« PreviousContinue »
desires of assistance, so end with desires of pardon and acceptance, concluding our longer offices with a shorter mental prayer, of more private reflection and reverence, designing to mend what we have done amiss, or to give thanks and proceed if we did well, and according to our powers.
23. Thirdly: In private prayers it is permitted to every man to speak his prayers, or only to think them, which is a speaking to God. Vocal or mental prayer is all one to God, but in order to us they have their several advantages. The sacrifice of the heart, and the calves of the lips, make up a holocaust to God: but words are the arrest of the desires, and keep the spirit fixed, and, in less permissions, to wander from fancy to fancy; and mental prayer is apt to make the greater feryour, if it wander not: our office is more determined by words; but we then actually think of God, when our spirits only speak. Mental prayer, when our spirits wander, is like a watch standing still, because the spring is down; wind it up again, and it goes on regularly: but in vocal prayer, if the words run on, and the spirit wanders, the clock strikes false, the hand points not to the right hour, because something is in disorder, and the striking is nothing but noise. In mental prayer, we confess God's omniscience;, in vocal prayer, we call the angels to witness. In the first, our spirits rejoice in God; in the second, the angels rejoice in us. Mental prayer is the best remedy against lightness, and indifferency of affections; but vocal prayer is the aptest instrument of communion. That is more angelical, but yet fittest for the state of separation and glory; this is but human, but it is apter for our present constitution. They have their distinct proprieties, and may be used according to several accidents, occasions, or dispositions.
THE PRAYER. O holy and eternal God, who hast commanded us to pray
unto thee in all our necessities, and to give thanks unto thee for all our instances of joy and blessing, and to adore thee in all thy attributes and communications, thy own glories and thy eternal mercies; give unto me, thy servant, the spirit of prayer and supplication, that I may understand what is good for me, that I may desire regularly, and
choose the best things, that I may conform to thy will, and submit to thy disposing, relinquishing my own affections and imperfect choice. Sanctify my heart and spirit, that I may sanctify thy name, and that I may be gracious and accepted in thine eyes. Give me the humility and obedience of a servant, that I may also have the hope and confidence of a son, making humble and confident addresses to the throne of grace; that, in all my necessities, I may come to thee for aids, and may trust in thee for a gracious answer, and may receive satisfaction and supply.
Give me a sober, diligent, and recollected spirit in my
prayers, neither choked with cares, nor scattered by levity, nor discomposed by passion, nor estranged from thee by inadvertency, but fixed fast to thee by the indissoluble bands of a great love and a pregnant devotion : and let the beams of thy Holy Spirit, descending from above, enlighten and enkindle it with great fervours, and holy importunity, and unwearied industry; that I may serve thee, and obtain thy blessing by the assiduity and zeal of perpetual religious offices. Let my prayers come before thy presence, and the lifting up of my hands be a daily sacrifice, and let the fires of zeal not go out by night or day; but unite my prayers to the intercession of thy holy Jesus, and to a communion of those offices, which angels and beatified souls do pay before the throne of the Lamb, and at the celestial altar; that, my prayers being hallowed by the merits of Christ, and being presented in the phial of the saints, may ascend thither where thy glory dwells, and from whence mercy and eternal benediction descends upon the church.
Lord, change my sins into penitential sorrow, my sorrow to petition, my petition to eucharist; that my prayers may
be consummate in the adorations of eternity, and the glorious participation of the end of our hopes and prayers, the fulness of never-failing charity, and fruition of thee, O holy
and eternal God, blessed Trinity, and mysterious Unity, to whom all honour, and worship, and thanks, and confession, and glory, be ascribed for ever and ever. Amen.
Of the third additional Precept of Christ ; namely, of the
Manner of Fasting. 1. FASTING, being directed in order to other ends, as for mortifying the body, taking away that fuel which ministers to the flame of lust, or else relating to what is past, when it becomes an instrument of repentance, and a part of that revenge which St. Paul affirms to be the effect of “ godly sorrow,” is to take its estimate for value, and its rules for practice, by analogy and proportion to those ends to which it does co-operate 2. Fasting before the holy sacrament is a custom of the Christian church, and derived to us from great antiquity; and the use of it is, that we might express honour to the mystery, by suffering nothing to enter into our mouths before the symbols. Fasting to this purpose is not an act of mortification, but of reverence and venerable esteem of the instruments of religion, and so is to be understood. And thus also, not to eat or drink before we have said our morning devotions, is esteemed to be a religious decency; and preference of prayer and God's honour before our temporal satisfaction, a symbolical attestation that we esteem the words of God's mouth more than our necessary food. It is like the zeal of Abraham's servant, who would not eat or drink till he had done his errand. And, in pursuance of this act of religion, by the tradition of their fathers, it grew to be a custom of the Jewish nation, that they should not eat bread upon their solemn festivals before the sixth hour ; that they might first celebrate the rites of their religious solemnities, before they gave satisfaction to the lesser desires of nature. And, therefore, it was a reasonable satisfaction of the objection made by the assembly against the inspired
a Per universum orbem mos iste observatur, ut, in honorem tanti sacramenti, in os Christiani priùs Dominicum corpus intraret quàm cæteri cibi.S. Aug. Ep. 18.
