, as holy persons are 10. A life of holy communion is likest unto zealous to provoke others to love, which dwells heaven, where none shall be solitary, but all, as and rules in themselves. In your solitude with members of the heavenly Jerusalem, shall in har | God, you shall not hear the lies and malicious mony love and praise their Maker.
revilings of the ungodly against the generation These reasons seem sufficient to me to satisfy of the just : nor the subtle, cheating words of you
that no man should choose solitude without a heretics, who being themselves deceived, would special necessity or call : nor yet should it be taken deceive others of their faith, and corrupt their for a life of greater perfection, than a faithful lives. You shall not there be distracted with the serving of God in public, and doing good to noise and clamours of contending uncharitable more.
professors of religion, endeavouring to make I shall now come to the affirmative, and tell odious first the opinions, and then the persons of you for all this, that "if God call us into soli- one another ; one saying here is the church, and tude, or men forsake us, we may rejoice in this, another, there is the church : one saying, this is that we are not alone, but the Father is with us.' | the true church-government, and another saying, Fear not such solitude, but be ready to improve nay, but that is it: one saying, God will be worit, if you be cast upon it. If God be your God, shipped thus, another, not so, but thus, or thus. reconciled to you in Christ, and his Spirit be in You shall not there be drawn to side with one you, you are provided for solitude, and need against another, nor to join with any faction, or not fear if all the world should cast you off. If be guilty of divisions : you shall not be troubled you be banished, imprisoned, or left alone, it is with the oaths and blasphemies of the wicked, but a relaxation from your greatest labours ; nor with the imprudent miscarriages of the weak; which though you may not cast off yourselves, with the persecutions of enemies, or the falling you may lawfully be sensible of your ease, if out of friends : you shall not see the cruelty of God take off your burden. It is but a cessation proud oppressors, that set up lies by armed from your sharpest conflicts, and removal from violence, and care not what they say, or do, por a multitude of great temptations. Though you how much other men are injured and suffer, so may not cowardly retreat or shif: yourselves that themselves may tyrannize, and their wills and from the sight and danger, yet if God will dis- words may rule the world, when they do so unhappense with you, and let
you live in greater peace pily rule themselves. In your solitude with God, and safety, you have no cause to murinur at his you shall not see the prosperity of the wicked, dealing. A fruit-tree that grows by the high- to move you to envy.; nor the adversity of the way side, doth seldom keep his fruit to ripeness, just, to be your grief; you shall see no worldly while so many passengers have each his stone to pomp and splendour to befool you, nor adorned cast at it. Seneca could say, ' I never bring home beauty to entice you, nor wasting calamities to well from a crowd the manners which I took out afflict you; you shall not hear the laughter of with me: something is disordered of that which fools, nor the sick man's groans, nor the wronged I had set in order : something of that which I man's complaints, nor the poor man's murmurings, nor the proud man's boastings, nor the angry and yet is so backward to be loosed from the man's abusive ragings.
flesh that I may find him and enjoy him in the As you lose the help of your gracious friends, world of glory! Can I expect that heaven should so you are freed from the fruits of their peevish- come down to earth ; and that the Lord of glory ness and passions ; of their differing opinions, should remove his court, and either leave the ways, and tempers ; of their inequality, unsuita- retinue of his celestial courtiers, or bring them bleness and contrariety of minds or interests ; all down into this drossy world of flesh and sin, of their levity and unconstancy, and the power- and this to satisfy my fleshly, foolish mind! Or ful temptations of their friendship, to draw you can I expect the translation of Enoch, or the to the errors or other sins which they are tainted chariot of Elias ? Is it not enough that my
Lord with themselves. In a word, you are there half hath conquered death, and sanctified the passdelivered from the vanity and the vexation of the age, and prepared the place of my perpetual world; and were it not that you are yet unde- abode ? livered from yourselves, and that you take dis- Well, for all this, though a wilderness is not tempered corrupted hearts with you, O what a heaven, it shall be sweet and welcome for the felicity would your solitude be! But alas, we sake of heaven, if thence I may but have a clearer cannot over-run our own diseases, we must carry prospect of it: and if by retiring from the crowd with us the remnants of our corrupted nature; and noise of folly, I may but be more composed our deadness and dulness, our selfishness and and better disposed to converse above, and to earthly minds, our impatience and discontents ; use my faith, alas, my too weak, languid faith, and worst of all, our lamentable weakness of until the beatific vision and fruition come. If faith, love, and heavenly-mindedness, and our there may be but more of God, or readier access strangeness to God, and backwardness to the to him, or more heart-quickening flames of love, matters of eternal life. O that I could escape or more heart-comforting intimations of his fathese, though I were in the hands of the most vour, in a wilderness than in a city, in a prison cruel enemies! O that such a heart could be left than in a palace, let that wilderness be my city, behind; how gladly would I over-run both house, and let that prison be my palace, while I must land, honour, and all sensual delights, that I abide on earth. If in solitude I may have Enoch's might over-run it! O where is the place where walk with God, I shall in due season have such there is none of this darkness, nor disaffection, a translation as shall bring me to the same fe- : nor distance, nor estrangedness from God! Olicity which he enjoys; and in the mean time, as that I knew it! O that I could find it! O that I well as after, it is no disadvantage, if by mortal might there dwell, though I should never more eyes I be seen no more. If the chariot of consee the face of mortals; nor ever hear a hu- templation will in solitude raise me to more beman voice, nor ever taste of the delights of flesh! lieving, affectionate converse with heaven, than Alas, foolish soul, such a place there is, that hath I could expect in tumults and temptations, it all this, and more than this : but