Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

we may have the same passion, the same fervour and holy fires. But, in this matter of examining, we must consider how much hath been pardoned, that we may examine how thankful we have been, and what returns we have made: we must observe all our usual failings, that we may now set our guards accordingly: we must remember in what weak part we are smitten, that we may still pray against it; and we must renew our sad remembrances, that we may continue our sad repentances; and we must look upon our whole life, that we may be truly humbled. He that only examines, how it is with him since the last communion, will think too well of himself, if he spies his bills of accusation to be small; but every man will find cause enough to hide his face in the dust, and to come with fear and trembling, when he views the sum total of his life, which certainly will appear to be full of shame and of dishonour.

3. We are not to limit our examination to the interval since the last communion, because much of our present duty is relative to the first parts of our life. For all the former vows of obedience, though we have broken them a thousand times, yet have still an obliging power; and there are many contingencies of our life which require peculiar usages and treatments of ourselves, and there are many follies which we leave by degrees, and many obligations which are of continual duty. And it may be that our passion did once carry us to so extreme, so intolerable a violence,-perhaps twenty years ago, that we are still to keep our fears and tremblings about us, lest the same principle produce the same evil event. When Horatius Cocles had won that glorious victory over the three Sabine brothers, and, entering gloriously into Rome, he espied his sister wetting his laurel with her unseasonable tears, for the death of one of them whom she loved with the honour of a wife, and the passion of a lover: and being mad with rage and pride, because her sorrow allayed his joys and glory, he killed her with that sword, by which her servant died. Sometimes passion makes a prodigious excursion, and passes on to the greatest violence, and the most prodigious follies: and though it be usually so restrained by reason and religion, that such transvolutions are not frequent, yet one

e

Liv. lib. i. cap. 26.

such act is an eternal testimony how weak we are, and how mischievous a passion can be. It is a miracle of Providence that, in the midst of all the rudenesses and accidents of the world, a man preserves his eyes, which every thing can extinguish and put out: and it is no less a miracle of grace, that, in the midst of so many dishonourable loves, there are no more horrid tragedies: and so many brutish angers do not produce more cruel sudden murders; and that so much envy does not oftener break out into open hostilities. It is indeed a mighty grace, that pares the nails of these wild beasts, and makes them more innocent in their effects, than they are in their nature: but still the principle remains; there is in us the same evil nature, and the same unruly passion: and, therefore, as there ought to be continual guards upon them, so there must be continual inquiries made concerning them; and every thing is to be examined, lest all be lost upon a sudden.

4. We must not limit our examination to the interval to the last communion, because our first repentances must still proceed, and must never be at an end. For no man was so pardoned at the last communion, but that he is still obliged to beg pardon for those sins, he then repented of. He must always repent, and always pray, and never be at peace with the first sins of his youth; and the sorrows of the first day must be the duty of every day; and that examination must come into this account; and when we inquire after our own state, we must not view the little finger, but the whole man. For, in all the forest, the ape is the handsomest beast, so long as he shows nothing but his hand; but when the inquiring and envious beasts looked round about them, they quickly espied a foul deformity.

There are, in the state of a man's soul, some good proportions, and some well days, and some fortunate periods; but he that is contented with beholding them alone, cares more to please himself than to please God, and thinks him to be happy whom man, not whom God, approves. By this way twenty deceptions and impostures may abuse a man. See, therefore, what you are from head to foot, from the beginning to the end, from the first entry to your last progression: and although it be not necessary that we always actually consider all; yet it will be necessary that we always truly

know it all, that our relative duties, and our imperfect actions, and our collateral obligations, and the direct mea sures of the increase of grace, may be justly discerned and understood.

