Tracts for the Times/Tract 50
TRACTS FOR THE TIMES.
BISHOP WILSON'S MEDITATIONS ON HIS SACRED OFFICE.
Luke xvi. 19. "There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day." For a man, then, to be rich, to be clothed magnificently, and to take no care of the poor, is sufficient to send him to hell, because he cannot lead a Christian life. Repentance, mortification, and the cross, are utterly inconsistent with a soft, sensual, voluptuous life; the desire of happiness, with the love of this present life. It is, therefore, a most miserable state, for a man to have every thing according to his desire, and quietly to enjoy the pleasures of life. There needs no more to expose him to eternal misery.
Necessary, to bring our hearts to a penitent, holy, and devout temper. Our Church requires this, and appoints days and times, &c.; and it has been the honour of this Church, that she hath kept up to her rules, where others have shamefully neglected them. Fasting necessary, to perform the vows that are upon us all. By fasting, by alms, and by prayers, we dedicate our bodies, goods, and souls to God in a particular manner.
Meditations proper for a Clergyman during Lent.
The primitive Bishops had places of retirement near their cities, that they might separate themselves from the world, lest teaching others they should forget themselves; lest they should lose the spirit of piety themselves, vrhile they were endeavouring to fix it in others.
Prosper, O God, the good thoughts, the good purposes, which Thou Thyself shalt inspire. I acknowledge Thy goodness, which has raised me above my brethren, and appointed me a Successor to Thy Apostles. O may I ever act agreeably to this character. May I never profane a character so holy and so divine, lest God should pour down his vengeance upon my ungrateful heart. Pardon me whereinsoever I have been wanting in the several duties of my calling; and give me grace to be more careful for the time to come. Amen.
How am I bound to adore Thy goodness, my great Master! Thou hast set me in office amongst the chief of Thy servants; but I will, for Thy sake, make myself the servant of the meanest of Thy servants. By me Thou communicatest Thy grace in the Sacrament; by me Thou teachest Thy people the truth; by my hands Thou adoptest them Thy children in baptism, feedest them with Thy body, comfortest them in affliction, armest them against the fear of death, and fittest them for a blessed eternity.……
Give me such holy dispositions of soul, whenever I approach Thine altar, as may in some measure be proportionable to the holiness of the work I am about, of presenting the prayers of the faithful, of offering a spiritual sacrifice to God, in order to convey the body and blood of Jesus Christ, the true bread of life to all His members. Give me, when I commemorate the same sacrifice that Jesus Christ once offered, give me the same intentions that He had, to satisfy the justice of God, to acknowledge His mercies, and to pay all that debt which a creature owes to his Creator. None can do this effectually but Jesus Christ; Him, therefore, we present to God, in this Holy Sacrament.……
I am a sinner, and yet I am appointed to offer up prayers for others. It is to the great God to whom I offer these prayers. To me the Church, the spouse of Christ, intrusts her desires, her interests, her necessities, and her thanks. What a trust is this! O may I never betray it! may I never obstruct Thy mercies to Thy Church by a formal service. Let me ever speak to God, and from God, with attention, with love, with respect, with fear, with purity of heart, and with unpolluted lips. Amen.……
Reflect seriously what a dreadful account you have to give, if you say, "Peace, peace, when there is no peace;" or if you give the children's bread to dogs, that is, admit to the Lord's Table those that are unworthy of such a favour.……
Endeavour to leave some impression of piety upon the minds of those with whom you converse. Jesus Christ did so always. Make no distinction betwixt the rich and poor, as to converse with one, and not with the other.……
As to the disposal of the Church's revenues, the suggestions of avarice, of vanity, of pleasure, and of the world, ought not to govern me. I am only a steward, not a proprietor, and should be as criminal as those laymen that invade them, if I convert them to lay and secular uses; which side of sacrilege, very probably, took its rise from others observing the Church's revenues put to secular uses.……
He, and especially that Minister, "that hath not the spirit of Christ, is none of His." He ought to perform all his duties in Christ's name, by His authority and power; and offer all to God through Him. Adore Jesus Christ as preaching, praying, absolving, and comforting, by you His Minister.……
"The Priest's lips should keep knowledge." Whence this knowledge, but from the Holy Scriptures, which alone makes us sound in doctrine, and able to convince gainsayers.… Men read the Gospel rather as judges than as disciples, which is the rise of all errors both in life and doctrine.……
Purity of soul and body is a most necessary qualification in a Minister of Jesus Christ. To offer the prayers of the faithful to God with polluted lips, to break the bread of life with unclean hands, to receive that bread into a soul defiled with unchaste thoughts, how dreadfully provoking must it needs be.
A blindness of spirit, an alienation from divine things, an incapacity to receive them, are the necessary effects of impurity.……
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
A Priest, who, in the exercise of his function, has an eye to the grandeur, repute, esteem of great men, presumptuous authority over the consciences of others, worldly advantages, &c. perverts the design of the Ministry.
Grant, O Lord, that I may regard nothing but Thy glory, that I may act and live for Thee alone, that my zeal for Thy glory, and the good of souls, may be the chief motive of all my actions. Amen.
The Feast of St. Stephen.
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