Moreover when ye fast, be not as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
Our last year's endeavours were out of the first two words, Cum jejunatis, 'When ye fast,' to settle a true conceit what every good Christian man is to hold both of jejunatis, 'fasting itself,' and of cum, the time 'when.' And that not without great need, the most part seem so faintly persuaded of fasting as if it were no needful part of a Christian man's duty; and of the time, as if Christ's cum did never come.
And this we did, as for liberasti animam tuam, 'to deliver our own souls,' so to deliver the doctrine of our Church from a malicious slander cast on it, as if it favoured any way the filling or farcing ourselves at this no less than at other times, and did not require and enjoin a more strict and penitnetial kind of life than all the year beside.
Wherein if God has so blessed our endeavours that these two points be settled, we may then go forward to the rest, that is, 'Be not like hypocrites.' If we resolve that Christ's 'when' shall have a 'then,' and then fast we will.
[398/399] The next point is a caveat, what we are to take heed of when we fast; that we fast in secret, make no show of it; our fast be to God and not to men, that we fast not for vain-glory as the hypocrites do.
I confess I proceed to this second part as to that whereof there is not so much need; and but that I take myself bound to prosecute the text I have begun, I would choose rather to spend the hour in speaking again for the duty to have it done, than to deal with the caution what to eschew in the doing. We cannot get men to it, to fast; what need we then spend any speech how they should not do it, when they do it not?
We divided the text into two parts; one for fasting, the other against hypocrisy. As our times are there is more need to speak for fasting than against hypocrisy. And yet against that too:--God forbid that or any vice should be favoured! but not against hypocrisy in fasting. There is little fear of that. Men 'fast not like hypocrites' when they fast not at all.
But you will be please to call to mind how we then left, and wherewith we concluded the last year. That we must not think any thing more than needs in any speech of Christ's. That 'what we have received of the Lord,' that and no other thing, and as we have received it of the Lord, so and no otherwise are we to deliver it unto you. And from Him have we received both cum jejunatis and ne sitis, the one as well as the other. And so we set forward to ne sitis sicut, the caution ever be, we omit not to fast. Not at other times; but not at this specially, when the Church, or rather God by the Church. her ancient order and custom calls us to it.
For when are we to look to all this? what time? Why 'when we fast;' that 'when' is still to be kept in mind, to that we must come. That the ground of all, thither we must return again in the end.
We say then cum jejunatis is the good seed-corn which Christ Himself hath sown. All besides is but chaff to be blown away. And now He takes His 'fan in His hand' to fan away this 'chaff.' For quid paleæ ad triticum, saith God in Jeremy, wheat and chaff, what they do [399/400] together? These must be severed; one to be laid up in the garner, the other to be burnt with unquenchable fire.
1. The 'fan' in these words, Nolite fieri sicut, 'Be not like.' The 'chaff' is in the word hypocrites. First then, hypocrisy in general to be avoided.
2. But here is a special kind, sicut hypocritæ tristes, 'not sour like hypocrites,' or 'not like sour hypocrites.' Not like them.
3. Not like them wherein? In two points upon which the fan goes. 1. Not like them in their sicut. 2. Not like them in their ut. Not in their manner how. Why, what do they? They are all for the countenance, and that they disfigure. In making it their labour to have it appear in their countenance. And why do they so? That so, 'men may know them for fasters.' In making it their end 'to be seen of men.' These two He fans away.
4. But what if one could find in his heart to fast, and yet would have men see it, and commend him for it, ad quod damnum, 'what hurt will come of it?' One would think none; Christ says Amen to it. They make it their 'reward, to be seen of men.' Why, it shall be their reward, they shall be seen of men, that is all they would have to come. Why, this one would never think a punishment; but it is one. And think it not a small one, for though it seems no great harm to receive a reward of praise, yet when we shall lay together how poor a thing it is they receive--man's praise, and how great a one they lose by the means--God's reward, they had been better without it. For when they have that, there is all, all that will come of their fasting; acceperunt suam, amiserunt Meam, 'they have received their reward,' they have lost Mine; Christ to say Amen to it, this say I is sure a heavy punishment. Therefore look to it.
And when the chaff is blown away, and the floor purged, when the old leaven which is hypocrisy is cast out; of the rest we are to make our sweet-bread, now against the great feast of our Passover we make ready for.
