Consider first, that the faith to which the word of God gives such high encomiums, and to which it attributes all the great things that have been done by the ancient Saints, is not a dead faith, like that of the devils, or of those wretched souls that are spiritually possessed by the devils, and who have little or no sense of divine truths; but a lively and active faith, that penetrates into the invisible things of God, and makes them familiar to the soul; that sets them continually before her eyes in their proper light, and gives them a constant influence over every step that is to be taken in her mortal pilgrimage. Such a faith as this is the source of all good to the soul; it keeps her in the remembrance and presence of God; it teaches her to watch diligently and to pray fervently; it encourages her to hope and to love; it gives her a horror for sin; it completely arms her against all her spiritual enemies, with a shield that is proof against all their fiery darts, with the helmet of salvation, and with the sword of the spirit, (which is the word and truth of God,) which puts to flight all the legions of hell, when employed against them by a lively belief. But where this lively faith is wanting, all goes to wreck and to ruin. Lord, do thou increase our faith and make it lively. O grant us this true heavenly wisdom, and all good things will come to us along with her, and she will effectually bring us to thee.
Consider 2ndly, how true it is, that the want of a lively faith is the source of all the evils that overrun Christendom. Look into all conditions of Christians, and see how sin and Satan everywhere reign, and how few there are, in comparison, that dedicate themselves in good earnest to what should be their only business. And whence comes all this? Do not these men all believe there is a God and an eternity? Do they not all believe that they were made by this God, in order to a happy eternity? Do they not believe there is a heaven and a hell, and that living in mortal sin is the broad road to hell? Do they not believe in a judgment to come, and an all-seeing eye ever upon them, that is one day to decide their cause according to their works, for life or death everlasting? Surely they believe all this, or they are not Christians. But the misfortune is, that their faith of all these, and such like Christian truths, is lulled asleep, or rather is quite dead; it has no influence on their lives, it puts little or no restraint upon their passions and lusts; so that in reality it is the want of a lively faith that fills the Christian world with all sorts of crimes, and that continually crowds hell with souls.
Consider 3rdly, that the Christian must come at this lively faith by desiring, seeking, and heartily praying for it. But the most effectual means of arriving at it is by serious considerations and daily meditations. The great Christian truths relating to God and eternity are very moving when they are duly weighed and considered; but they make little or no impression upon worldlings, who live in a perpetual forgetfulness of them. To bring forth a lively faith in the soul they must take deep root there. But how shall they take deep root if they are not suffered to sink deep into the soul by consideration? Hence the great difference between the good and the bad Christian, the saint and the sinner, is, that the one thinks, and the other does not think; the one keeps his faith alive by frequently meditating on divine truths; the otherís faith is dead, and his whole soul is laid waste with utter desolation, because he seldom or never thinks in his heart.
Conclude to labour for the acquiring and maintaining this lively faith, by praying well and living well, but more especially, by thinking well; for without this, thou wilt have little or no sense of God in thy prayer, and little or no sign of God in thy life.
Consider first, that hope is also a theological or divine virtue, and is no less necessary than faith to our eternal salvation. As by faith we believe in God, so by hope we put our whole trust in him. Faith builds itself upon Godís truth; hope builds itself upon his power, goodness, promises, and mercy. Faith believes all he teaches as coming from the sovereign truth, that cannot deceive nor be deceived; hope looks for all good from him, as the inexhaustible source of all good, with an assured confidence that he will not fail on his part of showing mercy, giving grace, and imparting salvation to us, through Jesus Christ, if we fail not on our part of applying to him in a proper manner, and performing the conditions he requires of us. This divine virtue produces many excellent fruits it comforts the soul under all the afflictions of this life, it supports her under all her labours, it encourages her to go on with vigour in her mortal pilgrimage, it raises her above this miserable world and all its toys, and fixes her heart in heaven. It is styled by the apostle, Heb. vi. 19, ĎThe anchor of the soul, sure and firm,í (not fastened in the earth, but in heaven,) 'entering in, even within the veil,í to the true sanctuary, where our 'high priest Jesus Christ is entered for us,í and there fixed in God himself. O happy anchor, which keeps our souls ever steady in the midst of all the storms we are liable to in this boisterous sea of the world, and by the help of which they are raised up to God!
