« PoprzedniaDalej »
creep and corrode like a cancer; let there bé no colloquies, no banquets, no commerce with such who are excommunicate, and justly driven from the communion of the church.” “For such persons (as St. Leo descants upon the apostle's expression of heretical discourses) creep in humbly, and with small and modest beginnings; they catch with flattery, they bind gently, and kill privily.” Let, therefore, all persons who are in danger, secure their persons and persuasions, by removing far from the infection. And for the scandal, St. Herminigilda gave an heroic example, which, in her persuasion, and the circumstances of the age and action, deserved the highest testimony of zeal, religious passion, and confident persuasion. For she rather chose to die by the mandate of her tyrant father, Leonigildus the Goth, than she would, at the paschal solemnity, receive the blessed sacrament at the hand of an Arian bishop.
3. But excepting these cases, which are not to be judged with forwardness, nor rashly taken measure of, we find, that conversing charitably with persons of differing persuasions, hath been instrumental to their conversion, and God's glory. “ The believing wife” may “sanctify the unbelieving husband ;” and we find it verified in church-story. St. Cecily converted her husband Valerianus; St. Theodora converted Sisinius; St. Monica converted Patricius, and Theodelinda Agilulphus ; St. Clotilda persuaded king Clodoveus to be a Christian; and St. Natolia persuaded Adrianus to be a martyr. For they, having their conversation honest and holy amongst the unbelievers, shined like virgin-tapers in the midst of an impure prison, and amused the eyes of the sons of darkness with the brightness of the flame. For the excellency of a holy life is the best argument of the inhabitation of God within the soul : and who will not offer up his understanding upon that altar, where a Deity is placed as the president and author of religion? And this very intercourse of the holy Jesus with the woman is abundant argument, that it were well we were not so forward to refuse communion with dissenting persons, upon the easy and confident mistakes of a too forward zeal. They that call heretic may themselves be the mistaken persons, and, by refusing to communicate the
& Serm. 3. de Jejun. Decimi Mepsis.
h Gregor. lib. iii. dial. jii. 13.
civilities of hospitable entertainment, may shut their doors upon truth, and their windows against light, and refuse to let salvation in. For sometimes ignorance is the only parent of our persuasions, and many times interest hath made an impure commixture with it, and so produced the issue.
4. The holy Jesus gently insinuates his discourses. “ If thou hadst known who it is that asks thee water, thou wouldest have asked water of him.” Oftentimes we know not the person that speaks, and we usually choose our doctrine by our affections to the man: but then, if we are uncivil upon the stock of prejudice, we do not know that it is Christ that calls our understandings to obedience, and our affections to duty and compliances. The woman little thought of the glories, which stood right against her. He that sat upon the well, had a throne placed above the heads of cherubims. In his arms, who there. rested himself, was the sanctuary of rest and peace, where wearied souls were to lay their heads, and dispose their cares, and there to turn them into joys, and to gild their thorns with glory. That holy tongue, which was parched with heat, streamed forth rivulets of holy doctrine, which were to water all the world, to turn our deserts into paradise. And though he begged water at Jacob's well, yet Jacob drank at his : for at his charge all Jacob's flocks and family were sustained, and by him Jacob's posterity were made honourable and redeemed. But because this well was deep, and the woman “ had nothing to draw water with,” and of herself could not fathom so great a depth, therefore she refused him ; just as we do, when we refuse to give drink to a thirsty disciple. Christ comes in that humble manner of address, under the veil of poverty or contempt, and we cannot see Christ from under that robe, and we send him away without an alms; little considering, that when he begs an alms of us in the instance of any of his poor relatives, he asks, of us but to give him occasion to give a blessing for an alms. Thus do the ministers of religion ask support; but when the laws are not more just than many of the people are charitable, they shall fare as their Master did; they shall preach, but, unless they can draw water themselves, they shall not drink; but, si scirent, if men did but know who it is that asks them, that it is Christ, either in his ministers, or Christ in his poor servants, certainly they could not be so obstructed in the issues of their justice and charity, but would remember that no honour could be greater, no love more fortunate, than to meet with an opportunity to be expressed in so noble a manner, that God himself is pleased to call his own relief.
