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to have me well spoken of, hath certainly but little kindness to me: he would very hardly die for me, or lay out great sums of money for me, that will not afford me the cheapest charity of a good word. The Jews have a saying, that “it were better that a man were put into a flame of fire, than he should publicly disgrace his neighbour.” But in this there are two great considerations, that declare the unworthiness of it.
1. They who readily speak reproachfully of others, destroy all the love and combinations of charity in the world; they ruin the excellency and peculiar privilege of mankind, whose nature it is to delight in society, and whose needs and nature make it necessary. Now slander and reproach, and speaking evil one of another, poisons love, and brings in hatred, and corrupts friendship, and tempts the biggest virtue by anger to pass unto revenge. For an evil tongue is a perpetual storm; it is a daily temptation ; and no virtue can, without a miracle, withstand its temptation. you
strike a lamprey but once with a rod,” saith the Greek proverb“, “you make him gentle; but if often, you provoke him.” A single injury is entertained by Christian patience, like a stone into a pocket of wool; it rests soft in the embraces of a meek spirit which delights to see itself overcome a wrong, by a worthy sufferance : but he that loves to do injury by talk, does it in all companies, and takes all occasions, and brings it in by violence, and urges it rudely, till patience being weary goes away, and is waited upon by Charity, which never forsakes or goes away from patience. “A wound with the tongue is like a bruise; it cannot be cured in four-and-twenty hours.”
2. No man sins singly in such instances as these. Some men commit one murder and never do another; some men are surprised, and fall into uncleanness or drunkenness; but repent of it speedily, and never again return to folly : but an evil and an uncharitable tongued is an accursed principle, it
• Και μύραινα, πληγείσα νάρθηκι εισάπαξ, ησυχάζει· ει δε πλεονάκις, εις θυμόν εξάπτεται. .
d Sed miserere tui : rabido nec perditus ore
is, in its very nature and original, equal to an evil habit; and it enters without temptation, and dwells in every part of our conversation, and injures every man, and every woman.
It is like the evil spirit that was in love with Tobias's wife; if you drive him from Nineveh, he will run to the utmost parts of Egypt; there also, unless an angel bind him, he will do all the mischief in the world; for there is not in the world a worse devil, than a devilish tongue 4.
But I am not now to speak of it as it is injurious to our neighbour, but as it is an hinderance to our worthy communicating. “ The mouth that speaketh lies,” or stings his neighbour, or “ boasteth proud things,” is not fit to drink the blood of the sacrificed Lamb. Christ enters not into those lips f, from whence slander and evil talkings do proceed: and the tongue that loves to dispraise his brother, cannot worthily celebrate the praises and talk of the glorious things of God. Let no man deceive himself; an injurious talker is an habitual sinner; and he that does not learn the discipline of the tongue, can never have the charity of Christ, and the blessings of the peaceful sacrament. Persons that slander 8 or disgrace their brother, are bound to make restitution; it is as if they had stolen a jewel,--they must give it back again, or not come hither. But they that will neither do nor speak well of others, are very far from charity: and they that are so, ought to be as far from the sacrament, or they will not be very far from condemnation. But a good man will be as careful of the reputation, as of the life, of his brother; and to be apt to speak well of all men, is a sign of a charitable and a good man; and that goes a great way in our preparation to a worthy communion.
e Cede Hyrcana tigris, Erymanthi bellua, cede ;
Tuque genas obnube tuas, natura, pudori ;
Lingua cruenta serens, non uno in funere ludit. f Nefas enim est per os, quo profertur Nomen illud sanctissimum, quicquam turpe progredi.
& De Catone dixit Plutarchus, Mensam imprimis putabat esse amicitiæ conciliandæ aptam ; ac frequens illic laudatio egregiorum virorum introducebatur ; frequens etiam malorum et improborum oblivio: nec vituperationi eorum vel commendationi permittebat in convivium suum Cato accessum.
