Page images
PDF
EPUB

for so we beg that God should do to us: and, therefore, it is but a lesser revenge to say, I will forgive, but I will never have to do with him. For if he become an object of charity, we must have to do with him, to relieve him; because he needs prayers, we must have to do with him, and pray for him and to refuse his society, when it is reasonably and innocently offered, is to deny that to him, which Christians have only been taught to deny to persons excommunicate, to persons under punishment, i. e. to persons not yet forgiven: and we shall have but an evil portion, if God should forgive our sins, and should not also love us", and do us grace, and bestow benefits upon us. So we must forgive others; so God forgives us.

9." And lead us not into temptation." St. Cyprian, out of an old Latin copy, reads it," Suffer us not to be led into temptation";" that is, suffer us not to be overcome by temptation. And, therefore, we are bound to prevent our access to such temptation, whose very approximation is dangerous, and the contact is irregular and evil; such as are temptations of the flesh; yet, in other temptations, the assault sometimes makes confident, and hardens a resolution. For some spirits, who are softened by fair usages, are steeled and emboldened by a persecution. But of what nature soever the temptations be, whether they be such whose approach a Christian is bound to fear, or such which are the certain lot of Christians, (such are troubles and persecutions, into which," when we enter," we must " count it joy,") yet we are to pray, that we enter not into the possession of the temptation, that we be not overcome by it.

10." But deliver us from evil." From the assaults or violence of evil, from "the wicked one," who not only presents us with objects, but heightens our concupiscence, and makes us imaginative, fantastical, and passionate; setting on the temptation, making the lust active, and the man full of appetite, and the appetite full of energy and power: therefore

Parùm est nobis non puniri, nisi mereamur et diligi. Hugo de S. Victor. Allegat, in Matt. lib. iii.

· Τί γὰρ; Θεὸς εἰσάγει ἄνθρωπον εἰς πειρασμόν; μὴ γένοιτο, οὐ γὰρ αἴτιος τῶν κακ ὁ Θεός. ἀλλὰ παρακαλέσομεν ἀυτὸν, ἵνα τοῖς πολλοῖς ἀυτοῦ ὀκτιρμοῖς μὴ ἐάσῃ ἡμᾶς πειpaoval. - S. German. Patr. C. P. wegì räv 'legovę.

[ocr errors]

deliver us from the evil one, who is interested, as an enemy, in every hostility, and in every danger. Let not Satan have any power or advantage over us; and let not evil men prevail upon us in our danger, much less to our ruin. Make us "safe under the covering of thy wings," against all fraud and every violence; that no temptation destroy our hopes, or break our strength, or alter our state, or overthrow our glories. In these last petitions, which concern ourselves, the soul hath affections proper to her own needs; as in the former proportion, to God's glory. In the first of these, the affection of a poor, indigent, and necessitous beggar; in the second, of a delinquent and penitent servant; in the last, of a person in affliction or danger. And, after all this, the reason of our confidence is derived from God.

11. "For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever." That is, these which we beg, are for the honour of thy kingdom, for the manifestation of thy power, and the glory of thy name and mercies: and it is an express doxology or adoration, which is apt and fit to conclude all our prayers and addresses to God.

12. These are the generals and great treasures of matter, to which all our present or sudden needs are reducible; and when we make our prayers more minute and particular, if the instance be in matter of duty, and merely spiritual, there is no danger: but when our needs are temporal, or we are transported with secular desires, all descending to particulars is a confining the Divine Providence, a judging for ourselves, a begging a temptation oftentimes, sometimes a mischief": and to beg beyond the necessities of our life, is a mutiny against that Providence, which assigns to Christians no more but "food and raiment" for their own use; all other excrescencies of possessions being intrusted to the rich man's dispensation, only as to a steward; and he shall be accountable for the coat that lies by him, as the portion of moths, and for the shoes which are the spoils of mouldiness, and the contumely of plenty. "Grant me, O Lord, not what I

Pro jucundis aptissima quæque dabunt dii.
Charior est illis homo quàm sibi. Nos, animorum

Impulsu et cæcá magnâque cupidine ducti,
Conjugium petimus, partumque uxoris; at illis

Notum qui pueri, qualisque futura sit uxor. — Juven. Sat. x. 349.

desire, but what is profitable for me." For sometimes we desire that, which, in the succeeding event of things, will undo us. This rule is in all things that concern ourselves. There is some little difference in the affairs and necessities of other men: for, provided we submit to the Divine Providence, and pray for good things for others, only with a tacit condition, so far as they are good and profitable, in order to the best ends; yet, if we be particular, there is no covetousness in it; there may be indiscretion in the particular; but in the general no fault, because it is a prayer, and a design of charity. "For kings, and all that are in authority," we may yet enlarge, and pray for a peaceable reign, true lieges, strong armies, victories and fair success in their just wars, health, long life, and riches; because they have a capacity which private persons have not: and whatsoever is good for single persons, and whatsoever is apt for their uses as public persons, all that we may and we must pray for, either particularly, for so we may; or in general significations, for so we must at least: "that we may lead a godly, peaceable, and quiet life, in all godliness and honesty;" that is St. Paul's rule, and the prescribed measure and purpose of such prayers. And in this instance of kings, we may pray for defeating all the king's enemies, such as are truly such; and we have no other restraint upon us in this, but that we keep our desires confined within the limits of the end we are commanded; that is, so far to confound the king's enemies, that he may do his duty, and we do ours, and receive the blessing: ever, as much as we can, to distinguish the malice from the person. But if the enemies themselves will not also separate what our intentions distinguish, that is, if they will not return to their

y; then, let the prayers operate as God pleases, we must be zealous for the end of the king's authority and peaceable government. By enemies, I mean rebels or invaders, tyrants and usurpers; for in other wars there are many other considerations, not proper for this place.

