Page images
PDF
EPUB

that the blessings of religion are works and graces too : God, therefore, requiring us to do something, not that we may glory in it, but that we may estimate the grace, and go to God for it in the means of his own hallowing. Naamian had been stupid, if, when the prophet bade him wash seven times in Jordan for bis cure, he had not confessed the cure to be wrought by the God of Israel, and the ministry of his prophet, but had made himself the author, because of his obedience to the enjoined condition; and it is but a weak fancy to derogate from God's grace, and the glory and the freedom of it, because he bids us wash before we are cleansed, and pray when we are washed, and commands us to ask, before we shall receive. But this also is true, from this instance, that the external rite of sacrament is so instrumental in a spiritual grace, that it never does it but with the conjunction of something moral : and this truth is of so great persuasion in the Greek church“, that the mystery of consecration in the venerable eucharist is amongst them attributed not to any mystical words and secret operations of syllables, but to the efficacy of the prayers of the church, in the just imitation of the whole action and the rite of institution. And the purpose of it is, that we might secure the excellence and holiness of such predispositions and concomitant graces, which are necessary to the worthy and effectual susception of the external rites of Christianity.

4. After the holy Jesus was baptized, and had prayed, the heavens opened", the Holy Ghost descended, and a voice from heaven proclaimed him to be the Son of God, and one in whom the Father was well pleased; and the same ointment, that was cast upon the head of our High Priest, went unto his beard, and thence fell to the borders of his garment : for as Christ, our Head, felt these effects in manifestation, so the church believes God does to her, and to her meanest children, in the susception of the holy rite of baptism, in right, apt, and holy dispositions. For the heavens open, too, upon us ; and the Holy Ghost descends, to sanctify the waters, and to hallow the catechumen, and to pardon the past and repented sins, and to consign him to the inheritance of sons, and to put on his military girdle, and give him the sacrament and oath of fidelity; for all this is understood to be meant by those frequent expressions of Scripture, calling baptism“ the laver of regeneration, illumination, a washing away the filth of the flesh, and the answer of a good conscience, a being buried with Christo," and many others of the like purpose and signification. But we may also learn hence, sacredly to esteem the rites of religion, which he first sanctified by his own personal susception, and then made necessary by his own institution and command; and God hath made to be conveyances of blessing, and ministries of the Holy Spirit.

• Justin. Mart. Apol, 2. Euseb. Emiss. Serm. 5. de Pasch. S. August. lib. iii. c. 4. de Trin.

d Quòd Christus vidit cælos apertos, nostrî utique gratiâ factum est, quibus per lavacrum undæ regeneratricis janua panditur regni cælestis. Beda in Matt. lib. i. c. 1.

5.“ The Holy Ghost descended upon Jesus, in the manner or visible representment of a dove;" either in similitude of figure, which he was pleased to assume, as the church more generally hath believed; or at least he did descend like a dove, and in his robe of fire hovered over the Baptist's head, and then“ sat upon him," as the dove uses to sit upon

the house of her dwelling ; whose proprieties of nature are pretty and modest hieroglyphics of the duty of spiritual persons, which are thus observed in both philosophies. The dove sings not, but mourns; it hath no gail', strikes not with its bill, hath no crooked talons, and forgets its young ones soonest of any of the inhabitants of the air. And the effects of the Holy Spirit are symbolical in all the sons of sanctification : for the voice of the church is sad in those accents, which express her own condition : but as the dove is not so sad in her breast as in her note, so neither is the interior condition of the church wretched and miserable, but indeed her song is most of it elegy within her own walls, and her condition looks sad, and her joys are not pleasures in the public estimate; but they that afflict her, think her miserable, because they know not the sweetnesses of a holy peace and serenity which supports her spirit, and plains the heart under a rugged brow, making the soul festival under the noise of a threne and sadder groanings. But the sons of consolation are also taught their duty by this apparition : for upon

whom

e

Eph. v. 26. Heb. x. 32. 1 Pet. iii, 21. Rom, vi. 4. ' Scil. in hepate ; habet autem in intestino.

soever the Spirit descends, he teaches him to be meek and charitable, neither offending by the violence of hands nor looser language. For the dove is inoffensive in beak and foot, and feels no disturbance and violence of passions, when its dearest interests are destroyed; that we also may be of an even spirit in the saddest accidents, which usually discompose our peace : and however such symbolical intimations receive their efficacy from the fancy of the contriver; yet here, whether this apparition did intend any such moral representment or no, it is certain, that wherever the Holy Spirit does dwell, there also peace and sanctity, meekness and charity, a mortified will, and an active dereliction of our desires, do inhabit. But besides this hieroglyphical representment, this dove, like that which Noah sent out from the ark, did aptly signify the world to be renewed, and all to be turned to a new creation; and God hath made a new covenant with us, that, unless we provoke him, he will never destroy us any

more.