add, that in the holy communion all the graces of a Christian, all the mysteries of the religion are summed up as in a divine compendium; and whatsoever moral or mysterious is done without, is by a worthy communicant, done more excellently in this divine sacrament. For here we continue the confession of our faith, which we made in baptism; here we perform in our own persons what then was undertaken for us by another; here that is made explicit, which was but implicit before; what then was in the root, is now come to a full ear; what was at first done in mystery alone, is now done in mystery and moral actions, and virtuous excellencies together; here we do not only hear the words of Christ, but we obey them; we believe with the heart, and here we confess with the mouth, and we act with the hand, and incline the head, and bow the knee, and give our heart in sacrifice; here we come to Christ, and Christ comes to us;
here we represent the death of Christ as he would have us represent it-and remember him, as he commanded us to remember him ; here we give him thanks, and here we give him ourselves; here we defy all the works of darkness; and hither we come to be invested with a robe of light, by being joined to the Sun of Righteousness,' to live in his eyes, and to walk by his brightness, and to be refreshed with his warmth, and directed by his Spirit, and united to his glories. So that if we can receive Christ's body, and drink his blood out of the sacrament, much more can we do it in the sacrament.— For this is the chief of all the Christian mysteries, and the union of all Christian blessings, and the investiture of all Christian rights, and the exhibition of the charter of all Christian promises, and the exercise of all Christian duties. Here is the exercise of our faith, and acts of obedience, and the confirmation of our hope, and the increase of our charity. So that although God be gracious in every dispensation, yet he is bountiful in this : although we serve God in every virtue, yet in the worthy reception of this divine sacrament, there must be a conjugation of virtues, and, therefore, we serve him more: we drink deep of his loving-kindness in every effusion of it, but in this we are inebriated : he always fills our cup, but here it runs over.
The Effects of these Considerations are these : 1. That by “faith' in our dispositions and preparations And our blessed Saviour e himself adds a parallel to the first precept, which gives light and explication to it: “ When you stand praying, if you have any thing against any man, forgive him, that your Father which is in heaven, may forgive you your trespasses.”—And so Christ taught us to pray, “ Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us." Let us consider what we do, and consider what we say : do we desire to be forgiven no otherwise ? Do not we exact every little ignorance, and grow warm at every mistake? And are not we angry at an unavoidable chance? Would we have God to do so to us, and forgive us in no other manner, than as we do,—that is, turn his anger into every shape, and smite us in every part? Or would we have God pardon us only for little things, for a rash word, or an idle hour spent less severely? If we do so to our brother, it is a great matter : but if he reviles us to our head, if he blasphemes, and dishonours us, if he robs us, if he smites us on the face, what then? We rob God of his honour,—his priests, of their reverence,--his houses, of their beauty,-his churches, of their maintenance: we talk vile things of his holy name, we despise religion, we oppose his honour, and care not for his service. It is certain we do not usually forgive things of this nature to our brother; what then will become of our prayer? And what will be the effect of our communion ? and yet it is certain, there is nothing in the world easier than to forgive an injury. It costs us nothing, after it is once suffered : and if our passions and foolish principles would give us leave to understand it, the precise duty of forgiveness is a perfect negative; it is a letting things alone as they are, and making no more evils in the world, in which already there was one too many, even that which thou didst suffer. And, indeed, that forgiveness is the best, which is the most perfect negative: that is, “ in malice, be children;" whose petty quarrels, though they be fierce as a sudden spark, yet they are as innocent as the softest part of their own flesh,—and as soon out as that sudden spark, and forgotten perfectly as their first dream : and that is true forgiveness : and without thisf, we can never pray with just and perfect confidence and expectations.
Meditations and Devotions relative to this Preparatory Grace ;
to be used in the Days of Preparation, or at any Time of Spiritual Communion.
St. Bernard's Meditation and Prayer.
The chalice which thou, O sweetest Saviour Jesus, didst drink, hath made thee infinitely amiable; it was the work of my redemption. Certainly nothing does more pleasingly invite, or more profitably require, or more vehemently affect me, than this love; for by how much lower thou didst for me descend in the declinations of humility, by so much art thou dearer to me in the exaltations of thy charity and thy glory. Learn, O my soul, how thou oughtest to love Christ, who hath given us his flesh for meat, his blood for drink, the water of his side for our lavatory, and his own life for the price of our redemption. He is stark and dead cold, who is not set on fire by the burning and shining flames of such a charity.
I. Blessed Saviour Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, the Fountain of life and salvation; by thee let us have access to thy heavenly Father, that, by thee, he may accept us, who, by thee, is revealed to us. Let thy innocence and purity procure pardon for our uncleanness and disobedience ; let thy humility extinguish our pride and vanity; thy meekness extinguish our anger; and thy charity cover the multitude of our sins.
II. O blessed Advocate and Mediator, intercede for us with thy Father and ours, with thy God and ours : and grant that, by the grace which thou hast found, by the prerogative which thou hast deserved, by the mercy which thou hast purchased for us, that as thou wert partaker of our sufferings and infirmities, so we, by thy death and resurrection, and by thy infinite gracious intercession, may be made partakers of thy holiness and thy glory.