When we have got past the two first words, when the thing is won and the time, and we resolved that fast we will, and when we will, and we set ourselves seriously to it; what, is all [400/401] safe? Will the devil be gone away? Shall we hear no more of him as soon as he sees us so set? No indeed; but hovers about us still, as if there were yet somewhat for him to do. Our blessed Saviour, when the 'Spirit led Him into the wilderness,' and He fell to His fast, it is said that 'then the tempter came to Him;' so we must make reckoning he will to us. It is exceeding behoveful for us to take notice of this, as they say, to know the length of the devil's chain; that neither full nor fasting we are out of his reach, but he will be busy with us in them both. Attends our feasts, 'to make our table a snare;' attends our fasts, 'to turn them' as well as our prayers 'into sin.' Eating, he is busy with us to make us eat like Esau. Fasting, no less busy to make us fast like the Pharisee. And look what in this in the rest; both alms and prayer too are subject to it. Therefore in and through all, whether we give alms, pray or fast, to have an eye to him in all. Praying, fasting, giving alms, he leaves us not, gives us not over till he has corrupted the manner, perverted the end; till one way or other he has sent them awry. His first assay is, ne bonum, 'we do not that which is good,' we fast not at all; his second is, ne bonum bene, 'we do it not as we should,' by putting to it a wrong sicut, an undue manner; or a wrong ut, an undue end, that so we may do what God commands us for the devil's end. Sure it is not enough to be exercised in doing good, we must look to both the sicut, the manner how we do it, and to the ut, the end why we do it; or he mayhap go beyond us, and both spoil them and spoil us of our reward for them.
But then again take heed you be not caught here, and for doubt you may do it amiss be brought not to do it at all, but let all alone. That is another of his tricks; for his method or manner of proceeding in this point is well worth our observing; nosse hæc salus est. It is one of the profunda Satanæ, as the Revelation calls them , the 'deep fetches, or policies of Satan.' For would any man think he would use this text, these very words of our Saviour, 'Be not like hypocrites,' to draw men from fasting? He does. For finding here, fasting and hypocrites thus close together, and so that hypocrites use to fast, he persuades some, and such as ween themselves no fools, to think they cannot fast but they must ipso facto prove [401/402] hypocrites. Sets up this for a scarecrow, to raise up a vain fear in them, and so to chase them from it. Will ye fast? God's Lord take heed what you do; do it not! Why? Ne sitis sicut hypocritæ, for an you do, 'you will be taken for an hypocrite.'
And mark the double taking of ne sitis: ne sitis, 'be not like,' saith Christ: ne sitis, 'lest you be like,' saith he. Now the belly is apt and easy enough to apprehend any fear in this kind, any opposition or exposition, any thing that makes for it.
Nay hereby he prevails with them, not only to give over fasting themselves, but draws them further to grow jealous lest everyone who preaches for it be not justly to be suspected as that way given, as having in him some sparks of a Pharisee. Thus doth he.
And will you see how compendious a way he deviseth to rid us clean of all hypocrisy? Thus: to keep no Lent, not to fast at all; and so he will warrant us we shall be sure to be clear from being any hypocrites. So to avoid hypocrisy he voids fasting quite.
But what is this but to 'cast devils by the power of Beelzebub,' one devil with another? To cast out hypocrisy by gluttony? To cast out superstition with the 'profaneness of Esau,' who rather than offend his belly cared not what became of his birthright? To bring in ne jujentis 'fast not,' under colour of ne sitis hypocritæ, 'not being like hypocrites.' To cast out ne sitis hypocritæ, 'be no hypocrites,' with sitis epicuri, 'die not in debt to your bellies.' The devil's only way to rid hypocrisy by engrossing epicurism.
But alas! what will this avail us! what is gotten by this! Small ease will it be, God knows, for any not to be condemned as an hypocrite, seeing he that 'fell to eat and drink with good fellows,' in the twenty-fourth chapter after, had 'his portion given him with hypocrites,' as good a trencherman as he had been all his life-time. So that both come into one room, both lie together and fry together in one place of torments. And thither it is he would bring us, he cares not whither way. This is his first assay, and much hurt he hath done this way.
[402/403] I know not how but fasting is laid aside, in a manner clean gone; few or none keep it. How is it gone? What is pretended or given out for it? But for fear of doing that which persons do that are superstitiously given, fear of being like them. For no fear of hypocrisy now; sicut hypocritae is now gone. But by this one precedent, this one ne sitis sicut, he can make more. As now in place of 'be not like hypocrites,' is come a fear of 'be not like Papists;' we shall be like Papists if we do. And not to fast is made a supersedeas to all Popery, as if that alone were enough to make us truly Reformed. This is all our fear now.
But, ibi trepidaverent timore, ubi non erat timor, 'There were they afraid where no fear was.' This is but a scarecrow neither. 1. First set down this; we must do something that hypocrites and superstitious persons do, or we must give over alms too and prayer as well as fasting, for they have a like ne sitis upon them. You shall find hypocritæ in all three.
2.Then the second; we may do what hypocrites do and yet not do it as they do it. And it is the sicut, the manner, not the thing itself, that Christ here excepts too. So that fear is at an end.
