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done him no injury; for in that case he only who sees the irregularity of our thoughts, is the person injured. And when we swear to him, our heart must swear as well as our tongue, and our hands must pay what our lips have promised; or else we provoke him with an imperfect sacrifice: we love him not with all our mind, with all our strength, and all our faculties.
10. But the difficulty and question of this commandment lies in the intention. For it is not enough to serve God with every capacity, passion, and faculty; but it must be every degree of every faculty, all the latitude of our will, all the whole intention of our passions, all the possibility and energy of our senses and our understanding: which, because it is to be understood according to that moderate sentence and account which God requires of us, set in the midst of such a condition, so attended, and depressed, and prejudiced, the full sense of it I shall express in several propositions.
11. First: The intention of the love to which we are obliged, requires not the degree which is absolutely the greatest, and simply the most perfect. For there are degrees of grace, every one of which is pleasing to God, and is a state of reconciliation and atonement: and he that "breaks not the bruised reed," nor" quenches the smoking flax," loves to cherish those endeavours which, beginning from small principles, pass through the variety of degrees, and give demonstration, that though it be our duty to contend for the best, yet this contention is with an enemy; and that enemy makes an abatement; and that abatement being an imperfection, rather than a sin, is actually consistent with the state of grace, the endeavour being in our power, and not the success; the perfection is that which shall be our reward, and therefore is not our present duty. And, indeed, if to do the best action, and to love God as we shall do in heaven, were a present obligation, it would have been clearly taught us, what is simply the best action; whereas now, that which is of itself better, in certain circumstances is less perfect, and sometimes not lawful; and concerning those circumstances, we have no rules, nor any guide but prudence and probable inducements: so that it is certain, in our best endeavours we should only increase our scruples, instead of doing actions of the highest perfections; we should erect a tyranny over our
consciences, and no augmentation of any thing but the trouble. And, therefore, in the law of Moses, when this commandment was given in the same words, yet that the sense of it might be clear, the analogy of the law declared that their duty had a latitude, and that God was not so strict a task-master, but that he left many instances of piety to the voluntary devotion of his servants, that they might receive the reward of "free-will offerings." But if these words had obliged them to the greatest degree, that is, to all the degrees of our capacities in every instance, every act of religion had been duty and necessity.
12. And thus also it was in the Gospel. Ananias and Sapphira were killed, by sentence from Heaven, for not performing what was in their power at first not to have promised; but because they brought an obligation upon themselves which God brought not, and then prevaricated, they paid the forfeiture of their lives. St. Paul took no wages of the Corinthian churches, but wrought night and day with his own hand'; but himself says he had power to do otherwise. "There was laid upon him a necessity to preach," but no necessity to preach without wages and support. There is a good and a better in virginity and marriage; and yet there is no command in either, but that we abstain from sin: we are left to our own election for the particular, having "no necessity, but power in our will." David prayed seven times a day," and Daniel prayed "three times;" and both were beloved of God. The Christian masters were not bound to manumit their slaves, and yet were commended if they did so. Sometimes the Christians Яed in persecution; St. Paul did so, and St. Peter did so, and St. Cyprian did so, and St. Athanasius, and many more: but time was, when some of these also chose to suffer death rather than to fly. And if to fly be a permission, and no duty, there is certainly a difference of degrees in the choice; to fly is not so great a suffering as to die, and yet a man may innocently choose the easier. And our blessed Lord himself, who never failed of any degree of his obligations, yet at some time prayed with more zeal and fervour than at other times, as a little before his passion. Since, then, at all
times he did not do actions of that degree which is absolutely the greatest; it is evident that God's goodness is so great, as to be content with such a love which parts no share between him and sin; and leaves all the rest under such a liberty, as is only encouraged by those extraordinary rewards and crowns proportioned to heroical endeavours. It was a pretty question, which was moved in the solitudes of Nitria, concerning two religious brothers"; the one gave all his goods to the poor at once, the other kept the inheritance, and gave all the revenue. None of all the fathers knew which was absolutely the better; at once to renounce all, or, by repetition of charitable acts, to divide it into portions: one act of charity in an heroical degree, or an habitual charity in the degree of virtue. This instance is probation enough, that the opinion of such a necessity of doing the best action, simply and indefinitely, is impossible to be safely acted, because it is impossible to be understood. Two talents shall be rewarded, and so shall five, both in their proportions: "he that sows sparingly shall reap sparingly," but he shall reap: "every man as he purposes in his heart, so let him. give." The best action shall have the best reward; and though he is the happiest who rises highest, yet he is not safest that enters into the state of disproportion to his person. I find, in the lives of the later reputed saints, that St. Teresa à Jesu made a vow to do every thing which she should judge to be the best. I will not judge the person, nor censure the action, because possibly her intention and desires were of greatest sanctity; but whosoever considers the story of her life, and the strange repugnancies in the life of man to such undertakings, must needs fear to imitate an action of such danger and singularity. The advice which, in this case, is safest to be followed, is, that we employ our greatest industry, that we fall not into sin, and actions of forbidden nature; and then strive, by parts and steps, and with much wariness, in attempering our zeal, to superadd degrees of eminence, and observation of the more perfect instances of sanctity; that, doing some excellences which God hath not commanded, he may be the rather moved to
n Histor. Lansid.
