« PreviousContinue »
and secrets, the varieties, and separations, and divisibilities of things. The word is taken from the triers of gold, which is tried by the touchstone, and, in great cases, is tried by the fire. And, in this sense, St. Paul might relate to the present condition of the Christians, who were often under a fiery trial. For the holy communion, being used by the primitive Christians according to its intention, was, indeed, a great consolation to the martyrs and confessors, as appears often in St. Cyprian. And this blessing and design was mystically represented to the church in the circumstance of the institution, it being done immediately before the passion: they who were to pass through this fiery trial, ought to examine themselves against this solemnity, in order to that last trial, and see whether or no they were vessels of sanctification and honour; for none else were fit to communicate, but they also that were fit to die; Christ would give himself to none but to them who are ready to give themselves for him; according to that saying of Christ, "If any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him, and sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcometh, will I grant to sit with me," &c. That is, "those, who are tried by the experiments of great love, and a great patience, that out of love are willing to suffer, and with patience do suffer unto the end; these are the guests at my heavenly table:" for labour and affrightment put a price upon the martyr's crown, while his virtue grows in danger, and like the water-plants ever grow higher than the floods. Now the use that we can make
• Δοκιμαζέτω· καὶ τὸν χρυσὸν θεωροῦμεν καὶ δοκιμάζομεν, ἕτερα παραδεικνύοντες.
b Non Israel edit sine amaris caulibus agnum;
Tolle tuam, Christi qui cupis, esse, crucem;
Lætior exhausto palma labore venit.
e Nunc non infirmis, sed fortibus, pax necessaria est; nec morientibus, sed viventibus, communicatio à nobis danda est; ut quos excitamus et hortamur ad prælium, non inermes et nudos relinquamus, sed protectione sanguinis et corporis. Christi muniamus; et cum ad hoc fiat eucharistia, ut possit accipientibus esse tutela, quos tutos esse contra adversarium volumus, munimento Dominicæ saturitatis armemus.-Lib. de Lapsis, et Epist. 54.
Rev. iii. 20, 21.
sit laurea justis
Ex pretio quod terror agit; mansuraque virtus
Arat: Diacon. lib. ii, in acta.
of this sense of the word, is, that we also are to examine what we are likely to be, or what we have been, in the day of persecution; how we have passed through the fire. Did we contract the smell of fire, or the pollution of smoke? Or are we improved by the purification of the discerning flames? Did we do our duties then, and then learn to do them better? Or did we then, only, like glass, bend in all the flexures and mobilities of the flame, and then mingle with the ashes, incorporating with the interests and foulest pollutions of the world? Or were we like gold, patient of the hammer, and approved by the stone of trial? Like gold in the tire, did we untwist ourselves from all complications and mixtures with impurer dross? Certain it is, that by persecution and by money', men are, in all capacities and relations, best examined how they are in their religion and their justice.
Sometimes God tries his friends as we try one another, by the infelicities of our lives; when we are unhappy in our affliction, if we be not unhappy in our friend too, he is a right good one; and God will esteem of us so, if we can say with David, "Though thou hast smitten us into the place of dragons, yet have we not forgotten thee;" and "my soul is alway in my hand," that is, I am always in danger and trouble, and I bear death about me, "yet do I not forsake thy commandments."-This, indeed, is God's way of examination of us; but that is all one; for we must examine ourselves here in order to our duty and state of being, as God will examine us hereafter, in order to what we have been and done. And there is no greater testimony of our being fit to receive Christ, than when we are ready to die for him. But this is a final trial; we must have some steps of progression, before we come thus far.
2. There is a way something less than this. Lycurgus instituted among the Spartans, that the princes, the magistrates, the soldiers, and every citizen that was capable of dignity, should be tried; they examined their lives whether they had lived according to the rate of their employment or pretension:-and those who were so examined, were called doxiaolévτes, tried and examined men;' and if they were
Ecclus. xxxi. 9.
Β Δοκίμαζε τοὺς φίλους ἐκ τῆς περὶ τὸν βίον ἀτυχίας. b Ενίοτε δὲ αὐτῶν καὶ ἐξετάζετο ὁ βίος· δοκιμασθέντες, ἀντὶ τοῦ εἰς ἄνδρας ἐγγραφόμενος. Suidas. ἐπὶ τῶν πράξεων τῶν χρησίμων τοὺς εὖ φρονοῦντας δοκιμάζειν.
persons quitting themselves like men, they were ascribed in the number of the good citizens. That is our way to try whether we be instructed and rightly prepared to this good work, and that is, to be examined by a course and order of good works; that was the old and true way of examining.
