Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. II. Sixteenth Century to the Restoration
The Christians Disposition
By Joseph Hall (15741656)
From The Christian
THE CHRISTIAN is a man and more, an earthly saint, an angel clothed in flesh, the only lawful image of his Maker and Redeemer, the abstract of Gods Church on earth, a model of heaven, made up in clay, the living temple of the Holy Ghost.
He were not a man, if he were quite free from corrupt affections; but these he masters, and keeps in with a strait hand; and if, at any time, they grow testy and headstrong, he breaks them with a severe discipline, and will rather punish himself than not tame them. He checks his appetite with discreet but strong denials, and forbears to pamper nature lest it grow wanton and impetuous.
He walks on earth, but converses in heaven; having his eyes fixed on the invisible, and enjoying a sweet communion with his God and Saviour. While all the rest of the world sits in darkness, he lives in a perpetual light: the heaven of heavens is open to none but him; thither his eye pierceth and beholds those beams of inaccessible glory which shine in no face but his.
The deep mysteries of godliness, which to the great clerks of the world are as a book clasped and sealed up, lie open before him fair and legible; and, while those bookmen know whom they have heard of, he knows whom he hath believed.
He will not suffer his Saviour to be ever out of his eye; and if, through some wordly interceptions, he lose the sight of that blessed object for a time, he zealously retrieves him,not without a hungry check of his own mis-carriage,and is now so much the more fixed by his former slackening so as he will henceforth sooner part with his soul than his Redeemer.
Good is the adequate object of his love: which he duly proportions, according to the degrees of its eminence; affecting the chief good, not without a certain ravishment of spirit; the lesser, with a wise and holy moderation.
Earthly contents are too mean grounds whereon to raise his joy; these, as he balks not when they meet him in his way, so he doth not too eagerly pursue; he may taste of them, but so as he would rather fast than surfeit.
He is not insensible of those losses which casualty or enmity may inflict, but that which lies most heavily upon his heart is his sin. This makes his sleep short and troublesome, his meals stomachless, his recreations listless, his everything tedious, till he find his soul acquitted by his great surety in heaven; which done, he feels more peace and pleasure in his calm than he found horror in the tempest.
His heart is the storehouse of most precious graces. That faith whereby his soul is established triumphs over the world, whether it allure or threaten; and bids defiance to all the powers of darkness, not fearing to be foiled by any opposition. His hope cannot be discouraged with the greatest difficulties; but bears up against natural impossibilities, and knows how to reconcile contradictions. His charity is both extensive and fervent, barring out no one that bears the face of a man; but pouring out itself upon the household of faith: that studies good constructions of men and actions, and keeps itself free both from suspicion and censure.
Grace doth more exalt him than his humility depresses him. Were it not for that Christ who dwells in him, he could think himself the meanest of all creatures: now, he knows he may not disparage the Deity of Him by whom he is so gloriously inhabited, in whose only right he can be as great in his own thoughts as he is despicable in the eyes of the world.
He is wise to Godward, however it be with him for the world; and, well knowing he cannot serve two masters, he cleaves to the better, making choice of that good part which cannot be taken from him, not so much regarding to get that which he cannot keep, as to possess himself of that good which he cannot lose.
He is not closefisted, where is just occasion of his distribution, willingly parting with those metals which he regards only for use, not caring for either their colour or substance; earth is to him no other than itself, in what hue soever it appeareth.
In every good cause he is bold as a lion, and can neither fear faces nor shrink at dangers, and is rather heartened with opposition; pressing so much the more, where he finds a large door open, and many adversaries, and, when he must suffer, doth as resolutely stoop, as he did before valiantly resist.
He is holily temperate in the use of all Gods blessings, as knowing by whom they are given, and to what end; neither dares either to mis-lay them, or to mis-spend them lavishly, as duly weighing upon what terms he receives them, and fore-expecting an account.
Such a hand doth he carry upon his pleasures and delights, that they run not away with him; he knows how to slacken the reins without a debauched kind of dissoluteness, and how to straiten them without a sullen rigour.