Consider first, the words of the seventh beatitude: 'blessed are the peace-makers, for they shall be called the children of God.' God's own abode is in eternal peace; and the heavenly Jerusalem is the vision and enjoyment of an undisturbed everlasting peace. They therefore that truly love peace, and as much as lies in them both keep it in themselves and with all others, and contribute all they can to make peace among such as are at variance with one another, and to bring all their neighbours to be at peace with God, are entitled to this beatitude, and to the glorious character of children of God. O how amiable is this spirit of peace! How blessed are its fruits! It is a paradise of the soul: it makes a kind of a heaven upon earth. O may this 'peace of God which surpasseth all understanding, keep both our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord!' Philip. iv. 7.
Consider 2ndly, the different ways there are of being peace-makers, with relation to our neighbours, with relation to ourselves, and with relation to God. 'Tis a blessed thing to bring our neighbours to peace and mutual charity; as 'it is an abomination in the sight of God, to sow discord among brethren.' Prov. vi. 19. 'Tis a more blessed thing to make peace at home in our own souls, by suppressing the rebellious disorders of our passions, by bringing the flesh under subjection to the spirit, the inferior art of the soul to the superior, and the superior to God. 'Tis the most blessed thing of all to bring both ourselves and as many others as we can to a constant and perfect peace with God, that he may reign without control in all our souls; that his kingdom may be perfectly established within us; that his holy will, his holy law, his grace, and his peace may live in us and with us for ever. O happy peace indeed, that unites us here to God by grace, and hereafter in eternal glory!
Consider 3rdly, the reward promised in this beatitude to the peace-makers: 'they shall be called the children of God.' O reflect, my soul, what a dignity here is to be the children of so great a king, even the king that made heaven and earth. 'Behold, what manner of charity,' said St. John, (1 John iii. 1.) 'the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called and should be the sons of God' Sons of God, even now by his grace, bearing a resemblance with his true Son, (who is styled in Scripture the Prince of Peace,) and as such in a particular manner loved, cherished, and protected by him here as a parent; and hereafter to be admitted to a more perfect likeness, union, and as it were, transformation into him, according to that of the same apostle, v.2: 'Dearly beloved, we are now the sons of God, and it hath not yet appeared what we shall be. We know that when he shall appear, we shall be like unto him; because we shall see him as he is.' O Christians, what blessings both for time and eternity are prepared for the lovers and promoters of peace!
Conclude, my soul, to endeavour to be always a friend and a child of peace, and the peace of God shall always rest upon thee, Luke x. 6, and never leave thee, till it bring thee to the region of everlasting peace.
Consider first, that it is of great advantage to the soul, both in order to defend her from all evil, and to advance her in all good, to keep herself always in peace within her own interior: because this inward peace, when it is true, brings along with it courage, strength and grace, by the favours which God always shows to the truly peaceable. Now, the first and most necessary means of the acquiring or preserving of this peace in the soul, must be to banish all wilful sin from the soul; for there can be no true peace where wilful sin resides. For no one can be at war with God and have any peace within himself, except it be that false peace, which is sometimes formed by an erroneous conscience, that shuts its eyes against God's light, that it may not be obliged to embrace his truth. O dear Jesus, never let me be so miserable as to be deluded by any such false peace, or ever to be a rebel to thy light!
Consider 2ndly, that the true peace of the soul is not to be acquired without subduing the passions and keeping them in order. For what peace can there be in the midst of daily storms, tumults, and rebellions, such as are raised by headstrong and untamed passions? What peace can there be for the slaves of pride and ambition, of avarice and worldly solicitude, of wrath and envy, &c.? Alas, all these and the like passions disturb and distract the soul, they put her in a ferment, they suffer her not to find any solid rest or tranquillity, or any manner of share in that calmness and evenness of soul, which those enjoy that are perfectly masters of themselves by the victory they have acquired over all their passions. O! how true it is that our peace and happiness, even here, is not to be found by yielding to our disorderly inclinations but by mortifying and overcoming them.