6. No sooner had the voice of God pronounced Jesus to be the well-beloved Son of God, but the devil thought it of great concernment to attempt him, with all his malice and his art; and that is the condition of all those, whom God's grace hath separated from the common expectations and societies of the world: and therefore the son of Sirach gave good advice: “ My son, if thou come to serve the Lord, prepare thy soul for temptations;" for not only the spirits of darkness are exasperated at the declension of their own kingdom, but also the nature and constitution of virtues and eminent graces, which holy persons exercise in their lives, is such as to be easily assailable by their contraries, apt to be lessened by time, to be interrupted by weariness, to grow flat and insipid by tediousness of labour, to be omitted and grow infrequent, by the impertinent diversions of society and secular occasions; so that to rescind the ligaments of vice, made firm by nature and evil habits; to acquire every new degree of virtue, to continue the holy fires of zeal in their just proportion, to overcome the devil, and to reject the invitations of the world, and the softer embraces of the flesh, which are the proper employment of the sons of God, is a perpetual difficulty;

[blocks in formation]

and every possibility of prevaricating the strictnesses of a duty, is a temptation, and an insecurity to them, who have begun to serve God in hard battles.

7. The Holy Spirit did drive Jesus into the wilderness, to be tempted by the devil. And though we are bound to pray instantly, that we fall into no temptation ; yet if, by Divine permission, or by an inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we be engaged in an action or course of life, that is full of temptation, and empty of comfort, let us apprehend it as an issue of Divine Providence, as an occasion of the rewards of diligence and patience, as an instrument of virtue, as a designation of that

way, in which we must glorify God; but no argument of disfavour, since our dearest Lord, the most holy Jesus, who could have driven the devil away by the breath of his mouth, yet was, by the Spirit of his Father, permitted to a trial and molestation by the spirits of darkness. And this is St. James's counsel : "My brethren, count it all joy, when ye enter into divers temptations; knowing that the trial of your faith worketh patience h.” So far is a blessing, when the Spirit is the instrument of our motion, and brings us to the trial of our faith: but if the Spirit leaves us, and delivers us over to the devil, not to be tempted, but to be abused and ruined, it is a sad condition, and the greatest instance of their infelicity, whom the church, upon sufficient reason, and with competent authority, delivers over to Satan, by the infliction of the greater excommunication.

8. As soon as it was permitted to the devil to tempt our Lord, he, like fire, had no power to suspend his act, but was as entirely determined by the fulness of his malice, as a natural agent by the appetites of nature; that we may know, to whom we owe the happinesses of all those hours and days of peace, in which we sit under the trees of paradise, and see no serpent encircling the branches, and presenting us with fair fruit, to ruin us. It is the mercy of God we have the quietness of a minute ; for if the devil's chain were taken off, he would make our very beds a torment; our tables to be a snare; our sleeps fantastic, lustful, and illusive; and every sense should have an object of delight and danger, an hyena to kiss, and to perish in its embraces. But the holy Jesus

h Jam, i, 2.

having been assaulted by the devil, and felt his malice by the experiments of humanity, is become so merciful a High Priest, and so sensible of our sufferings and danger, by the apprehensions of compassions, that he hath put a hook into the nostrils of Leviathan; and although the relics of seven nations be in our borders and fringes of our country, yet we live as safe as did the Israelites, upon whom sometimes an inroad and invasion was made, and sometimes they had rest forty years; and when the storm came, some remedy was found out by his grace, by whose permission the tempest was stirred

up: and we find many persons, who in seven years meet not with a violent temptation to a crime, but their battles are against impediments and retardations of improvement; their own rights are not directly questioned, but the devil and sin are wholly upon the defensive. Our duty here is an act of affection to God, making returns of thanks for the protection, and of duty, to secure and continue the favour.

9. But the design of the Holy Ghost being to expose Jesus to the temptation, he arms himself with fasting, and prayer, and baptism, and the Holy Spirit, against the day of battle; he continues in the wilderness forty days and forty nights, without meat or drink, attending to the immediate addresses and colloquies with God; not suffering the interruption of meals, but representing his own and the necessities of all mankind, with such affections and instances of spirit, love, and wisdom, as might express the excellence of his person, and promote the work of our redemption ; his conversation being, in this interval, but a resemblance of angelical perfection, and his fasts not an instrument of mortification, for he needed none; he had contracted no stain from his own nor his parents' acts ; neither do we find, that he was at all hungry, or afflicted with his abstinence, till after the expiration of forty days. He was afterwards “ an hungered,” said the evangelist; and his abstinence from meat might be a defecation of his faculties, and an opportunity of prayer, but

I E79' όταν της χάριτος καταξιωθής, τότε σοι προς αντικειμένας δυνάμεις παλαίειν δίδωσι την εξουσίαν, ώσπερ γαρ μετά το βάπτισμα και τεσσαράκοντα ημέρας έφειράτο, ουχ ότι και προ τούτου νικάν ουκ έδύνατο, αλλ' ότι πάντα αξει και ακολουθία πράττειν έβούλετο· ούτω και συ σρό του βαστίσματος τους αντικειμένοις παλαίειν μη τολμήσας, λαβών δε την χάριν και λοιπόν θαρσών τοϊς της δικαιοσύνης όπλοις, αγωνίζου τότε, και ει θέλεις, svayrerizou. — Cyril. Hieros. Catech. 3.

« PreviousContinue »