Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

thyself that which thou wishest to be, how canst thou expect to mould another in conformity to thy will ? But we require perfection in the rest of mankind, and take no care to rectify the disorders of our own hearts; we desire that the faults of others should be severely punished, and refuse the gentlest correction ourselves; we are offended at their licentiousness, and yet cannot bear the least opposition to our own immoderate desires: we would subject all to the control of rigorous statutes and penal laws, but will not suffer any restraint upon our own actions; and thus it appears, how very seldom the second of the two grcat commandments of CHRIST is fulfilled, and how difficult it is for a man to “ love his neighbour as he loves himself."

4. If all men were perfect, we should meet with nothing in the conduct of others to suffer for the sake of God. But in the present fallen state of human nature it is His Blessed Will, that we should learn to "bear one another's burthens;" and as no man is free from some burthens of sin or sorrow; as none has (strength and wisdom sufficient for all the purposes.of life and duty; the necessity of mutual forbearance, mutual consolation, mutual support, instruction, and advice, is founded upon our mutual imperfections, troubles, and wants. Besides, by outward occasions of suffering from the conduct of others, the nature and degree of every man's inward strength is more plainly discovered; for outward occasions do not Imake him frail, but only shew him what he is in himself.

CHAP. XVII.

OF A RECLUSE LIFE.

1. IT is necessary that thou shouldst learn to break and subdue thy own will in innumerable instances, if thou wouldst live in harmony and peace among those that are devoted to a life of religious retirement. How good and how pleasant it is, for brethren,' in colleges and other societies separated from the world, “ to dwell together in unity,and to preserve “the bond of peace" unbroken to the end of life! Blessed, surely, is the man, who in this state hath passed his days with innocence, and closed them with success! That thou mayst keep thy integrity by a faithful perseverance in a course so glorious, consider thyself as an exile from thy native country," a stranger and a pilgrim upon earth,” and be willing to become a fool for the sake of CHRIST.

2. It is not the peculiar habit, the tonsure, or any alteration merely external, but a change of heart, and an entire mortification of the passions, that are the indispensable qualifications for such a state: and 'he that seeks any thing in it, but the Glory of God in the purification of his own soul, will meet only with disappointment and trouble, anxiety and remorse: for the blessing of peace cannot long rest upon him, who doth not continually endeavour to make himself less than all men, and to become subject to all.

3. But, tell me, for what purpose camest thou hither; to serve or to govern, to be ministered unto or to minister? Thou knowest, that here thou art called to a life of subjection, labour, and patience; not of dominion, idleness, and amusement.

Here men are

tried, as gold in the fire; and here no one can stand, unless with his whole heart he desireth to be humbled in the highest degree for the sake of God.

;.
CHAP. XVIII.

OF THE EXAMPLES OF THE HOLY FATHERS.

1. CONSIDER the lively examples of the primitive Christians, resplendent with the heavenly brightness of religious perfection; and you will soon dis"eérn, how worthless and vain is the sum of our best actions. Alas! what is our life, if it be compared with theirs? Those holy men, the faithful disciples of a crucified Saviour, maintained their allegiance to their LORD, in hunger and thirst, in cold and nakedness, in labour and fatigue, in watching and prayer, in fasting and holy meditation, in the multitude of persecutions and reproaches. How numerous and severe were the trials of the apostles, martyrs, confessors, virgins, and all who desired to follow CHRIST in the regeneration ! They " hatéđ their life in this swörld, that they might keep it unto life eternal.

2. How severe a state of self-renunciation was chosen by the fathers in the desert! What long and heavy temptations did their perseverance overcome! what reiterated conflicts did they sustain with the enemy! How ardent were their prayers ! how rigorous their tasks of abstinence!' With what zeal and fervour did they aspire after higher degrees of spiritual perfection! with what intrepidity and resolution did they wage perpetual war against their vices! how pure and disinterested was their love of God! The day they devoted to labour, and the night to prayer';

[ocr errors]

and even in the hours of labour, their heart was lifted up to heaven in continual aspirations. Their whole time was usefully employed: every hour, in which they were engaged in immediate intercourse with God, seemed short; and ravished with the surpassing sweetnees of Divine Contemplation, they became insensible of the want of bodily refreshment. Riches, authority, honours, friends, relations, and all propriety in the possession of sublunary good, they renour. ced: they received with a reluctant hand the com. mon supports of animal life; and even deplored the necessity of administering to the wants of the body With respect, therefore, to all earthly possessions, they were poor; but they were eminently rich in holiness and the favour of God: outwardly they were in absolute want; but inwardly they abounded in Grace, and the refreshments of Divine consolation: they were the aliens and outcasts of the world, but the adopted sons and'intiinate friends of God in their own estimation, they were less than nothing, and vanity; and were, indeed, mean and despicable in the eyes of men; but in the sight of God, they were "clect and precious.". By deep humility, pure obedience, ardent charity, and persevering patience, they made continual advances in the spiritual life, and obtained superadded degrees of the Grace of God. Such were the men, that were given for an example: to all the professors of a religious life; and though their number is small, yet it ought more to encoure, age us to press resolutely forward towards perfection; than the multitude of the lukewarm, to relax in our endeavours, and linger in our progress.

3. As an effect of the influence of their life, how great was the ardour of religious societies at their

first institution! What devotion in prayer! what emulation in holiness! how strict and impartial the discipline of the superior, how unconstrained and cheerful the reverence and obedience of the subject ! These footsteps, though forsaken, still bear testimony to the upright progress of those holy men, who, by persevering in the narrow path in which CHRIST has called all to follow Him, trampled the world 'under: their feet. Now, zeal is contracted within the narrow limits of negative perfection; and a mere passive sufferance of that discipline to which obedience has been vowed, a mere exemption from positive transgression, is esteemed a foundation of triumph. Ah! lamentable supineness! that we should so soon lose the primitive ardour; and grow weary of a Life of Holiness, through mere idleness and cold indiffer

ence.

4. God grant, that in thy heart, which has been impressed with so many examples of true devotion, the desire of perfection may never sleep the sleep of death!

CHAP. XIX.

OF RELIGIOUS EXERCISES.

1. THE life of a religious man ought not only so to abound with holiness, as that the frame of his spirit may be at least equal to his outward behaviour; but there ought to be much more holiness within, than is discernible without; because God, who searcheth the heart, is our inspector and judge, whom it is our duty infinitely to reverence wherever we are, and angels to walk pure in his sight. We ought every day to renew our holy resolutions, and excite our

as

« PredošláPokračovať »