Imatges de pàgina

heart, and an imprudent head; unless these actions can be invested with other ends and useful purposes. The primitive church were strangely inspired with a zeal of virginity, in order to the necessities of preaching and travelling, and easing the troubles and temptations of persecution; but when the necessity went on, and drove the holy men into deserts, that made colleges of religious, and their manner of life was such, so united, so poor, so dressed, that they must love 'more non seculari,'' after the manner of men divorced from the usual intercourses of the world:' still their desire of single life increased, because the old necessity lasted, and a new one did supervene. Afterward, the case was altered, and then the single life was not to be chosen for itself, nor yet imitation of the first precedents; for it could not be taken out from their circumstances and be used alone. He therefore that thinks he is a more holy person for being a virgin or a widower, or that is bound to be so, because they were so; or that he cannot be a religious person, because he is not so;-hath zeal indeed, but not according to knowledge. But now if the single state can be taken out and put to new appendages, and fitted to the end of another grace or essential duty of religion, it will well become a Christian zeal to choose it so long, as it can serve the end with advantage and security. Thus also a zealous person is to choose his fastings; while they are necessary to him, and are acts of proper mortification, while he is tempted, or while he is under discipline, while he repents, or while he obeys; but some persons fast in zeal, but for nothing else; fast when they have no need, when there is need they should not; but call it religion to be miserable or sick; here their zeal is folly, for it is neither an act of religion nor of prudence, to fast when fasting probably serves no end of the spirit; and therefore in the fasting-days of the church, although it is warrant enough to us to fast, if we had no end to serve in it but the mere obedience, yet it is necessary that the superiors should not think the law obeyed, unless the end of the first institution be observed: a fasting-day is a day of humiliation, and prayer; and fasting being nothing itself, but wholly the handmaid of a farther grace, ought not to be divested of its holiness and sanctification, and left like the walls of a ruinous church where there is no duty performed to God, but there remains

something of that, which used to minister to religion. The want of this consideration hath caused so much scandal and dispute, so many snares and schisms, concerning ecclesiastical fasts. For when it was undressed and stripped of all the ornaments and useful appendages, when from a solemn day it grew to be common; from thence to be less devout by being less seldom and less useful; and then it passed from a day of religion to be a day of order, and from fasting till night, to fasting till evening-song, and evening-song to be sung about twelve o'clock; and from fasting it was changed to a choice of food, from eating nothing to eating fish, and that the letter began to be stood upon, and no usefulness remained but what every of his own piety should put into it, but nothing was enjoined by the law, nothing of that exacted by the superiors, then the law fell into disgrace, and the design became suspected, and men were first ensnared and then scandalized, and then began to complain without remedy, and at last took remedy themselves without authority; the whole affair fell into a disorder and mischief; and zeal was busy on both sides,and on both sides was mistaken, because they fell not upon the proper remedy, which was to reduce the law to the usefulness and advantages of its first intention. But this I intended not to have spoken.

2. Our zeal must never carry us beyond that which is safe. Some there are, who in their first attempts and entries upon religion, while the passion, that brought them in, remains, undertake things as great as their highest thoughts; no repentance is sharp enough, no charities expensive enough, no fastings afflictive enough, then 'totis quinquatribus orant;' and finding some deliciousness at the first contest, and in that activity of their passion, they make vows to bind themselves for ever to this state of delicacies. The onset is fair: but the event is this. The age of a passion is not long, and the flatulent spirit being breathed out, the man begins to abate of his first heats, and is ashamed: but then he considers that all was not necessary, and therefore he will abate something more; and from something to something, at last it will come to just nothing, and the proper effect of this is, indignation, and hatred of holy things, an impudent spirit, carelessness or despair. Zeal sometimes carries a man into temptation: and he that never thinks he loves

God dutifully or acceptably, because he is not imprisoned for him or undone, or designed to martyrdom, may desire a trial that will undo him. It is like fighting of a duel to shew our valour. Stay till the king commands you to fight and die, and then let zeal do its noblest offices. This irregularity and mistake was too frequent in the primitive church, when men and women would strive for death, and be ambitious to feel the hangman's sword; some miscarried in the attempt, and became sad examples of the unequal yoking a frail spirit with a zealous driver.

