« PreviousContinue »
son, - he that will still retain the concubine, - let him resolve what he will, and will what he is commanded, and profess what he purposes; his profession is nothing but 'words : and his resolutions will prove as unstable as the 'thinnest air, which is not able to support à fly, unless, with her wings, she fans it into an accidental thickness.
This may seem the hardest commandment of Christianity; and Christ calls it a “cutting off the right hand, and plucking out the right eye;" as if it were the greatest violence of the world. Indeed it is oftentimes a great inconvenience to our affairs and fortune : for, it may be, he, by whom we live, is he by whom we sin; and we cannot eat, but we must be in danger. If the case be so, it is indeed harder to leave the sin; but yet the command of pulling out our eye is not the hardness, but is an act of easiness, and an instrument of facilitation : for, first, it must be remembered, that it is a question of souls, and no interest can be laid in balance against a soul; it is moments against eternity, money against heaven, life eternal against a little pension. And, therefore, this precept of pulling out the right eye is very easy, when it is made the price or instrument of avoiding eternal torments. A man had better pull his heart” out, than nurse a lust, by which he shall die for ever.
But then, next to this it is considerable, that this precept of putting out the right eye, that is, removing the next occasion of sin, is so far from being a hard commandment, that it is perfectly complying with our infirmities, and a securing of our greatest interests; by this he conducts us tenderly, because we have no strength. For if Christ had done as Xenocrates in Valerius, and commanded his disciples to dwell in danger, that they might triumph more gloriously, - we had reason to suspect ourselves, and to tremble under the load of the imposition; but Christ knew it would never consist with our safety, and never conduce to his Father's glory; therefore Christ bids us to avoid the occasion. He would not have weak and amorous persons to converse with fair women, that make weak eyes", the eyes wound the heart of a foolish man. For, as Trithe
m Projice quæcunque cor tuum laniant; quæ si aliter extrahi nequirent, cor ipsum cum illis evellendum erat.
» 'Αλγηδόνες οφθαλμών.
mius observes, 'good angels never appeared in the likeness of women;' they are tempters and temptations : and, therefore, because of the danger, Christ would not have us look ; unless we can do it with safety, we must not be in their company. And, therefore, as God gave us legs and hands in great kindness, yet we give money to have them cut off when they endanger the whole body; so must we quite cut off the advantages of our estate, and the pleasures of our life, rather than die eternally. There is no other variety but this : if we be tempted in our state of life or of society, we must do violence to our fortune or our will. But the particulars of the case are these.
1. If it be easy to quit the occasion, do it, lest you be tempted; for it is worth some pain to be secured in the question of your soul.
soul. When Alcibiades was sent for from Sicily to Athens to bě tried for his life, he hid himself, and left this answer to be sent: “ It is better to decline a trial, than to escape from under it." And so it is bere: it is glorious to escape, but it is the safer way not to put it to the venture ; and, therefore, when you can, decline the trial; for he that resolves to live, and yet will live under the ruins of a falling house, is but little better than a fool.
2. If it be difficult to part with the tempting occasion of your sin, then consider whether you can dwell with it, and yet not sin; if you can, you may; for if
you neither love your danger, nor can easily part with it, it is sufficient that by plain force you resist it.
3. But if, by sad experience, you have learned your own weakness, and that as long as you dwell near the furnace, you are scorched with the flames, no interest in this world must make you lose your hopes of the other. It is not good to walk by a bank side, or to play in the '
hollow seat of an asp. He that hath escaped often, is not secure : but he that hath already smarted under the calamity, hath not so much left him to alleviate the evil, as the miserable excuse of, I
ο Καλούμενος επί κρίσιν θανατικήν υπό των Αθηναίων από Σικελίας έκρυψεν εαυτό sità sünon sivat to dinny exorta, (HTETY å popunny, i cox duytiv. -- Plutarch. Apophth. Xyl. tom. ii. pag. 136. E. (J. R. P.)
p Nemo se tuto din
Senec. Herc. Fur. 326. Schröder, pag. 28.
did not think it:' for he hath found that it was so dangerous. But, therefore, he must decline no trouble that he may save his soul ; and that estate is well spent that secures such an interest. But if a man be afraid of his forehead, he must not gather honey from a bee-hive ?; and in many cases, if a man stands upon the matter of inconvenience, he must not pretend to be a servant of God. If you dwell in a temptation, you are in danger of eternal death; and to be secure against such a danger, what danger is it which a wise man will not endure"? All the glories of his father could never have tempted Phaeton to have come near one of the horses of the sun, after they had given him such an horrid fall. When you
have seen yourself overpowered by the temptation, come not near it any more; change your dwelling; let not 'one house hold you both, nor the same stars ever see you meet.
But that this must be done before you receive the blessed sacrament'is therefore affirmed because no man can resolve against all sin, unless he be stronger than his temptation, or fly from it. But he that chooses to dwell with the next and proper opportunity of sin,- either he directly loves the sin, or by interpretation he loves not God, who will not for his service suffer the inconvenience of leaving his mistress, or venture the favour of his patron, or is afraid to grieve his tempter, or will at no hand suffer the diminution of his fortune.
It may be deferred upon the same terms, upon which it can be quite omitted; that is, when, upon any sure account, we are impregnable against it: but when you know not that, you must fly away directly. If you cannot, with water, quench your fire, take the wood from under it. I only add one general advice, which will fit all sorts of persons, that desire truly to serve God, and to arrive at an excellent state of virtue ;— although they live in the world, and are engaged by their duty and relations to many secular divertisements, yet as they must do what they can to change these into
9 Nec quisquam fruitur veris odoribus,
Ov. Trist, i. 1,79. Mattaire, vol. iii. p. 136.
religion and into some good thing one way or other; so by these difficulties and divertisements, they will find it to be impossible that they should do any thing that is greatly good; unless they cut off all superfluous company, and visits, and amusements. That which is necessary, is too much ; and if it were not necessary, it would not be tolerable; but that which is more than needs, is a millstone about the neck of religion, and makes it impossible to be excellently virtuous.
QUESTION II. But is he, that intends to communicate, bound to quit all those
occasions of Sin, by which himself was tempted, and did fall, and die?
1. I answer, that it is impossible he should. Ift you live in delights, your chastity is tempted; your humility is assaulted by receiving honour; your religion by much business : your truth by much talk; your charity by living in the world ; and yet we must not hasten out of it,, nor swear eternal silence, nor lay aside all our business, nor quit our preferment and honourable employment, nor refuse all secular comforts, and live in pains that we may preserve these respective graces, and yet something we must do; some occasions must be quitted before we communicate. To that, therefore, the answer is certain and indisputable; that the occasion that is immediate to the sin, must be quitted in that, which it does minister to sin. A woman is not bound to spoil her face, though by her beauty she hath fallen : because her beauty was not the immediate cause; it was her unguarded conversation, and looser society; the laying ber treasure open, or her wanton comportment. For beauty will invite a noble flame, as soon as kindle a smoking brand; and, therefore, the face may be preserved and the chastity too, if that be removed which brings the danger and stands closer to the sin.
2. When Dionysius“, of Sicily, gave to Aristippus five Attic talents, he and his servant dragged them home upon their backs : but finding himself too glad of his money, he
1 St. Bernard.
threw it into the sea, as supposing the money to be the tempter, and no safety to be had, as long as it was above the water. If he had thought right, he had done right: if he would not have cured his covetousness and kept the money, he had done well to part with it; but, it may be, he might have been as safe, and yet wiser too. But the resolution is this. In this question distinguish the next occasion from that which is further off; and we are bound to quit that, not this, because the virtue may be secured without it. A man may very well live in the world, and yet serve God: and if he be hindered by the world, it is not directly that, but something else by which the cure must be effected. But if nothing else will do it, then there is no distinction, no difference between the nearest occasion and that which is further off: for they must be all quitted: the face must be disordered, the beauty sullied, the money thrown away, the world renounced, rather than God be provoked to anger, and thy soul ruined by thy inevitable sin. :. 3. He that comes to the holy sacrament, must, before his coming, so repent of his injury, of his rapine, of his slander, or whatever the instance be, that, before he communicates, he make actual restitution, perfect amends, entire satisfaction, and be really reconciled to his offended brother. This is to be understood in these cases :
:1. If the injury be remaining and incumbent on thy brother: for it is not fit for thee to receive benefit by Christ's death, so long as by thee thy brother feels an injury. Thou art unjust so long as thou continuest the wrong: and if the evil goes on, the repentance cannot. No man that repents, does injure any man; and “ this eucharistical sacrifice will never sanctify any man, unless he have the holy Spirit of God; neither will the Lord bring advantages or give him blessing consequent to these solemn prayers, if he hath already injured the Lord, or proceeds to do injury to his brothert.” There is no repentance, unless the penitent, as much as he can, make that to be undone which is done amiss : and, therefore, because the action can never be undone, at least undo the mischief; untie the bands of thy
* Quando nec oblatio sanctificare illic possit, ubi Spiritus sanctus non sit; nec cuiquam Dominus, per ejus orationes et preces, prosit, qui Dominum vel fratrem violavit. - St. Cyprian, epist. 63.