Conscience is nothing but an actuated or reflex knowledge of a superior power and on equitable law; a law impressed, and a power above it impressing it. Conscience is not the lawgiver, but the remembrancer to mind us of that law of nature imprinted upon our souls, and actuate the considerations of the duty and penalty, to apply the rule to our acts, and pass judgment upon matter of fact: it is to give the charge, urge the rule, enjoin the practice of those notions of right, as part of our duty and obedience. But man is as much displeased with the directions of conscience, as he is out of love with the accusations and condemning sentence of this officer of God: we cannot naturally endure any quick and lively practical thoughts of God and his will, and distaste our own consciences for putting us in mind of it: they therefore like not to retain God in their knowledge; that is, God in their own consciences; they would blow it out, as it is the candle of the Lord in them to direct them and their acknowledgments of God, to secure themselves against the practice of its principles.
God is a Spirit infinitely happy, therefore we must approach to him with cheerfulness; he is a Spirit of infinite majesty, therefore we must come before him with reverence; he is a Spirit infinitely holy, therefore we must address him with purity; he is a Spirit infinitely glorious, we must therefore acknowledge his excellency in all that we do, and in our measures contribute to his glory, by having the highest aims in his worship; he is a Spirit infinitely provoked by us, therefore we must offer up our worship in the name of a pacifying Mediator and Intercessor.
The being of a God is the guard of the world; the sense of a God is the foundation of civil order; without this there is no tie upon the consciences of men. What force would there be in oaths for the decision of controversies, what right could there be in appeals made to one that had no being? A city of atheists would be a heap of confusion; there could be no ground of any commerce, when all the sacred bonds of it in the consciences of men were snapt asunder, which are torn to pieces and utterly destroyed by denying the existence of God. What magistrate could be secure in his standing? What private person could be secure in his right? Can that, then, be a truth that is destructive of all public good?
One of the most essential preparations for eternity is delight in praising God; a higher acquirement, I do think, than even delight and devotedness in prayer.
Now listen a while, and I will tell, Of the Gelding of the Devil of Hell; And Dick the Baker of Mansfield Town, To Manchester Market he was bound, And under a Grove of Willows clear, This Baker rid on with a merry Cheer: Beneath the Willows there was a Hill, And there he met the Devil of Hell. Baker, quoth the Devil, tell me that, How came thy Horse so fair and fat? In troth, quoth the Baker, and by my fay, Because his Stones were cut away: For he that will have a Gelding free, Both fair and lusty he must be: Oh! quoth the Devil, and saist thou so, Thou shalt geld me before thou dost go. Go tie thy Horse unto a Tree, And with thy Knife come and geld me; The Baker had a Knife of Iron and Steel, With which he gelded the Devil of Hell, It was sharp pointed for the nonce, Fit for to cut any manner of Stones: The Baker being lighted from his Horse, Cut the Devil's Stones from his Arse. Oh! quoth the Devil, beshrow thy Heart, Thou dost not feel how I do smart; For gelding of me thou art not quit, For I mean to geld thee this same Day seven-night. The Baker hearing the Words he said, Within his Heart was sore afraid, He hied him to the next Market Town, To sell his Bread both white and brown. And when the Market was done that Day, The Baker went home another way, Unto his Wife he then did tell, How he had gelded the Devil of Hell: Nay, a wondrous Word I heard him say, He would geld me the next Market Day; Therefore Wife I stand in doubt, I'd rather, quoth she, thy Knaves Eyes were out. I'd rather thou should break thy Neck-bone Than for to lose any manner of Stone, For why, 'twill be a loathsome thing, When every Woman shall call thee Gelding Thus they continu'd both in Fear, Until the next Market Day drew near; Well, quoth the good Wife, well I wot, Go fetch me thy Doublet and thy Coat. Thy Hose, thy Shoon and Cap also, And I like a Man to the Market will go; Then up she got her all in hast, With all her Bread upon her Beast: And when she came to the Hill side, There she saw two Devils abide, A little Devil and