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pay it". Forgiving debts is a great instance of mercy, and a particular of excellent relief: but to imprison men for debt, when it is certain they are not able to pay it, and by that prison will be far more disabled, is an uncharitableness next to the cruelties of savages, and at infinite distance from the mercies of the holy Jesus.
OF NOT JUDGING. - PART III.
ANOTHER instance of charity our great Master inserted in this sermon, “ not to judge our brother :” and this is a charity so cheap and so reasonable, that it requires nothing of us but silence in our spirits. We may perform this duty at the charge of a negative; if we meddle not with other men's affairs, we shall do them no wrong, and purchase to ourselves a peace, and be secured the rather from the unerring sentence of a severer judge. But this interdict forbids only such judging as is ungentle and uncharitable: in criminal causes, let us find all the ways to alleviate the burden of the man by just excuses, by extenuating or lessening accidents, by abatement of incident circumstances, by gentle sentences, and whatsoever can do relief to the person, that his spirit be not exasperated, that the crime be not the parent of impudence, that he be not insulted on, that he be invited to repentance, and, by such sweetnesses, he be led to his restitution. This also, in questions of doubts, obliges us to determine to the more favourable sense; and we also do need the same mercies, and, therefore, should do well, by our own rigour, not to disentitle ourselves to such possibilities and reserves of charity". But it is foul and base, by detraction and iniquity, to blast the reputation of an honourable action, and the fair name of virtue with a calumny. But this duty is also a part of the grace of justice and of humility, and, by its relation and kindred to so many virtues, is furnished with so many arguments of amability and endearment.
m Amicitiam si ad fructum nostrum referemus, non ad illius commoda quem diligimus, non erit ista amicitia, sed mercatura quædam utilitatum suarum : prata, et arva, et pecudum greges diliguntur isto modo, quòd fructus ex eis capiuntur; hominum charitas et amicitia gratuita est.Cicer. de Nat. Deor. lib. i.
• Qui ne tuberibus propriis offendat amicum
Postulat, ignoscat verrucis illius : æquum est
Peccatis veniam poscentem, reddere rursus. - Horat. lib. i. Sut.3. Ne judices proxiinum, donec ad ejus locum pertingas. — Prov. Judæor.
Holy and merciful Jesus, who art the great principle and
the instrument of conveying to us the charity and mercies of eternity, who didst love us when we were enemies, forgive us when we were debtors, recover us when we were dead, ransom us when we were slaves, relieve us when we were poor, and naked, and wandering, and full of sadness and necessities; give us the grace of charity, that we may be pitiful and compassionate of the needs of our necessitous brethren, that we may be apt to relieve them, and that, according to our duty and possibilities, we may rescue them from their calamities. Give us courteous, affable, and liberal souls ; let us, by thy example, forgive our debtors, and love our enemies, and do to them offices of civility, and tenderness, and relief; always propounding thee for our pattern, and thy mercies for our precedent, and thy precepts for our rule, and thy Spirit for our guide: that we, showing mercy here, may receive the mercies of eternity by thy merits, and by thy charities, and dispensation, O holy and merciful Jesus. Amen.
of the second additional Precept of Christ ; namely,
1. The soul of a Christian is the house of God: “ Ye are God's building,” saith St. Paul; but the house of God is the house of prayer: and, therefore, prayer is the work of the soul, whose organs are intended for instruments of the Divine praises; and when every stop and pause of those
a i Cor. iii. 9.
instruments is but the conclusion of a collect, and every breathing is a prayer, then the body becomes a temple, and the soul is the sanctuary, and more private recess, and place of intercourse. Prayer is the great duty, and the greatest privilege of a Christian ; it is his intercourse with God, his sanctuary in troubles, his remedy for sins, his cure of griefs, and, as St. Gregory calls it, “ it is the principal instrument whereby we minister to God, in execution of the decrees of eternal predestination ;” and those things which God intends for us, we bring to ourselves by the mediation of holy prayers. Prayer is the “ascent of the mind to God, and a petitioning for such things as we need for our support and duty b.” It is an abstract and summary of Christian religion. Prayer is an act of religion and Divine worship', confessing his power and his mercy; it celebrates his attributes, and confesses his glories, and reveres his person, and implores his aid, and gives thanks for his blessings : it is an act of humility, condescension, and dependence, expressed in the prostration of our bodies, and humiliation of our spirits : it is an act of charity, when we pray for others; it is an act of repentance, when it confesses and begs pardon for our sins, and exercises every grace according to the design of the man, and the matter of the prayer. So that there will be less need to amass arguments to invite us to this duty ; every part is an excellence, and every end of it is a blessing, and every design is a motive, and every need is an impulsive to this holy office. Let us but remember how many needs we have, at how cheap a rate we may obtain their remedies, and yet how honourable the employment is, to go to God with confidence, and to fetch our supplies with easiness and joy; and then, without farther preface, we may address ourselves to the understanding of that duty by which we imitate the employment of angels and beatified spirits, by which we ascend to God in spirit while we remain on earth, and God descends on earth while he yet resides in heaven, sitting there on the throne of his kingdom.
