Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

him the night and day are both alikeh.” These, and many more to the same design, are the voices of Scripture, that our spirits may retire into the beholding of God, to the purposes of fear and holiness, with whom we do cohabit by the necessities of nature, and the condition of our essence, wholly in dependence; and then only we may sin securely, when we can contrive to do it so, that God may not see us.

30. There are many men who are “servants of the eyes'," as the apostle's phrase is; who, when they are looked on, act virtue with much pompousness and theatrical braveryk; but these men, when the theatre is empty, put off their upper garment, and retire into their primitive baseness. Diogenes endured the extremity of winter's cold, that the people might wonder at his austerity and philosophical patience; but Plato, seeing the people admiring the man and pitying the sufferance, told them, that the way to make him warm himself, was for them to be gone, and to take no notice of him. For they that walk as in the sight of men, serve that design well enough, when they fill the public voice with noises and opi, nions, and are not, by their purposes, engaged to act in private; but they who are servants of the eyes of God, and walk as in the Divine presence, perceive the same restraints in darkness, and closets, and grots, as in the light and midst of theatres; and that consideration imposes upon us a happy necessity of doing virtuously, which presents us placed in the eyes of our Judge. And, therefore, it was not unhandsomely said of a Jewish doctor, every man would consider God to be the great eye of the world, watching perpetually over all our actions, and that his hand is indefatigable, and his ear ever open, possibly sin might be extirpated from off the face of the earth.” And this is the condition of beatitude; and the blessed souls within their regions of light and felicity cannot sin, because of the vision beatifical, they always be

[ocr errors]

h Psal. cxxxix. 12.

1 Ephes. vi. 6. οφθαλμόδουλοι. * Non enim virtute ac studiis, ut haberentur philosophi, laborabant; sed vultam et tristitiam, et dissentientem à cæteris habitum, pessimis moribus prætendebant. - Quintil. lib. i. proæm.

Ambitio et luxuria et impotentia scenam desiderant; sanabis ista, si absconderis. — Senec, ep. 95.

Magna vobis, si dissimulare non vultis, injecta necessitas probitatis, cùm omnia agitis ante oculos judicis cuncta cernentis. — Boeth. lib. v. Consol. prosâ ult.

VOL. II.

U

hold the face of God: and those who partake of this state by way of consideration, which is essential to the condition of the blessed, and derive it into practice and discourse, in proportion to this shall retain an innocence and a part of glory.

31. For it is a great declension of human reason, and a disreputation to our spirits, that we are so wholly led by sense, that we will not walk in the regions of the Spirit, and behold God by our eyes of faith and discourse, suffering our course of life to be guided by such principles, which distinguish our natures from beasts, and our conditions from vicious, and our spirits from the world, and our hopes from the common satisfactions of sense and corruption. The better half of our nature is of the same constitution with that of angels; and therefore, although we are drenched in matter and the communications of earth, yet our better part was designed to converse with God: and we had, besides the eye of reason, another eye of faith put into our souls, and both clarified with revelations and demonstrations of the Spirit, expressing to us so visible and clear characters of God's presence, that the expression of the same Spirit is, “We may feel him, for he is within us'," and about us, and we are in him, and in the comprehensions of his embracings, as birds in the air, or infants in the wombs of their pregnant mothers. And that God is pleased not to communicate himself to the eyes of our body, but still to remain invisible, besides that it is his own glory and perfection, it is also no more to us but like a retreat behind a curtain, where, when we know our Judge stands as an espial and a watch over our actions, we shall be sottish, if we dare to provoke his jealousy, because we see him not, when we know that he is close by, though behind the cloud.

32. There are some general impressions upon our spirits, which, by way of presumption and custom, possess our persuasions, and make restraint upon us to excellent purposes ; such as are the religion of holy places, reverence of our parents, presence of an austere, an honourable, or a virtuous

[ocr errors][merged small]

person, For many sins are prevented by the company of a witness, especially if, besides the ties of modesty, we have also towards him an endearment of reverence and fair opinion"; and if he were with us in our privacies, he would cause our retirements to be more holy. St. Ambrose reports of the Virgin Mary, that she had so much piety and religion in her countenance and deportment, that divers persons, moved by the veneration and regard of her person, in her presence have first commenced their resolutions of chastity and sober living. However the story be, her person certainly was of so express and great devotion and sanctity, that he must needs have been of a very impudent disposition and firm immodesty, who durst have spoken unhandsome language in the presence of so rare a person. And why then any

rudeness in the presence of God, if that were as certainly believed and considered ? For whatsoever amongst men can be a restraint of vice or an endearment of virtue, all this is highly verified in the presence of God, to whom our conscience, in its very concealments, is as a fair table written in capital letters by his own finger; and then, if we fail of the advantage of this exercise, it must proceed either from our dishonourable opinion of God, or our own fearless inadvertency, or from a direct spirit of reprobation : for it is certain, that this consideration is, in its own nature, apt to correct our manners, to produce the fear of God', and humility, and spiritual and holy thoughts, and the knowledge of God and of ourselves, and the consequents of all these, holy walking, and holy comforts. And, by this only argument, St. Paphnutius and St. Ephrem are reported in church-story to have converted two harlots from a course of dissolution to great sanctity and austerity.

