« PreviousContinue »
tempted in a season of weakness, when their natural strength, on which they rest, is all they have. They fall; and learn what St. Paul meant when he said, “ Brethren, if any man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual restore such an one in the spirit of meekness ; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” The consciousness of having fallen in the like way, makes a man afraid to act the reprover. He feels his words recoil upon himself; and he speaks as he himself can bear it, making his own heart the measure of his words, and his own case the interpreter and pleader for the falls of others. All his past censures come back upon him with a fearful severity; and he feels as if he could never rebuke any one again. It seems as if the worst he ever had to reprove were better than himself. It seems to him as if he could never any more use rebukes, but only beseech them, with tender compassion, and even with tears, to join him in humbling themselves before One who alone is without sin. It is true, indeed, that the perfect holiness of saints has in it a tender compassion and a loving pity, like to the Spirit of Christ Himself. They have received of Him the gift of tenderness to sinners, without the fearful discipline of personal falls; and theirs is the highest and most healing sympathy. But for us, weak Christians, the school
1 Gal. vi. 1.
of pity is the melancholy experience of our own humiliations. And well is it to learn compassion any how; for the harsh and impatient are not near to the kingdom of heaven. Let us not venture to reprove any without a vivid recollection of our own past falls ; nor in any way speak of the sins of others without a deep sense of our own.
3. And, lastly, it is to teach us our need of fixed and particular rules for the government of our lives; and that not in great matters only, but in the least; because it is in little things that the first approaches of sin are made to religious minds. We must not trust in general rules, in good intentions, in the expectation of being able to meet particular temptations by defences adopted on the spot. We need much forethought, foresight, and determination. Our system of discretionary rules must spread over all our life ; over our duties, our devotions, our intercourse with others, whether of the Church or of the world ; it must prescribe to us counsels of wisdom for our whole bearing, our words, our personal habits. Wherefore, St. Paul says,
“ Whether ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” No part of our daily life is too slight to admit of a holy intention, as none is too small to become the seat of great temptations. Another reason for this carefulness
11 Cor. x. 31.
in prescribing even the detail of our daily life is, that unless our rules are fixed, they cannot become habitual and confirmed. The very strength and life of all self-discipline is order, certainty, and decision. Our true safeguard against temptation is, to be the same at all times, in all companies, in all places; not to vary, and adapt ourselves to the humour of others, thereby adopting their temptations with their habits; but to be always and every where ourselves, and to oppose to the temptations of the world the consistency of a matured and practised habit of self-control. Indeed, in this most men err grievously. They are strict at home, and lax abroad ; that is, they are rigid when they are not tempted, and loose when they are in the midst of temptations; watchful where the danger is little, and off their guard where it is great: whereas they ought, on the contrary, to be all the more severe, rigorous, watchful, and guarded, because they are out of their sheltered retirement, and beset by the illusions and solicitations of the world. Yet we seldom see men who are devout and careful at home even equally so in society. And to what bitter reproaches, to what hours of miserable retrospect, to what fearful havoc in the spiritual life, does this relaxation lead! How do men that go forth with many saintly tokens upon them, come home in remorse, to put ashes upon their heads !
Alas, the world's kisses are death to the hidden life. The world is perilous in its array; full of seducing spirits, crafty, fair-seeming, versatile, and deadly. We may well fear it. Well is it if we fear it greatly; for few there be that fear it at all. Happy are they who walk unspotted of the world, in ways
of lowliness and self-mistrust; and happy they whose pride is abased, and whose presuming hearts are brought down by a salutary humiliation. Piercing as the discipline may be, better is it to have a spiritual sorrow, “sharper than any twoedged sword,” than to walk proud and blindfold,
deceiving and being deceived,” tempting the Lord our God.
St. Mart. iv. 8-10.
Again, the devil taketh Him up into an exceeding high moun. tain, and sheweth Him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; and saith unto Him, All these things will I give Thee, if Thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan : for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve.”
THIS temptation seems to be an offer of worldly
power on an unlawful condition. The tempter addressed himself to that inclination of our nature which, when perverted in us, is ambition and vainglory. We are wont to call ambition an infirmity which lingers last and longest of all, even in minds that are noble and pure. It has in it, as we think, nothing low, mean, or little. It is closely allied with the consciousness of great powers, right intentions, high purposes of unselfish devotion for the welfare of others; it is upon a