Consider 2ndly, that divine hope keeps the golden mean between the two extremes, of despair on the one hand and presumption on the other, both of them reckoned amongst the sins against the Holy Ghost, because of their obstructing in a particular manner all the motions and graces of this divine spirit - despair, by wholly giving up the cause of God and the soul; and presumption, by rashly expecting salvation without complying with the necessary conditions, or using the means for it. Despair shuts out the Holy Ghost, by wilfully shutting up the gate of prayer, and excluding all other means of grace; and presumption, by setting up a way to heaven opposite to his divine appointments, and in which his grace will have no share. See, my soul, thou fly these two rocks, both of them infinitely injurious to thy God, and destructive of divine hope. Never give thyself up to despondence or despair, seeing thou hast so good a God, so rich in mercies towards all that call upon him, who has redeemed thee with the precious blood of his own Son, and who has promised all good through him, to all such as properly apply for it. But then beware also of the opposite extreme of presuming upon what he has not promised, or expecting to come to him by walking in a way that leads from him.
Consider 3rdly, that divine hope as well as faith serves very much for the arming the soul for her spiritual warfare, and for the overthrowing of all her enemies; because by the means of this virtue we are ĎStrengthened in the Lord, and the power of his might,' Eph. vi. 10; we exchange our weakness for his almighty strength and power; and having our God with us and for us, we run to the combat with vigour and courage, and fight our way to heaven in spite not only of flesh and blood, but of all the legions of hell. Yes, my soul, put thy whole trust in God, and thou wilt ever be victorious in all thy conflicts; he never forsakes them that put their whole trust in him. Divine hope never confoundeth. Ď'Tis the helmet of salvation' which protects our head against the enemy, by covering it, as it were, with the Divinity itself, whose divine word and honour is engaged to stand by, and defend all such as put their trust in him.
Conclude ever to pray and labour for this divine virtue of hope, the sweet companion of thy pilgrimage and safeguard in all dangers. She will teach thee to keep close to God, and engage him to keep close to thee.
Consider first, that in order to succeed in the spiritual warfare, an entire distrust in ourselves must go hand-in-hand with our confidence in God. For if we build in the least upon our own strength we build upon a sandy bottom, and our house will certainly fall at the first shock of trial or temptation. The wise man builds his house upon a rock, (Matt. vii. 24,) and it is proof against all storms and floods; but the foolish man builds his house upon the sand, without a foundation, and when the rains fall, and the floods rise, and the winds blow, and beat against that house, it presently falls, and great is the fall thereof. He that entirely trusts in God, and not in himself, is a wise man, and builds upon a rock, which can never fail him. But he that puts the least confidence in himself; is a foolish man, because the bottom he builds upon is mere sand, that cannot support the least weight. 'Cursed is the man,í saith the prophet, (Jerem. xvii. 5,) 'that trusteth in man, and whose heart departeth from the Lord:' which curse falls upon all such as trust in the strength of their own resolutions, or in any power or ability of their own. They perfectly drive away from them the grace of God, by their pride and presumption.
Consider 2ndly, that as Godís honour is engaged to stand by them that put their whole trust in him, and to assist them with his most powerful and effectual graces, so he is in a manner obliged to oppose and resist all such sacrilegious wretches as would rob him of his glory by ascribing any good to themselves, or expecting any good from themselves, or from their own strength. And are not all they guilty of this sacrilegious presumption, who, in their undertakings or resolutions, build upon themselves instead of building upon God or at least divide their confidence between themselves and God, and so would make themselves partners at least in his glory? See, my soul, thou never be guilty of any such extravagance and madness. For what greater madness can there be than for mere weakness and nothing, a miserable sinful nothing, to presume of itself and of its own strength! what greater extravagance than for a man to put himself in the place of God, or to attribute to himself what can only be the work of God! Good God, deliver us from any such extravagant madness!
