« PoprzedniaDalej »
goods ought to be in common, all men will apprehend, that not princes and rich persons, but the poor and the servants, would soonest become disciples, and believe the doctrines, because they are the only persons likely to get by them; and it concerns the other not to believe him, the doctrine being destructive of their interests. Just such a persuasion is every persevering love to a vicious habit; it having possessed the understanding with fair opinions of it, and surprised the will with passion and desires, whatsoever doctrine is its enemy, will with infinite difficulty be entertained. And we know a great experience of it, in the article of the Messias dying on the cross, which, though infinitely true, yet, because “ to the Jews it was a scandal, and to the Greeks foolishness," it could not be believed, they remaining in that indisposition; that is, unless the will were first set right, and they willing to believe any truth, though for it they must disclaim their interest: their understanding was blind, because the heart was hardened, and could not receive the impression of the greatest moral demonstration in the world.
8. The holy Jesus asked water of the woman, unsatisfying water; but promised that himself, to them that ask him, would give waters of life, and satisfaction infinite; so distinguishing the pleasures and appetites of this world from the desires and complacencies spiritual. Here we labour, but receive no benefit; we sow many times, and reap not; or reap, and do not gather in; or gather in, and do not possess; or possess, but do not enjoy; or if we enjoy, we are still unsatisfied, it is with anguish of spirit, and circumstances of vexation. A great heap of riches makes neither our clothes warm, nor our meat more nutritive, nor our beverage more pleasant; and it feeds the eye, but never fills it, but, like drink to an hydropic person, increases the thirst, and promotes the torment. But the grace of God, though but like a grain of mustard-seed, fills the furrows of the heart; and as the capacity increases, itself grows up in equal degrees, and never suffers any emptiness or dissatisfaction, but carries content and fulness all the way; and the degrees of augmentation are not steps and near approaches to satisfaction, but increasings of the capacity; the soul is satisfied all the way, and receives more, not because it wanted any, but that it can now hold more, is more receptive of felicities : and in
every minute of sanctification there is so excellent a condition of joy and high satisfaction, that the very calamities, the afflictions, and persecutions of the world, are turned into felicities by the activity of the prevailing ingredient; like a drop of water falling into a tun of wine, it is ascribed into a new family, losing its own nature by a conversion into the more noble. For now that all passionate desires are dead, and there is nothing remanent that is vexatious, the peace, the serenity, the quiet sleeps, the evenness of spirit, and contempt of things below, remove the soul from all neighbourhood of displeasure, and place it at the foot of the throne, whither when it is ascended, it is possessed of felicities eternal. These were the waters which were given to us to drink, when, with the rod of God, the rock Christ Jesus was smitten: the Spirit of God moves for ever upon these waters; and when the angel of the covenant hath stirred the pool, whoever descends hither shall find health and peace, joys spiritual, and the satisfactions of eternity.
O holy Jesus, fountain of eternal life, thou spring of joy and
spiritual satisfactions, let the holy stream of blood and water issuing from thy sacred side cool the thirst, soften the hardness, and refresh the barrenness of my desert soul; that I, thirsting after thee, as the wearied hart after the cool stream, may despise all the vainer complacencies of this world, refuse all societies but such as are safe, pious, and charitable, mortify all sottish appetites, and may desire nothing but thee, seek none but thee, and rest in thee with entire dereliction of my own caitive inclinations; that the desires of nature may pass into desires of grace, and my thirst and my hunger may be spiritual, and my hopes placed in thee, and the expresses of my charity upon thy relatives, and all the parts of my life may speak thy love, and obedience to thy commandments: that thou possessing my soul, and all its faculties, during my whole life, I may possess thy glories in the fruition of a blessed eternity; by the light of thy Gospel here, and the streams of thy grace, being guided to thee, the fountain of life and glory, there to be inebriated with the waters of paradise, with joy, and love, and contemplation, adoring and admiring the beauties of the Lord for ever and ever. Amen.
Ad SECTION XII.
