Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

III.

Blessed Jesus, now that thou hast sanctified and exalted

human nature, and made even my body precious by a personal uniting it to the Divinity, teach me so reverently to account of it, that I may not dare to profane it with impure lusts or caitive affections, and unhallow that ground, where thy holy feet have trodden. Give to me ardent desires, and efficacious prosecutions of these holy effects, which thou didst design for us in thy nativity, and other parts of our redemption : give me great confidence in thee, which thou hast encouraged by the exhibition of so glorious favours; great surrow and confusion of face at the sight of mine own imperfections, and estrangements, and great distances from thee, and the perfections of thy soul; and bring me to thee by the strictnesses of a zealous and affectionate imitation of those sanctities, which, next to the hypostatical union, added lustre and excellency to thy humanity; that I may live here with thee in the expresses of a holy life, and die with thee by mortification and an unwearied patience; and reign with thee in immortal glories, world without end. Amen.

DISCOURSE I.

Of nursing Children, in imitation of the blessed Virgin-Mother.

1. THESE later ages of the world have declined into a softness above the effeminacy of Asian princes, and have contracted customs, which those innocent and healthful days of our ancestors knew not; whose piety was natural, whose charity was operative, whose policy was just and valiant, and whose economy was sincere, and proportionable to the dispositions and requisites of nature. And in this particular, the good women of old gave one of their instancesa. The

a Quòd si pudica mulier in partem juvet

Domum atqne dulces liberos :
(Sabina qualis, aut perusta solibus
Pernicis uxor Appuli)
Non me Lucrina juverint conchylia
Magis, &c.

Hor. Epod. ii.

greatest personages nursed their own children, did the work of mothers, and thought it was unlikely, women should become virtuous by ornaments and superadditions of morality, who did decline the laws and prescriptions of nature, whose principles supply us with the first and most common rules of manners and more perfect actions. In imitation of whom, and especially of the Virgin Mary, who was mother and nurse to the holy Jesus, I shall endeavour to correct those softnesses and unnatural rejections of children, which are popular up to a custom and fashion, even where no necessities of nature or just reason can make excuse.

2. And I cannot think the question despicable, and the duty of meanest consideration ; although it be specified in an office of small esteem, and suggested to us by the principles of reason, and not by express sanctions of Divinity. For although other actions are more perfect and spiritual, yet this is more natural and humane; other things, being superadded to a full duty, rise higher, but this builds stronger, and is like a part of the foundation, having no lustre, but much strength; and however the others are full of ornament, yet this hath in it some degrees of necessity, and possibly is with more danger and irregularity omitted, than actions, which spread their leaves fairer, and look more gloriously.

3. First: Here I consider, that there are many sins in the scene of the body and the matter of sobriety, which are highly criminal, and yet the laws of God, expressed in Scripture, name them not; but men are taught to distinguish them by that reason, which is given us by nature, and is imprinted in our understanding, in order to the conservation of human kind. For since every creature hath something in it sufficient to propagate the kind, and to conserve the individuals from perishing in confusions and general disorders, which in beasts we call instinct, that is, an habitual or prime disposition to do certain things, which are proportionable to the end whither it is designed; man also, if he be 'not more imperfect, must have the like: and because he knows and makes reflections upon his own acts, and understands the reason of it, that which in them is instinct, in him is natural reason, which is, a desire to preserve himself and his own kind; and differs from instinct, because he understands his instinct and the reasonableness of it, and they do not. But man, being a higher thing, even in the order of creation, and designed to a more noble end in his animal capacity, his argumentative instinct is larger than the natural instinct of beasts : for he hath instincts in him, in order to the conservation of society", and therefore hath principles, that is, he hath natural desires to it for his own good; and because he understands them, they are called principles, and laws of nature, but are no other than what I have now declared; for beasts do the same things we do, and have many the same inclinations, which in us are the laws of nature, even all which we have in order to our common end. But that, which in beasts is nature and an impulsive force, in us must be duty and an inviting power : we must do the same things with an actual or habitual designation of that end, to which God designs beasts, (supplying by his wisdom their want of understanding,) and then, what is mere nature in them, in us is natural reason. And therefore marriage in men is made sacred, when the mixtures of other creatures are so merely natural, that they are not capable of being virtuous; because men are bound to intend that end, which God made. And this, with the superaddition of other ends, of which marriage is representative in part, and in part effective, does consecrate marriage, and makes it holy and mysterious. But then there are in marriage many duties, which we are taught by instinct; that is, by that reason whereby we understand, what are the best means to promote the end, which we have assigned us. And by these laws all unnatural mixtures are made unlawful, and the decencies which are to be observed in marriage, are prescribed us by this.

