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for religion, and the unaptest and uneasiest entertainment for sin and eternal death, in the whole world.
4. A frequent examination of the smallest parts of our lives is the best instrument to make our repentance particular, and a fit remedy to all the members of the whole body of sin. For our examination, put off to our death-bed, of necessity brings us into this condition, that very many thousands of our sins must be (or not be at all) washed off with a general repentance, which the more general and indefinite it is, it is ever so much the worse. And if he that repents the longest and the oftenest, and upon the most instances, is still, during his whole life, but an imperfect penitent, and there are very many reserves left to be wiped off by God's mercies, and to be eased by collateral assistances, or to be groaned for at the terrible day of judgment; it will be but a sad story to consider, that the sins of a whole life, or of very great portions of it, shall be put upon the remedy of one examination, and the advices of one discourse, and the activities of a decayed body, and a weak and an amazed spirit. Let us do the best we can, we shall find that the mere sins of ignorance and unavoidable forgetfulness will be enough to be entrusted to such a bank; and if that a general repentance will serve towards their expiation, it will be an infinite mercy: but we have nothing to warrant our confidence, if we shall think it to be enough on our death-bed to confess the notorious actions of our lives, and to say,
The Lord be merciful unto me for the infinite transgressions of my life, which I have wilfully or carelessly forgot;" for very many, of which the repentance, the distinct, particular, circumstantiate repentance of a whole life would have been too little, if we could have done more.
5. After the enumeration of these advantages, I shall not need to add, that if we decline or refuse to call ourselves frequently to account, and to use daily advices concerning the state of our souls, it is a very ill sign, that our souls are not right with God, or that they do not dwell in religion. But this I shall say, that they, who do use this exercise frequently, will make their conscience much at ease, by casting out a daily load of humour and surfeit, the matter of diseases and the instruments of death. He that does not frequently search his conscience, is a house without a win
dow," and like a wild untutored son of a fond and undiscerning widow.
But if this exercise seem too great a trouble, and that by such advices religion will seem a burden; I have two things to oppose against it.
1. One, is that we had better bear the burden of the Lord, than the burden of a base and polluted conscience. Religion cannot be so great a trouble as a guilty soul; and whatsoever trouble can be fancied in this or any other action of religion, it is only to inexperienced persons. It may be a trouble at first, just as is every change and every new accident: but if you do it frequently and accustom your spirit to it, as the custom will make it easy!, so the advantages will make it delectable; that will make it facile as nature, these will make it as pleasant and eligible as reward.
2. The other thing I have to say is this; that to examine our lives will be no trouble, if we do not intricate it with businesses of the world and the labyrinths of care and impertinent affairs". A man had need have a quiet and disentangled life, who comes to search into all his actions, and to make judgment concerning his errors and his needs, his remedies and his hopes. They that have great intrigues of the world, have a yoke upon their necks, and cannot look back: and he that covets many things greedily, and snatches at high things ambitiously, that despises his neighbour proudly, and bears his crosses peevishly, or his prosperity impotently and passionately; he that is prodigal of his precious time, and is tenacious and retentive of evil purposes, is not a man disposed to this exercise; he hath reason to be afraid of his own memory, and to dash his glass in pieces, because it must needs represent to his own eyes an intolerable deformity. He therefore that resolves to live well, whatsoever it costs him; he that will go to heaven at any rate, shall best tend this duty by neglecting the affairs of the world in all things, where prudently he may. But if we do otherwise, we shall find that the accounts of our death-bed and the examination made by a disturbed understanding will be very empty of comfort and full of inconveniences.
9 Elige vitam optimam, consuetudo faciet jucundissimam.-Seneca.
Secaræ et quietæ mentis est in omnes vitæ partes discurrere; occupatorum animi relat sub jago sunt, respicere non possunt.-- Senecu.
6. For hence it comes, that men die so timorously and uncomfortably, as if they were forced out of their lives by the violences of an executioner. Then, without much examination, they remember, how wickedly they have lived, without religion, against the laws of the covenant of grace, without God in the world: then they see sin goes off like an amazed, wounded, affrighted person from a lost battle, without honour, without a veil, with nothing but shame and sad remembrances : then they can consider, that if they had lived virtuously, all the trouble and objection of that would now be past, and all that had remained, should be peace and joy, and all that good, which dwells within the house of God, and eternal life. But now they find, they have done amiss and dealt wickedly, they have no bank of good works, but a huge treasure of wrath, and they are going to a strange place, and what shall be their lot is uncertain (so they say, when they would comfort and flatter themselves): but in truth of religion their portion is sad and intolerable, without hope and without refreshment, and they must use little silly arts to make them go off from their stage of sins with some handsome circumstances of opinion: they will in civility be abused, that they may die quietly, and go decently their execution, and leave their friends indifferently contented, and apt to be comforted; and by that time they are gone awhile, they see, that they deceived themselves all their days; and were by others deceived at last.
