Tracts for the Times/Tract 48
TRACTS FOR THE TIMES.
BISHOP WILSON'S MEDITATIONS ON HIS SACRED OFFICE.
Question from the Office of Consecration.—Will you deny all ungodliness and worldly lusts, and live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world, that you may show yourself in all things an example of good works unto others, that the adversary may be ashamed, having nothing to say against you?—Ans. I will so do, the Lord being my helper.
1 Cor. ix. 27. "I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection, lest, by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway." And if Paul, what shall be said of us?
Gal. v. 24. "They, that are Christ's, have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts." Nature is content with a little, grace with less.
Tit. ii. 15. "Let no man despise thee;" that is, demean thyself agreeable to the authority which thou hast received from Jesus Christ, not making thy office contemptible by any mean action; but act with the dignity of one who stands in the place of God.
Lev. iv. 3. "If the priest that is anointed do sin according to the sin of the people, then let him bring a sin-offering." N.B. That the same sin, in a single priest, is to have as great a sacrifice as a sin of the whole people of Israel. The flesh never thrives but at the cost of the soul. Let us ever remember, that mortification must go further than the body. Self-love, pride, envy, jealousy, hatred, malice, avarice, ambition, must all be mortified, by avoiding and ceasing from the occasions of them. The sobriety of the soul consists in humility, and in being content with necessaries.
Matt. vii. 14. "Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, that leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." But, if the difficulties of an holy life affright us, let us consider, "who can dwell with everlasting burnings?" All mankind being under the sentence of death, certain to be executed, and at an hour we know not of, a state of penance and self-denial, of being dead and crucified to the world, is certainly the most suitable, the most becoming temper that we can be found in, when that sentence comes to be executed, that is, when we come to die.
The more we deny ourselves, the freer we shall be from sin, and the more dear to God. God appoints us to sufferings, that we may keep close to Him, and that we may value the sufferings of His Son, which we should have but a low notion of, did not our own experience teach us what it is to suffer. Had there been any better, any easier way to heaven, Jesus Christ would have chosen it for Himself and for His followers.
Take up the Cross.
This is designed as a peculiar favor to Christians, as indeed are all Christ's commands. Miseries are the unavoidable portion of fallen man. All the difference is, Christians suffering in obedience to the will of God, it makes them easy; unbelievers suffer the same things, but with an uneasy will and mind.… Self-denial is absolutely necessary to prepare us to receive the grace of God; it was therefore necessary that John the Baptist should prepare the way, by preaching repentance and self-denial. Men need not be at pains to go to hell; if they will not deny themselves, if they make no resistance, they will go there of course. One does not begin to fall, when the fall becomes sensible. "They that are Christ's, have crucified the flesh, with the affections and lusts." This is the only true test of being truly Christians.…… Every day deny yourself some satisfaction; your eyes, objects of mere curiosity; your tongue, every thing that may feed vanity, or vent enmity; the palate, dainties; the ears, flattery, and whatever corrupts the heart; the body, ease and luxury; bearing all the inconveniences of life, (for the love of God,) cold, hunger, restless nights, ill health, unwelcome news, the faults of servants, contempt, ingratitude of friends, malice of enemies, calumnies, our own failings, lowness of spirits, the struggle in overcoming our corruptions; bearing all these with patience and resignation to the will of God. Do all this as unto God, with the greatest privacy.…… It being much more easy to prevent than to mortify a lust, a prudent Christian will set a guard upon his senses. One unguarded look betrayed David. Job made a covenant with his eyes. Evil communications corrupt good manners. Sensuality unfits us for the joys of heaven. If that concupiscence which opposes virtue be lessened, a less degree of grace will secure innocence.…
Self-love would wish to be made perfect at once; but self-love is what God would destroy by a course of wholesome trials. Our disorder is an excessive love for ourselves, and for this world. God orders or permits a train of events to cure us of this self-love. The cure is painful, but it is necessary. We suffer from His love. He is a Father, and cannot take pleasure in our misery.… All ways are indifferent to one who has heaven in his eye. He that does not practise the duty of self-denial, does not put himself into the way to receive the grace of God.…
Virtues of a Holy Life.
Fervency in devotion; frequency in prayer; aspiring after the love of God continually; striving to get above the world and the body; loving silence and solitude, as far as one's condition will permit; humble and affable to all; patient in suffering affronts and contradictions; glad of occasions of doing good even to enemies; doing the will of God, and promoting His honor to the utmost of one's power; resolving never to offend Him willingly, for any temporal pleasure, profit, or loss. These are virtues highly pleasing to God. There is no pleasure comparable to the not being captivated to any external thing whatever.… Always suspect yourself, when your inclinations are strong and importunate. It is necessary that we deny ourselves in little and indifferent things, when reason and conscience, which is the voice of God, suggests it to us, as ever we hope to get the rule over our own will. Say not, it is a trifle, and not fit to make a sacrifice of to God. He that will not sacrifice a little affection, will hardly offer a greater. It is not the thing, but the reason and manner of doing it, viz. for God's sake, and that I may accustom myself to obey His voice, that God regards, and rewards with greater degrees of grace. (Life of Mr. Bonnell, p. 122.)
Rom. xv. 3. "Even Jesus Christ pleased not Himself;" as appears in the meanness of His birth, relations, form of a servant, the company He kept. His life, death, &c.… They who imagine that self-denial intrenches upon our liberty, do not know that it is this only that can make us free indeed, giving us the victory over ourselves, setting us free from the bondage of our corruption, enabling us to bear afflictions, (which will come one time or other), to foresee them without amazement, enlightening the mind, sanctifying the will, and making us to slight those baubles, which others so eagerly contend for.
Mortification consists in such a sparing use of the creatures, as may deaden our love for them, and make us even indifferent in the enjoyment of them. This lessens the weight of concupiscence, which carries us to evil, and so makes the grace of God more effectual to turn the balance of the will. (Norris's Christian Prudence, p. 300.)
(To be continued.)
The Feast of St. Andrew.
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