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to man; and when in your litanies you pray to be delivered from malice and hypocrisy, from pride and envy, from fornication and every deadly sin; all that is but a line of duty, and tells us that we must never consent to an act of pride, or a thought of envy, to a temptation of uncleanness, or the besmearings and evil paintings of hypocrisy. But we, when we pray against a sin, think we have done enough, and if we ask for a grace, suppose there is no more required. Now prayer is an instrument of help, a procuring auxiliaries of God, that we may do our duty; and why should we ask for help, if we be not ourselves bound to do the thing? Look not, therefore, upon your prayers as a short method of ease and salvation, but as a perpetual monition of duty; and by what we require of God, we see what he requires of us; and if you want a system or collective body of holy precepts, you need no more but your prayer-book; and if you look upon them first as duties, then as prayers, that is, things fit to be desired, and fit to be laboured for, your prayers will be much more useful; not so often vain, not so sit to illusion, not so destitute of effect, or so failing of the promises. The prayers of a Christian must be like the devotions of the husbandman, God speed the plough;'-that is, labour and prayer together; a prayer to bless our labour. Thus, then, we must examine :
Is desire the measure of our prayer? and is labour the fruit of our desire? if so, then what we ask, we shall receive as the gift of God, and the reward of our labour; but unless this be the state of our prayer, we shall find that the receiving of the sacrament will be as ineffective, because it will be as imperfect as our prayer. For prayer and communion differ but as great and little in the same kind of duty. Communion is but a great, public, and solemn address and prayer to God, through Jesus Christ: and if we be not faithful in a little, we shall not be intrusted in a greater; he that does not pray holily and prosperously, can never communicate acceptably. This, therefore, must be severely and prudently examined.
But let us remember this, that there is nothing fit to be presented to God, but what is great and excellent; for nothing comes from him, but what is great and best, and nothing should be returned to him that is little and con
temptible in its kind. It is a mysterious elegancy that is in the Hebrew of the Old Testament,-when the Spirit of God would call any thing very great, or very excellent, he calls it "of the Lord:" so the affrightment of the Lord; that is, a great affrightment fell upon them. And the fearful fire that fell upon the shepherds and sheep of Job, is called the "fire of God;" and when David took the spear and waterpot from the head of Saul, while he and his guards were sleeping, it is said, that "the sleep of the Lord," that is, a very great sleep, was fallen upon them. Thus we read of the "flames of God," and a land of darkness of God"," that is, vehement flames, and a land of exceeding darkness:and the reason is, because when God strikes, he strikes vehemently; so that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.' And on the other side, when he blesses, he blesses excellently; and, therefore, when Naomi blessed Boaz, she said, "Let him be blessed of the Lord," that is, according to the Hebrew manner of speaking, "Let him be exceedingly blessed." In proportion to all this, whatsoever is offered to God, should be of the best; it should be a devout prayer, a fervent, humble, passionate supplication. He that prays otherwise, must expect the curses and contempt of lukewarmness, and will be infinitely unworthy to come to the holy communion, whither they that come, intend to present their prayers to God in the union of Christ's intercession, which is then solemnly imitated and represented. An indevout prayer can never be joined with Christ's prayers. Fire will easily combine with fire, and flame marries flame; but a cold devotion and the fire of this altar can never be friendly and unite in one pyramid, to ascend together to the regions of God and the element of love. If it be a prayer of God, that is, fit to be intitled, fit to be presented unto him, it must be most vehement and holy. "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man' only can be confident to prevail; nothing else can ever be sanctified by a conjunction with this sacrifice of prayer, which must be consumed by a heavenly fire. There is not, indeed, any greater indication of our worthiness or unworthiness to receive the holy communion, than to examine and understand the state of our daily prayer.
Job, i. 16.
A Gen. xxxv. 15.
Cant. viii. 6.
Of preparatory Examination of ourselves in some other
He that comes to the holy communion, must examine himself concerning his passions; whether that which usually transports him to indecency and shame, to sin and folly, be brought under the dominion of grace, under the command of reason, under the empire of the Spirit. For the passions of the soul are the violences and storms of reason; neither reason nor grace can be heard to speak when they are loud; and in vain it is that you tell a passionate person of the interests of wisdom and religion. We see it in fools, who have no allay of reason; their anger is rage, their jealousy is madness, their desires are ravenous, their loves are troublesome and unseasonable, their hopes are groundless but ever confident, their fears are by chance but always without measure and a fool, when his belly is full, may as soon be persuaded into temperate discourses, as he that is passionate, to be obedient to God and to the rules of his own felicity.