apostles in Pentecost, “ These are not drunk, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day b:” meaning, that the day being festival, they knew it was not lawful for any of the nation to break their fast before the sixth hour; for else they might easily have been drunk by the third hour, if they had taken their morning's drink in a freer proportion. And true it is, that religion snatches even at little things; and as it teaches us to observe all the great commandments and significations of duty, so it is not willing to pretermit any thing, which, although by its greatness it cannot, of itself, be considerable, yet, by its smallness, it may become a testimony of the greatness of the affection, which would not omit the least minutes of love and duty. And, therefore, when the Jews were scandalized at the disciples of our Lord, for rubbing the ears of corn on the sabbath day, as they walked through the fields early in the morning, they intended their reproof not for breaking the rest of the day, but the solemnity; for eating before the public devotions were finished. Christ excused it by the necessity and charity of the act; they were hungry, and therefore, having so great need, they might lawfully do it: meaning, that such particles and circumstances of religion are not to be neglected, unless where greater cause of charity or necessity does supervene.
2. But when fasting is in order to greater and more concerning purposes, it puts on more religion, and becomes a duty, according as it is necessary or highly conducing to such ends, to the promoting of which we are bound to contribute all our skill and faculties. Fasting is principally operative to mortification of carnal appetites, to which feasting, and full tables, do minister aptness, and power, and inclinations. “ When I fed them to the full, then they committed adultery, and assembled by troops in the harlots' housesc.” And if we observe all our own vanities, we shall find that, upon every sudden joy, or a prosperous accident, or an opulent fortune, or a pampered body, and highly spirited and inflamed, we are apt to rashness, levities, inconsiderate expressions, scorn and pride, idleness, wantonness, curiosity,
6 Plebs autem non assentiebatur horum orationibus ; et proculdubio exorta fuisset seditio, nisi concionem solvisset sexta hora superveniens, quæ nostris ad prandium vocare solet sabbatis. — Joseph. in Vita sua.
c Jer, v. 7.
niceness, and impatience. But fasting is one of those afflictions which reduces our body to want, our spirits to soberness, our condition to sufferance, our desires to abstinence and customs of deniald; and so, by taking off the inundations of sensuality, leaves the enemies within in a condition of being easier subdued. Fasting directly advances towards chastity; and, by consequence and indirect powers, to patience, and humility, and indifference. But then it is not the fast of a day that can do this; it is not an act, but a state of fasting, that operates to mortification. A perpetual temperance and frequent abstinence may abate such proportions of strength and nutriment, as to procure a body mortified and lessened in desires. And thus St. Paul “ kept his body under,” using severities to it for the taming its rebellions and distemperatures. And St. Jerome reports of St. Hilarion, that when he had fasted much, and used coarse diet, and found his lust too strong for such austerities, he resolved to increase it to the degree of mastery, lessening his diet, and increasing his hardship, till he should rather think of food than wantonness. And many times the fastings of some men are ineffectual, because they promise themselves cure too soon, or make too gentle applications, or put less proportions into their antidotes. I have read of a maiden, that, seeing a young man much transported with her love, and that he ceased not to importune her with all the violent pursuits that passion could suggest, told him, she had made a vow to fast forty days with bread and water, of which she must discharge herself, before she could think of corresponding to any other desire; and desired of him, as a testimony of his love, that he also would be a party in the same vow. The young man undertook it, that he might give probation of his love: but, because he had been used to a delicate and nice kind of life, in twenty days he was so weakened, that
4 'Εν τη κενή γαστρί τών σταλών έρως ουκ έστι: πεινώσιν ή κύπρις πικρά.-Aclaus apud Athenæum.
Extraordinarios motus in cippo claudit jejunium. - S. Cyp.
Jejunia enim nos contra peccata faciunt fortiores, concupiscentias vincunt, tentationes repellunt, superbiam inclinant, irain mitigant, et omnes bonæ voluntatis affectus ad maturitatem totius virtutis enutriunt. - S. Leo, Serm. 4. de Jejun.
Saginantur pugiles qui xerophagiis invalescunt.-- Tertul. de Jejur.