Imatges de pÓgina

perately, we are kept from them with huge impatience, we are delayed with infinite regrets; we prefer them before our duty, we ask them unseasonably; we receive them with our own prejudice, and we care not; we choose them to our hurt and hinderance, and yet delight in the purchase; and when we do pray for them, we can hardly bring ourselves to it, to submit to God's will, but will have them (if we can) whether he be pleased or no; like the parasite in the comedy, "Qui comedit quod fuit et quod non fuit:" "he ate all, and more than all; what was set before him, and what was kept from him." But, then, for spiritual things, for the interest of our souls, and the affairs of the kingdom, we pray to God with just such a zeal, as a man begs of a chirurgeon to cut him of the stone; or a condemned man desires his executioner quickly to put him out of his pain, by taking away his life; when things are come to that pass, it must be done, but God knows with what little complacency and desire the man makes his request: and yet the things of religion and the Spirit are the only things that ought to be desired vehemently, and pursued passionately, because God hath set such a value upon them, that they are the effects of his greatest loving-kindness; they are the purchases of Christ's blood, and the effect of his continual intercession, the fruits of his bloody sacrifice, and the gifts of his healing and saving mercy, the graces of God's Spirit, and the only instruments of felicity; and if we can have fondnesses for things indifferent or dangerous, our prayers upbraid our spirits, when we beg coldly and tamely for those things, for which we ought to die, which are more precious than the globes of kings, and weightier than imperial sceptres, richer than the spoils of the sea, or the treasures of the Indian hills.

He that is cold and tame in his prayers, hath not tasted of the deliciousness of religion and the goodness of God; he is a stranger to the secrets of the kingdom, and therefore he does not know what it is, either to have hunger or satiety; and therefore, neither are they hungry for God, nor satisfied with the world; but remain stupid and inapprehensive, without resolution and determination, never choosing clearly, nor pursuing earnestly, and therefore never enter into possession; but always stand at the gate of weariness, unnecessary caution, and perpetual irresolution. But so it is too

often in our prayers; we come to God because it is civil so to do, and a general custom, but neither drawn thither by love, nor pinched by spiritual necessities, and pungent apprehensions; we say so many prayers, because we are resolved so to do, and we pass through them, sometimes with a little attention, sometimes with none at all; and can we think, that the grace of chastity can be obtained at such a purchase, that grace, that hath cost more labours than all the persecutions of faith, and all the disputes of hope, and all the expense of charity besides, amounts to? Can we expect that our sins should be washed by a lazy prayer? Can an indifferent prayer quench the flames of hell, or rescue us from an eternal sorrow? Is lust so soon overcome, that the very naming it can master it? Is the devil so slight and easy an enemy, that he will fly away from us at the first word, spoken without power, and without vehemence? Read, and attend to the accents of the prayers of saints. "I cried day and night before thee, O Lord; my soul refused comfort; my throat is dry with calling upon my God, my knees are weak through fasting;" and, "Let me alone," says God to Moses," and, "I will not let thee go till thou hast blessed me," said Jacob to the angel. And I shall tell you a short character of a fervent prayer out of the practice of St. Jerome, in his epistle 'ad Eustachium de Custodia Virginitatis.'


Being destitute of all help, I threw myself down at the feet of Jesus; I watered his feet with tears, and wiped them with my hair, and mortified the lust of my flesh with the abstinence and hungry diet of many weeks; I remember, that in my crying to God, I did frequently join the night and the day, and never did entertain to call, nor cease for beating my breast, till the mercy of the Lord brought to me peace and freedom from temptation. After many tears, and my eyes fixed in heaven, I thought myself sometimes encircled with troops of angels, and then at last I sang to God, 'We will run after thee into the smell and deliciousness of thy precious ointments;'"—such a prayer as this will never return without its errand. But though your person be as gracious as David or Job, and your desire as holy as the love of angels, and your necessities great as a new penitent, yet it pierces not the clouds, unless it be also as loud as thunder, passionate as the cries of women, and clamorous as

necessity. And we may guess at the degrees of importunity by the insinuation of the apostle: "Let the married abstain for a time," ut vacent orationi et jejunio, "that they may attend to prayer;" it is a great attendance, and a long diligence, that is promoted by such a separation; and supposes a devotion, that spends more than many hours: for ordinary prayers, and many hours of every day, might well enough consist with an ordinary cohabitation; but that which requires such a separation, calls for a longer time and a greater attendance, than we usually consider. For every prayer we make, is considered by God, and recorded in heaven; but cold prayers are not put into the account, in order to effect and acceptation; but are laid aside like the buds of roses, which a cold wind hath nipped into death, and the discoloured tawny face of an Indian slave: and when in order to your hopes of obtaining a great blessing, you reckon up your prayers, with which you have solicited your suit in the court of heaven, you must reckon, not by the number of the collects, but by your sighs and passions, by the vehemence of your desires, and the fervour of your spirit, the apprehension of your need, and the consequent prosecution of your supply. Christ prayed kavyaïs loxvpaïs "with loud cryings," and St. Paul made mention of his scholars in his prayers" night and day." Fall upon your knees and grow there, and let not your desires cool nor your zeal remit, but renew it again and again, and let not your offices and the custom of praying put thee in mind of thy need, but let thy need draw thee to thy holy offices; and remember, how great a God, how glorious a Majesty you speak to; therefore, let not your devotions and addresses be little. Remember, how great a need thou hast; let not your desires be less. Remember, how great the thing is, you pray for; do not undervalue it with any indifferency. Remember, that prayer is an act of religion; let it, therefore, be made thy business: and, lastly, Remember, that God hates a cold prayer: and, therefore, will never bless it, but it shall be always ineffectual.