Let us make it our own case: we shall come to that state and period of condition, in which we shall be infinitely comforted, if we have lived well; or else be amazed and go off trembling, because we are guilty of heaps of unrepented and unforsaken sins. It may happen, we shall not then understand it so, because most men of late ages have been abused with false principles, and they are taught (or they are willing to believe) that a little thing is enough to save them, and that heaven is so cheap a purchase, that it will fall upon them, whether they will or no. The misery of it is, they will not suffer themselves to be confuted, till it be too late to recant their error. In the interim, they are impatient'to bé examined, as a leper is of a comb, and are greedy of the world, as children of raw fruit; and they hate a severe reproof, as they do thorns in their bed; and they love to lay
aside religion, as a drunken person does to forget his-sorrow; and all the way they dream of fine things, and their dreams prove contrary, and become the hieroglyphics of an eternal sorrow. The daughter of Polycrates dreamed, that her father was lifted up, and that Jupiter washed him, and the sun anointed him; but it proved to him but a sad prosperity: for after a long life of constant prosperous successes he was surprised by his enemies, and hanged up till the dew of heaven wet his cheeks, and the sun melted his grease. Such is the condition of those persons who, living either in the despite or in the neglect of religion, lie wallowing in the drunkenness of prosperity or worldly cares: they think themselves to be exalted, till the evil day overtakes them; and then they can expound their dream of life to end in a sad and hopeless death. I remember that Cleomenes was called a god by the Egyptians, because when he was hanged, a serpent grew out of his body, and wrapped itself about his head ; till the philosophers of Egypt said, it was natural, that from the marrow of some bodies such productions should arise. And indeed it represents the condition of some men, who being dead are esteemed saints and beatified persons, when their head is encircled with dragons, and is entered into the possession of devils, that old serpent and deceiver. For indeed their life was secretly so corrupted, that such serpents fed upon the ruins of the spirit, and the decays of grace and reason. To be cozened in making judgments concerning our final condition is extremely easy; but if we be cozened, we are infig. nitely miserable.
Of exercising Charity during our whole life.. He that would die well and happily, must, in his life-time, according to all his capacities, exercise charity*; and because religion is the life of the soul, and charity is the life of religion, the same which gives life to the better part of man,
• Respice quid prodest præsentis temporis ævum;
Omne quod est, nihil est, præter amare Deum.
which never dies, may obtain of God a mercy to the inferior part of man in the day of its dissolution.
1. Charity is the great channel, through which God passes all his mercy upon mankind. For we receive absolution of our sins in proportion to our forgiving our brother. This is the rule of our hopes, and the measure of our desire in this world; and in the day of death and judgment the great sentence upon mankind shall be transacted according to our alms, which is the other part of charity. Certain it is, that God cannot, will not, never did, reject a charitable man in his greatest needs and in his most passionate prayers'; for God himself is love, and every degree of charity that dwells in us, is the participation of the Divine nature: and therefore, when upon our death-bed a cloud covers our head, and we are enwrapped with sorrow; when we feel the weight of a sickness, and do not feel the refreshing visitations of God's loving-kindness; when we have many things to trouble us, and looking round about us we see no comforter; then call to mind, what injuries you have forgiven, how apt you were to pardon all affronts and real persecutions, how you embraced peace, when it was offered you, how you followed after peace, when it ran from you: and when you are weary of one side, turn upon the other, and remember the alms, that by the grace of God and his assistances, you have done, and look up to God, and with the eye of faith behold him coming in the cloud, and pronouncing the sentence of doomsday according to his mercies and thy charity.
2. Charity with its twin-daughters, alms and forgiveness, is especially effectual for the procuring God's mercies in the day and the manner of our death. “Alms deliver from death,” said old Tobias "; and “alms make an atonement for sins," said the son of Sirach': and so said Daniel", and so say all the wise men of the world. And in this sense also, is that of St. Peter, “Love covers a multitude of sins;" and St. Clementy in his Constitutions gives this counsel, “ If
+ Quod expendi habui,
Qaud servavi perdidi. u Tob. iv. 10. xii. 9.
w Dan. iv. 27. 1 Pel. iv. 8. Isa. i. 17. Y Lib. vii. cap. 13. Εάν έχεις δια των χειρών σου, δός, ένα εργάση εις λύτρωσιν αμαρτιών σου ελεημοσύναις γαρ και πίστεσιν αποκαθαίρονται αμαρτίαι. .
Ecclus. iii. 30.