« PreviousContinue »
are any or all of these, according as they are used : good servants, if they go faithfully on the errands we send them, and return us true intelligence: good friends, if they advise and invite us to holy thoughts : enemies, if they suggest and allure us to evil.
If thine eyes have been employed in these evil offices to thy soul, God hath done that for thee, which he hath, in a figurative sense enjoined thee, to do to thyself
. If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee; for it is better for thee, that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell; Matt. v. 29.
SECT. 5, Freedom from temptations by the eyes, and froin many sorrows. Thou hast lost thine eyes; and, together with them, much earthly contentment :-But, withal, thou art hereby freed of many temptations. Those eyes were the inlets of sin; yea, not only the mere passages by which it entered, but busy agents in the admission of it; the very panders of lust for the debauching of the soul. How many thousands are there, who, on their death-beds, upon the sad recalling of their guilty thoughts, have wished they had been born blind! So as, if now thou hast less joy, thou shalt sin less : neither shall any vain objects call away thy thoughts, from the serious and sad meditation of spiritual things.
Before, it was no otherwise with thee, than the Prophet Jeremiah reports it to have been with the Jews, that death is come up by the windows ; Jer. ix. 21. So it was with our great grandmother Eve: She saw the tree was pleasant to the eyes ; and, thereupon, took of the fruit ; Gen. iii. 6. So it hath been, ever since, with all the fruit of her womb, both in the old and latter world; The sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair, and they took them wives of all which they chose ; Gen. vi. 2. Insomuch as not filthy lusts only, but even adulteries take up their lodgings in the eye: there the blessed Apostle finds them : Having eyes, saith he, full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; 2 Pet. ii. 14.
While therefore thy heart walked after thine eyes, as Job speaks, Job xxxi. 7. it could do no other; but carry thee down to the chambers of death ; Prov. vii. 27. Thou art now delivered from that danger of so deadly a misguidance.
Hath not the loss of thine eyes, withal, freed thee of a world of sorrows? The old word is, “ What the eye views not, the heart rues not.” Hadst thou but seen what others are forced to behold, those fearful conflagrations, those piles of murdered carcases, those streams of Christian blood, those savage violences, those merciless rapines, those sacrilegious outrages, thy heart could not choose but bleed within thee: now, thou art affected with them only aloof off; as receiving them by the perfect intelligence of thine ear, from the unfeeling relation of others.
The cheerfulness of some blind men. THINE eyes are lost:—What need thy heart to go with them? I have known a blind man more cheerful than I could be with both mine eyes.
Old Isaac was dark-sighted when he gave the blessing, contrary to his own intentions, to his son Jacob: yet it seems he lived forty years after; and could be pleased then, to have good cheer made him with wine and venison; Gen. xxvii. 25.
Our life doth not lie in our eyes: The spirit of man is that, which upholds his infirmities; Prov. xviii
. 14. Labour to raise that to a cheerful disposition ; even in thy bodily darkness, there shall be light and joy to thy soul; Esth. viii. 16.
The supply which God gives in other faculties. Hath God taken away thine eyes ?-But hath he not given thee an abundant supply in other faculties ? Are not thine inward senses the more quick? thy memory stronger; thy phantasy more active; thy understanding more apprehensive ?
The wonders, that we have heard and read of blind men's memories, were not easy to believe, if it were not obvious to conceive, that the removal of all distractions gives them an opportunity both of a careful reposition of all desired objects, and of a sure fixedness of them where they are laid. Hence, have we seen it come to pass, that some blind men have attained to those perfections, which their eyes could never have feoffed them in.
It is very memorable, that our Ecclesiastical Story reports * of Didymus of Alexandria ; who, being blind from his infancy, through his prayers and diligent endeavours reached unto such a high pitch of knowledge in logic, geometry, arithmetic, astronomy, as was admired by the learned Masters of those Arts; and, for his rare insight into Divinity, was, by great Athanasius, approved to be the Doctor of the Chair in that famous Church.
What need we doubt of this truth, when our own times have so clearly seconded it ? having yielded divers worthy Divines, God's Seers, bereaved of bodily eyes.
Amongst the rest, there was one † in my time, very eminent in the University of Cambridge, whom I had occasion to dispute with for his Degrees, of great skill both in Tongues and Arts, and of singular acuteness of judgment. It is somewhat strange, that Suidas | reports of Neoclides; that, being a blind man, he could steal more cunningly than any that had use of eyes. Sure, I may say boldly of our Fisher, that he was more dexterous in picking the locks of difficult authors, and fetching forth the treasures of their hidden senses, than those, that had the sharpest eyes about him: insomuch as it was noted those were singular proficients, which employed themselves in reading to him. If they read books to him, he read lectures the while to them; and still taught more than he learned.
* Ruffin. Eccl. Hist. 1. i. c. 7. t Mr. Fisher, in Trinity College in Cambridge. † Suidas ex Aristophane.
As for the other outward senses, they are commonly more exquisite in the blind. We read of some, who have been of so accurate a touch, that, by their very feeling, they could distinguish betwixt black and white. And, for the ear, as our Philosophers * observe, that sounds are sweeter to the blind than to the sighted; so also, that they are more curiously judged of by them : the virtue of both those senses being now contracted into one.