Consider 3rdly, that one of the principal reasons why many Christians, that otherwise seem to be men of good will, make little or no progress in the way of God, and why numbers of others, after repeated confessions, and as (they imagine) strong purposes of renouncing their sinful habits, still return like dogs to the vomit, by relapsing into the same sins, and too often die in their sins, is because they trust too much to themselves, and to their own resolutions, and are not sufficiently divested of all self-confidence. Alas! this evil is a mortal poison, which is apt to creep in imperceptibly, and to lie lurking in the midst of the soul, and to corrupt its very vitals. It makes it barren, with regard to the bringing forth any true fruit to God, either in itself or in others; and fruitful in nothing but in weeds, that are only fit for the fire. My soul, examine well thyself, and see if this unhappy self-confidence has no share in thy enterprise? Are thy resolutions wholly built upon Godís grace to be sued for and obtained by humble prayer? Art thou practically and sensibly convinced of thy own nothing ness, misery, and sinfulness; and that thou canst not make one step towards God, but inasmuch as he shall help thee! Does no secret opinion of the strength of thy resolutions make thee rashly expose thyself to temptation? O remember thou hast not half that virtue and love of God, which St. Peter had! and yet, alas! a secret confidence in his own resolutions, betrayed him into that grievous crime of denying his Lord.
Conclude to hope for all good from God, to be ever mistrustful of thyself; and therefore, as the Apostle admonishes, to 'work out thy salvation with fear and trembling,í Philip. ii. 12.
Consider first, that divine hope cannot lie idle in the soul, nor suffer her to be idle, but exercises the soul in prayer, as the great means of obtaining all the good she hopes for. Now all the good that we are to hope and pray for is marked out to us by our Lord, and comprised in a very few words, in that excellent prayer which he has taught us, commonly called The Lordís Prayer. Here, in seven short petitions, we pray for all that we are any ways authorized by the word of God to hope for, for ourselves or for our neighbours, for body or soul, for time or eternity. Here we are taught to make acts of all the most necessary virtues of faith, hope, love of God, conformity to his blessed will, charity for our neighbours, forgiveness of injuries, and repentance for our sins. Here we daily make a spiritual communion by aspiring after the bread of life. O the excellence of this heavenly prayer; so short in words, that the meanest capacity may easily learn it, and so copious in its contents, that they might fill whole volumes! And what a pity that the generality of Christians should run over this admirable prayer with so little sense of what they are saying, and with dispositions so opposite to the import of those sacred petitions!
Consider 2ndly, that in the beginning of this divine prayer we call God our Father; and we are authorized to call him so by the Son of God himself. Stand astonished, my soul, at this high favour: what greater dignity can any creature be raised to, than to be called and to be a child of God? to have him for our Father, who made heaven and earth, and who fills heaven and earth with his infinite majesty? O my soul, see thou never degenerate from this dignity of a child of God, by behaving thyself worthily of such a Father. See thou never more make thyself a slave to sin or Satan: O child of heaven, lie no longer grovelling in the mire of the earth. In this prayer we are taught to address ourselves to our Father, 'who is in heaven,í to the end, that we may reflect whither we are to direct our thoughts when we pray, and that we may not suffer any attachment to the things of the earth, by love and affection, to hinder them from freely flying up to heaven. My soul, where are thy thoughts in the time of prayer? Do nor irregular affections chain them down to the earth, when they ought to be in heaven?
Consider 3rdly, what encouragement it ought to be to a Christian when he goes to his prayers, to remember that he is presenting his petitions to Ďhis Father:' and to such a Father, who has an incomparable love for his children; who encourages them to ask; who teaches them in this excellent prayer what they are to ask for; who has frequently promised to grant them what they ask, provided it be good for them; and whose power, riches, bounty, and mercy, are all equally infinite. O! let this title of 'our Father,í which we give to God in the Lordís prayer, raise our hopes in him; let it inflame our hearts with love for so amiable a Father; let it bespeak a reverential awe, a filial fear of offending such a parent, and an earnest desire of being ever a dutiful and obedient child.
Conclude ever to esteem and love this divine prayer; and daily to use it with a serious attention and suitable devotion.
