« AnteriorContinuar »
and signification of doctrine is that, which is generally agreed upon by almost all persons; that he that enters into his ministry by simony, receives nothing but a curse, which is expressly affirmed by Petrus Damiani", and Tarasius the patriarch of Constantinople, by St. Gregory', and St. Ambroses.
For if the Holy Ghost leaves polluted temples and unchaste bodies, if he takes away his grace from them that abuse it, if the Holy Ghost would not have descended upon Simon Magus at the prayer of St. Peter, if St. Peter had taken money for him; it is but reasonable to believe, the Holy Ghost will not descend upon the simoniacal, unchaste concubinaries, schismatics, and scandalous priests, and excommunicate. And beside the reasonableness of the doctrine, it is also farther affirmed by the council of Neocæsarea, by St. Chrysostom', Innocentius", Nicholaus the first, and by the Master of the Sentences upon the saying of God by the prophet Malachi, i." Maledicam benedictionibus vestris," "I will curse your blessings:" upon the stock of these scriptures, reasons, and authorities, we may see how we are to understand this advantage of intercession. The prayer and offices of the holy ministers are of great advantages for the interest of the people; but if they be ministered to by evil men, by vicious and scandalous ministers, this extraordinary advantage is lost, they are left to stand alone or to fall by their own crimes; so much as is the action of God, and so much as is the piety of the man that attends and prays in the holy place with the priest, so far he shall prevail, but no farther; and, therefore, the church hath taught her ministers to pray thus in their preparatory prayer to consecration; “Quoniam me peccatorem inter te et eundem populum medium esse voluisti, licèt in me boni operis testimonium non agnoscas, officium dispensationis creditæ non recuses, nec per me, indignum famulum tuum, eorum salutis pereat pretium, pro quibus victima factus salutaris, dignatus es fieri redemptio.” For we must know, that God hath not put the salvation of any man into the power of another. And although the church of Rome, by calling the priest's actual intention
Ep. 16. Biblioth. pp. tom. 3. n. 19.
9 Decret. 1. q. 1. ad. c. eos qui. s De dignit. sacerd. c. 5. "1. in ep. 20. hom. 1. part. 2. ep. 27.
Ep. 9. tom. 3. ad Micael. imperator. d. in 4. dist. 13.
simply necessary, and the sacraments also indispensably necessary, hath left it in the power of every curate to damn very many of his parish; yet it is otherwise with the accounts of truth, and the Divine mercy; and, therefore, he will never exact the sacraments of us by the measures and proportions of an evil priest, but by the piety of the communicant, by the prayers of Christ, and the mercies of God. But although the greatest interest of salvation depends not upon this ministry; yet, as by this we receive many advantages, if the minister be holy: so, if he be vicious, we lose all that which could be conveyed to us by his part of the holy ministration; every man and woman in the assembly prays and joins in the effect, and for the obtaining the blessing; but the more vain persons are assembled, the less benefits are received, even by good men there present: and, therefore, much is the loss, if a wicked priest ministers, though the sum of affairs is not entirely turned upon his office or default; yet many advantages are. For we must not think, that the effect of the sacraments is indivisibly done at once, or by one ministry; but they operate by parts, and by moral operation, by the length of time, and whole order of piety, and holy ministries; every man is συνεργὸς τοῦ Θεοῦ, a fellow-worker with God," in the work of his salvation; and as in our devotion, no one prayer of our own alone prevails upon God for grace and salvation, but all the devotions of our life are upon God's account for them; so is the blessing of God brought upon the people by all the parts of their religion, and by all the assistances of holy people, and by the ministries, not of one, but of all God's ministers, and relies finally upon our own faith, and obedience, and the mercies of God in Jesus Christ; but yet, for want of holy 'persons to minister, much diminution of blessing, and a loss of advantage is unavoidable; therefore, if they have great necessities, they can best hope, that God will be moved to mercy on their behalf, if their necessities be recommended to God by persons of a great piety, of a holy calling, and by the most solemn offices.
Lastly, I promised to consider concerning the signs of having our prayers heard: concerning which, there is not much of particular observation; but if our prayers be according to the warrant of God's word, if we ask according
to God's will things honest and profitable, we are to rely upon the promises; and we are sure that they are heard; and, besides this, we can have no sign but "the thing signified;" when we feel the effect, then we are sure God hath heard us; but till then we are to leave it with God, and not to ask a sign of that, for which he hath made us a promise. And yet Cassian hath named one sign, which, if you give me leave, I will name unto you. "It is a sign we shall prevail in our prayers, when the Spirit of God moves us to pray,— 'cum fiducia et quasi securitate impetrandi,'' with a confidence and a holy security of receiving what we ask"." But this is no otherwise a sign, but because it is a part of the duty; and trusting in God is an endearing him, and doubting is a dishonour to him; and he that doubts, hath no faith; for all good prayers rely upon God's word, and we must judge of the effect by providence: for he that asks what is "not lawful," hath made an unholy prayer; if it be lawful and "not profitable," we are then heard, when God denies us; and if both these be in the prayer, "he that doubts, is a sinner," and then God will not hear him; but beyond this I know no confidence is warrantable; and if this be a sign of prevailing, then all the prudent prayers of all holy men shall certainly be heard; and because that is certain, we need no farther inquiry into signs.