4. He that examines himself and would make right judg ment of his state and of his duty, must not do it by single actions, but by states of life and habits of religion. If we can say truly that neither prosperity nor adversity, neither cross nor crown, employment nor retirement, public offices nor household cares, do disorder us in our duty to God and our relations, that is, if we safely and wisely passed through, or converse in, any one of these states of life, it is very likely that things are well with us. But the consideration of single actions will do but little. Some acts of charity and many prayers, and the doing one noble action, or being once or twice very bountiful, or the struggling with one danger, and the speaking for God in one contestation; these are excellent things, and good significations of life, but not always of health and strength, not of a state of grace. Now because, in the holy communion, we are growing up to the measures of the fulness of Christ, we can no otherwise be fitted to it, but by the progressions and increase of a man, that is, by habits of grace and states and permanencies of religion; and therefore our examinations must be accordingly.

SECTION VI.

Devotions to be used upon the Days of our Examination, relative to that Duty.

The Hymn.

THE Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord's throne is in heaven: his eyes behold, his eye-lids try, the children of

men.

The Lord trieth the righteous: but the wicked, and him that loveth violence, his soul hateth.

For the righteous Lord loveth righteousness; his countenance doth behold the upright.

The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.

Thou hast proved mine heart; thou hast visited me in the night; thou hast tried me, and shalt find nothing; I am pur posed, that my mouth shall not transgress.

not.

Hold

up my goings in thy paths: that my footsteps slide

As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the Lord is tried; he is a buckler to all those that trust in him. *

For who is God save the Lord ? and who is our rock save our God?

Judge me, O Lord; for I have walked in mine integrity! but. I trust in the Lord; therefore I shall not slidé.

Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; try my reins and my heart for thy loving-kindness is before mine eyes, and I will walk in thy truth.

[ocr errors]

I will not sit with vain persons: neither will I go dissemblers..

go in with I hate the congregation of evil doers: and I will not sit with the wicked.

I will wash my hands in innocency: so will I compass thine altar, O Lord,

That I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all thy wondrous works...

But, as for me, I will walk in my integrity: redeem me and be merciful to me.

So shall my foot stand in an even place: and, in the congregation, will I bless the Lord.

Glory be to the Father, &c.

As it was in the beginning, &c.

THE PRAYERS.

O ETERNAL and most glorious God, who sittest in heaven, ruling over all things from the beginning; thou dwellest on high, and yet humblest thyself to behold the things that are in heaven and earth. Thou hast searched me, O Lord, and known me; thou understandest my thoughts afar off, and art acquainted with all my ways; for there is not a word in my tongue, but thou, O Lord, knowest it altogether. Be pleased to impart unto thy servant a ray of thy heavenly light, a beam of the sun of righteousness; open mine eyes that I may see the wondrous things of thy law, that I may walk in them all my days. Set all my sins before my face,

that I may speedily, and earnestly, and perfectly, repent and forsake them all. Give me a sight of my infirmities, that I may watch against them; discover to me all my evil and weak principles, that I may reform them. And whatsoever is wanting in me towards the understanding of any thing, whereby I may please thee and perfect my duty,-I beg of thee to reveal that also unto me; that my duty may not be undiscerned, and my faith may not be reproved, and my affections may not be perverse, and hardened in their foolish pursuance, and a secret sin may not lie undiscovered and corrupting my soul.

II...

Give me an ingenious and a severe spirit, that whatever judgment of charity I make concerning others, I may give a right judgment concerning my own state and actions, condemning the criminal, censuring the suspicious, suspecting what seems allowable, and watchful even over the best; that I may, in the spirit of repentance and mortification, correct all my irregularities, and reform my errors, and improve the good things which thou hast given me; that endeavouring to approve my actions to my conscience, and my conscience to thy law, I may not be a reprobate, but approved by thee in the great day of examination of all the world, and be reckoned amongst thy elect, the secret ones; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

A short Form of Humiliation, after our Examination.

I.

Thy judgments, O Lord God, are declared in thunder, and with fear and with dread; thou shakest all my bones, and my soul trembles when I consider that great day, in which thou shalt judge all the world; and that infinite justice, which will not spare the mighty for his greatness, nor the poor for his poverty; and thy unlimited power, which can mightily destroy all them, that will not have thee to reign over them.

II.

O most dreadful Judge, I stand in amazement, when I consider, that the heavens are not pure in thine eyes; and if thou foundest perverseness in thy angels, and didst not spare

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »