Meditations of King James II

The following passages are taken from "Royal Meditations: Being the True Pourtraicture of His Majesty in His Solitudes and Sufferings, Written during His Retirements in France", being the second part of Royal Tracts, Paris: Printed for Estiene Lucas, 1692 (Wing / J384).

Upon God's merciful deliverance of His Majesty (when Duke of York) from the great danger of drowning near the Lemon Oare Sands, at the time he was going for Scotland to avoid the Bill of Exclusion.

No person, time, place, or company upon Earth is free from danger -- not Julius Caesar, who was stabbed and slain in the Senate House of Rome, although a person as fortunate as great, in a time of peace, and in a place that was the richest and strongest piece of the world's head, and therefore called the capital, and in the midst of an assembly of the justest, gravest, wisest, richest, and valiantest men of the whole Earth.

O Eternal and Incomprehensible Being, who has been a gracious Father to me in my childhood and middle-age, as well as now in my elder years: how great cause have I to trust in thee continually, and to celebrate thy praise to future generations. "Day unto day, and night unto night, teachest knowledge." Thy mercies, O Lord, are renewed to me every morning, and thy providences are circular and without end! "O that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men."

O Lord, thou art not only the God of the mountains and of the valleys of the Earth, but of the rivers and sea also; and hast been mercifully present to deliver and preserve thy servant, as thou didst King David and Saint Paul in perils of land and in perils of water, else had I sunk down into the deep waters. Yea, the floods had gone over my head and soul, as well as in this danger they fearfully washed my body and clothes.

If every lesser mercy, O Lord, calls for a tribute of praise, how much more such as this, which are thy so sudden and opportune reprieves from death; since it is a truth, although spoken by the Father of Lies, skin for skin, and all that a man hath, will he give for his life. Wherefore, since our life's preservation is the greatest corporal mercy, "Open thou my lips, O Lord, and my mouth shall show forth thy praise."

Upon the defeat of Monmouth and Argyll, and suppressing those rebellions.

"Not unto us, O Lord, but to thy own blessed Name give all the glory." Awake my soul, and speedily preserve thy richest sacrifice of humble praise. Awake, and summon all thy thoughts, to make haste and adore thy great preserver and redeemer. Arise, my soul, to thee these joys belong; arise and advance thyself on high, and leave here below all earthly thoughts, and fly away with the wings of the spirit; fly to that glorious land of promise, and gladly salute those heavenly regions. Let us now consider, O Lord our God, let us thankfully remember what thou art to us. Thou art the great beginning of our nature, and glorious end of all our actions; thou art the overflowing source from whence we spring, and the immense ocean into which we tend; thou art the free bestower of all we possess, and faithful promiser of all we hope; thou art the strong sustainer of our lives, and ready deliverer from all our enemies. When we have applied our utmost cares, and used all the diligence that lies in our power, what can we do, but look up to thee, and second our endeavours with prayers for thy blessing! When we have implored thy gracious mercy, and offered thee our dearest sacrifice to obtain it, what can we do, but submit our hopes, and expect the issue from thy free goodness, we know, and thou thyself has taught us. "Unless thou defendest the city, the guard watches in vain." We know, and our own experience tells us, unless thou reachest forth thy hand, we are presently in danger of sinking. Sometimes, O Lord, thy all-wise Providence seems to sleep, and permits the storm to grow high and loud; yet never fails to relieve thy servants who faithfully call upon thee in the day of trouble. "I will extol thee, O Lord, for thou hast lifted me up, and hast not made my foes to rejoice over me. Now shall my head be lifted up above my enemies round about me; therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; yea I will sing praises unto the Lord."

"The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusteth in him, and I am helped. Therefore with my song will I glorify and praise him; the Lord is the saving strength of his anointed. When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell. For the king trusteth in the Lord, and through the mercies of the Most High he shall not be moved."

Impute not to me, O Lord, the blood of my subjects, which with infinite unwillingness and grief hath been shed by me in my just and necessary defence, but wash me with that precious Blood which hath been shed for me by my great Peace-maker, Jesus Christ.

Upon His Majesty's return from Salisbury, after a great part of his troops had deserted him, and were gone over to the Prince of Orange.

One day often makes an end of great possessions and immense riches. Many personages of great honour and esteem changing their fortune in a moment, so that it is plain there is no confidence to be placed in human prosperity; for neither kingdom nor empire, nor any greatness whatsoever can secure their owners from ruin and misfortunes.