I sum up all in the words of God by the prophet; "Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and see, and know, and seek in the broad places thereof, if you can find a man; if there be any that executeth judgment, that seeketh truth, 'virum quærentem fidem,'' a man that seeketh for faith;' 'et propitius ero ei,' 'and I will pardon it." God would pardon all Jerusalem for one good man's sake; there are such days and opportunities of mercy, when God, at the prayer of one holy person, will save a people; and Ruffinus spake a great thing, but it was hugely true; "Quis dubitet mundum stare precibus sanctorum?" "the world itself is established and kept from dissolution by the prayers of saints ;" and the prayers of saints shall hasten the day of judgment; and we cannot easily find two effects greater. But there are many other very great ones; for the prayers of holy men appease God's wrath, drive away temptations, and resist and over
Collat. ix. c. 23.
* Jer. Y. 1.
come the devil: holy prayer procures the ministry and service of angels, it rescinds the decrees of God, it cures sicknesses and obtains pardon, it arrests the sun in its course, and stays the wheels of the chariot of the moon; it rules over all God's creatures, and opens and shuts the storehouses of rain; it unlocks the cabinet of the womb, and quenches the violence of fire; it stops the mouths of lions, and reconciles our sufferance and weak faculties, with the violence of torment and sharpness of persecution; it pleases God and supplies all our needs. But prayer that can do thus much for us, can do nothing at all without holiness; for "God heareth not sinners, but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doth his will, him he heareth."
OF GODLY FEAR, &c.
Let us have grace, whereby we may serve God with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire.-Heb. xii. part of the 28th and 29th verses.
ΕΧΩΜΕΝ τὴν χάριν, so our Testaments usually read it, from the authority of Theophylact; "Let us have grace," but some copies read in the indicative mood exoμev, "We have grace, by which we do serve;" and it is something better consonant to the discourse of the Apostle. For having enumerated the great advantages, which the Gospel hath above those of the law, he makes an argument a majori;' and answers a tacit objection. The law was delivered by angels, but the Gospel by the Son of God: the law was delivered from Mount Sinai, the Gospel from Mount Sion, from "the heavenly Jerusalem :" the law was given with terrors and noises, with amazements of the standers-by, and Moses himself, "the minister, did exceedingly quake and fear,” and gave demonstration how infinitely dangerous it was by
breaking that law to provoke so mighty a God, who with his voice did shake the earth; but the Gospel was given by a meek Prince, a gentle Saviour, with a still voice, scarce heard in the streets. But that this may be no objection, he proceeds and declares the terror of the Lord: Deceive not yourselves, our Lawgiver appeared so upon earth, and was so truly, but now he is ascended into heaven, and from thence he speaks to us.' "See that ye refuse not him that speaketh; for if they escaped not, who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven;" for as God once shook the earth, and that was full of terror, so our Lawgiver shall do, and much more, and be far more terrible, Ἔτι ἅπαξ ἐγὼ σείσω τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ τὴν γὴν καὶ τὴν θάλασσαν καὶ Tηv Enpáv, said the prophet Haggai, which the Apostle quotes here, he once shook the earth. But " once more I shake;" σiow, it is in the prophecy, "I will shake, not the earth only, but also heaven"," with a greater terror than was upon Mount Sinai, with the voice of an archangel, with the trump of God, with a concussion so great, that heaven and earth shall be shaken in pieces, and new ones come in their room. This is an unspeakable and an unimaginable terror: Mount Sinai was shaken, but it stands to this day; but when that shaking shall be, "the things that are shaken, shall be no more; that those things that cannot be shaken, may remain:" that is, not only that the celestial Jerusalem may remain for ever, but that you, who do not turn away from the faith and obedience of the Lord Jesus, you, who cannot be shaken nor removed from your duty, you may remain for ever; that when the rocks rend, and the mountains fly in pieces like the drops of a broken cloud, and the heavens shall melt, and the sun shall be a globe of consuming fire, and the moon shall be dark like an extinguished candle, then you poor men, who could be made to tremble with an ague, or shake by the violence of a northern wind, or be removed from your dwellings by the unjust decree of a persecutor, or be thrown from your estates by the violence of an unjust man, yet could not be removed from your duty, and though you went trembling, yet would go to death for the testimony of a holy cause, and you that would die for your faith, would also live
z ii. 6.
y Heb. xii. 25.