« VorigeDoorgaan »
St. Paul", " Whether ye eat or drink, do all to the glory of God.” Which rule when we observe, every action of nature becomes religious, and every meal is an act of worship, and shall have its reward in its proportion, as well as an act of prayer. Blessed be that goodness and grace of God, which, out of infinite desire to glorify and save mankind, would make the very works of nature capable of becoming acts of virtue, that all our life-time we may do him service.
This grace is so excellent, that it sanctifies the most common action of our life; and yet so necessary, that, without it, the very best actions of our devotion are imperfect and vicious. For he that prays out of custom, or gives alms for praise, or fasts to be accounted religious, is but a pharisee in his devotion, and a beggar in his alms, and a hypocrite in his fast. But a holy end sanctifies all these and all other actions, which can be made holy, and gives distinction to them, and procures acceptance.
For, as to know the end distinguishes a man from a beast, so to choose a good end distinguishes him from an evil man. Hezekiah repeated his good deeds upon his sick-bed, and obtained favour of God; but the pharisee was accounted insolent for doing the same thing: because this man did it to upbraid his brother, the other to obtain a mercy of God. Zacharias questioned with the angel about his message, and was made speechless for his incredulity; but the blessed Virgin Mary questioned too, and was blameless; for she did it to enquire after the manner of the thing, but he did not believe the thing itself: he doubted of God's power, or the truth of the messenger; but she, only of her own incapacity. This was it, which distinguished the mourning of David from the exclamation of Saul; the confession of Pharaoh from that of Manasses; the tears of Peter from the repentance of Judas: “ for the praise is not in the deed done, but in the manner of its doing. If a man visits his sick friend, and watches at his pillow for charity's sake, and because of his old affection, we approve it: but if he does it in hope of legacy, he is a vulture, and only watches for the carcass. The same
• 1 Cor. x. 31.
Si Rutilus, demens-
Juven. Sal. 11.
things are honest and dishonest : the manner of doing them, and the end of the design, makes the separation.”
Holy intention is to the actions of a man that, which the soul is to the body, or form to its matter, or the root to the tree, or the sun to the world, or the fountain to a river, or the base to a pillar: for, without these, the body is a dead trunk, the matter is sluggish, the tree is a block, the world is darkness, the river is quickly dry, the pillar rushes into flatness and a ruin; and the action is sinful, or unprofitable and vain. The poor farmer, that gave a dish of cold water to Artaxerxes, was rewarded with a golden goblet; and he that gives the same to a disciple in the name of a disciple, shall have a crown: but if he gives water in despite, when the disciple needs wine or a cordial, his reward shall be, to want that water to cool his tongue.
But this duty must be reduced to rules :
Rules for our Intentions.
1. In every action reflect upon the end ; and in your undertaking it, consider why you do it, and what you propound to yourself for a reward, and to your action as its end.
2. Begin every action in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: the meaning of which is, 1. That we be careful, that we do not the action without the permission or warrant of God. 2. That we design it to the glory of God, if not in the direct action, yet at least in its consequence; if not in the particular, yet at least in the whole order of things and accidents. 3. That it may be so blessed, that what you intend for innocent and holy purposes, may not, by any chance, or abuse, or misunderstanding of men, be turned into evil, or made the occasion of sin.
3. Let every action of concernment be begun with prayer, that God would not only bless the action, but sanctify your purpose; and make an oblation of the action to God: holy and well intended actions being the best oblations and presents we can make to God; and, when God is entitled to them, he will the rather keep the fire upon the altar bright and shining.
4. In the prosecution of the action, renew and re-enkindle your purpose by short ejaculations to these purposes : “ Not
unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name, let all praise be given;" and consider “ Now I am working the work of God; I am his servant, I am in a happy employment, I am doing my master's business, I am not at my own dispose, I am using his talents, and all the gain must be his :" for then be sure, as the glory is his, so the reward shall be thine. If thou bringest his goods home with increase, he will make thee ruler over cities.
5. Have a care, that, while the altar thus sends up a holy fume, thou dost not suffer the birds to come and carry away the sacrifice: that is, let not that, which began well, and was intended for God's glory, decline and end in thy own praise, or temporal satisfaction, or a sin. A story, told to represent the vileness of unchastity, is well begun: but if thy female auditor be pleased with thy language, and begins rather to like thy person for thy story, than to dislike the crime, be watchful, lest this goodly head of gold descend in silver and brass, and end in iron and clay, like Nebuchadnezzar's image; for from the 9 end it shall have its name and reward.