It was not thy joys alone, O dearest Lord, that thou inspiredst into holy kings and prophets of old. But thou revealedst to them thy sorrows too, and commandest to publish them with a tender care, that they not only should speak thy words, but, the more to affect us, put on thy person, that we might be enabled the better to follow the blessed pattern that is set before us.

"O let our eyes run down with water, and our hearts faint away with grief, while we remember the sufferings of our Lord, and his sad complaints."

"I gave my body to those that beat it, and my cheeks to those that buffeted them. I turned not away from them that reproached me, nor from them that spit on my face. My enemies whisper together, and spitefully malign me; when will he die, and his name perish? My familiar friend, who did eat of my bread, has lifted up his heel against me. But thou upheldest me, O Lord, in my integrity, and seeest me before thy face forever. They compass me about with words of malice, and fought against me without a cause. They rewarded me evil for good, and hatred for my love. I am poured forth like water, I am taken away as a shadow when it declines. My heart within me is as melted wax, and all my bones is out of joint. I expected some to pity me, and there was none. I looked for comforters, but I found not one. O my God, my God, how far hast thou forsaken me! Thou hast brought me into the dust of death. Our fathers called to thee, and were delivered. They trusted in thee, and were not abandoned. But I am a worm and no man, the reproach of men, and the despised of the people. All that see me, laugh me to scorn; they shoot out the lip, and shake their head, saying, He trusted in God, that he would save him; let him deliver him, if he delight in him. Be not far from me, O Lord, my strength, for trouble is nigh, and none to help me. The assembly of the wicked have enclosed me about; they pierce my hands and my feet. I may tell all my bones, they gaze and stare upon me. They part my garments among them, and on my vesture they cast lots."

All these sad things, O Lord, thy prophets foretold, to prepare our faith for such exorbitant truths. All these indeed they expressly foretold, but could there be found such wretches as would act them? Yes, O my God! Thine own selected nation conspired against thee, and with innumerable affronts most barbarously murdered thee. This too, even this thy cruel death, thou plainly forshewest. "The inhabitants of Jerusalem shall look on me whom they crucified. Thou, O Lord, knowest my reproach and my dishonour; my adversaries are all before thee. Thou hast heard the reproaches of wicked men on every side. Hold not thy peace, lest my enemies prevail against me, and lay mine honour in the dust."

Blessed Lord, thou art my salvation, thou art my glory, my aid, and all my hope is in thee. At thy right hand there are crowns, riches, greatness, and powers forever without end.

Upon His Majesty's being forced ashore from his vessel near Faversham, and the tumultuous insolency of the rabble, and the ill treatment His Majesty received from them there.

O my Lord, thou art my refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble. "My soul is among lions, among them that are set on fire, even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows, their tongue a sharp sword. Mine enemies reproach me all the day long, and those that are mad against me are sworn together." Teach me David's patience and Hezekiah's devotion, that I may look to thy mercy through man's malice, and see thy justice in their sin. Yet my God, who can repine at suffering too much, if they remember the afflictions of Jesus.

These many afflictions He so patiently endured and bore with silence all their weight. Even from His humble cradle in the gate of Bethlehem, to His bitter cross on the Mount of Calvary. How little do we read of glad and prosperous, how much of pains and grief and perpetual affronts. Sometimes abandoned by His nearest friends, and left alone among all His discomforts. Sometimes pursued by His fiercest enemies, and made the common mark of all their spite. Sometimes they plot to ensnare Him in His words, and enviously slander His miraculous deeds. Sometimes tumultuously they gather about Him to gaze at and abuse this man of sorrow. Sometimes they furiously seize on His person, and haul and drag Him along the streets. At last they all conspire to take away His life, and condemn Him to sharp and cruel death.

Have you seen a harmless lamb stand silent in the midst of ravenous wolves! So stood the Prince of Peace and Innocence, besieged with a ring of savage Jews. When they blasphemed Him, He replied not again, and when they injuriously struck Him, He only observed their rashness. When they provoked Him with their utmost malice, He pleaded their excuse. And when they killed Him, He earnestly prayed for their pardon. O strange ingratitude of human nature, thus barbarously to crucify the world's Redeemer. O admirable love of the world's Redeemer, thus patiently to die for human nature.

