Page images

Certain it is, the metal is much abated by so impure alloy, while the Christian prince serves his end of ambition, and bears arms upon his neighbour's country, for the service of religion, making Christ's kingdom to invade Herod's rights : and, in the state ecclesiastical, secular interests have so deep a portion, that there are snares laid to tempt a persecution, and men are invited to sacrilege', while the revenues of a church are a fair fortune for a prince. I make no scruple to find fault with painters, that picture the poor saints with rich garments; for, though they deserved better, yet they had but poor ones : and some have been tempted to cheat the saint, not out of ill-will to his sanctity, but love to his shrine, and to the beauty of the clothes, with which some imprudent persons have, of old time, dressed their images. So it is in the fate of the church; persecution and the robes of Christ were her portion and her clothing; and when she is dressed up in gawdy fortunes, it is no more than she deserves; but yet sometimes it is occasion, that the devil cheats her of her holiness, and the men of the world sacrilegiously cheat her of her riches.: and then, when God hath reduced her to that poverty, he first promised and intended to her, the persecution ceases, and sanctity returns, and God curses the sacrilege, and stirs up men's minds to religious donatives; and all is well, till she grows rich again. And if it be dangerous in any man to be rich, and discomposes his steps in his journey to eternity; it is not then so proportionable to the analogy of Christ's poverty, and the inheritance of the church, to be sedulous in acquiring great temporalities, and putting princes in jealousy, and states into care for securities, lest all the temporal should run into ecclesiastical possession..

9. If the church have, by the active piety of a credulous, a pious, and less observant age, been endowed with great possessions, she hath rules enough, and poor enough, and necessities enough to dispend, what she hath, with advantages to religion : but then all she gets by it is, the trouble of an unthankful, a suspected, and unsatisfying dispensation; and the church is made, by evil persons, a scene of ambition

* Και ή των προσφερομένων πολυτέλεια τιμή εις Θεόν ου γίνεται, ει μη μετά του ενθέου φρονήματος προσάγοιτο, δώρα γάρ και θυηπολίαι αφρόνων, πυρός τροφή και αναθήματα, ιεροσύλους χορηγία, το δε ένθεον φρόνημα, διαρκώς ήδρασμένον, συνάπτει Θεώ.-Hierocl.

and stratagem 8; and to get a German bishoprick is to be a prince; and to defend with niceness and suits of law every custom or lesser rite, even to the breach of charity and the scandal of religion, is called a duty: and every single person is bound to forgive injuries, and to quit his right rather than his charity; but if it is not a duty in the church also, in them, whose life should be excellent to the degree of example, I would fain know, if there be not greater care taken to secure the ecclesiastical revenue, than the public charity and the honour of religion in the strict piety of the clergy; for as the not engaging in suits may occasion bold people to wrong the church, so the necessity of engaging is occasion of, and of great scandal. I find not fault with a free revenue of the church ; it is, in some sense, necessary to governors, and to preserve the consequents of their autho rity: but I represent, that such things are occasion of much mischief to the church, and less holiness; and, in all cases, respect should be had to the design of Christianity, to the prophecies of Jesus, to the promised lot of the church, to the dangers of riches, to the excellencies, and advantages, and rewards of poverty ; and if the church have enough to perform all her duties and obligations cheerfully, let her, of all societies, be soonest content. If she have plenty, let her use it temperately and charitably; if she have not, let her not be querulous and troublesome. But however it would be thought upon, that, though, in judging the quantum of the church's portion, the world thinks every thing too much, yet we must be careful, we do not judge every thing too little ; and if our fortune be safe between envy and contempt, it is much mercy. If it be despicable, it is safe for ecclesiastics, though it may be accidentally inconvenient or less profitable to others; but if it be great, public experience hath made remonstrance, that it mingles with the world, and dirties those fingers, which are instrumental in consecration and the more solemn rites of Christianity.

8 Vide qnæ dixit Ammian. Marcell. lib. xvii.; et Epistolas S. Gregorii M. lib. iv. ep. 32, 34, 36; et lib. vi. ep. 30; lib. vii. indict. 1, ep. 30; et Concil. Africanum, quo monitus est Cælestinus papa, Ne funiosum typhum seculi in ecclesiam, quæ lucem simplicitatis et humilitatis diem Deum videre cupientibus præfert, videamur inducere.