another, Lay playing under the Hill side together. Oh! quoth the Devil, without any fain, Yonder comes the Baker again; Beest thou well Baker, or beest thou woe, I mean to geld thee before thou dost go: These were the Words the Woman did say, Good Sir, I was gelded but Yesterday; Oh! quoth the Devil, that I will see, And he pluckt her Cloaths above her Knee. And looking upwards from the Ground, There he spied a grievous Wound: Oh! (quoth the Devil) what might he be? For he was not cunning that gelded thee, For when he had cut away the Stones clean, He should have sowed up the Hole again; He called the little Devil to him anon, And bid him look to that same Man. Whilst he went into some private place, To fetch some Salve in a little space; The great Devil was gone but a little way, But upon her Belly there crept a Flea: The little Devil he soon espy'd that, He up with his Paw and gave her a pat: With that the Woman began to start, And out she thrust a most horrible Fart. Whoop! whoop! quoth the little Devil, come again I pray, For here's another hole broke, by my fay; The great Devil he came running in hast, Wherein his Heart was sore aghast: Fough, quoth the Devil, thou art not sound, Thou stinkest so sore above the Ground, Thy Life Days sure cannot be long, Thy Breath it fumes so wond'rous strong. The Hole is cut so near the Bone, There is no Salve can stick thereon, And therefore, Baker, I stand in doubt, That all thy Bowels will fall out; Therefore Baker, hie thee away, And in this place no longer stay.
They that approve a private opinion, call it opinion; but they that dislike it, heresy; and yet heresy signifies no more than private opinion
Whosoever persuadeth by reasoning from principles written, maketh him to whom he speaketh judge, both of the meaning of those principles and also of the force of his inferences upon them.
Our children will be as wise as we are and will establish in the fullness of time those things not yet ripe for establishment.
When I hear another express an opinion which is not mine, I say to myself, He has a right to his opinion, as I to mine; why should I question it? His error does me no injury, and shall I become a Don Quixote, to bring all men by force of argument to one opinion? If a fact be misstated, it is probable he is gratified by a belief of it, and I have no right to deprive him of the gratification. If he wants information, he will ask it, and then I will give it in measured terms; but if he still believes his own story, and shows a desire to dispute the fact with me, I hear him and say nothing. It is his affair, not mine, if he prefers error?... Be a listener only, keep within yourself, and endeavor to establish with yourself the habit of silence, especially in politics.
My own personal task is not simply that of poet and writer (still less commentator, pseudo-prophet); it is basically to praise God out of an inner center of silence, gratitude, and ‘awareness.’ This can be realized in a life that apparently accomplishes nothing. Without centering on accomplishment or non-accomplishment, my task is simply the breathing of this gratitude from day to day, in simplicity, and for the rest turning my hand to whatever comes, work being part of praise, whether splitting logs or writing poems, or best of all simple notes.
You will have gifts, and they will break you with their burden. You will have pleasures of prayer, and they will sicken you and you will fly from them. And when you have been praised a little and loved a little I will take away all your gifts and all your love and all your praise and you will be utterly forgotten and abandoned and you will be nothing, a dead thing, a rejection. And in that day you shall being to possess the solitude you have so long desired. And your solitude will bear immense fruit in the souls of men you will never see on earth. Do not ask when it will be or where it will be or how it will be: On a mountain or in a prison, in a desert or in a concentration camp or in a hospital or at Gethsemani. It does not matter. So do not ask me, because I am not going to tell you. You will not know until you are in it. But you shall taste the true solitude of my anguish and my poverty and I shall lead you into the high places of my joy and you shall die in Me and find all things in My mercy which has created you for this end and brought you.
Whether by justice, or by fraud oblique,the earthly race of men, a loftier wall ascends, my mind is dubious.
The more the soul knows, the more she loves, and loving much, she tastes much.