For examination is but a relative duty, and nothing of itself; for no man is the better for being examined, if, being examined, there follows nothing after it. He that is examined, either must be approved; or else, in St. Paul's phrase, he is adónimos, a reprobate.' And to what purpose is it, that every man should examine himself, but, in case that he find himself unfit, to abstain and forbear to come? For if he comes unworthy, he dies for it; and, therefore, to 'examine' must signify, let every man examine himself, so that he be approved :—and so the word is used by St. Paul', happy is he that doth not condemn himself "in that which he approveth." The word signifies both to examine and to prove; that is indeed to examine as wise men should; doxμáras arrì To xpivas, saith Suidas; it is all one as to judge righteous judgment after due examination; and that is expressly added by the apostle, in the same chapter, after the precept of examination, "Judge yourselves, that ye be not judged of the Lord;" that is, 'your examination of yourselves will prevent the horrors of the eternal scrutiny; your condemnation of your sins will prevent God's condemnation of you for them; and then, when you examine so as to judge, and so condemn your sins that you approve yourselves to God and your own consciences,then you have examined rightly.'
The sense then is this: let a man examine and prove himself, whether he be fit to come to the holy communion, and so let him eat; not so, if, upon examination, he be found unfit: but because it is intended he should come, and yet must not come without due and just preparations, let him who comes to the holy communion, be sure that he worthily prepare himself.
These then are the great inquiries: 1. How a man shall so examine himself, as to know whether he be fit or no.. 2. What are those necessary dispositions, without which a
man cannot be worthily prepared. The first will represent
1 Rom. xiv. 22. ¿vdonság. Phil, i. 4, 10. Gal, vi. 4. Ephes. v. 10...
the general rules of preparation. The second inquiry will consider the more particular.
Of the Examination of our Desires.
EVERY one that comes to the holy sacrament, must have earnest affections and desires towards God and religion, and particularly towards these divine mysteries; and, therefore, he must examine accordingly, whether or no he be willing and passionately desirous to do all his duty. His saying that he is so, I do not suppose to be a sufficient satisfaction to a serious inquiry, unless he really feels himself to be so. For we find that all men pretend that they have earnest desires to be saved; and very many, espying the beauties of wisdom, the brightness of chastity, the health of temperance, the peace of meek persons, and the reputation and joy of the charitable,wish that they were such excellent persons. But they consider not, that it is the splendour, not the virtue; the reputation, not the usefulness; the reward, and not the duty, that they are in love withal. Our desires of holiness are too often like our desires of being cut of the stone, or suffering caustics or cupping-glasses, an unwilling willingness, a hard and a fatal necessity, and, therefore, something of a consequent choice; since it can be no better, it must be no worse. But this can never make our duty pleasant; we can never be heartily reconciled for the things of God as long as we feel smart and pain in the ministries of religion: we suffer religion, and endure the laws of God; but we love them not. He that comes to God, whether he will or no, confesses the greatness of God and the demonstrations of religion, but sees no amability and comeliness in it; and shall find as little of the reward.
It is true that force and fear may bring us in to God; and "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom ;" and Christ said, "Compel them to enter;" and our natural needs, or our superinduced calamities, may force us to run to God, and affright us into religion as into a sanctuary. But then if we enter at this door, we must examine whether we be
taken with the beauties of the interior house: does fear make us look, and does looking make us like? If holy desires and love be not in the beginning or the progression, we shall do the work of grace pitifully, and our preparations coldly, and our attentions distractedly, and receive the sacraments without effect.
Now concerning our desires, we shall best judge of them by the proper effects and significations of desire.
Signs and Indications of the Sincerity and Heartiness of our Desires.
Are his affections warm and earnest, inquisitive and longing, interested and concerned in the things of God? I do not say it is necessary that he find those passions and degrees of fierceness, which passionate persons find in sensual objects: but yet it is very fit that we inquire concerning those degrees and excesses of desire. Not that he is unfit, who finds them not; but that they who have them, can also receive comfort in their inquiry, and become examples to others, and invite them forwards by the argument of amability which they feel.
But our passions and desires are so to be inquired of, that we find no rest in our souls concerning this question, unless we do, indeed, set a high value upon these mysteries; and love to partake of them, and desire them reasonably, and, without very great cause, not to admit the opportunities which the church gives and requires us to use, and to exceed the lowest measure of the law; for he that only communicates when he is commanded, communicates in obedience, but not in love. For though obedience to God is love, yet our obedience to man is most commonly fear; at least we cannot so well be sure that we are passionate enough, and have love enough to these mysteries, when the law of men, that is, when something 'without,' is our measure. For ecclesiastical laws have necessity most commonly for their limit; and
Ut perdunt propriam mortalia corpora vitam,
Dum verbi æterni pane carent, pereunt.