Consider 3rdly, that the way to acquire true peace, and true liberty of soul, is thus marked out by a servant of God (Following of Christ, L. 3. c. 23): 'endeavour, my son, rather to do the will of another than thy own: ever choose rather to have less than more; always seek the lowest place, and to be inferior to every one; always wish and pray that the will of God may be entirely fulfilled in thee. Behold such a man as this enters upon the coasts of peace and rest.' Whosoever will but observe these rules shall not easily be disquieted, but rather shall meet with a paradise of delights in his soul. And we shall find upon examination, that whenever we are disturbed 'tis because we have transgressed some or other of these rules; either by being too much bent upon our own will; or by the desire of having more, or of being higher; or at least by not being entirely resigned to the will of God.
Conclude to set out in quest of this happy way that leads to true peace, by giving up thy own desires, and ever embracing the holy will of God.
Consider first, these words of the eighth beatitude; 'Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice sake; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.' and again, 'Blessed are ye when men shall revile against you untruly, for my sake; be glad and rejoice, for your reward is great in heaven.' O how opposite is this gospel doctrine to all the sentiments of flesh and blood! Alas! we have naturally so little relish for such sufferings as these, that we are apt to pity all those, and look upon them as unhappy and miserable, that are exposed to such kinds of evils; and so far from rejoicing, when it is our own case, we are too often dejected and sorrowful. But surely we are in the wrong, since truth itself, that cannot be deceived, not only assures us that these sufferings are the way to be blessed, that is to be happy hereafter; but that even now, whilst we are actually suffering, we are in very deed happy, and blessed; and therefore he calls upon us to be glad and rejoice under the experience of those reputed evils, as being indeed real good in our regard, by the manifold fruits they produce, both in time and eternity.
Consider 2ndly, what these fruits are that proceed from suffering for Christ's sake, and for his justice. They are fruits of grace here and of glory hereafter. These kinds of sufferings wean the soul from the love of this world, and of all its empty toys, and shortlived enjoyments, and give her a longing desire after her true home, the happy region of truth and of life, the sight and enjoyment of her sovereign good. These sufferings entitle the soul to the sweet consolations of the Holy Ghost, which are usually bestowed more abundantly in proportion to the greatness of the sufferings; according to that of the psalmist, (Ps. xciii. 19), 'According to the multitude of my sorrows in my heart, thy comforts have given joy to my soul.' These sufferings give the soul a relish for the cross, and a new kind of love for her crucified Saviour. These sufferings teach her humility, meekness, patience, conformity to the will of God, with all the other lessons that are to be learned in the school of the cross; besides the happy opportunity they afford the soul of discharging the debt of punishment due for former sins, by offering up to God, and bearing in a Christian manner, these present afflictions.
Consider 3rdly, that the principal fruits of these sufferings are reserved to be gathered in another life - according to that of the apostle, Rom. viii. 17, 18: 'If we suffer with Christ, we shall be glorified with him. For the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come, that shall be revealed in us.' And again, 2 Cor. iv. 17., 'Our present tribulation which is momentary and light, worketh for us above measure exceedingly an eternal weight of glory.' O look forward, my soul, into this immense eternity, and contemplate the infinite rewards that are there laid up to recompense our little sufferings here; and learn to be glad and rejoice in the experience of these small temporal afflictions; because these put thee in the true way to joys that shall never end: and the grater thy sufferings are here, the grater shall be these joys hereafter.
Conclude not to pretend to a life without sufferings, if thou hopest to live for ever with God: but then take care not to draw down these suffering upon thy head, by any crime; for this would not be suffering for justice sake. Give ear to St. Peter, 1 Pet. iv. 15, 16: 'Let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or a railer, or a coveter of other men's things. But if as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this name.'
Consider first, that patience is a virtue by which we bear up with courage and constancy under a variety of evils, to which we are continually exposed in this mortal life; such as afflictions, exterior or interior, sicknesses, pains of body or mind, losses, disappointments, want, affronts, injuries, and their crosses of divers kinds, which more or less are incident to men in every station of life, and in every part of life, from the king to the beggar, and from our childhood to our decrepit age. Now, under all these evils, the good Christian is supported by the virtue of patience, in such a manner as neither to be over-much dejected, or cast down by any cross, accidents, or sufferings: nor upon these occasions to be put out of the road of virtue, or hindered from the love and service of God; but so as still to go on with courage in his way to heaven, carrying his cross after his redeemer, without murmuring or repining. O my soul, how lovely is this Christian patience! It has even the admirable property of turning all the evils of life into so many great and solid goods, by making them all serviceable to eternity: and in the mean time it makes them both light and easy, and sweetens all that is bitter in them, by seasoning them with the consideration of the holy will of God.
