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strength against temptation, become not a, temptation to you, and this is especially to be attended to in the matter of lust and fear.
For the very imaginations of a lustful object are of themselves a direct temptation ; and he that dresses his fancy with remembrances of this vanity, opens a door to let the sin in. Murenia's little boy, being afraid of the wolf at the door, opened the door to see if he were gone, and let the beast in; and since the fancy is the proper scene of lust, he that brings the temptation there, brings it where it can best prevail. Therefore, in our examination concerning this evil, and whether we be likely to stand in this war, we are to examine qurselves only, whether we are perfectly resolved to fly and not to fight: that is, whether we will secure ourselves by the proper arts of the spirit of prudence; for if any thing can make us come near this devil, we are lost without remedy.
The temptations in the matter of fear are something like it ; if you will examine whether you love God so well that you would die for him, inquire as well and wisely as you can, but be not too particular. Satisfy yourself with a general answer, and rest in this, if you find that the apprehension of death is not so great as the apprehension of sin ; if you pray against fear, and heap up arguments to confirm your courage and your hope; if you find that you despise those instances of persecution that you meet with ;—for the rest, believe in God, who, it may be, will not give strengths before you need them: and, therefore, be satisfied with thus much, that your present strength is sufficient for any present trial; and when a greater comes, God hath promised to give you more strength, when you shall have need of more. But examine yourself by what is likely to fall upon you actually. It may be, you have cause to fear that
poor good conscience, or imprisoned for your duty, or banished for religion; consider if you love God so well that you are likely to suffer that, which is likely to happen to you, but do not dress your examination with rare contingencies and unlikely accidents, and impossible cases. Do not ask yourself whether you would endure the rack for God, or the application of burning basins to the eyes, or the torment of a slow fire, or whether you had rather go to hell than commit a sin; this is too fantastic a trial; and when God, it may be, knowing
your weakness, will never put you to it really, do you not tempt yourself by fancy, and an afflictive representment
Domitian was a cruel man, false and bloody; and to be near him was a perpetual danger, enough to try the constancy of the bravest Roman. But once, that he might be wanton in his cruelty, he invited the chiefest of the Patricii to supper: who, coming in obedience and fear enough, entered into a court all hanged with blacks, and from thence were conducted into dining rooms by the pollinctores, who used to dress the bodies unto funerals: the lights of heaven (we may suppose) were quite shut out by the approaching night and arts of obscurity ; when they were in those charnel houses (for so they seemed), every one was placed in order, a black pillar or coffin set by him, and in it a dim taper besmeared with brimstone, that it might burn faint, and blue, and solemn : where when they had stood awhile, like designed sacrifices, or as if the prince were sending them on solemn embassy to his brother, the prince of darkness, -on a sudden entered so many naked blackamoors, or children besmeared with the horrid juice of the sepia, who, having danced a little in fantastic and devils' postures, retired awhile, and then returned serving up a banquet as at solemn funerals, and wine brought to them in urns instead of goblets; with deepest silence, now and then interrupted with fearful groans and shriekings. Here the senators, who possibly could have struggled with the abstracted thoughts of death, seeing it dressed in all the fearful imagery and ceremonies of the grave,
-had no powers of philosophy or Roman courage; but falling into a lipothymy, or deep swooning, made up
this pageantry of death, with a representing of it unto the life. This scene of sorrows was overacted ; and it was a witty cruelty to kill a wise man, by making him too imaginative and fantastical. It is not good to break a staff by too much trying the strength of it, or to undo a man's soul by a useless and so fantastic a temptation. For he that tries himself further than be hath need of, is like Palæmon's shepherd, who, fearing the foot-bridge was not strong enough, to try it, loaded it so long, till, by his unequal trial, he broke that, which would have borne a bigger burden than he had to carry over it. Some things will better suffer a long usage, than an unequal trial.
2. When any man hath, by the former measures, examined himself, how his affections do stand to sin and folly, -by whatsoever signs he is usually made confident, let him be sure to make abatements of his confidence, if he have found that he hath failed already in despite of all his arts, and all his purposes. If we have often fallen back from our resolutions, there is then no sign left for us, but the thing signified; nothing can tell us how our affections are, but by observing what they do. For he that hath broken his word with me, when it was in his power to keep it, hath destroyed my confidence in him; but if he hath deceived me twice or thrice in the same thing, for shame' and prudence' sake. I will venture no more, if I can be disobliged. If we therefore have failed of our promises to God for many times, that we can speak nothing reasonably of our proceedings, nor imagine what thoughts God hath concerning us, but the hardest and the worst;_though we have great reason to rejoice in God's long-suffering and infinite patience, yet, by any signs which can be given, we have no reason to trust ourselves.