it is not in a shall reconcile me unto solitude, and make it my wilderness, but in paradise, not here on earth, | paradise on earth, till angels, instead of the but above with Christ; and yet am I so loth to chariot of Elias, shall convey me to the presence die? yet am I no more desirous of the blessed of my glorified Head, in the celestial paradise. day, when I shall be unclothed of flesh and sin ? Object. But it is grievous to one that hath O death, what an enemy art thou even to my been used to much company, to be alone. soul ! by affrighting me from the presence of my Answ. Company may so use you, that it may Lord, and hindering my desires and willingness be more grievous to you not to be alone. The to be gone ; thou wrongest me much more than society of wasps and serpents may be spared ; by laying my flesh to rot in darkness. Fain would and bees themselves have such stings as make I know God, and fain would I more love him some that have felt them think they bought the and enjoy him. But O this hurtful love of life ! honey dear. O this unreasonable fear of dying, detains my But can you say you are alone while you are desires from pressing on to the happy place where with God ? is his presence nothing to you? doth all this may be had! O wretched man that I it not signify more than the company of all men am, who shall deliver me from this body of death' in the world ? Saith Hierom, ' A wise man canthis carnal, unbelieving heart, that sometimes can not be alone : for he hath with him the good men think more delightfully of a wilderness than of that are or have been. And if there be a want heaven; that can go seek after God in desert of men, he speaks with God.' He should rather solitude, among the birds, and beasts, and trees, have said, there can be no want of man when
we may speak with God : and were it not that tent me, and be not enough for me, how is he God is here revealed to us as in a glass, and then my God; or how shall he be my heaven that we converse with God in man, we should and everlasting happiness think human converse little worth.
2. If God be with me, he is with me to whom Object. O but solitude is disconsolate to a I am absolutely devoted. I am wholly his, and sociable mind.
have acknowledged his interest in me, and long Answ. But the most desirable soicety is no ago disclaimed all usurpers, and repented of solitude. Saith Hierom, Doth the infinite vast- alienations, and unreservedly resigned myself to ness of the wilderness terrify thee ; but do thou him : where should I dwell but with him that is ascend in mind and walk in paradise: as often as my owner, and with whom I have made the thou ascendest thither in thought and mind, so most solemn covenant that ever I made ? I never often thou shalt not be in the wilderness. If God gave myself to any other, but in subordination be nothing to thee, thou art not a Christian but to him, and with a stipulation for his highest inan atheist. If God be God to thee, he is all in violable right. Where should my goods be but all to thee; and then should not his presence be in my own house; with whom should a servant instead of all ? O that I might get one step dwell but with his master ; and a wife but with nearer unto God, though I receded many from her husband ; and children but with their Father? all the world! O that I could find that place I am more nearly related to my God, and to my on earth, where a soul may have nearest access Saviour, than I am to any of my relations in this unto him, and fullest knowledge and enjoyment world. I owe more to him than to all the of him, though I never more saw the face of world : I have renounced all the world, as they friends ! I should cheerfolly say with my blessed stand in competition or comparison with him: Saviour, 'I am not alone, for the Father is and can I want their company then, while I am with me.' And should say so for these reasons with him? How shall I hate father and mother, following:
wife, children, brother and sister for his sake, 1. If God be with me, the Maker, Ruler, and if I cannot spare them, or be without them to en. Disposer of all is with me: so that all things are joy him? To hate them is but to use them as virtually with me in him. I have that in gold men do hated things, that is, to cast them away and jewels which I seem to want in silver, lead with contempt, as they would alienate me from and dross. I can want no friend, if God vouch- Christ, and to cleave to him, and be satisfied in safe to be iny friend ; and I can enjoy no benefit him alone. I am now married to Christ, and by all my friends, if God be my enemy: I need therefore must cheerfully leave father and mother, not fear the greatest enemies, if God be recon- and my native place, and all to cleave to him: ciled to me.
I shall not miss the light of the with whom should I now delight to dwell, but candle, if I have this blessed sun. The creature with him who hath taken me into so near relais nothing but what it is from God and in God: tion, to be, as it were, one flesh with him! O my it is worth nothing, or good for nothing, but dear Lord, hide not thou thy face from an unwhat it is worth in order unto God, as it declares kind, an unworthy sinner ! let me but dwell with him, and helps the soul to know him, serve him, thee and see thy face, and feel the gracious em. or draw nearer him : as it is idolatry in the braces of thy love, and then let me be cast off unhappy worldling, to thirst after the creature by all the world, if thou seest it meet for me ; with the neglect of God, and so to make the or let all other friends be where they will, so that world his God; so doth it savour of the same my soul may be with thee; I have agreed for heinous sin to lament our loss of creatures more thy sake to forsake all, even the dearest that than the displeasure of God. If God be my shall stand against thee, and I resolve by thy enemy, or I am fallen under his indignation, I grace to stand to this agreement. hare then so much greater matters to lament 3. If God be with me, I am not alone, for he than the loss, or absence, or frowns of man, as is with me that loves me best. The love of all should almost make me forget that there is such the friends on earth is nothing to his love. O a thing as man to be regarded. But if God be how plainly hath he declared that he loves me, my Father and my friend in Christ, I have then in the strange condescension, the sufferings, so much to think of with delight, and to recre- death, and intercession of his Son? What love ate and content my soul, as will proclaim it most hath he declared in the communications of his incongruous and absurd to lament inordinately Spirit, and the operations of his grace, and the the absence of a worm, while I have his love and bear relations into which he brought me : What presence who is all in all. If God cannot con- love hath he declared in the course of his pro