6. If any accidental event, which was not first intended by thee, can come to pass, let it not be taken into thy purposes, not at all be made use of: as if, by telling a true story, you can do an ill turn to your enemy, by no means do it; but, when the temptation is found out, turn all thy enmity upon that.
7. In every more solemn action of religion, join together many good ends, that the consideration of them may entertain all your affections; and that, when any one ceases, the purity of your intention may be supported by another supply. He that fasts only to tame a rebellious body, when he is provided of a remedy either in grace or nature, may be tempted to leave off his fasting. But he, that in his fast intends the mortification of every unruly appetite, and accustoming himself to bear the yoke of the Lord, a contempt of the pleasures of meat and drink, humiliation of all wilder thoughts, obedience and humility, austerity and charity, and the convenience and assistance to devotion, and to do an act of repentance; whatever happens, will have reason enough to make him to continue his purpose, and to sanctify it. And certain
4 Qui furatur ut mæchetur, mæchus est magis quam fur.–Arist. Eth.
it is, the more good ends are designed in an action, the more degrees of excellency the man obtains.
8. If any temptation to spoil your purpose happens in a religious duty, do not presently omit the action, but rather strive to rectify your intention, and to mortify the temptation. St. Bernard taught us this rule: for when the devil, observ. ing him to preach excellently and to do much benefit to his hearers, tempted him to vain-glory, hoping that the good man, to avoid that, would cease preaching, he gave this answer only; “ I neither began for thee, neither for thee will I make an end."
9. In all actions, which are of long continuance, deliberation, and abode, let your holy and pious intention be actual; that is, that it be, by a special prayer or action, by a peculiar act of resignation or oblation, given to God: but in smaller actions, and little things and indifferent, fail not to secure a pious habitual intention; that is, that it be included within your general care, that no action have an ill end; and that it be comprebended in your general prayers, whereby you offer yourself and all you do, to God's glory.
10. Call not every temporal end, a defiling of thy intention, but only, 1. when it contradicts any of the ends of God; or 2. when it is principally intended in an action of religion. For sometimes a temporal end is part of our duty; and such are all the actions of our calling, whether our employment be religious or civil. We are commanded to provide for our family: but if the minister of divine offices shall take upon him that holy calling for covetous or ambitious ends, or shall not design the glory of God principally and especially, he hath polluted his hands and his heart; and the fire of the altar is quenched, or it sends forth nothing but the smoke of mushrooms or unpleasant gums. And it is a great unworthiness to prefer the interest of a creature before the ends of God, the Almighty Creator.
But because many cases may happen, in which a man's heart may deceive him, and he may not well know, what is in his own spirit; therefore, by these following signs, we shall best make a judgement, whether our intentions be pure, and our purposes holy.
Signs of Purity of Intention.
. 1. It is probable our hearts' are right with God, and our intentions innocent and pious, if we set upon actions of religion or civil life with an affection proportionate to the quality of the work; that we act our temporal affairs with a desire no greater than our necessity; and that, in actions of religion, we be zealous, active, and operative, so far as prudence will permit; but in all cases, that we value a religious design before a temporal, when otherwise they are in equal order to their several ends: that is, that whatsoever is necessary in order to our soul's health be higher esteemed, than what is for bodily; and the necessities, the indispensable necessities of the spirit, be served before the needs of nature, when they are required in their several circumstances; or plainer yet, when we choose any temporal inconvenience, rather than commit a sin, and when we choose to do a duty, rather than to get gain. But he that does his recreation or his merchandise cheerfully, promptly, readily, and busily, and the works of religion slowly, flatly, and without appetite; and the spirit moves like Pharaoh's chariots, when the wheels were off; it is a sign, that his heart is not right with God, but it cleaves too much to the world.
2. It is likely our hearts are pure, and our intentions spotless, when we are not solicitous of the opinion and censures of men; but only that we do our duty, and be accepted of God. For our eyes will certainly be fixed there, from whence we expect our reward : and if we desire, that God should approve us, it is a sign we do his work, and expect him our paymaster.
3. He that does as well, in private, between God and his own soul, as in public, in pulpits, in theatres, and marketplaces, hath given himself a good testimony, that his purposes are full of honesty, nobleness, and integrity. For what Helkanah said to the mother of Samuel, “ Am not I better to thee than ten sons?" is most certainly verified concerning God; that he, who is to be our judge, is better than ten thousand witnesses. But he, that would have his virtue
r See sect. I. of this chapter, rule 18.