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of the soul when driven and tossed upon the sea of trouble, whereby it can either keep on in a straight course of flight, or readily turn itself to the best advantage, as it finds occasion. For nothing more quick and apprehensive than fear, nor any passion to which our powers pay a more speedy obedience; for it is in pursuance of that great law of nature, self-preservation.
And accordingly they that are most careful of themselves, in whatever sense it is, are always most apprehensive of danger in their several ways. Thus those that make their bodies the chief object of their care, and are for indulging the appetites and inclinations of them with the greatest niceness and curiosity, are wondrous quick in seeing and avoiding what they think will be injurious to them, and control them in their enjoyments; and dread every thing that looks that way with a most feeling resentment: and those who set their hearts upon heaping up riches, or that place their life and their happiness in still adding to their titles of honour and the extent of their command, are as jealous and suspicious, and full of anxious fears in this case: and those that are so wise as to know and value their true interest, and employ their self-preservation in securing that, and taking care of their virtue to preserve that untouched, and keeping their religion sincere and pure; their fears look this way, as they ought to look. And the more heartily any one is concerned in this matter, the more watchful and circumspect will he be to secure that, in the welfare of which he takes his chief happiness to consist, and to preserve it in a state of safety, honour, and increase; and nothing so formidable to him as what threatens danger, much more ruin
And therefore, as this passion is of excellent use to us, if well placed and regulated, and proceeding upon a clear and distinct view of the nature of things, and a right knowledge of ourselves and our best interest; so when disorderly and misplaced, ill instructed and excessive, precipitate and rash, it is one of the most disquieting, uncomfortable, dishonourable, and prejudicial affections that human nature is liable to.
For then it betrays the succours which both reason and religion offer in our exigencies ; it suffers them to be overborne by our false, confused, distracted notions of things, and thereby exposes us to the full force of those evils which otherwise we might have avoided : and so runs quite counter to the end for which it was implanted in us.
Sometimes it torments us with the apprehension of imaginary dangers, which are wholly owing to our own timorous thoughts; we fear where no fear is, and frame a world of misery to ourselves out of our own fancies, which remain long upon our vainly terrified minds; and these empty shadows of evil rob us of the enjoyment of many a real and substantial good. And sometimes, though there may be cause of fear in some degree, we are so unkind to ourselves as to heighten and work it up to a prodigious size, and thereby make ourselves more miserable than the thing we fear could make us.
And indeed, no passion more fanciful than this of fear, and accordingly nothing more observable than that it is most predominant and most unaccountable in minds that are most under the power of imagina
BRAGGE, VOL. V.
tion; as of children and women, and people of great years, and such as are overrun with melancholy. And this is heightened by shades and darkness, and the night, when the imagination is strongest and without diversion : and where there is most strength of reason, and most experience of the world, the best health, and the sincerest, well-grounded religion, there is always the least of this passion, and what there is it is well placed, and it is most manageable and useful to us. Whereas, imaginary fears are utterly ungovernable, and to no other purpose than to torment us for nothing; they are always magnifying and multiplying terrible ideas, filling the mind with dread and horror, racking it with anxiety, and tearing it in pieces with confused, distracted thoughts; when, after all, there is little or no occasion for it, and these dreadful scenes are chiefly, if not wholly, owing to the force of fancy. And besides the dismal uncomfortableness of this condition, it has this ill consequence attending it, that they who are so taken up with affrightments of their own making, are oftentimes too little apprehensive of the real objects of fear, and so have all the torment of this passion, but none of the benefit and advantage.
Now, from this short description of the nature of this passion, we may see how needful it is to fix it right upon its proper object, in order to its due regulation; and this we shall treat of in the following section.
Of the proper object of fear. THE object of fear in general is an approaching evil, which we apprehend as difficult to be avoided; and our fears are proportionable to our apprehension of the greatness of the evil, and of the difficulty of escaping it.
And of evils there are two sorts, as to us; such as affect our bodies and temporal concerns here, and such as affect our souls and our eternal condition hereafter; and either way tend to lessen or destroy our happiness.
With respect to our bodies and temporal concerns here below, poverty and disgrace, sickness and pain and death, are evils that we naturally dread, and which, with whatever leads to them, self-preservation will put us upon avoiding if we can; and with respect to our souls, and our eternal condition in the other world, the guilt that is contracted by vile and sinful courses is of all the most formidable; and that not only upon account of the remorse it will cause in our minds, the bitter reflections we shall pass upon ourselves for acting so basely, and contrary to the judgment of our own reason, but chiefly because it will bring upon us the displeasure of the great and good God, which is the most to be dreaded of all things : as not only depriving us of the most valuable good, (for in his favour is every thing that deserves to be called happiness and enjoyment,) but likewise involving our whole, man, body and soul, in the extremest and eternal misery. According to that of our Lord, Matt. x. 28, Fear not them that can kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul : but rather fear him who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell.
Now of those several evils, which according to their nature and proportion are the objects of fear, some are much less considerable than others, and
the whole kind of those that affect the body and the concerns of this world, not to be compared with those that affect the soul, and the infinitely greater concerns of the next.
For what is the greatest temporal trouble and affliction, occasioned by any worldly losses and misfortunes, to the unspeakable torments of a guilty mind; and which are but as the forerunner of the miseries that will attend the loss of heaven, and the unconceivable dolours of being for ever banished from the presence of God ? what disgrace and shame comparable to that which the filthiness, the unreasonableness, the base ingratitude of a course of vice will bring upon us even in this world? How does it degrade us, and turn us into so many brutes ! how do all wise and good men despise us for it! and how do the holy angels, and blessed saints above, look down upon us with a mixture of pity and scorn! And what intolerable shame will it bring upon us before the whole creation at the day of judgment! when he that died for us, by whose name we have been all along called, and whose disciples and servants we have professed ourselves to be, will utterly disown us, and command us for ever to depart from his presence, and that for this most vile and shameful cause, our being workers of iniquity; the particulars of which shall then be publicly exposed, to our unspeakable and eternal confusion !
So for poverty, as uncomfortable as without doubt it is, yet a soul destitute of virtue and goodness, ready to die for spiritual want, and the withdrawing of that grace of God which it has before rejected and abused, is in a condition infinitely more deplorable than a poor wretch that is ready to