3. Let zeal never transport us to attempt any thing but what is possible. M. Teresa made a vow, that she would do always that, which was absolutely the best. But neither could her understanding always tell her which was so, nor her will always have the same fervours: and it must often breed scruples, and sometimes tediousness, and wishes that the vow were unmade. He that vows never to have an ill thought, never to commit an error, hath taken a course, that his little infirmities shall become crimes, and certainly be imputed by changing his unavoidable infirmity into vow-breach. Zeal is a violence to a man's spirit, and unless the spirit be secured by the proper nature of the duty, and the circumstances of the action, and the possibilities of the man; it is like a great fortune in the meanest person, it bears him beyond his limit, and breaks him into dangers and passions, transportations and all the furies of disorder, that can happen to an abused person.

4. Zeal is not safe, unless it be in re probabili' too, it must be 'in a likely matter.' For we that find so many excuses to untie all our just obligations, and distinguish our duty into so much fineness, that it becomes like leaf-gold apt to be gone at every breath; it cannot be prudent that we zealously undertake, what is not probable to be effected: if we do, the event can be nothing but portions of the former evil, scruple and snares, shameful retreats and new fantastic principles. In all our undertakings we must consider what is our state of life, what our natural inclinations, what is our society, and what are our dependences; by what necessities we are borne down, by what hopes we are biassed; and by these let us measure our heats and their proper business. A zealous man runs up a sandy hill; the violence of motion is his greatest hinderance: and a passion in religion destroys as

much of our evenness of spirit, as it sets forward any outward work; and therefore although it be a good circumstance and degree of a spiritual duty, so long as it is within, and relative to God and ourselves, so long it is a holy flame; but if it be in an outward duty, or relative to our neighbours, or in an instance not necessary, it sometimes spoils the action, and always endangers it. But I must remember, we live in an age in which men have more need of new fires to be kindled within them, and round about them, than of any thing to allay their forwardness: there is little or no zeal now but the zeal of envy, and killing as many as they can, and damning more than they can; πύρωσις and καπνὸς πυρώσεως 'smoke and lurking fires' do corrode and secretly consume: therefore this discourse is less necessary. A physician would have but small employment near the Riphæan mountains, if he could cure nothing but calentures; catarrhs, and dead palsies, colds and consumptions, are their evils, and so is lukewarmness and deadness of spirit, the proper maladies of our age: for though some are hot, when they are mistaken, yet men are cold in a righteous cause; and the nature of this evil is to be insensible; and the men are farther from a cure, because they neither feel their evil, nor perceive their danger. But of this I have already given account: and to it, I shall only add what an old spiritual person told a novice in religion, asking him the cause why he so frequently suffered tediousness in his religious offices; "Nondum vidisti requiem quam speramus, nec tormenta quæ timemus ;""Young man, thou hast not seen the glories which are laid up for the zealous and devout, nor yet beheld the flames which are prepared for the lukewarm, and the haters of strict devotion." But the Jews tell, that Adam having seen the beauties and tasted the delicacies of paradise, repented and mourned upon the Indian mountains for three hundred years together and we who have a great share in the cause of his sorrows, can by nothing be invited to a persevering, a great, a passionate religion, more than by remembering what he lost, and what is laid up for them whose hearts are burning lamps, and are all on fire with Divine love, whose flames are fanned with the wings of the Holy Dove, and whose spirits shine and burn with that fire, which the Holy Jesus came to enkindle upon the earth.





Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die.-1 Cor. xv. 32. last part.

THIS is the epicure's proverb, begun upon a weak mistake, started by chance from the discourses of drink, and thought witty by the undiscerning company, and prevailed infinitely, because it struck their fancy luckily, and maintained the merry-meeting; but as it happens commonly to such discourses, so this also, when it comes to be examined by the consultations of the morning, and the sober hours of the day, it seems the most witless, and the most unreasonable in the world. When Seneca (ep. 18.) describes the spare diet of Epicurus and Metrodorus, he uses this expression: "Liberaliora sunt alimenta carceris: sepositos ad capitale supplicium, non tam angustè, qui occisurus est, pascit:" "The prison keeps a better table; and he that is to kill the criminal to-morrow morning, gives him a better supper overnight." By this he intended to represent his meal to be very short; for as dying persons have but little stomach to feast high, so they that mean to cut their throat, will think it a vain expense to please it with delicacies, which, after the first alteration, must be poured upon the ground, and looked upon as the worst part of the accursed thing. And there is also the same proportion of unreasonableness, that because men shall" die tomorrow," and by the sentence and unalterable decree of God they are now descending to their graves, that therefore they should first destroy their reason, and then force dull time to run faster, that they may die sottish as beasts, and speedily as a fly but they thought there was no life after this; or if there were, it was without pleasure, and every soul thrust into a hole, and a dorter of a span's length allowed for his rest, and for his walk; and in the shades below no number

« AnteriorContinua »