Consider first, that the first petition of the Lordís prayer is contained in these words 'Hallowed be thy name:í that is, may thy name be ever blessed and praised, honoured and glorified. This petition claims the first place in the Lordís prayer as its undoubted right; because the first and principal duty of a Christian is to love his God with his whole heart and soul, and therefore the first and principal thing he ought to desire and pray for is the great honour and glory of God. His love for his God makes him rejoice to think that he is, in himself, infinitely happy and glorious, and will be so for all eternity, and that he is, and will be eternally adored, praised, and glorified by all the angels and saints. But, then, it grieves him to think how little this infinite goodness is known in this miserable world; how little this great object of his love is loved here below; how little he is honoured, praised, and glorified by these very souls of ours, made by him, and for him, and which can never be happy but in the love and enjoyment of him. And therefore the intent of this petition is to remedy so great an evil by earnestly begging of the sovereign Good, the source of all grace and good, that he would glorify his own most sacred name in us, by effectually teaching us to love, serve, and glorify him.
Consider 2ndly, that this petition contains an act of divine love, even of perfect charity and benevolence, inasmuch as it expresses the longing desires of the soul for the greater honour, praise, and glory of her Maker, as the only good she can wish, or procure for his infinite majesty. It contains also an act of the most perfect charity for himself; because in praying that Godís name may be glorified in all, and by all, she desires in the first place, that it may be glorified in herself; and by herself: now what greater good can she wish, or procure for herself, than that God may be ever glorified in her, and by her, and that her whole being may be ever consecrated to his glory, for time and eternity? And as the most perfect act of charity for our neighbours, is that by which we labour to procure their greatest good, and the like good as we desire for ourselves; whilst by this petition we dedicate our whole selves to the divine glory, we do as much for our neighbours also, by praying that Godís name may be sanctified in them all, and by them all, both now and for ever. And this love we here exercise both with regard to ourselves and our neighbours, is pure and perfect charity; because God is both the beginning and the end of it; inasmuch as we love both ourselves and our neighbours, with relation to the greater glory of God. This divine charity in all its branches is exercised in this first petition.
Consider 3rdly, that in praying for the hallowing or sanctifying of the name of God, we pray in effect for the sanctification of the whole world; that the knowledge of the true and living God, and of his Son Jesus Christ, may be spread over all the earth that all nations may serve him, all tongues may praise him, and all hearts may love him; in a word, that all men upon earth may be saints, and may be all happily united in publishing the glory of Godís name, not merely by their words, but much more by their lives; for this is the most perfect way of sanctifying the name of God. See then, my soul, the vast extent of this petition, by which we pray for all glory to God; and for all good to man, both for here and hereafter; and let thy heart go along with thy tongue as often as thou repeatest it.
Conclude to let this earnest desire of the greater glory of God in all things be ever the predominant passion of thy heart, and he will glorify thee for all eternity.
Consider first, that in this second petition we pray for the kingdom of God. Now, we find in holy writ that the kingdom of God is understood in three different ways. First, of the eternal kingdom of God in heaven. 2ndly, of the spiritual kingdom of Christ in his church upon earth. 3rdly, of the mystical kingdom of God in our souls, according to that of our Saviour, (Luke xvii. 21,) ĎThe kingdom of God is within you.í And in this petition, ĎThy kingdom come,í we pray for the kingdom of God, according to all these three acceptations of his kingdom. See, my soul, how ample and extensive this petition is, and how noble and sublime those things are which thou art here taught to petition for. Stand astonished that a poor worm of the earth, extracted from nothing, and which is infinitely more humbling, taken up from the dunghill of sin and corruption, should be authorised to aspire after a kingdom, even an eternal kingdom, to live and reign for endless ages, with the living God. Yet this we are here taught to pray for, with an assurance of being heard, if we pray as we ought, by him who has the disposing of this kingdom. And this is one part of the import of this petition, and contains an act of divine hope.