• Πᾶν τὸ βέλτιστον φαινόμενον ἔστω σοι νόμος ἀπαράβατος. --- Epict. c. 75.
pardon our prevaricating so many parts of our necessary duty. If love transport us, and carry us to actions sublime and heroical, let us follow so good a guide, and pass on with diligence, and zeal, and prudence, as far as love will carry us P: but let us not be carried to actions of great eminence, and strictness, and unequal severities, by scruple and pretence of duty; lest we charge our miscarriages upon God, and call the yoke of the Gospel insupportable, and Christ a hard task-master. But we shall pass from virtue to virtue with more safety, if a spiritual guide take us by the hand; only remembering, that if the angels themselves, and the beatified souls, do now, and shall hereafter, differ in degrees of love and glory, it is impossible the state of imperfection should be confined to the highest love, and the greatest degree, and such as admits no variety, no increment, or difference of parts and stations.
13. Secondly: Our love to God consists not in any one determinate degree, but hath such a latitude as best agrees with the condition of men, who are of variable natures, different affections and capacities, changeable abilities, and which receive their heightenings and declensions according to a thousand accidents of mortality. For when a law is regularly prescribed to persons, whose varieties and different constitutions cannot be regular or uniform, it is certain God gives a great latitude of performance, and binds not to just atoms. and points. The laws of God are like universal objects, received into the faculty, partly by choice, partly by nature; but the variety of perfection is by the variety of the instruments, and disposition of the recipient, and are excelled by each other in several senses, and by themselves at several times. And so is the practice of our obedience, and the entertainments of the Divine commandments: for some are of malleable natures, others are morose; some are of healthful and temperate constitutions, others are lustful, full of fancy, full of appetite; some have excellent leisure and opportunities of retirement, others are busy in an active life, and cannot, with advantages, attend to the choice of the better part; some are peaceable and timorous, and some are in all instances serene; others are of tumultuous and unquiet
ν Ξὺν τῷ δικαίῳ γὰς μέγ ̓ ἔξεστι φρονεῖν. --- Sophoc. Ajac.
spirits and these become opportunities of temptation on one side, and on the other occasions of a virtue: but every change of faculty and variety of circumstance hath influence upon morality; and, therefore, their duties are personally altered, and increase in obligation, or are slackened by necessities, according to the infinite alteration of exterior accidents, and interior possibilities.
14. Thirdly: Our love to God must be totally exclusive of any affection to sin, and engage us upon a great, assiduous, and laborious care, to resist all temptations, to subdue sin, to acquire the habits of virtues, and live holily; as it is already expressed in the discourse of repentance. We must prefer God as the object of our hopes, we must choose to obey him rather than man, to please him rather than satisfy ourselves, and we must do violence to our strongest passions, when they once contest against a Divine commandment. If our passions are thus regulated, let them be fixed upon any lawful object whatsoever, if, at the same time, we prefer heaven and heavenly things, that is, would rather choose to lose our temporal love than our eternal hopes, (which we can best discern by our refusing to sin upon the solicitation or engagement of the temporal object;) then, although we feel the transportation of a sensual love towards a wife, or child, or friend, actually more pungent and sensible than passions of religion are, they are less perfect, but they are not criminal. Our love to God requires that we do his commandments, and that we do not sin; but in other things we are permitted, in the condition of our nature, to be more sensitively moved by visible than by invisible and spiritual objects. Only this; we must ever have a disposition and a mind prepared to quit our sensitive and pleasant objects, rather than quit a grace, or commit a sin. Every act of sin is against the love of God, and every man does many single actions of hostility and provocation against him; but the state of the love of God is that which we actually call the state of grace. When Christ reigns in us, and sin does not reign, but the spirit is quickened, and the lusts are mortified; when we are habitually virtuous, and do acts of piety, temperance, and justice, frequently, easily, cheerfully, and with a successive, constant, moral, and humane industry, according to the talent which God hath entrusted to us in the banks