A great fear and a constant virtue are seldom found in one man; and a coward is virtuous by chance, and so long as he is let alone; but unless the fear of God be greater than the fear of man, it is in the power of his enemy, whether that man shall be happy or wise. And so it is in a great or easy anger; every man and every thing can put a peevish person out of his religion. It cannot in these and all the like cases be well, unless by examining we find that our spirit is more meek, our passion easier overcome, and the paroxysms or fits return less frequently, and the symptoms be less malignant. In this instance we must be quick and severe; and begin betimes to take a course with these vermin and vipers of the soul. Suetonius tells, that when the witty flatterers of Cæsar had observed, that no frogs did breed in his grandfather's villa, which was in the suburbs of Rome, they set themselves to invent a reason which should flatter the prince, and boldly told abroad, that when young Octavius was a
• Quum primum fari cœpisset, in avito suburbano obstrepentes forte ranas silere jussit: atque ex eo negantur ibi ranæ coaxare. — Octav. 94. B. Crus, vol. i. p. 360. (J. R. P.)
child, he once in sport forbade them to make a noise, and for ever after they were silent and left their pools; ever since Octavius began to speak, they left off to make their noises and their dwellings there. If we suppress our passions that make inarticulate noises in the soul, if betimes and in their infancy we make them silent, we shall find peace in all our days. But an old passion, an inveterate peevishness, an habitual impotency of lust and vile desires, are like an old lion; he will by no means be made tame, and taught to eat the meat of peace and gentleness.
If thy passion be lasting and violent, thou art in a state of evil: if it be sudden and frequent, transient and volatile, thou wilt often fall into sin; and though every passion be not a sin, yet every excess of passion is a diminution of reason and religion; and when the acts are so frequent that none can number them, what effects they leave behind, and how much they disorder the state of grace, none can tell. Either, therefore, suffer no passion to transport and govern you, or no examination can signify any thing. For no man can say, that a very passionate man is a very good man; or how much he is beloved of God, who plays the fool so frequently; nor how long God will love him, who is at the mercy of his imperious passion, which gives him laws, and can every day change his state from good to bad. It was well said of one, 'If you give the reins to grief, every thing that crosses thee, can produce the biggest grief';' and the causes of passions, are as they are made within. He that checks at every word, and is jealous of every look, and disturbed at every accident, and takes all things by the wrong handle, and reflects upon all disturbances, switches and spurs his passion, and strives to overtake sin, and to be tied unto infelicity; but nothing can secure our religion, but binding our passions in chains, and doubling our guards upon them, lest like mad folks they break their locks and bolts, and do all the mischief, of which they can have instruments and opportunity.
Concerning some sort of passionate persons, it may be truly said, that
they are very unfit to communicate;—but that they are fit, it can be confidently said of none.
b Dolori si fræna remiseris, nulla materia non est maxima.
Here, therefore, let us thus examine ourselves.
Are your desires unreasonable, passionate, impotent, and transporting? If God refuses to give you what you desire, can you lay your head softly down upon the lap of providence, and rest content without it? Do you thankfully receive what he gives, and, when he gives you not what you covet, can you still confess his goodness, and glorify hist will and wisdom, without any amazement, dissatisfaction, or secret murmurs? Can you be at peace within, when your purposes are defeated; and at peace abroad with him that stands in the way between you and your desires? And how is it with you in your anger? Does it last so long, or return so frequently as before? Have you the same malice, or have you the same peevishness? For one long anger, and twenty short ones, have no very great difference, save only, that in short and sudden angers we are surprised, and not so in the other but it is an intolerable thing always to be surprised, and a thousand times to say, 'I was not aware,' or ' I was mistaken.' But let us without excuses examine ourselves in this matter, for this is the great magazine of virtue or vice; here dwells obedience or licentiousness, a close knot, or an open liberty, little pleasures and great disturbances, loss of time, and breach of vows. But if, that we may come to Christ, we have stopped so many avenues of sin, and fountains of temptation, it may be very well; but, without it, it can never.
2. He that comes to the holy communion, must examine himself whether his lusts be mortified, or whether they be only changed. For, many times, we have seeming peace, when our open enemies are changed into false friends and we think ourselves holy persons, because we are quit of carnal crimes, and yet, in exchange for them, we are dying with spiritual. It is an easy thing to reprove a murderer, and to chide a foolish drunkard, to make a liar blush, and a
e Hæc brevis est, illa perennis, aqua.
d Hic habitat nullo constricta Licentia nodo,
Jucundique Metus, et non secura Voluptas,
Claud. de nuptiis Honorii. 78, Gesner. vol. i. p. 138.