Consider 2ndly, that as the kingdom of God is often taken in the Scriptures to signify that spiritual kingdom which Christ came to establish upon earth, and his reign in his church, in which he is both King and Priest for ever; so, in this petition, we are also to have an eye upon the propagation and exaltation of this kingdom of Christ; by earnestly begging that the reign of Satan and of sin may have an end; that all infidels may be enlightened by the light of the gospel; that all heresies, schisms, and errors may be rooted out; that all vices and scandals may be abolished among Christians, and that divine faith, hope, and charity, with all other virtues, may reign both in all the pastors of Godís church, and in all the people of God. So that here is also exercised an act of perfect love, both with relation to God, by desiring that his kingdom, his grace, and his truth, may be victorious over all the world; and with relation to all mankind, by praying that all men may be subdued to that happy kingdom, and may be true and faithful subjects to this great King.
Consider 3rdly, that, as true charity should begin at home, we are particularly to have in view in this petition the establishment of the kingdom of God in our own souls, by heartily desiring, and earnestly praying that God may come to us, and take full possession of our souls by his grace; that he may set up his throne within us, and reign without control and without rival in our hearts; that he may suppress all rebellions there, subdue all our passions, and make our whole interior his own, by giving us a strong and perfect love for him. O blessed kingdom of divine love! When wilt thou come to me? When wilt thou be established in my soul? When will thy sacred flames consume in me all that is in any ways displeasing to my God, or that dares to rebel against him?
Conclude to make it thy business to seek, in the first place, this kingdom of God, by procuring his justice in thy soul; and, as he has promised, nothing else shall be wanting to thee. God must first be King in thy soul here, if thou ever hope to arrive at his eternal kingdom hereafter.
Consider first, that in this third petition, the soul embraces with all her heart the holy will of God, earnestly desiring and praying that both she herself, and every soul upon earth, may ever be both a faithful servant and true lover of the divine will, even as the saints and angels are in Heaven, who are so absorbed in the love of God that they have no other will but the will of God. So that this petition, like the two former, contains an act of divine love. A love of benevolence to God, inasmuch as the soul here desires to give all to God, and to bring both her own will and all other wills to him; that all may embrace, bow down, and adore, love, serve, and obey the sacred will of God, and conform to it in all things. And a love of the most perfect charity to ourselves and to our neighbours, in desiring and procuring for ourselves and them so great a good as is this perfect conformity to the will of God, and that Godís holy will may be ever done, both in us and by us.
Consider 2ndly, how just it is that we should ever adhere to the holy will of God, and pray with all our hearts that his holy will may be done in all things. The will of God is always good, is always wise, is always right and equitable, is always beautiful; and therefore we ought always to embrace it and love it. He perfectly knows what is best, and what is best for us; and if we will leave ourselves in his hands he will certainly order all things for the best, and therefore it is our wisest way, if we love ourselves, to give ourselves up to his holy will. The will of God is all-powerful, and must take place; and therefore it is madness to set ourselves against his Almighty will; it serves for nothing but to make us miserable. The will of God, in effect, is God himself and therefore we must ever submit and obey it; we must always bow down and adore his sacred will.
Consider 3rdly, that the will of God ought to be the Christianís rule in all things. In all our deliberations, whether with regard to temporals or spirituals, we ought first to consult the holy will of God, crying out to him with the convert, St. Paul, Acts ix. 6, 'Lord what wilt thou have me to do?' And this with a sincere desire to know and a perfect readiness of mind to follow his will in whatever way he is pleased to order or direct - not seeking that his will should bend to ours, but that ours may ever conform to his. And as in all our doings we must, to the best of our knowledge and power, follow the will of God, so, in all our sufferings, we must resign and submit ourselves to his blessed will, assuring ourselves that nothing happens to us in this kind but by the appointment of heaven, and that all comes from the hand of him who knows what is best; because he is infinitely wise, and sends what is for the best; because he is infinitely good, and good to us.
Conclude ever to recite this third petition of the Lordís prayer, with these dispositions of the love of God and of the holy will, and of a perfect conformity in all things to his holy will. We read of a servant of God (Gregory Lopez) that for some years, at every breath, repeated this petition, 'Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven!' O that we could be always in the like happy sentiments.
Contents of Challoner's Meditations
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