Sweet stream that winds through yonder glade,
Apt emblem of a virtuous maid
Silent and chaste she steals along,
Far from the world's gay busy throng:
With gentle yet prevailing force,
Intent upon her destined course;
Graceful and useful all she does,
Blessing and blest where'er she goes;
Pure-bosom'd as that watery glass,
And Heaven reflected in her face.
A Song : On The Green Margin -
On the green margin of the brook,
Despairing Phyllida reclined,
Whilst every sigh, and every look,
Declared the anguish of her mind.
Am I less lovely then? (she cries,
And in the waves her form surveyed);
Oh yes, I see my languid eyes,
My faded cheek, my colour fled:
These eyes no more like lightning pierced,
These cheeks grew pale, when Damon first
His Phyllida betrayed.
The rose he in his bosom wore,
How oft upon my breast was seen!
And when I kissed the drooping flower,
Behold, he cried, it blooms again!
The wreaths that bound my braided hair,
Himself next day was proud to wear
At church, or on the green.
While thus sad Phyllida lamented,
Chance brought unlucky Thyrsis on;
Unwillingly the nymph consented,
But Damon first the cheat begun.
She wiped the fallen tears away,
Then sighed and blushed, as who would say
Ah! Thyrsis, I am won.
Abuse of the Gospel -
Too many, Lord, abuse Thy grace
In this licentious day,
And while they boast they see Thy face,
They turn their own away.
Thy book displays a gracious light
That can the blind restore;
But these are dazzled by the sight,
And blinded still the more.
The pardon such presume upon,
They do not beg but steal;
And when they plead it at Thy throne,
Oh! where's the Spirit's seal?
Was it for this, ye lawless tribe,
The dear Redeemer bled?
Is this the grace the saints imbibe
From Christ the living head?
Ah, Lord, we know Thy chosen few
Are fed with heavenly fare;
But these, -- the wretched husks they chew,
Proclaim them what they are.
The liberty our hearts implore
Is not to live in sin;
But still to wait at Wisdom's door,
Till Mercy calls us in.
A Song : The Sparkling Eye -
The sparkling eye, the mantling cheek,
The polished front, the snowy neck,
How seldom we behold in one!
Glossy locks, and brow serene,
Venus' smiles, Diana's mien,
All meet in you, and you alone.
Beauty, like other powers, maintains
Her empire, and by union reigns;
Each single feature faintly warms:
But where at once we view displayed
Unblemished grace, the perfect maid
Our eyes, our ears, our heart alarms.
So when on earth the god of day
Obliquely sheds his tempered ray,
Through convex orbs the beams transmit,
The beams that gently warmed before,
Collected, gently warm no more,
But glow with more prevailing heat.
God Hides His People -
To lay the soul that loves him low,
Becomes the Only–wise:
To hide beneath a veil of woe,
The children of the skies.
Man, though a worm, would yet be great;
Though feeble, would seem strong;
Assumes an independent state,
By sacrilege and wrong.
Strange the reverse, which, once abased,
The haughty creature proves!
He feels his soul a barren waste,
Nor dares affirm he loves.
Scorned by the thoughtless and the vain,
To God he presses near;
Superior to the world's disdain,
And happy in its sneer.
Oh welcome, in his heart he says,
Humility and shame!
Farewell the wish for human praise,
The music of a name!
But will not scandal mar the good
That I might else perform?
And can God work it, if he would,
By so despised a worm?
Ah, vainly anxious!—leave the Lord
To rule thee, and dispose;
Sweet is the mandate of his word,
And gracious all he does.
He draws from human littleness
His grandeur and renown;
And generous hearts with joy confess
The triumph all his own.
Down, then, with self–exalting thoughts;
Thy faith and hope employ,
To welcome all that he allots,
And suffer shame with joy.
No longer, then, thou wilt encroach
On his eternal right;
And he shall smile at thy approach,
And make thee his delight.
God never meant that man should scale the heavens by strides of human wisdom. In his works, though wondrous, he commands us in his word to seek him rather where his mercy shines.
'Tis revelation satisfies all doubts, explains all mysteries except her own, and so illuminates the path of life, that fools discover it, and stray no more.