Consider 2ndly, how much this virtue of patience is recommended to us by the great example of the Son of God; who, as he was never free from suffering in any part of his life, so he both lived and died in the exercise of patience; and by his patience redeemed the world. Then all the saints and martyrs, as they had their share in drinking of his cup of sufferings, so they have all 'run with patience to the fight set before them; looking on Jesus, the author and finished of faith, who having joy set before him endured the cross,' Heb. xii. 1, 2. 'They all in life possessed their souls in their patience,' Luke xxi. 19. They all in death saved their souls by patience. 'Patience hath a perfect work,' saith St. James i. 4, 'that you may be perfect and entire, failing in nothing.' 'He that is patient,' saith the wise man, Prov. xiv. 29, 'is governed with much wisdom.' and again, Prov. xvi. 32, 'the patient man is better than the valiant, and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh cities.' Patience then is the virtue of the martyrs and of all the saints; patience made them martyrs and saints; patience made them truly wise; patience gave them the victory over all their enemies; in their patience they brought forth much fruit; patience made them perfect; patience brought them to that incorruptible crown, which is given to none but those who by patience have lawfully strove for it, and won it. O blessed patience! Let me be so happy as to find thee, and embrace thee; let me live and die in thy company.
Consider 3rdly, the absolute necessity of patience in order to our serving God here, and saving our souls hereafter. 'Patience is necessary for you.' saith the apostle, Heb. x. 36, 'that doing the will of God, you may receive the promise.' For our life is a warfare upon earth; and in every part of life we must expect to meet with trials, conflicts, and sufferings. Now patience turns all these to our good; but where patience is wanting, all goes wrong; we sin at every step; we cowardly give up the cause of God and our souls, upon every slight occasion; we withdraw ourselves from the service, which we were happily engaged in; we run from our colours, we fall a prey to the enemy. O 'tis true that as there is no going to heaven but 'through many tribulations,' Acts xiv. 21, so there is no securing to ourselves that blessed kingdom, but by much patience.
Conclude to give ear to the admonitions of the Spirit of God, Ecclus. ii., 'Son, when thou comest to the service of God, stand in justice and in fear, and prepare thy soul for temptation. Humble thy heart, and endure - wait on God with patience; join thyself to God, and endure - take all that shall be brought upon thee, and in thy sorrow endure, and in thy humiliation keep patience: for gold and silver are tried in the fire: but acceptable men in the furnace of humiliation.' Happy they that practise these lessons!
Consider first, that patience, like all other good things, is not to be acquired by desiring, by seeking, by praying for it; but by desiring it earnestly, by seeking it diligently, by praying for it fervently. 'If any one wants this true wisdom let him ask of God, who giveth to all abundantly and it shall be given him; but let him ask in faith, nothing wavering,' St. James i. 5, 6. But how shall we heartily desire, seek, or pray for that which we have little or no esteem for? Wherefore, the first step towards acquiring patience is to study to know its true value, and the great treasures it brings along with it to the soul which is so happy as to find it. Now this knowledge must come by consideration, and meditation on the manifold fruit it produces, both for this world and the next: here, a complete victory over all our enemies, peace of soul, true liberty, and dominion over our passions, with an abundance of other graces; and hereafter, all those sublime rewards that are promised to the conquerors, Apoc. ii. and iii., 'To him that overcometh I will give to eat of the tree of life, that is in the paradise of my God'
Apoc. ii. 7, 'He that shall overcome I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go out no more, and I will write upon him the name of my God,' &c., Apoc. iii. 12, 'and to him that shall overcome I will give to sit with me in my throne,' & c., verse 21.
