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Moses and Aaron, in the matter of Peor : “ Vex the Midianites, because they vexed you, and made you sin by their daughters.” And Phinehas did so; he killed a prince of the house of Simeon, and a princess of Midian, and God confirmed the priesthood to him for ever; meaning, that we shall for ever be admitted to a nearer relation to God, if we sacrifice to God our dearest lust. And this is not so properly an act, as the end of mortification. Therefore it concerns the prudence of the duty, that all the efficacy and violence of it be employed against the strongest, and there where is the most dangerous hostility.
23. Fourthly : But if we mean to be masters of the field, and put our victory past dispute, let us mortify our morosity and natural aversations, reducing them to an indifferency, having in our wills no fondnesses, in our spirits no faction of persons or nations, being prepared to love all men, and to endure all things, and to undertake all employments, which are duty or counsel in all circumstances and disadvantages. For the excellency of evangelical sanctity does surmount all antipathies, as a vessel climbs up and rides upon a wave; “ The wolf and the lamb shall cohabit, and a child shall play and put his fingers in the cavern of an aspick;” nations, whose interests are most contradictory, must be knit by the confederations of a mortified and a Christian spirit, and single persons must triumph over the difficulties of an indisposed nature, or else their own will is unmortified, and nature is stronger, than can well consist with the dominion and absolute empire of grace. To this I reduce such peevish and unhandsome nicenesses in matters of religion, that are unsatisfied, unless they have all exterior circumstances trimmed up and made pompous for their religious offices; suc who cannot
pray without a convenient room, and their devotion is made active only by a well-built chapel, and they cannot sing lauds without church music, and too much light dissolves their intention, and too much dark promotes their melancholy; and because these, and the like exterior ministries, are good advantages, therefore without them they can do nothing, which certainly is a great intimation and likeness to immortification. Our will should be like the candle of the eye, without all colour in itself, that it may entertain the species of all colours from without: and when we lust after mandrakes, and deliciousness of exterior ministries, we many times are brought to betray our own interest, and prostitute our dearest affections to more ignoble and stranger desires. Let us love all natures, and serve all persons, and pray in all places, and fast without opportunities, and do alms above our power, and set ourselves heartily on work, to neglect and frustrate those lower temptations of the devil, who will frequently enough make our religion inopportune, if we then will make it infrequent; and will present us with objects enough and flies to disquiet our persons, if our natures be petulant, peevish, curious, and unmortified.
24. It is a great mercy of God to have an affable, sweet, and well-disposed nature, and it does half the work of mortification for us; we have the less trouble to subdue our passions and destroy our lusts. But then, as those, whose natures are morose, choleric, peevish, and lustful, have greater difficulty; so is their virtue of greater excellence, and returned with a more ample reward : but it is in all men's natures, as with them who gathered manna,
They that gathered little, had no lack, and they that gathered much, had nothing over :" they who are of ill natures, shall want no assistance of God's grace to work their cure, though their flesh be longer healing; and they who are sweetly tempered, being naturally meek and modest, chaste or temperate, will find work enough to contest against their temptations from without, though from within possibly they may have fewer. Yet there are greater degrees of virtue and heroical excellences, and great rewards, to which God hath designed them by so fair dispositions, and it will concern all their industry to mortify their spirit, which, though it be malleable and more ductile, yet it is as bare and naked of imagery as the rudest and most iron nature : so that mortification will be every man's duty; no nature, nor piety, nor wisdom, nor perfection, but will need it, either to subdue a lust, or a passion; to cut off an occasion, or to resist a temptation; to persevere, or to go on; to secure our present estate, or to proceed towards perfection. But all men do not think so.
25. For there are some, who have great peace, no fightings within, no troubles without, no disputes or contradictions
9 Nemo adeò ferus est, ut non mitescere possit, Si modò cultaræ patientem commodet aurem. — Hor. ep. 1. i. 39.
in their spirit: but these men have the peace of tributaries, or a conquered people; the gates of their city stand open day and night, that all the carriages may enter without disputing the pass : the flesh and the spirit dispute not, because the spirit is there in pupillage or in bonds, and the flesh rides in triumph, with the tyranny, and pride, and impotency, of a female tyrant. For, in the sense of religion, we all are warriors or slaves ; either ourselves are stark dead in trespasses and sins, or we need to stand perpetually upon our guards in continual observation, and in contestation against our lusts and our passions; so long denying and contradicting our own wills, till we will and choose to do things against our wills, having an eye always to those infinite satisfactions, which shall glorify our wills and all our faculties, when we arrive to that state, in which there shall be no more contradiction, but only that “our inortal shall put on immortality.”
