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weakness, but it is wilfulness, which is the guilty cause of our misdemeanors; for by God's help (which doth always prevent our needs, and is never wanting to those who seriously desire it) we may be as good as we please, if we can please to be good; there is nothing within us that can resist, if our wills do yield themselves up to duty to conquer our reason is not hard; for what reason of man can withstand the infinite cogency of those motives, which induce to obedience? What can be more easy, than by a thousand arguments, clear as day, to convince any man that to cross God's will is the greatest absurdity in the world, and that there is no madness comparable thereto ? Nor is it difficult, if we resolve on it, to govern any other part or power of our nature; for what cannot we do, if we are willing? What inclination cannot we check, what appetite cannot we restrain, what passion cannot we quell or moderate? What faculty of our soul, or member of our body, is not obsequious to our will? Even half the resolution, with which we pursue vanity and sin, would serve to engage us in the ways of wisdom and virtue.
Wherefore in overcoming our will the stress lieth; this is that impregnable fortress, which everlastingly doth hold out against all the batteries of reason and of grace; which no force of persuasion, no allurement of favor, no discouragement of terror can reduce: this puny, this impotent thing it is, which grappleth with Omnipotency, and often in a manner baffleth it : and no wonder, for that God doth not intend to overpower our will, or to make any violent impression on it, but only to 'draw it (as it is in the prophet) with the cords of a man,' or by rational inducements to win its consent and compliance : our service is not so considerable to him, that he should extort it from us; nor doth he value our happiness at so low a rate, as to obtrude it on us. His victory indeed were no true victory over us, if he should gain it by main force, or without the concurrence of our will; our works not being our works, if they do not issue from our will; and our will not being our will, if it be not free: to compel it were to destroy it, together with all the worth of our virtue and obedience: wherefore the Almighty doth suffer himself to be withstood, and beareth repulses from us; nor commonly doth he master our will other
wise, than by its own spontaneous conversion and submission to him: if ever we be conquered, as we shall share in the benefit, and wear a crown; so we must join in the combat, and partake of the victory, by subduing ourselves: we must take the yoke on us;' for God is only served by volunteers; he summoneth us by his word, he attracteth us by his grace, but we must freely come unto him.'
Our will indeed, of all things, is most our own; the only gift, the most proper sacrifice we have to offer; which therefore God doth chiefly desire, doth most highly prize, doth most kindly accept from us. Seeing then our duty chiefly moveth on this hinge, the free submission and resignation of our will to the will of God; it is this practice which our Lord (who came to guide us in the way to happiness, not only as a teacher by his word and excellent doctrine, but as a leader, by his actions and perfect example) did especially set before us, as in the constant tenor of his life, so particularly in that great exigency which occasioned these words, wherein, renouncing and deprecating his own will, he did express an intire submission to God's will, a hearty complacence therein, and a serious desire that it might take place.
For the fuller understanding of which case, we may consider that our Lord, as partaker of our nature, and in all things (bating sin) like unto us,' had a natural human will, attended with senses, appetites, and affections, apt from objects incident to receive congruous impressions of pleasure and pain; so that whatever is innocently grateful and pleasant to us, that he relished with delight, and thence did incline to embrace; whatever is distasteful and afflictive to us, that he resented with grief, and thence was moved to eschew: to this probably he was liable in a degree beyond our ordinary rate; for that in him nature was most perfect, his complexion very delicate, his temper exquisitely sound and fine; for so we find, that by how much any man's constitution is more sound, by so much he hath a smarter gust of what is agreeable or offensive to nature : if perhaps sometimes infirmity of body, or distemper of soul (a savage ferity, a stupid dulness, a fondness of conceit, or stiffness of humor, supported by wild opinions or vain hopes) may keep men from being thus affected by sensible objects;
yet in him pure nature did work vigorously, with a clear apprehension and lively sense, according to the design of our Maker, when into our constitution he did implant those passive faculties, disposing objects to affect them so and so, for our need and advantage; if this be deemed weakness, it is a weakness connected with our nature, which he therewith did take, and with which,' as the Apostle saith, he was encompassed.' Such a will our Lord had, and it was requisite that he should have it, that he thence might be qualified to discharge the principal instances of obedience, for procuring God's favor to us, and for setting an exact pattern before us; for God imposing on him duties to perform, and dispensing accidents to endure, very cross to that natural will, in his compliance and acquiescence thereto, his obedience was thoroughly tried; his virtue did shine most brightly; therefore, as the Apostle saith, he was in all points tempted; thence, as to meritorious capacity and exemplary influence, he was perfected through suffering.'