Consider 2ndly, that in order to acquire patience it will be of great service to us, in all our afflictions, pains, or other sufferings, to reflect on these three points: first, upon what we have deserved by our sins, and how very little what we suffer is in comparison with what we ought to suffer if we had our deserts; 2ndly, upon the suffering the Son of God endured for our sins out of pure love for us, and the patience with which he endured them; 3rdly, on the holy will of God, who sends us these sufferings, and sends them for our greater good; who knows what is best for us,, and orders all things for the best if we leave ourselves to him. Ah! how vain it is for us to resist his mighty hand! How foolish and sinful not to submit to the dispositions of him, that is infinitely wise and infinitely good! See, my soul, what a large field for meditations is here opened to us in these three points! What motives for patience under all our sufferings!
Consider 3rdly, in order to be more in earnest in seeking to acquire the virtue of patience the manifold evils we are exposed to by impatience; in a long train of sins against God, against our neighbours, and against ourselves, which proceed from this unhappy source; murmurings and rebellions against God; uncharitable censures and rash judgments, perpetual animosities, quarrels, and desires or revenge against our neighbours; desires of our own death, through infinitely unfit for it, continual uneasiness with ourselves, desponding thoughts, and a strange sluggishness as to taking any pains for the salvation of the soul. Such are usually the wretched fruits of impatience; and what can be worse? Faith is lulled asleep, it is quite dead; hope is forgotten; the love of God and of our neighbours is lost; prayer is neglected; the care of the soul is flung away; and in the mean time the evils under which we labour, instead of being redressed, become more grievous and more intolerable by our impatient resistance of the holy will of God; we lose the benefit of our sufferings, and we forfeit all the comforts which God usually affords to patient sufferers. Ah! my soul, how does this impatience of ours make our sufferings resemble those of the damned, who suffer without merit and without comfort, resisting in vain the will of the Almighty?
Conclude to pray and to labour in earnest for acquiring the virtue of patience: it will make all thy sufferings light and easy and entitle them to an eternal reward. Whenever thou art visited with any cross, of what kind soever, always consider it as coming from the hand of God; presently accept of it, and offer it up to Jesus Christ crucified, to be united to his sufferings, to be sanctified through him, and accepted of by his Father for his own greater glory, and the remission of thy sins. O how happy shalt thou be if, under all thy sufferings, thou make this thy practice!
Consider first, that on this day, upon occasion of the recovery of the cross of Christ out of the hands of infidels, and the triumphant setting it up again in its place in the church of Mount Calvary, the church of God celebrates the exaltation of him that died for us upon the cross, and his glorious triumph over sin and death, and over all the powers of hell and in consequence thereof the establishment of his kingdom, by which he reigns by grace at present in the souls of all his servants throughout the world, and shall reign in them for all eternity hereafter in glory. according to that of St. John xii. 31, 32, spoken with relation to his victory on the cross, 'Now is the judgment' (that is, the condemnation,) 'of the world, now shall the prince of this world' (the devil) 'be cast out.' 'And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to myself.' Rejoice, O my soul, in the triumph of thy crucified king, and beg that he would establish his reign in thee, and draw up thy heart from this wretched earth and unite it for ever to himself.
Consider 2ndly, that the dispositions of a Christian, in order to celebrate in a proper manner the feast of the exaltation of the cross, ought to be suitable to the maxims of the cross, and to the dispositions of Christ crucified. Dispositions of standing off from the pride, ambition, avarice, and vanity of the world, condemned by the poverty and humility of the cross; as also from the love of sensual and worldly pleasures, condemned by the mortification of the cross. Dispositions of taking up our crosses and following our crucified king, even to the death of the cross. Dispositions of waging a perpetual war against that triple concupiscence, which separates worldlings from the cross of Christ, viz., the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life; till dying to the world and to ourselves, we be lifted up with Christ from the earth; crucified to the world, and the world to us; and thus being entitled to a share in his exaltation and triumphs. But, O my soul, how unfit are we to celebrate the victories of our crucified king over death, sin, and hell; whilst we by pride, self-love, and the love of the world wilfully remain slaves to those same enemies, whose usurpation he sought to abolish by his death!