* Aliquem habeat animus quem revereatur, cujus auctoritate etiam secretum tuum sanctius fiat. Quid prodest inclusam esse conscientiam? patemus Deo.— Senec. lib. i. ep. 11.

n Tiberius inter bona malaque mixtus, incolumi matre; intestabilis sævi. tiâ, sed obtectis libidinibus, dum Sejanum dilexit timuitve: postremò in scelera simul ac dedecora prorapit, postquam, remoto pudore et metu, suo tantùm ingenio utebatur.— Tacit. lib. vi. c. 51.

“Ορώ γαρ ημάς ουδέν όντας άλλο, πλην
Είδωλο, όσουπερ ζώμεν, ή κούφην σκιάν.
Τοιαύτα τοίνυν εισορών, υπέρκοπον
Μηδέν ποτ' είπης αυτός εις θεούς έτος. Sophocl. Αj. 125.

0

33. But then this presence of God must not be a mere speculation of the understanding; though so only it is of very great benefit and immediate efficacy, yet it must reflect as well from the will as from discourse : and then only we walk in the presence of God, when by faith we behold him present, when we speak to him in frequent and holy prayers, when we beg aid from him in all our needs, and ask counsel of him in all our doubts, and before him bewail our sins, and tremble at his presence. This is an entire exercise of religion. And beside that the presence of God serves to all this, it hath also especial influence in the disimprovement of temptations, because it hath in it many things contrariant to the nature and efficacy of temptations ; such as are consideration, reverence, spiritual thoughts, and the fear of God : for wherever this consideration is actual, there either God is highly despised, or certainly feared. In this case we are made to declare; for our purposes are concealed only in an incuriousness and inconsideration ; but whoever considers God as present, will, in all reason, be as religious as in a temple, the reverence of which place custom or religion hath imprinted in the spirits of most men: so that, as Ahasuerus said of Haman, Will he ravish the queen in my own house ?” aggravating the crime by the incivility of the circumstance ; God may well say to us, whose religion compels us to believe God everywhere present; since the Divine presence hath made all places holy, and every place hath a Numen in it, even the eternal God, we unhallow the place, and desecrate the ground whereon we stand, supported by the arm of God, placed in his heart, and enlightened by his eye, when we sin in so sacred a presence.

34. The second great instrument against temptation, is “ meditation of death p." Raderus reports, that a certain virgin, to restrain the inordination of intemperate desires, which were like thorns in her flesh, and disturbed her spiritual peace, shut herself up in a sepulchre, and for twelve years dwelt in that scene of death. ' It were good we did so too, making tombs and coffins presential to us by frequent meditation. For God hath given us all a definitive arrest in Adam, and from it there lies no appeal; but it is infallibly

Tota philosophia nihil est nisi meditatio mortis. Plato.

and unalterably “ appointed for all men once to die?,” or to “ be changed,” to pass from hence to a condition of eternity, good or bad. Now, because this law is certain', and the time and the manner of its execution is uncertain, and from this moment eternity depends, and that after this life the final sentence is irrevocable, that all the pleasures here are sudden, transient, and unsatisfying, and vain; he must needs be a fool, that knows not to distinguish moments from eternity : and since it is a condition of necessity, established by Divine decrees, and fixed by the indispensable laws of nature, that we shall, after a very little duration, pass on to a condition strange, not understood, then unalterable, and yet of great mutation from this, even of greater distance from that, in which we are here, than this is from the state of beasts; this, when it is considered, must, in all reason, make the same impression upon our understandings and affections, which naturally all strange things, and all great considerations, are apt to do; that is, create resolutions and results passing through the heart of man, such as are reasonable and prudent, in order to our own felicities, that we neglect the vanities of the present temptation, and secure our future condition, which will, till eternity itself expires, remain such as we make it to be by our deportment in this short transition and passage through the world.

35. And that this discourse is reasonable, I am therefore confirmed, because I find it to be to the same purpose used by the Spirit of God, and the wisest personages in the world.

My soul is always in my hand, therefore do I keep thy commandments,” said David : he looked upon himself as a dying person, and that restrained all his inordinations, and so he prayed, “ Lord, teach me to number my days, that I may

4 Μόνος θεών γαρ Θάνατος του δώρων ερά: Ουδ' άν τε θύων, ούτ' επισπένδων ναούς.Æschyl.

'Αθανασίας δ' ουκ έστιν, ουδ' αν συναγάγης Τα Ταντάλου τάλαντ' εκείνα λεγόμενα.Menand.

Vita humana propè uti ferrum est: si exerceas, conteritur; si nou exerceas, tamen rubigo interficit.-Cato apud A. Gell. lib. xi. c. 2.

r Προς μεν τα άλλα πάντα ασφάλειάν έστι προΐστασθαι» χάριν δε θανάτου, πάντες άνθρωποι ατείχιστον πόλιν οικούμεν.-Metrodor. Phil.

* Dies iste quem tanquam extremum reformidas, æterni natalis est. Per hoc spatium, quod ab infantiâ patet in senectutem, in aliam naturæ suminiur. partem.-Senec. ep. 102.

t Psal. cxix. 109.

« PoprzedniaDalej »