10. Jesus fled from the persecution; as he did not stand it out, so he did not stand out against it. He was careful to transmit no precedent or encouragement of resisting tyrannous princes, when they offer violence to religion and our lives. He would not stand disputing for privileges, nor calling in auxiliaries from the Lord of Hosts, who could have spared him many legions of angels, every single spirit being able to have defeated all Herod's power; but he knew, it was a hard lesson to learn patience, and all the excuses in the world would be sought out to discourage such a doctrine, by which we are taught to die, or lose all we have, or suffer inconveniences, at the will of a tyrant: we need no authentic examples, much less doctrines, to invite men to war, from which we see Christian princes cannot be restrained with the engagements and peaceful theorems of an excellent and a holy religion, nor subjects kept from rebelling by the interests of all religions in the world, nor by the necessities and reasonableness of obedience, nor the endearments of all public societies of men; one word, or an intimation from Christ, would have sounded an alarm, and put us into postures of defence, when all Christ's excellent sermons, and rare exemplar actions, cannot tie our hands. But it is strange now, that, of all men in the world, Christians should be such fighting people, or that Christian subjects should lift up a thought against a Christian prince, when they had no intimation of encouragement from their Master, but many from him to endear obedience, and humility, and patience, and charity; and these four make up the whole analogy, and represent the chief design and meaning of Christianity, in its moral constitution.

11. But Jesus, when himself was safe, could also have secured the poor babes of Bethlehem, with thousands of diversions and avocations of Herod's purposes, or by discovering his own escape in some safe manner, not unknown to the Divine wisdom; but yet it did not so please God. He is Lord of his creatures, and hath absolute dominion over our lives, and he had an end of glory to serve upon these babes, and an end of justice upon Herod : and to the children he made such compensation, that they had no reason to complain, that they were so soon made stars, when they shone

in their little orbs and participations of eternity: for so the sense of the church hath been, that they having died the death of martyrs, though incapable of making the choice, God supplied the defects of their will by his own entertainment of the thing; that as the misery and their death, so also their glorification, might have the same author in the same manner of causality, even by a peremptory and unconditioned determination in these particulars. This sense is pious, and nothing unreasonable, considering that all circumstances of the thing make the case particular ; but the immature death of other infants is a sadder story: for though I have no warrant or thought, that it is ill with them after death, and, in what manner or degree of well-being it is, there is no revelation; yet I am not of opinion, that the securing of so low a condition as theirs, in all reason, is like to be, will make recompense; or is an equal blessing with the possibilities of such an eternity, as is proposed to them, who, in the use of reason and a holy life, glorify God with a free obedience; and if it were otherwise, it were no blessing to live, till the use of reason, and fools, and babes, were in the best, because in the securest, condition, and certain expectation of equal glories. 12. As soon as Herod was dead, (for the Divine

vengeance waited his own time for his arrest,) the angel presently brought Joseph word. The holy family was full of content and indifferency, not solicitous for return, not distrustful of the Divine providence, full of poverty, and sanctity, and content, waiting God's time, at the return of which God delayed not to recal them from exile; “ out of Egypt he called his Son,” and directed Joseph's fear and course, that he should divert to a place in the jurisdiction of Philip, where the heir of Herod's cruelty, Archelaus, had nothing to do. And this very series of providence and care God expresses to all his sons by adoption ; and will determine the time, and set bounds to every persecution, and punish the instruments, and ease our pains, and refresh our sorrows, and give quietness to our fears, and deliverance from our troubles, and sanctify it all,

Ætas necdom liabilis ad pagnam, idonea exstitit ad coronam; et ut appareret inuoceutes esse qui propter Christum necantur, infantia iunocens occisa est.-S. Cyprian. Athenagoras dixit infantes resurrecturos, sed non venturos in judicium.

and give a crown at last, and all in his good time, if we wait the coming of the angel, and in the mean time do our duty with care, and sustain our temporals with indifferency: and, in all our troubles and displeasing accidents, we may call to mind, that God, by his holy and most reasonable providence, hath so ordered it, that the spiritual advantages we may receive from the holy use of such incommodities, are of great recompense and interest; and that, in such accidents, the holy Jesus, having gone before us in precedent, does go along with us by love and fair assistances; and that makes the present condition infinitely more eligible, than the greatest splendour of secular fortune.


O blessed and eternal God, who didst suffer thy holy Son to

fly from the violence of an enraged prince, and didst choose to defend him in the ways of his infirmity by hiding himself, and a voluntary exile ; be thou a defence to all thy faithful people, whenever persecution arises against them; send them the ministry of angels to direct them into ways of security, and let thy holy Spirit guide them in the paths of sanctity, and let thy providence continue in custody over their persons, till the times of refreshment and the day of redemption shall return. Give, O Lord, to thy whole church, sanctity and zeal, and the confidences of a holy faith, boldness of confession, humility, content, and resignation of spirit, generous contempt of the world, and unmingled desires of thy glory and the edification of thy elect; that no secular interests disturb her duty, or discompose her charity, or depress her hopes, or, in any unequal degree, possess her affections, and pollute her spirit: but preserve her from the snares of the world and the devil, from the rapine and greedy desires of sacrilegious persons; and, in all conditions, whether of affluence or want, may she still promote the interests of religion : that, when plenteousness is within her palaces, and peace in her walls, that condition may then be best for her; and when she is made as naked as Jesus to his passion, then poverty may be best for her : that, in all estates, she may glorify thee; and, in all accidents and changes, thou mayest

« PreviousContinue »