For if we shall now examine, we can tell no more than we could do before; we were always deceived in our conjectures and pretences; and it is more likely now, because sin hath so long prevailed ; and, by our frequent relapses, we must at least learn this truth, that our hearts are false, and our promises are not to be trusted. In this case, no testimony is credible but an eye-witness. Therefore, let us leave all artificial examinations, and betake ourselves to the solid and material practices of a religious life. We must do something really, before we can, by inquiring, tell how it is with us. When we have resolved, and, in some measure, performed our resolution; when we have stood the shock of a temptation, and found our heart firm as in a day of religion ; when we perceive sin to be weaker, and the kingdom of grace to grow in power; when we feel that all our holy vows are more than words, and that we are not the same easy fools, always giving God good words, but never performing them; but that now we have set foot upon the enemy, and are not infallibly carried away, when our temptation comes,then we may inquire further, and look after the former signs and indications of spiritual life, and the just measures of
preparation. Till then let us not trouble ourselves with the particulars of spiritual arts, and the artificial methods of religion ; for things are not so well with us as we suppose.
Of Examination of ourselves in the matter of our Prayers, in
Order to a holy Communion. The holy sacrament is, in its nature and design, a solemn prayer, and the imitation of the intercession, which our glorious High Priest continually makes for us in heaven ; and as it is our ministry, and contains our duty, it is nothing else but the solemnity and great economy of prayer, for the whole, and for every member, and for all and every particular necessity of the church; and all the whole conjugation of offices and union of hearts, and conjunction of ministers, is nothing but the advantages, and solemnity, and sanctification of prayer; and, therefore, in order to do this work in solemnity as we ought, it were very fit that we examine ourselves, how we do it in ordinary and daily offices.
For since there are so many excellent promises made to prayer, and that nothing more disposes us to receive the grace of the sacraments, and the blessings of communion, than holy prayer; since prayer can obtain every thing, it can open the windows of heaven, and shut the gates of hell, -it can put a holy constraint upon God, and detain an angel till he leave a blessing it can open the treasures of rain, and soften the iron ribs of rocks, till they melt into tears and a flowing river ;-prayer can unclasp the girdles of the north, saying to a mountain of ice, ' Be thou removed hence, and cast into the bottom of the sea;- it can arrest the sun in the midst of his course, and send the swift-winged winds upon our errand ; and all those strange things, and secret decrees, and unrevealed transactions, which are above the clouds, and far beyond the regions of the stars, shall combine in ministry and advantages for the praying man;- it cannot be but we should feel less evil, and much more good than we do, if our prayers were right. But the state of
things is thus : it is an easy duty, and there are many, promises, and we do it often, and yet we prevail but little. Is it not a strange thing that our friends die round about us, and, in every family, some great evil often happens, and a church shall suffer persecution for many years together without remedy, and a poor man groans under his oppressor, who is still prosperous, and we cannot rescue the life of an servant from his fatal grave; -and still we pray, and do not, change the course of providence in a single instance many, times, whether the instance be of little or great concernment: What is the matter? we patiently suffer our prayers to be rejected, and comfort ourselves by saying, that, it may be, the thing is not fit for us, it is against the decree of God, or against our good, or to be denied is better; and, there is a secret order of things and events, to which a denial does better minister than a concession. This is very true, but not always when we are denied; for it is not always in mercy, but in anger very often, we are denied, because our duty is ill performed. For if our prayers were right, the providence of God would often find out ways to reconcile his; great ends with our great desires; and we might be saved hereafter, and yet delivered here besides; and sometimes we should have heaven and prosperity too, and the cross should be sweetened, and the days of affliction should, for our sakes; be shortened, and death would not come so hastily: and yet we should be preserved innocent in the midst of an evil generation, though it waited for the periods and usual determinations of nature : let us rectify our prayers, and try what the event will be ; it is worth so much at least; but however, as to the present case, if we perform this duty pitifully and, culpably, it is not to be expected we should communicate holily. The gradation and correspondencies of this holy ministry.will demonstrate this truth.
For what Christ did once upon the cross, in real sacris fice, that be always does, in heaven, by perpetual represents ment and intercession ; what Christ does by his supreme priesthood, that the church doth by her ministerial; what he does in heaven, we do upon earth; what is performed at the right hand of God, is also represented, and, in one manner, exhibited upon the holy table of the Lord : and what is done