Say now, my soul, for when thy dearest Lord endured all this, and infinitely more. Canst thou complain of thy little troubles and affronts by the mobilie, when the King of Glory was thus afflicted. Canst thou complain of thy meanly furnished house and vessel, when the Son of God had nowhere to lay His head. We wear the badge of our crucified Lord, and shall we shirk back at every cross we meet! We believe in God that was crowned with thorns, and shall we abide to tread on nothing but roses! Before our eyes, O Jesus, we see the humble and meek, and shall thy servants be proud and insolent! Thou disdainest not to be called in scorn the carpenter's son; and cannot our lowness bear a little disparagement! O how unlike are we to that blest original, who descended from heaven to become our pattern. How do we go astray from that sacred path which the holy Jesus traced with His own steps. Pity, O dear Redeemer, the infirmities of thy servant, and since I must suffer as a Christian, and deserve it as a sinner, let me bare it as becomes thy servant.

Upon His Majesty's leaving Whitehall the second time, and his retiring to Rochester.

O Lord, thou hast taught me that no King can be saved by a numerous army, but yet thou canst save me by the multitude of thy mercies. Help me, O Lord, who am distressed on every side, yet, be thou on my side, and I shall not fear what man can do unto me. I will give thy justice the glory of my distress. O let thy mercy have the glory of my deliverance from them that persecute my soul. Shew thy marvelous loving kindness, O thou that savest by thy right hand them that put their trust in thee, from those that rise up against them, from the wicked that oppress me, from my deadly enemies that compass me about. Save me, O Lord, from the confederated strength of those who have so much of the serpent's cunning that they forget the dove's innocency. Nay, though hand join in hand, yet let them not prevail against my soul to the betraying of my conscience and honour. Thou, O Lord, by thy over-ruling power, canst soon cause the over-flowing and turbulent seas to ebb and retire back again to the bounds which thou hast appointed for them. O my God, I put my whole trust and confidence in thee, and do throw myself and my affairs wholly upon thee: let not my enemies triumph over me.

Upon His Majesty's last retiring out of England, and his arrival in France.

If a man, before he was born, knew what he was to suffer in his life, he would not be born at all; therefore, the Philosopher, being demanded what was the greatest happiness man was capable of, said, "Not to be born, or die quickly." With reason did Democritus say that the life of man was most miserable, since those who seek for good, hardly find it, and evil comes of itself and enters our gates unsought for, insomuch as our life is always exposed unto innumerable dangers, injuries and losses.

Be silent, O my soul, and thy Lord will answer for thee; be content, and He is thy security; be innocent, and He will defend thee; be humble, and He will exalt thee. My soul, when thou art thus retired alone and fitly disposed for quiet thoughts, never let the greatness of another molest thy peace, nor his prosperous condition make thee repine. Say not in thy heart, "Had I those fair Kingdoms, or were seated again in so high a place, I should know how to contrive things better, and never commit such gross mistakes." Tell me, how dost thou manage thy present enjoyments, and fit the little room thou now holdest in the world? Do thy afflictions make thee humble, and dost thou in every state give thanks to heaven and contentedly subscribe to its several decrees? Canst thou rejoicingly say to God, O my adored Creator! I'm glad my lot is in thy hands! Under thy Providence I know I am safe; whatever befalls me, thou guidest to my advantage. If thou wilt have me obscure and low, thy blessed Will, not mine, be done. If thou wilt load my back with crosses, and embitter my days with grief, still may thy blessed Will, O Lord, be done; still govern thy creature in thine own best way. Place where thou pleasest thy other favours, but secure to my soul a portion in thy love. Take what thou wilt of the things thou has lent me; leave in my heart the possession of thyself. Let others be preferred and me neglected; let their affairs succeed, and mine miscarry: Only one thing I humbly beg, and may my gracious God vouchsafe to grant: Cast me not away from thy presence forever, nor wipe my name out of the Book of Life. But my eternal hopes, let them remain, and still grow quicker, as they approach their end.

Upon His Majesty's retiring out of Ireland, after his Army had been defeated at the River Boyne.

Notwithstanding the world has frowned, and continues to frown upon me, that I have met with many troubles and afflictions, that my misfortunes rush upon me like waves, one on the neck of another, and toss me up and down, yet these shall be thy daily thoughts, O my soul. Well, I am content to bear it; God's will be done. Let the sea be troubled, let the waves thereof roar, let the waters of sorrows rush upon me, let the darkness of grief and heaviness still compass me about, yet will I not be afraid. These storms will blow over, these winds will be laid, these waves will fall, this tempest cannot last long, and these clouds shall be dispelled. Whatsoever I suffer here shall shortly have an end. Come ye worst that can come, death will put an end to all my sorrows and miseries. Domine da mihi modo patientiam, et postea indulgentiam (Lord grant me patience here, and ease hereafter). Make me to be content when thou wilt have it so. Teach the noblest victory over myself, and my enemies, by patience -- which was Christ's conquest and may well become a Christian King.