Hence was the whole course of his life and conversation among men so designed, so modelled, as to be one continual exercise of thwarting that human will, and closing with the divine pleasure it was predicted of him, 'Lo, I come to do thy will, O God;' and of himself he affirmed, 'I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me:' whereas therefore such a practice is little seen in achieving easy matters, or in admitting pleasant occurrences; it was ordered for him that he should encounter the roughest difficulties, and be engaged in circumstances most harsh to natural apprehension and appetite; so that if we trace the footsteps of his life from the sordid manger to the bloody cross, we can hardly mark any thing to have befallen him apt to satisfy the will of nature. Nature liketh respect, and loatheth contempt; therefore was he born of mean parentage, and in a most homely condition; therefore did he live in no garb, did assume no office, did exercise no power, did meddle in no affairs, which procure to men consideration and regard; therefore an impostor, a blasphemer, a sorcerer, a loose companion, a seditious incendiary, were the titles of honor and the elogies of praise conferred on him; therefore was he exposed to the
lash of every slanderous, every scurrilous, every petulant and ungoverned tongue.
Nature doth affect the good opinion and good-will of men, especially when due in grateful return for great courtesy and beneficence; nor doth any thing more grate thereon than abuse of kindness: therefore could he (the world's great Friend and Benefactor) say, 'the world hateth me;' therefore were those, whom he with so much charity and bounty had instructed, had fed, had cured of diseases, (both corporal and spiritual,) so ready to clamor, and commit outrage on him; therefore could he thus expostulate, Many good works have I showed from you my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me?' Therefore did his kindred slight him, therefore did his disciples abandon him, therefore did the grand traitor issue from his own bosom; therefore did that whole nation, which he chiefly sought and labored to save, conspire to persecute him with most rancorous spite and cruel misusage.
Nature loveth plentiful accommodations, and abhorreth to be pinched with any want: therefore was extreme penury appointed to him; he had no revenue, no estate, no certain livelihood, not so much as a house where to lay his head,' or a piece of money to discharge the tax for it; he owed his ordinary support to alms, or voluntary beneficence; he was to seek his food from a 6 fig tree on the way;' and sometimes was beholden for it to the courtesy of publicans; δι' ἡμᾶς ἐπτώχευσε, 'he was,' saith St. Paul, 'a beggar for us.'
Nature delighteth in ease, in quiet, in liberty: therefore did he spend his days in continual labor, in restless travel, in endless vagrancy, going about and doing good;' ever hastening thither, whither the needs of men did call, or their benefit invite; therefore did he take on him the form of a servant,' and was among his own followers as one that ministereth ;' therefore he pleased not himself,' but suited his demeanor to the state and circumstances of things, complied with the manners and fashions, comported with the humors and infirmities of
Nature coveteth good success to its designs and undertakings, hardly brooking to be disappointed and defeated in them: therefore was he put to water dry sticks and to wash negroes,
that is, to instruct a most dull and stupid, to reform a most perverse and stubborn generation; therefore his ardent desires, his solicitous cares, his painful endeavors for the good of men did obtain so little fruit, had indeed a contrary effect, rather aggravating their sins than removing them, rather hardening than turning their hearts, rather plunging them deeper into perdition than rescuing them from it; therefore so much in vain did he, in numberless miraculous works, display his power and goodness, convincing few, converting fewer by them; therefore, although he taught with most powerful authority, with most charming gracefulness, with most convincing evidence, yet, 'Who,' could he say, 'hath believed our report?' Though he most earnestly did invite and allure men to him, offering the richest boons that heaven itself could dispense, yet, Ye will not,' was he forced to say, 'come unto me, that ye may be saved:' although, with assiduous fervency of affection, he strove to reclaim them from courses tending to their ruin, yet how he prospered sad experience declareth, and we may learn from that doleful complaint, How often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, but ye would not!' ovк ýeλýσare, your will did not concur, your will did not submit.
In fine, natural will seeketh pleasure, and shunneth pain: but what pleasure did he taste? what inclination, what appetite, what sense did he gratify: How did he feast or revel? How, but in tedious fastings, in frequent hungers, by passing whole nights in prayer and retirement for devotion on the cold mountains? What sports had he, what recreation did he take, but feeling incessant gripes of compassion, and wearisome roving in quest of the lost sheep? In what conversation could he divert himself, but among those whose doltish incapacity and forward humor did wring from his patience those words, 'How long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you?' What music did he hear? What but the rattlings of clamorous obloquy, and furious accusations against him? To be desperately maligned, to be insolently mocked; to be styled a king, and treated as a slave; to be spit on, to be buffeted, to be scourged, to be drenched with gall, to be crowned with thorns, to be nailed to a cross; these were the delights which our Lord