Considerations upon Christ's First Preaching, and the
Accidents happening about that Time. 1. " When John was cast into prison, then began Jesus to preach ;” not only because the ministry of John, by order of Divine designation, was to precede the publication of Jesus, but also upon prudent considerations and designs of Providence, lest two great personages at once upon the theatre of Palestine might have been occasion of divided thoughts, and these have determined upon a schism, some professing themselves to be of Christ, some of John. For once an offer was made of a dividing question by the spite of the Pharisees,
Why do the disciples of John fast often, and thy disciples fast not?” But when John went off from the scene, then Jesus appeared, like the sun in succession to the morning star, and there were no divided interests upon mistake, or the fond adhérences of the followers. And although the holy Jesus would certainly have cured all accidental inconveniences which might have happened in such accidents ;
may become a precedent to all prelates, to be prudent in avoiding all occasions of a schism, and, rather than divide a people, submit and relinquish an opportunity of preaching to their inferiors, as knowing that God is better served by charity than a homily; and if my modesty made me resign to my inferior, the advantages of honour to God by the cession of humility are of greater consideration than the smaller and accidental advantages of better penned and more accurate discourses. But our blessed Lord, designing to gather disciples, did it in the manner of the more extraordinary persons and doctors of the Jews, and particularly of the Baptist, he initiated them into the institution by the solemnity of a baptism; but yet he was pleased not to minister it in his own person. His apostles were baptized in
John's baptism, said Tertulliana; or else, St. Peter only was baptized by his Lord, and he baptized the rest. However, the Lord was pleased to depute the ministry of his servants, that so he might constitute a ministry; that he might reserve it to himself as a specialty to “ baptize with the Spirit,” as his servants did “ with water;" that he might declare, that the efficacy of the rite did not depend upon the dignity of the minister, but his own institution, and the holy covenant; and lastly, lest they who were baptized by him in person might please themselves above their brethren, whose needs were served by a lower ministry.
2. The holy Jesus, the great Physician of our souls, now entering upon his cure, and the diocese of Palestine, which was afterwards enlarged to the pale of the Catholic church, was curious to observe all advantages of prudence for the benefit of souls, by the choice of place, by quitting the place of his education, (which, because it had been poor and humble, was apt to procure contempt to his doctrine, and despite to his person,) by fixing in Capernaum, which had the advantage of popularity, and the opportunity of extending the benefit, yet had not the honour and ambition of Jerusalem ; that the ministers of religion might be taught to seek and desire employment in such circumstances which may serve the end of God, but not of ambition; to promote the interest of souls, but not the inordination of lower appetites. Jesus quitted his natural and civil interests, when they were less consistent with the end of God and his prophetical office, and considered not his mother's house, and the vicinage in the accounts of religion, beyond those other places in which he might better do his Father's work : in which a forward piety might behold the insinuation of a duty to such persons, who, by rights of law and custom, were so far instrumental to the cure of souls, as to design the persons; they might do but duty if they first considered the interests of souls before the advantages of their kindred and relatives ; and although, if all things else be alike, they may in equal dispositions prefer their own before strangers ; yet it were but reason that they should first consider sadly if the men be equal, before they remember that they are of their
. Lib. de Baptis.
kindred, and not let this consideration be ingredient into the former judgment. And another degree of liberty yet there is; if our kindred be persons apt and holy, and without exceptions either of law, or prudence, or religion, we may do them advantages before others who have some degrees of learning and improvement beyond the other: or else no man might lawfully prefer his kindred, unless they were absolutely the ablest in a diocese or kingdom ; which doctrine were a snare apt to produce scruples to the consciences, rather than advantages to the cure. But then also patrons should be careful, that they do not account their clerks by an estimate taken from comparison with unworthy candidates, set up on purpose, that when we choose our kindred we may abuse our consciences by saying, we have fulfilled our trust, and made election of the more worthy. In these and the like cases, let every
man who is concerned deal with justice, nobleness, and sincerity, with the simplicity of a Christian and the wisdom of a man, without 'tricks and stratagems, to disadvantage the church by doing temporal advantages to his friend or family.
3. The blessed Master began his office with a sermon of repentance, as his decessor, John the Baptist, did in his ministration, to tell the world that the new covenant, which was to be established by the mediation and office of the holy Jesus, was a covenant of grace and favour, not established upon works, but upon promises, and remission of right on God's part, and remission of sins on our part. The law was
a covenant of works,” and whoever prevaricated any of its sanctions in a considerable degree, he stood sentenced by it without any hopes of restitution supplied by the law. And therefore it was the “ covenant of works ;” not because good works were then required more than now, or because they had more efficacy than now; but because all our hopes did rely upon the perfection of works and innocence, without the suppletories of grace, pardon, and repentance. But the Gospel is therefore “a covenant of grace," not that works are excluded from our duty, or from co-operating to heaven; but that, because there is in it so much mercy, the imperfections of the works are made up by the grace of Jesus, and the defects of innocence are supplied by the substitution of repentance. Abatements are made for the infirmities and