26. But as some have a vain and dangerous peace, so others double their trouble by too nice and impertinent scruples, thinking that every temptation is a degree of immortification. As long as we live, we shall have to do with enemies : but as this life is ever a state of imperfection, so the very design and purpose of mortification is not to take away temptations, but to overcome them; it endeavours to facilitate the work, and secure our condition, by removing all occasions it can : but the opportunity of a crime, and the solicitation to a sin, is no fault of ours, unless it be of our procuring, or finds entertainment when it comes unsent for. To suffer a temptation is a misery; but if we then set upon the mortification of it, it is an occasion of virtue, and never is criminal, unless we give consent. But then also it would be considered, that it is not good offering ourselves to fire ordeal, to confirm our innocence; nor prudent to enter into battle without need, and to show our valour; nor safe to procure a temptation, that we may have the reward of mortification of it. For mortification of the spirit is not commanded as a duty finally resting in itself, or immediately landing upon God's glory, such as are acts of charity and devotion, chastity and justice: but it is the great instrument of humility and all other graces; and, therefore, is to be undertaken to destroy a sin, and to secure a virtuous habit. And besides that', to call on a danger is to tempt God, and to invite the devil, (and no man is sure of a victory): it is also great imprudence to create a need, that we may take it away again; to drink poison, to make experiment of the antidote ; and, at the best, it is but a running back, to come just to the same place again: for he that is not tempted, does not sin ; but he that invites a temptation, that he might overcome it, or provokes a passion, that he may allay it, is then but in the same condition after his pains and his danger: he was not sure he should come so far.
O dearest God, who hast framed man of soul and body, and
fitted him with faculties and proportionable instruments to serve thee according to all our capacities, let thy Holy Spirit rule and sanctify every power and member, both of soul and body, that they may keep that beauteous order, which, in our creation, thou didst intend, and to which thou dost restore thy people in the renovations of grace; that our affections may be guided by reason, our understanding may be enlightened with thy word, and then may guide and persuade our will; that we suffer no violent transportation of passions, nor be overcome by a temptation, nor consent to the impure solicitations of lust; that “sin may not reign in our mortal bodies," but that both bodies and souls may be conformable to the sufferings of the holy Jesus; that in our body we may bear the marks and dying of our Lord, and in our spirits we may be humble and mortified, and like him, in all his imitable perfections ; that we may die to sin, and live to righteousness, and, after our suffering together with him in this world, we may reign together with him hereafter; to whom, in the Unity of the most mysterious Trinity, be all glory, and dominion, and praise, for ever and ever. Amen.
Vide Disc. of Temptation.
Of Jesus being baptized, and going into the Wilderness to be
1. Now the full time was come, Jesus took leave of his mother and his trade, to begin his Father's work, and the office prophetical, in order to the redemption of the world; and when “ John was baptizing in Jordan, Jesus came to John, to be baptized of him.” The Baptist had never seen his face, because they had been, from their infancy, driven to several places, designed to several employments, and never met till now. But immediately the Holy Ghost inspired St. John with a discerning and knowing spirit, and at his first arrival he knew him, and did him worship. And when Jesus desired to be baptized,
“ John forbade him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?" For the baptism of John, although it was not a direct instrument of the Spirit for the collation of grace, neither find we it administered in any form of words, not so much as in the name of Christ to come, (as many dream “,) (because, even after John had baptized, the Pharisees still doubted, if he were the Messias; which they would not, if, in his form of ministration, he had published Christ to come after him; and also because it had not been proper for Christ himself to have received that baptism, whose form had specified himself to come hereafter ; neither could it consist with the revelation which John had, and the confession which he made, to baptize in the name of Christ to come, whom the Spirit marked out to him to be come already, and himself pointed at him with his finger,) yet it was a ceremonious consignation of the doctrine of repentance b, which was one great part of the covenant evangelical, and was a Divine institution, the susception of it was in order to the fulfilling all righteousness; it was a sign of humility, the persons baptized confessed their sins; it was a sacramental disposing to the baptism and faith of Christ; but therefore
* Gabriel, Sotus, Scotus, &c. • Προοίμιον του ευαγγελίου της χάριτος --Acts, xix. 4.