Consider 3rdly, the sentiments of St. Paul with relation to the cross of Christ, Gal. ii. 19, 20, 'With Christ I am nailed to the cross.' 'And I live, now not I, but Christ liveth in me; who loved me and delivered himself for me.' Chap. vi. 14: 'God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world!' He tells the Corinthians, 1 Cor. ii. 2, 'that he judged not himself to know anything among them but Jesus Christ, and him crucified.' and chap. i. 23, 24, that he preached nothing but 'Christ crucified a stumbling-block to the Jews, and foolishness to the Gentiles; but to the true believers the power of God, and the wisdom of God.' He proposes his own conduct as a model to the Philippians, Philip. iii. 17, 18, and warns them with tears, against all sensual and earthly-minded Christians, whom he calls enemies of the cross of Christ. Oh, how high was the cross of Christ exalted in the heart of the apostle! It reigned there without control. And as it was exalted in him by love and esteem, so it exalted him here to the glorious fellowship of the sufferings of Christ crucified; and hereafter to that eternal kingdom which our Lord has purchased by his cross, for all the true friends and followers of the cross. O how happy are all they, that, like the apostle, are sincere lovers of the cross of Christ!
Conclude for thy own practice to honour the triumphs of thy crucified king, by planting thyself at the foot of his cross, and there constantly attend to him, and study well the lessons he teaches thee from his cross, and enter into all his sentiments. He will teach thee to submit to thy crosses with patience, to undergo them with cheerfulness, yea, to embrace them with joy. He will undeceive thee, with regard to the false maxims of worldly pride, of the love of riches, and of sensual pleasures; and from his cross will preach to thee his truths, and discover to thee the lovely charms that are found in humility, poverty of spirit, contempt of the world, and mortification of the flesh. His cross is the school in which he will teach thee all good, and from which he will not cease to communicate to thee all grace, till at length he draws thee to himself, and makes thee his own for ever.
Consider first, that 'tis a most certain truth, an article of faith which no Christian can be allowed to doubt that the great God who made us all, the eternal, incomprehensible, infinite majesty, in whose comparison the whole creation is a mere nothing, is everywhere present, is truly and really in every place, and in every being; so that wheresoever we are, and wheresoever we go, God is there, and is there with all his divine attributes the whole deity, the whole blessed trinity is there. 'Shall a man be hid in secret places, and I not see him saith the Lord' 'Do not I fill heaven and earth saith the Lord?' Jeremias xxiii. 24. And Ps. cxxxviii; 'whither shall I go from thy spirit?' 'Or whither shall I flee from thy face? If I ascend up into heaven thou art there: if I descend into hell thou are there,' & c. And do all Christians know this truth and yet dare to sin? Alas! they cannot here justly plead ignorance; because 'tis one of the first things they have been taught from their very childhood. But their misery is, they think so little of God or his divine presence, that they quite forget it: so that we may say to them, with regard to the presence of God, what St John Baptist said to the Jews, with regard to their Messiah, (St. John i. 26,) 'there hath stood one in the midst of you, whom you know not.' O how little indeed is this great God known, even by too many that call themselves Christians!
Consider 2ndly, that God being everywhere present is witness to all our thoughts, words, and actions; he sees and hears all that passes; nothing can be concealed from him; no not even the most secret motions and dispositions of the soul. 'He is the searcher of the reins and hearts,' Apoc. ii. 23, 'reaching to the division of the soul and of the spirit, and is a discerner of the thoughts, and of the intents of the hearts; neither is there any creature invisible in his sight, but all things are naked, and open to his eyes.' Heb. iv. 12, 13. 'Tis in vain then for the sinner to flatter himself, like the libertine, mentioned by the wise man, Ecclus. xxiii. 25, & c., that saith, 'who seeth me?' 'Darkness compasseth me about, and the walls cover me, and no man seeeth me.' 'Whom do I fear?' And in the mean time he considereth not that darkness and light are alike to the Lord, (Ps. cxxxviii. 12,) and that his 'eyes are far brighter than the sun beholding round about all the ways of men, and the bottom of the deep, and looking into their hearts, into the most secret parts.' O that men would always remember these great truths!
Consider 3rdly, that God is not only really present with us, in every place, and sees all that passes, but is really present within us, fills our whole soul, and is more truly, perfectly, and intimately in the very centre of the soul, giving, preserving, and maintaining its very life and being, than the soul is in the body which it animates, and to which it gives life and motion he is the life of all lives, and the being of all beings, and were he to withdraw his presence through it were but for a moment, from any being whatsoever, in that moment it would cease to be, and would return to its ancient nothing. 'In him we live, and move, and be,' saith the apostle, Acts xvii. 28. So that we are not only encompassed with the Deity on all sides, as the birds are with the air in which they fly, or the fishes with the waters of the ocean, but are in such manner penetrated by him, that he fills every part of our being with his whole self, so that it is strictly and literally true, that we are always in him and he in us. What an aggravation then must it be to the guilt of all our sins, that they not only are committed against God, and before his own eyes, but are committed in God himself, in whom we lie, move, and be?
Conclude by regretting thy having thought so little hitherto of the presence of God; by which he is both in all places and in all things, and more especially in the midst of thyself. Resolve to have this truth ever before thy eyes for the time thou hast yet to come. O let us strive, my soul, to be always with him, who is always with us.
Consider first, that a lively sense of the presence of God is a sovereign means to banish sin from the world; to bring the worst of sinners back to God; to spur on the lukewarm, and to make them fervent, and to advance the just in all virtues, till it bring them to perfection - according to that which God spoke to his servant Abraham, Gen. xvii. 1, 'Walk before me, and be perfect,' as if he should have said, in all thy conversation and in every step thou shalt take in thy mortal pilgrimage, keep thyself in my presence, by the remembrance of me, and thou shalt be perfect in all virtue. This holy patriarch and all the ancient fathers observed this lesson, of whom it is written, that they 'walked in the sight of God,' Gen. xlviii. 15. The psalmist practised the same, Ps. xvi. 8, 'I set the Lord,' saith he, 'always in my sight;' and he calls upon all others to do the like, Ps. civ. 4, 'Seek ye the Lord, and be strengthened: seek his face' (that is his presence) 'always.' This same has ever been the practice of all the saints: yea, 'tis this has made them saints.
Consider 2ndly, that this exercise of the presence of God is to be performed, partly by the understanding, and partly by the will; for, as the blessed in heaven are eternally employed about God, partly by the contemplation and vision of him, which belong to the understanding, and partly by love and fruition, which belong to the will; and by this means they are eternally happy in the enjoyment of this sovereign and infinite good, and eternally united both by will and understanding, to the source of all happiness: so the souls of God's servants here upon earth ought, in both these ways, to apply themselves to God, and to be employed about him; and this is done by the exercise of his divine presence, which employs the understanding in the thought and remembrance of him, by means of a lively faith and sense of his being always with us, and within us; and entertains the will, that is the heart and the affection, with him by continually turning it towards him by aspirations of love, by oblations of our whole being to him, and by longing desires after the embraces of him, and an eternal union with him. O how happy is this exercise of the presence of God, which by a perpetual application of all the powers of the soul to God, in some measure anticipates the immortal joys of heaven.
Consider 3rdly, that in order to learn and practise this heavenly exercise of the presence of God, we must rid our souls of three mortal enemies to this devotion - which are a dissipation of mind; an anxious solicitude for the things of this world; and a disorderly affection to creatures. Where these three, or any one of the three reign in the soul, God is usually forgotten. A dissipation of thought carries the soul from home, to run after the multitude of vain amusements where she loses the remembrance both of herself and of her God. Worldly solicitude chokes all better thoughts, and suffers them not to take root in the soul. And the disorderly affections of the heart to any things out of God, turn away thy heart from God. In order then to practise this necessary attention to the presence of God, we must banish dissipation by recollection of thought, we must overcome worldly solicitude, by faith and confidence in God and by conformity in all things, with his blessed will; and we must correct the irregularity of our affections by turning them from the creature to God.
Conclude to guard against these enemies by setting a watch both upon the roving imagination, which is ever fond of running after butterflies, and thy unwary heart, that is so easily taken in the nets of wanton love or other idle, vain, and worldly affections, and to accustom all the powers of thy soul to be employed about thy God, who is to make thee happy for eternity.
Contents of Challoner's Meditations
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