3. Under this title of lukewarmness and tepidity may be comprised also these cautions: that a good man's prayers are sometimes hindered by inadvertency, sometimes by want of perseverance. For inadvertency, or want of attendance to the sense and intention of our prayers, is certainly an

effect of lukewarmness, and a certain companion and appendage to human infirmity; and is only so remedied, as our prayers are made zealous, and our infirmities pass into the strengths of the Spirit. But if we were quick in our perceptions, either concerning our danger, or our need, or the excellency of the object, or the glories of God, or the niceties and perfections of religion, we should not dare to throw away our prayers so like fools, or come to God and say a prayer with our mind standing at distance, trifling like untaught boys at their books, with a truantly spirit. I shall say no more to this, but that, in reason, we can never hope, that God in heaven will hear our prayers, which we ourselves speak, and yet hear not at the same time, when we ourselves speak them with instruments joined to our ears; even with those organs, which are parts of our hearing faculties. If they be not worth our own attending to, they are not worth God's hearing; if they are worth God's attending to, we must make them so by our own zeal, and passion, and industry, and observation, and a present and a holy spirit.

But concerning perseverance, the consideration is something distinct. For when our prayer is for a great matter, and a great necessity, strictly attended to, yet we pursue it only by chance or humour, by the strengths of fancy, and natural disposition; or else our choice is cool as soon as hot, like the emissions of lightning, or like a sunbeam often interrupted with a cloud, or cooled with intervening showers: and our prayer is without fruit, because the desire lasts not, and the prayer lives like the repentance of Simon Magus, or the trembling of Felix, or the Jews' devotion for seven days of unleavened bread, during the Passover, or the feast of tabernacles but if we would secure the blessing of our prayers, and the effect of our prayers, we must never leave till we have obtained what we need.

There are many that pray against a temptation for a month together, and so long as the prayer is fervent, so long the man hath a nolition, and a direct enmity against the lust; he consents not all that while; but when the month is gone, and the prayer is removed, or become less active, then the temptation returns, and forages, and prevails, and seizes upon all our unguarded strengths. There are some desires which have a period, and God's visitations expire in mercy

at the revolution of a certain number of days; and our prayer must dwell so long, as God's anger abides; and in all the storm we must outcry the noise of the tempest, and the voices of that thunder. But if we become hardened, and by custom and cohabitation with the danger lose our fears, and abate of our desires and devotions, many times we shall find, that God, by a sudden breach upon us, will chastise us for letting our hands go down. Israel prevailed no longer than Moses held up his hands in prayer; and he was forced to continue his prayer, till the going down of the sun; that is, till the danger was over, till the battle was done. But when our desires, and prayers, are in the matter of spiritual danger, they must never be remitted, because danger continues for ever, and, therefore, so must our watchfulness, and our guards. "Vult enim Deus rogari, vult cogi, vult quadam importunitate vinci," says St. Gregory; "God loves to be invited, entreated, importuned, with an unquiet restless desire and a persevering prayer.” Χρῆ ἀδιαλείπτως εὔχεσθαι τῆς Teρì Tò Jetov Opnokɛías, said Proclus. That is a holy and a religious prayer, that never gives over, but renews the prayer, and dwells upon the desire; for this only is effectual. Andúνovri βροτῷ κραιπνοὶ μάκαρες τελέθουσι, “ God hears the persevering man, and the unwearied prayer." For it is very considerable, that we be very curious to observe; that many times a lust is sopita, non mortua, 'it is asleep ;' the enemy is at truce, and at quiet for a while, but not conquered, 'not dead;' and if we put off our armour too soon, we lose all the benefit of our former war, and are surprised by indiligence and a careless guard. For God sometimes binds the devil in a short chain, and gives his servants respite, that they may feel the short pleasures of a peace, and the rest of innocence; and perceive, what are the eternal felicities of heaven, where it shall be so for ever; but then we must return to our warfare again; and every second assault is more troublesome, because it finds. our spirits at ease, and without watchfulness, and delighted with a spiritual rest, and keeping holyday. But let us take heed; for whatsoever temptation we can be troubled withal by our natural temper, or by the condition of our life, or the evil circumstances of our condition, so long as we have capacity to feel it, so long we are in danger, and must "watch thereunto with prayer" and continual diligence. And when

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