4. Secondly: Upon the supposition of this discourse, I consider again, that, although to observe this instinct, or these laws of nature, (in which I now have instanced,) be no great virtue in any eminency of degree, (as no man is much commended for not killing himself, or for not degenerating into beastly lusts ;) yet, to prevaricate some of these laws, may become almost the greatest sin in the world. And

b Naturale jus partim, το δίκαιον, πάσιν ανθρώπους ομοίως λυσιτελέστατον» partim, το προς καλοκάγαθίαν κοινόν άπασι, και μόνον έκαναν διασώζειν τον των ανθρώπων βίον. Joseph. Orig. xvi. 10.

therefore, although to live according to nature be a testimony fit to be given to a sober and a temperate man, and rises 'no higher; yet, to do an action against nature, is the greatest dishonour and impiety in the world, (I mean of actions whose scene lies in the body,) and disentitles us to all relations to God, and vicinity to virtue.

5. Thirdly: Now, amongst actions which we are taught by nature, some concern the being and the necessities of nature, some appertain to her convenience and advantage : and the transgressions of these respectively have their heightenings or depressions ; and, therefore, to kill a man, is worse than some præternatural pollutions, because more destructive of the end and designation of nature, and the purpose of instinct.

6. Fourthly: Every part of this instinct is then, in some sense, a law, when it is in a direct order to a necessary end, and by that is made reasonable. I say, in some sense it is a law; that is, it is in a near disposition to become a law. It is a rule, without obligation to a particular punishment, beyond the effect of the natural inordination and obliquity of

it is not the measure of a moral good or evil, but of the natural ; that is, of comely and uncomely. For if, in the individuals, it should fail, or that there pass some greater obligation upon the person in order to a higher end, not consistent with those means designed in order to the lesser end, in that particular it is no fault, but sometimes a virtue. And, therefore, although it be an instinct, or reasonable towards many purposes, that every one should beget a man in his own image, in order to the preservation of nature ; yet, if there be a superaddition of another and higher end, and contrary means persuaded in order to it, (such as is holy celibate, or virginity, in order to a spiritual life, in some persons,) there the instinct of nature is very far from passing obligation upon the conscience, and in that instance ceases to be reasonable. And, therefore, the Romans, who invited men to marriage with privileges, and punished morose and ungentle natures that refused it, yet they had their chaste and unmarried vestals; the first, in order to the commonwealth ; these, in a nearer order to religion.

7. Fifthly : These instincts or reasonable inducements become laws, obliging us, in conscience and in the way of

the act;

[blocks in formation]

1

1

religion; and the breach of them is directly criminal, when the instance violates any end of justice, or charity, or sobriety, either designed in nature's first intention, or superinduced by God or man.

For every thing that is unreasonable to some certain purpose, is not presently criminal, much less is it against the law of nature, (unless every man, that goes out of his way, sins against the law of nature); and every contradicting of a natural desire or inclination, is not a sin against a law of nature. For the restraining sometimes of a lawful and a permitted desire is an act of great virtue, and pursues a greater reason; as in the former instance. But those things only, against which such a reason as mixes with charity or justice, or something that is now in order to a farther end of a commanded instance of piety, may be without error brought, those things are only criminal. And God, having first made our instincts reasonable, hath now made our reason and instincts to be spiritual ; and having sometimes restrained our instincts, and always made them regular, he hath, by the intermixture of other principles, made a separation of instinct from instinct, leaving one in the form of natural inclination, and they rise no higher than a permission or a decency, it is lawful, or it is comely so to do: (for no man can affirm it to be a duty to kill him, that assaults my life, or to maintain my children for ever without their own industry, when they are able, what degrees of natural fondness soever I have towards them ; nor that I sin, if I do not marry, when I can contain :) and yet every one of these may proceed from the affections and first inclinations of nature. But until they mingle with justice, or charity, or some instance of religion and obedience, they are no laws; the other that are so mingled, being raised to duty and religion. Nature inclines us, and reason judges it apt and requisite in order to certain ends; but then every particular of it is made to be an act of religion from some other, principle : as yet, it is but fit and reasonable, not religion and particular duty, till God or man hath interposed. But whatsoever particular in nature was fit to be made a law of religion, is made such by the superaddition of another principle; and this is derived to us by tradition from Adam to Noah, or else transmitted to us by the consent of all the world upon a natural and prompt reason, or else by some other instrument derived to us from God, but especially by

« PoprzedniaDalej »