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the portion of Dives, and remembers that the account which Abraham gave him for the unavoidableness of his torment was, because he had his good things in this life, must, in all reason, with trembling run from a course of banquets, and faring deliciously every day, as being a dangerous estate, and a consignation to an evil greater, than all danger, the pains and torments of unhappy souls. If either by patience or repentance, by compassion or persecution, by choice or by conformity, by severity or discipline, we allay the festival follies of a soft life, and profess under the cross of Christ, we shall more willingly and more safely enter into our grave: but the death-bed of a voluptuous man upbraids his little and cozening prosperities, and exacts pains made sharper by the passing from soft beds, and a softer mindm. He that would die holily and happily, must in this world love tears, humility, solitude, and repentance.
Of daily Examination of our actions in the whole course
of our health, preparatory to our Death-bed. He that will die well and happily, must dress his soul by a diligent and frequent scrutiny: he must perfectly under stand and watch the state of his soul; he must set his house in order, before he be fit to die. And for this there is great reason, and great necessity.
Reasons for a daily Examination. 1. For, if we consider the disorders of every day, the multitude of impertinent words, the great portions of time spent in vanity, the daily omissions of duty, the coldness of our prayers, the indifference of our spirit in holy things, the uncertainty of our secret purposes, our infinite deceptions and hypocrisies, sometimes not known, very often not observed by ourselves, our want of charity, our not know
Sed longi pænas fortuna favoris
ing in how many degrees of action and purpose every virtue is to be exercised, the secret adherences of pride, and tooforward complacency in our best actions, our failings in all our relations, the niceties of difference between some virtues and some vices, the secret indiscernible passages from lawful to unlawful in the first instances of change, the perpetual mistakings of permissions for duty, and licentious practices for permissions, our daily abusing the liberty that God gives us, our unsuspected sins in the managing a course of life certainly lawful, our little greedinesses in eating, our surprises in the proportions of our drinkings, our too-great freedoms and fondnesses in lawful loves, our aptness for things sensual, and our deadness and tediousness of spirit in spiritual employments; besides infinite variety of cases of conscience that do occur in the life of every man, and in all intercourses of every life, and that the productions of sin are numerous and increasing, like the families of the northern people, or the genealogies of the first patriarchs of the world: from all this we shall find, that the computations of a man's life are busy as the tables of sines and tangents, and intricate as the accounts of eastern merchants: and therefore it were but reason, we should sum up our accounts at the foot of every page,
that we call ourselves to scrutiny every night, when we compose ourselves to the little images of death.
2. For, if we make but one general account, and never reckon till we die, either we shall only reckon by great sums, and remember nothing but clamorous and crying sins, and never consider concerning particulars, or forget very many; or if we could consider all that we ought, we must needs be confounded with the multitude and variety. But if we observe all the little passages of our life, and reduce them into the order of accounts and accusations, we shall find them multiply so fast, that it will not only appear to be an ease to the accounts of our death-bed, but by the instrument of shame will restrain the inundation of evils; it being a thing intolerable to human modesty, to see sins increase so fast, and virtues grow up so slow; to see every day stained with the spots of leprosy, or sprinkled with the marks of a lesser evil.
3. It is not intended, we should take accounts of our lives only to be thought religious, but that we may see our evil
and amend it, that we dash our sins against the stones, that we may go to God, and to a spiritual guide, and search for remedies, and apply them. And indeed no man can well observe his own growth in grace, but by accounting seldomer returns of sin, and a more frequent victory over temptations; concerning which every man makes his observations, according as he makes his inquiries and search after himself. In order to this it was that St. Paul wrote, before receiving the holy sacrament, “ Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat.” This precept was given in those days, when they communicated every day; and therefore a daily examination also was intended.
4. And it will appear highly fitting, if we remember, that, at the day of judgment, not only the greatest lines of life, but every branch and circumstance of every action, every word and thought, shall be called to scrutiny and severe judgment: insomuch that it was a great truth which one said, Woe be to the most innocent life, if God should search into it without mixtures of mercy. And therefore we are here to follow St. Paul's advice, “ Judge yourselves, and you shall not be judged of the Lord.” The way to prevent God's anger is to be angry with ourselves; and by examining our actions, and condemning the criminal, by being assessors in God's tribunal, at least we shall obtain the favour of the court. As therefore every night we must make our bed the memorial of our grave, so let our evening thoughts be an image of the day of judgment.