But the most perfect recompence of these bodily eyes is, in the exaltation of our spiritual; so much more enlightened towards the beatifical vision of God, as they apprehend more darkness in all earthly objects. Certainly, thou shalt not miss these material eyes, if thou mayest find thy soul thus happily enlightened,
The benefits of the eyes, which once we had. Thine eyes are lost :-It is a blessing, that once thou hadst them. Hadst thou been born blind, what a stranger hadst thou, in all likelihood, been to God and the world! Hadst thou not once seen the face of this heaven, and this earth, and this sea, what expressions could have made thee sufficiently apprehensive of the wonderful works of thy Creator ? what discourse could have made thee to understand what light is ? what the sun, the fountain of it; what the heavens, the glorious region of it; and what the moon and stars, illuminated by it? How couldst thou have had thy thoughts raised so high, as to give glory to that great God, whose infinite power hath wrought all these marvellous things?
No doubt, God hath his own ways of mercy, even for those that are born dark; not requiring what he hath not given; graciously supplying, by his Spirit, in the vessel of his election, what is wanting in the outward man: so as even those, that could never see the face of the world, shall see the face of the God that made it. But, in an ordinary course of proceeding, those, which have been blind from their birth, must needs want those helps of knowing and glorifying God in his mighty works, which lie open to the seeing. These once filled thine
stay with thee still, after thine
* The Lord Verulam.-Fr. Bacon, in his Natural History,
eyes have forsaken thee. What shouldst thou do, but walk on, in the strength of those fixed thoughts; and be always adoring the Majesty of that God, whom that sight hath represented unto thee so glorious; and, in an humble submission to his good pleasure, strive against all the discomforts of thy sufferings?
Our Story tells * of a valiant soldier, answerable to the name he bore, Polyzelus; who, after his eyes were struck out in the battle, covering his face with his target, fought still; laying about him as vehemently, as if he had seen whom to smite. So do thou,my son, with no less courage : let not the loss of thine
hinder thee from a cheerful resistance of those spiritual enemies, which labour to draw thee into an impatient murmuring against the hand of thy God: wait humbly upon that God who hath better eyes in store for thee, than those that thou hast lost.
The supply of one sense by another. Thou hast lost thy hearing :-It is not easy to determine whether loss is the greater; of the eye, or of the ear: both are grievous.
Now all the world is to thee as dumb, since thou art deaf to it. How small a matter hath made thee a mere cypher amongst men !
These two are the senses of instruction : there is no other way for intelligence to be conveyed to the soul, whether in secular or in spiritual affairs: the eye is the window, the ear is the door, by which all knowledge enters : in matters of observation, by the eye; in matter of faith, by the ear; Rom. x. 17.
Had it pleased God to shut up both these senses from thy birth, thy estate had been utterly disconsolate ; neither had there been any possible access for comfort to thy soul: and if he had so done to thee in thy riper age, there had been no way for thee but to live on thy former store : But, now that he hath vouchsafed to leave thee one passage open, it behoves thee to supply the one sense by the other; and to let in those helps by the window, which are denied entrance at the door.
And, since that Infinite Goodness hath been pleased to lend thee thine ear so long, as till thou hast laid the sure grounds of faith in thy heart; now thou mayest work, upon them in this silent opportunity with heavenly meditations; and raise them up to no less height, than thou mightest have done, by the help of the quickest ear.
It is well for thee, that, in the fulness of thy senses, thou wert careful to improve thy bosom, as a magazine of heavenly thoughts; providing, with the wise Patriarch, for the seven years of dearth: otherwise, now that the passages are thus blocked up, thou couldst not but have been in danger of affamishing. Thou hast now abundant leisure to recal and ruminate upon those holy counsels, which thy better times laid up in thy heart ; and, to thy happy advantage, findest the difference, betwixt a wise providence and a careless neglect.
* Suidas. V. Hippias.
The better condition of the inward ear. THINE outward hearing is gone :-But thou hast an inward and better ear, whereby thou hearest the secret motions of God's Spirit, which shall never be lost.
How many thousands, whom thou enviest, are in a worse condition! They have an outward and bodily ear, whereby they hear the voice of men; but they want that spiritual ear, which perceives the least whisperings of the Holy Ghost. Ears they have, but not hearing ears; for fashion, more than use. Wise Solomon makes and observes the distinction: The hearing ear, and the sceing eye, the Lord hath made even both of them ; Prov. xx. 12. And a greater than Solomon can say of his formal auditors, Hearing they hear not; Matt. xiii. 13. If thou have an ear for God, though deaf to men; how much happier art thou than those millions of men, that have an ear for men, and are deaf to God!
SECT. 11. The grief that arises from hearing evil. Thou hast lost thy hearing :- And therewith no small deal of sorrow. How would it grieve thy soul to hear those woeful ejaculations, those pitiful complaints, those hideous blasphemies, those mad paradoxes, those hellish heresies, wherewith thine ear would have been wounded, if it had not been barred against their entrance! It is thy jast grief, that thou missest of the hearing of many good words: it is thy happiness, that thou art freed from the hearing of many evil. It is an even lay, betwixt the benefit of hearing good, and the torment of hearing evil.
COMFORTS AGAINST BARRENNESS.
SECT. 1. The blessing of fruitfulness seasoned with sorrow's. Thou complainest of dry loins and a barren womb :-So did a bet. ter man before thee; even the Father of the Faithful : What wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless ? Gen. xv. 2. So did the wife of