5. When the disciples had returned from the town, whither they went to buy provision, they “wondered to see” the Master “talking” alone“ with a woman.” They knew he never did so before; they had observed him to be of a reserved deportment, and not only innocent, but secure from the dangers of malice and suspicion in the matter of incontinence. The Jews were a jealous and froward people : and as nothing will more blast the reputation of a prophet than effeminacy and wanton affections; so he knew no crime was sooner objected, or harder cleared, than that. Of which, because commonly it is acted in privacy, men look for no probation, but pregnant circumstances and arguments of suspect: so nothing can wash it off, until a man can prove a negative; and if he could, yet he is guilty enough in the estimate of the vulgar for having been accused. But then, because nothing is so destructive of the reputation of a governor, so contradictory to the authority and dignity of his person, as the low and baser appetites of uncleanness, and the consequent shame and scorn, (insomuch that David, having fallen into it, prayed God to confirm or establish him spiritu principali, with the spirit of a prince, the spirit of lust being uningenuous and slavish,) the holy Jesus, who was to establish a new law in the authority of his person, was highly curious so to demean himself, that he might be a person incapable of any such suspicions, and of a temper apt not only to answer the calumny, but also to prevent the jealousy. But yet, now he had a great design in hand, he meant to reveal to the Samaritans the coming of the Messias ; and to this, his discourse with the woman was instrumental. And, in imitation of our great Master, spiritual persons, and the guides of others, have been very prudent and reserved in their societies and intercourse with women. Heretics have served their ends upon the impotency of the sex; and having “ led captive silly women,” led them about as triumphs of lust, and knew no scandal greater than the scandal of heresy, and therefore sought not to decline any, but were infamous in their unwary and lustful mixtures. Simon Magus had
his Helena partner of his lust and heresy; the author of the sect of the Nicolaitans (if St. Jerome was not misinformed) had whole troops of women; Marcion sent a woman as his emissary to Rome; Apelles had his Philomene; Montanus, Prisca and Maximilla; Donatus was served by Lucilla, Helpidius by Agape, Priscillian by Galla, and Arrius spreads his nets, by opportunity of his conversation with the prince's sister, and first he corrupted her, then he seduced the world.
6. But holy persons, preachers of true religion and holy doctrines, although they were careful, by public homilies, to instruct the female disciples, that they who are heirs together with us of the same hope, may be servants in the same discipline and institution ; yet they remitted them to “ their husbands” and guardians to be “ taught at home” And when any personal transactions concerning the needs of their spirit were, of necessity, to intervene between the priest and a woman, the action was done most commonly under public test; or if in private, yet with much caution and observation of circumstance, which might as well prevent suspicion as preserve their innocence. Conversation, and frequent and familiar address, does too much rifle the ligaments and reverence of spiritual authority, and, amongst the best persons, is matter of danger. When the cedars of Libanus have been observed to fall, when David and Solomon have been dishonoured, he is a bold man that will venture farther than he is sent in errand by necessity, or invited by charity, or warranted by prudence. I deny not but some persons have made holy friendships with women; St. Athanasius with a devout and religious virgin, St. Chrysostome with Olympia, St. Jerome with Paula Romana, St. John with the elect Lady, St. Peter and St. Paul with Petronilla" and Tecla. And, therefore, it were a jealousy beyond the suspicion of monks and eunuchs, to think it impossible to have a chaste conversation with a distinct sex. 1. A pure and right intention, 2. an intercourse not extended beyond necessity or holy ends, 3. a short stay, 4. great modesty, 5. and the business of religion, will, by God's grace, hallow the visit, and preserve the friendship in its being spiritual, that it may not degenerate into carnal affection. And yet, these are only advices useful when there is danger in either of the persons, or some scandal incident to the profession, that to some persons, and in the conjunction of many circumstances, are oftentimes not considerable.
i, 1 Cor. xiv. 35. k Quam B. Petri filiam naturalem non fuisse rectè probat Baronius.
7. When Jesus had resolved to reveal himself to the woman, he first gives her occasion to reveal herself to him, fairly insinuating an opportunity to confess her sins, that, having purged herself from her impurity, she might be apt to entertain the article of the revelation of the Messias. And indeed a crime in our manners is the greatest indisposition of our understanding to entertain the truth and doctrine of the Gospel : especially when the revelation contests against the sin, and professes open hostility to the lust. For faith being the gift of God, and an illumination, the Spirit of God will not give this light to them that prefer their darkness before it; either the will must open the windows, or the light of faith will not shine into the chamber of the soul. “ How can ye believe,” said our blessed Saviour, “ that receive honour one of another'?” Ambition and faith, believing God, and seeking of ourselves, are incompetent, and totally incompossible. And therefore Serapion, bishop of Thmuis, spake like an angel, (saith Socrates,) saying, “ that the mind, which feedeth upon spiritual knowledge, must thoroughly be cleansed. The irascible faculty must first be cured with brotherly love and charity, and the concupiscible must be suppressed with continency and mortification.” Then may the understanding apprehend the mysteriousness of Christianity. For, since Christianity is a holy doctrine, if there be any remanent affections to a sin, there is in the soul a party disaffected to the entertainment of the institution, and we usually believe what we have a mind to : our understandings, if a crime be lodged in the will, being like icterical eyes, transmitting the species to the soul with prejudice, disaffection, and colours of their own framing”. If a preacher should discourse, that there ought to be a parity amongst Christians, and that their
| John, V. 44.
m Lib. iv. Hist. cap. 23. u Lurida prætereà fiunt quæcunque tuentur