5. This advice was so reasonable and proper an instrument of virtue, that it was taught even to the scholars of Pythagoras by their master": " Let not sleep seize upon the regions of your senses, before you have three times recalled the conversation and accidents of the day.” Examine what you have committed against the Divine law, what you have omitted of your duty, and in what you have made use of the Divine grace to the purposes of virtue and religion; joining the judge, reason, to the legislative mind or conscience, that God may reign there as a lawgiver and a judge. Then Christ's kingdom is set up in our hearts: then we always live in the eye of our Judge, and live by the measures of reason, religion, and sober counsels.
The benefits, we shall receive by practising this advice, in
order to a blessed death, will also add to the account of reason and fair inducements.
The Benefits of this Exercise.
1. By a daily examination of our actions, we shall the easier cure a great sin, and prevent its arrival to become habitual. For to examine we suppose to be a relative duty, and instrumental to something else. We examine ourselves, that we may find out our failings and cure them: and therefore if we use our remedy when the wound is fresh and bleeding, we shall find the cure more certain and less painful. For so a taper, when its crown of flame is newly blown off, retains a nature so symbolical to light, that it will with greediness rekindle and snatch a ray from the neighbour fire. So is the soul of man, when it is newly fallen into sin; although God be angry with it, and the state of God's favour and its own graciousness is interrupted, yet the habit is not naturally changed; and still God leaves some roots of virtue standing, and the man is modest, or apt to be made ashamed, and he is not grown a bold sinner ; but if he sleeps on it, and returns again to the same sin, and by degrees grows in love with it, and gets the custom, and the strangeness of it is taken away, then it is his master, and is swelled into a heap, and is abetted by use, and corroborated by newlyentertained principles, and is insinuated into his nature, and hath possessed his affections, and tainted the will and the understanding: and by this time, a man is in the state of a decaying merchant, his accounts are so great, and so intricate, and so much in arrear, that to examine it will be but to represent the particulars of his calamity: therefore they think it better to pull the napkin before their eyes, than to stare upon the circumstances of their death.
2. A daily or frequent examination of the parts of our life will interrupt the proceeding and hinder the journey of little sins into a heap. For many days do not pass the best persons, in which they have not many idle words or vainer thoughts to sully the fair whiteness of their souls; some indiscreet passions of trifling purposes, some impertinent discontents or unhandsome usages of their own persons or their
dearest relatives. And though God is not extreme to mark what is done amiss, and therefore puts these upon the accounts of his mercy, and the title of the cross; yet in two cases these little sins combine and cluster; and, we know, that grapes were once in so great a bunch, that one cluster was the load of two men; that is, 1. When either we are in love with small sins; or, 2. When they proceed from a careless and incurious spirit into frequency and continuance. For so, the smallest atoms that dance in all the little cells of the world are so trifling and immaterial, that they cannot trouble an eye, nor vex the tenderest part of a wound where a barbed arrow dwelt; yet, when by their infinite numbers (as Melissa and Parmenides, affirm), they danced first into order, then into little bodies, at last they made the matter of the world: so are the little indiscretions of our life: they are always inconsiderable, if they be considered, and contemptible, if they be not despised, and God does not regard them, if we do. We may easily keep them asunder by our daily or. nightly thoughts, and prayers, and 'severe sentences; but even the least sand can check the tumultuous pride, and become a limit to the sea, when it is in a heap and in united multitudes; but if the wind scatter and divide them, the little drops and the vainer froth of the water begin to invade the strand. Our sighs can scatter such little offences; but then be sure to breathe such accents frequently, lest they knot, and combine, and grow big as the shore, and we perish in sand, in trifling instances. “He that despiseth little things, shall perish by little and little:” so said the son of Siracho.
3. A frequent examination of our actions will intenerate and soften our consciences, so that they shall be impatient. of any rudeness or heavier load : and he that is used to shrink, when he is pressed with a branch of twining osier P, will not willingly stand in the ruins of a house, when the beam dashes upon the pavement. And provided that our nice and tender spirit be not vexed into scruple, nor the scruple turn into unreasonable fears, nor the fears into superstition; he, that, by any arts, can make his spirit tender and apt for religious impressions, hath made the fairest seat
• Ecclus, xix. 1.
P Qui levi comminatione pellitur, non opus est, ut fortiludine et armis invadatur. --Seneca.