I will suffer patiently whatsoever can happen, and shall endeavour to do nothing against my conscience and displeasing to thee. "For I had rather be a door-keeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness." Therefore, whatsoever misery or afflictions shall fall upon thee, O my soul, say by the divine assistance, "I will bear it patiently. Lord Jesus stand by me and comfort me. Lord Jesus be present with thy servant, that putteth his trust in thee. My Lord, my God, when shall I see the day, the happy day, in which I shall come and appear in thy heavenly mansion, to eat and drink with thee in thy Kingdom, and to sit at thy table, there to behold the majesty of thy glory, which is the only object of my eternal bliss! O thou resplendent Star of the East; let thy eternal light shine in the horizon of my soul, then all these thick vapours of terrene afflictions will be dispersed. Lord, I have placed all my hopes in eternity; I find no more rest here in these short moments than the dove of the deluge did upon the waters. O God, thou art my eternal felicity; receive my spirit, and lead me through the valley and shadow of death; lead me and forsake me not, until thou hast brought my soul into the land of the living, O thou which art my light, life, and salvation; to thee be glory, honour, and thanksgiving forever and for evermore."

Upon the miseries of mortal life, and the instability of human greatness; writ on the occasion of His Majesty's sufferings in his solitudes in France.

So many are the miseries of human life that they cannot all be numbered. Death, which is thought by some the greatest of evils, is by many esteemed a lesser evil than life; the many evils in this, surpassing the greatness of the evil in that; and therefore some have conceived it is better to suffer the greatest, which is death, than to suffer so many though lesser, which are in life. For this reason, one calls death the last and greatest physician, because, though in itself it is the greatest evil, yet it cures all others, and therefore prescribes the hopes of it as an efficacious remedy and comfort in the afflictions of life.

What security can there be in life, when the Earth, which is the Mother of the living, is unfaithful to them, and sprouts out miseries and death even of whole cities? What can be secure in the world, if the world itself be not, and the most solid parts of it shake? If that which is only immovable and fixed for to sustain the living, tremble with earthquakes; if what is proper to the Earth, which is to be firm, be unstable, and betray us, where all our fears find a refuge? When the roof of the house shakes, we may fly into the fields; but when the Earth shakes, whither shall we go? In the time of the plague we may change places, but from the whole Earth we cannot fly; and so from dangers. And therefore, not to have a remedy may secure us a comfort in our evils; for fear is foolish without hope. Reason banishes fear in those who are wise, and in those who are not despair of remedy gives a kind of security, at least takes away fear; that will fear nothing, let him think all things are to be feared. See what slight things endanger us; even those which sustain life lay ambushes for us. Meat and drink, without which we cannot live, take away our lives. It is no wisdom therefore to fear swallowing by an earthquake, and not to fear the falling of a tile. In death all sorts of dyings are equal. What imports it, whether one single stone kills thee, or a whole mountain oppress thee? Death consists in the soul's leaving of the body, which often happens by slight accidents.

But Christians, in all the miseries and dangers of human life, have great comforts to lay hold on, which are a good conscience, hope of glory, conformity unto divine will, and immutation, and example of Jesus Christ. From these four he shall in life have happiness, in death security, and in eternity a reward. How unjust then was the complaint of Theophrastus, that Nature hath given a longer life unto many birds and beasts than unto man. If our lives were less troublesome, he had some reason; but it being so fraught with miseries, he might rather think that life the happiest which was shortest. It is better to be young and die well, than to be old and die ill. This voyage being of necessity, the felicity of it consists not in being long, but in being prosperous, and at the last we arrive in the desired port. Therefore, supposing so many miseries, we cannot complain of God for giving us a short life, but of ourselves for having made it a bad one; our life being compassed with so many miseries as that, death seems rather a shelter of our evils than a punishment. God was pleased that it should be short, that the vexations and misfortunes of it, which cannot be counterprised with any joys of the Earth, might be more supportable. At least if this life, with so many miseries, do not displease us, yet let the eternal, with all its felicities, content us better; let us not endeavour less for immortal life in heaven, than we do for this mortal on Earth. Let us keep always in mind the years of eternity; so whatsoever adversity or affliction happen, we shall more easily bear it. "For our light afflictions which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding weight of glory."

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