13. The next consideration will be concerning the manner; I mean both the manner of our persons, and the manner of our prayers; that is, with what conditions we ought to

P Μή μοι γένοιθ ̓ ἃ βούλομ ̓, ἀλλ ̓ ἃ συμφέρει.

q

Rege incolumi, mens omnibus una ;
Amisso, rupêre fidem.

Virg. Georg. iv. 212.

approach to God, and with what circumstances the prayers may, or ought to be performed. The conditions to make our prayers holy and certain to prevail, are: 1. That we live good lives, endeavouring to conform, by holy obedience, to all the Divine commandments. This condition is expressly recorded by St. John: "Beloved, if our hearts condemn us not, then have we confidence towards God, and whatsoever we ask of him we shall obtain":" and St. James affirms, that "the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much":" and our blessed Saviour, limiting the confidence of our prayers for forgiveness to our charity and forgiving others, plainly tells us, that the uncharitable and unrighteous person shall not be heard. And the blind man in the Gospel understood well what he said, "Now we know that God heareth not sinners; but if any man be a worshipper, and doeth his will, him he heareth." And it was so decreed and resolved a point in the doctrine of their religion, that it was a proverbial saying. And although this discourse of the blind man was of a restrained occasion, and signified, if Christ had been a false prophet, God would not have attested his sermons with the power of miracles; yet in general also had been taught by David, "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear my prayer"." And, therefore, when men pray in every place," (for so they are commanded,) "let them lift up pure hands, without anger and contention." And indeed, although every sin entertained with a free choice and a full understanding is an obstruction to our prayers; yet the special sin of uncharitableness makes the biggest cloud, and is, in the proper matter of it, an indisposition for us to receive mercy: for he who is softened with apprehension of his own needs of mercy, will be tenderhearted towards his brother; and, therefore, he that hath no bowels here, can have no aptness there to receive, or heartily to hope for mercy. But this rule is to be understood of persons who persevere in the habit and remanent affections of sin; so long as they entertain sin with love, complacency, and joy, they are in a state of enmity with God, and therefore in no fit disposition to receive pardon and the entertainment

66

John, ix. 31.

r 1 John, iii. 21.

* James, v. 16.

u Psal. lxvi. 18.

x 1 Tim. ii. 8.

y Posuisti ut nubem peccatum, ne transeat oratio.-Lam. 5. VOL. II.

G

of friends but penitent sinners and returning souls, laden and grieved with their heavy pressures, are, next to holy innocents, the aptest persons in the world to be heard in their prayers for pardon; but they are in no farther disposition to large favours, and more eminent charities. A sinner, in the beginning of his penance, will be heard for himself, and yet also he needs the prayers of holy persons more signally than others; for he hath but some very few degrees of dispositions to reconciliation: but in prayers of intercession or mediation for others, only holy and very pious persons are fit to be interested. All men, as matter of duty, must pray for all menz: but in the great necessities of a prince, of a church, or kingdom, or of a family, or of a great danger and calamity to a single person, only a Noah, a David, a Daniel, a Jeremiah, an Enoch, or Job, are fit and proportioned advocates. God so requires holiness in us, that our prayers may be accepted, that he entertains them in several degrees, according to the degrees of our sanctity; to fewer or more purposes, according as we are little or great in the kingdom of heaven. As for those irregular donations of good things which wicked persons ask for and have, they are either no mercies, but instruments of cursing and crime, or else they are designs of grace, intended to convince them of their unworthiness; and so, if they become not instruments of their conversion, they are aggravations of their ruin.

14. Secondly: The second condition I have already explained in the description of the matter of our prayers. For although we may lawfully ask for whatsoever we need, and this leave is consigned to us in those words of our blessed Saviour, "Your heavenly Father knoweth what you have need of :" yet, because God's providence walks in the great deep, that is, his footsteps are in the water, and leave no impression; no former act of grace becomes a precedent that he will give us that in kind which then he saw convenient, and therefore gave us, and now he sees to be inconvenient,

Cùm nam is qui displicet ad intercedendum mittitur, irati animus ad deteriora provocatur. - Gregor. Pastor.

Immunis aram si tetigit manus,
Non sumptuosa blandior hostia
Mollivit aversos penates
Farre pio et saliente micâ.

• Ευχῆς δικαίας οὐκ ἀνήκοος Θεός.

[ocr errors]

Hor. lib. iii. Od. 23.

« PreviousContinue »