2. Our first inquiry must be concerning the matter of our
6 'Ανάβασις του προς Θεόν, και αίτησης των προσηκόντων σαρά Θεού. - Damasc. lib. iii. Orthodox. Fid.
¿Qui fingit sacros anro vel marmore vultus,
Non facit ille deos: qui rogat, ille facit.
prayers; for our desires are not to be the rule of our prayers, unless reason and religion be the rule of our desires. The old heathens prayed to their gods for such things which they were ashamed to name publicly before mend; and these were their private prayers, which they durst not, for their indecency or iniquity, make public. And, indeed, sometimes the best men ask of God things not unlawful in themselves, yet very hurtful to them: and, therefore, as by the Spirit of God and right reason we are taught, in general, what is lawful to be asked ; so it is still to be submitted to God, when we have asked lawful things, to grant to us in kindness, or to deny us in mercy : after all the rules that can be given us, we not being able, in many instances, to judge for ourselves, unless also we could certainly pronounce concerning future contingencies. But the Holy Ghost being now sent upon the church, and the rule of Christ being left to his church, together with his form of prayer, taught and prescribed to his disciples, we have sufficient instruction for the matter of our prayers, so far as concerns the lawfulness or unlawfulness. And the rule is easy and of no variety. 1. For we are bound to pray for all things that concern our duty, all that we are bound to labour for; such as are glory and grace, necessary assistances of the Spirit, and rewards spiritual, heaven, and heavenly things. 2. Concerning those things which we may, with safety, hope for, but are not matter of duty to us, we may lawfully testify our hope and express our desires by petition : but if, in their particulars, they are under no express promise, but only conveniences of our life and person, it is only lawful to pray for them under condition, that they may conform to God's will and our duty, as they are good, and placed in the best order of eternity. Therefore, 1. For spiritual blessings let our prayers be particularly importunate, perpetual, and persevering: 2. For
d Cajusmodi ridet Lucianus in Icaro-Menippo : 'Zsū,
το βασιλεύσαι μοι γένοιτο. Ο Ζεύ, τα κρόμμυά μοι φύναι και τα σκόρoδα. Ο Ζεύ, τον πατέρα μοι ταχέως αποθανείν. ο δέ τις αν φαίη, είθε κληρονομήσαι με της γυναικός, είθε λάθουμι επιβουλεύσας τώ αδελφώ γένοιτό μοι νικήσαι την δίκην, στεφθήναι τα ολύμπια, των πλεόντων και μεν Βορέαν ήυχετο έπιπνεύσαι, ο δε Νότον· ο δε γεωργός ήτει υετόν, ο δε γναφείς ήλιον.
Si tacito mala vota susurro
temporal blessings let them be generally short®, conditional, and modest : 3. And whatsoever things are of mixed nature, more spiritual than riches, and less necessary than graces, such as are gifts and exterior aids, we may pray for them as we may desire them, and as we may expect them; that is, with more confidence and less restraint than in the matter of temporal requests, but with more reservedness, and less boldness of petition, than when we pray for the graces of sanctification. In the first case we are bound to pray; in the second, it is only lawful under certain conditions; in the third, it becomes to us as an act of zeal, nobleness, and Christian prudence. But the matter of our prayers is best taught us, in the form our Lord taught his disciples; which, because it is short, mysterious, and, like the treasures of the Spirit, full of wisdom and latent senses, it is not improper to draw forth those excellencies, which are intended and signified by every petition ; that, by so excellent an authority, we may know what it is lawful to beg of God'.
3. “ Our Father, which art in heaven.” The address reminds us of many parts of our duty. “ If God be our Father, where is” his fear, and reverence, and obedience ? “ If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham ;" and, “ Ye are of your father, the devil, for his works ye do.” Let us not dare to call him Father, if we be rebels and enemies; but if we be obedient, then we know he is our Father, and will give us a child's portion, and the inherit
Si consilium vis,
Hor. lib. iii. Od. 16. i Oratio hæc, quantum substringitur verbis, tantum diffunditur sensibus. - Tertull. Evangelii Breviarium. Idem l. de Orat. c. 1.
Si tamen rectè et congruenter oramus, nihil aliud dicere possumus quàm quod in Oratione Dominica continetur. S. Aug. ad Frat. in Erem.
& Vir bonus vera Dei progenies. — Senec, de Provident. Και του μεν γένος εσμέν. - Menand.
Hoc donum excedit omne donum, ut Deus hominem vocet filium. - Leo. Ser. de Nativ.
Matt. xxiii. 8. Eph. iv. 6.