3. Lastly, these words being directed by Christ and by Him spoken to His disciples, by the grace of God all be not hypocrites or superstitious that fast, for Christ's Disciples were neither. We must fast then like Christ's Disciples; we may be of their number. And indeed the truth is, Christ's Disciples are only truly seized of it. Hypocrites do but encroach upon it, or rather on the outside of it, as doth the wolf upon the sheep's clothing. But neither is the sheep to leave or lay down his fleece, nor the Christian man his fast, because otherwhile the wolf is found in the one, or the hypocrite at the other.
In three short words Christ teacheth us a way to answer both. His ne sitis sicut will make both fly away as chaff before the fan, and cum jejunatis never be stirred, but lie still. Do the hypocrites fast to be seen, do they? and do the Papists fast with opinion of merit? Why, 'Be not like hypocrites,' but yet fast; nor be like Papists, no more than like hypocrites, yet fast though. Christ's ne sitis will serve for these; and as many as the devil can devise. Fast no like them; fast [403/404] like Christ's Disciples, and all is well. And this for his first way of turning Christ's cum jejuantis into ne jejenetis, upon fear of being like hypocrites if we so do.
But if this way he succeed not to keep us from it but fast we will, then comes he about with a new strategem. And that by way of good wholesome counsel, that if we will needs fast, we would do it to some purpose; that is, do it so as we may be known to do it in any wise. For what purpose will it be to do it in tenebris? It is no work of darkness, or as good in a blind corner where no man can take notice of it, as if we were ashamed to be seen about so good a work. Nay in any wise, take heed of concealment of your fast, of 'hiding it under a bushel.' And good reason, they be works of light, all three, alms, prayer and fasting, and so love to be brought to light, to be set on a candlestick, and to be seen. Therefore, as before in our alms he had devised we should call our alms-folk about us with a 'trumpet;' and as in prayer, that we should do it in choice places where folk may come by and see us at it, and to be a good deal longer than ordinary, that so we may seem somewhat singular, and to have more in us than our fellows; so here now when it is fasting-day with us, to get us a fasting-day face at any hand. For that, except we be somewhat altered in countenance, no man will look at us or mark us, there will be not notice taken of it, and so as good not fast at all; but if it appear in our faces, we shall both get reputation to ourselves, and our profession shall receive credit besides. Thus does he meddle his chaff, mould in his sour leaven into Christ's nova conspersio, to make us do what God would have us for his own, to do God's work for the devil's end. 'Sanctify me a fast,' as I told, shows there is sanctity in it, a holy duty it is, and he seeks to breed moths in it. For so the Fathers call hypocrisy tineam sanctitatis, 'the moth that frets in sunder all that holy or good is;' and so by that means make it a mere moth-eaten fast.
Thus whithersoever we turn ourselves, he meets with us still. These are his designs; this doth he diversis itineribus, 'by contrary ways' seek to circumvent us. First, down he sits in his court, and offers us a licence not to keep Lent, to keep what diet we will; and if we refuse it threatens us he will get us presented for hypocrites. But if that moves us 404/405 not, but we stand out resolute for all his scarecrow, then out he comes in a new style, falls to commend us as good orderly men, but withal to advise us friendly to do all so as may be for our best behoof, which is to have it seen in any wise. And, that which is strange, scares us with that in the beginning which he brings us to in the end; even to do that in hypocrisy that before he wished us in no wise to do for fear of hypocrisy. So as upon the matter now it is come to sitis hypocritæ, though not in so broad terms, but so is his meaning, Do it like hypocrites to be seen.
This is the proper place; here now comes Christ with His fan, and 'severs the precious from the vile' with ne sitis sicut. And think it never a whit the worse for this ne sitis. Alms hath the same before, and so hath prayer the very same, and many a ne sitis belong to these and to every good duty. They are not the worse, the better rather for the fanning; they are rid by it of much refuse stuff. And even to this of fasting there belongs more 'Be not likes,' than one. Not like the Manichees that thought the creatures unclean; not like them whose fast is a commutation of gluttony; not like them that fast to save charges; not like them that make it an opus operatum, and so it be done it skills not how with them, it skills not for any sicut. Not like any of these. One ne sitis, serves them all, sends them all going one after another as many as come. Ne sitis, to them all, and to every or any of them all. And so you shall not need give over your fasting for any of them all. I would fast, but for being like of these--why, be not like one of these, and ye fast withstanding.
Not liked any one of these. But specially, saith Christ here, not 'like hypocrites.' Why not like them? For then the Pharisees fasted and their disciples, and John fasted and his disciples; there was then fasting on all hands. And then is the time of hypocrisy; then doth it abound most when things are in request, when most used then is most danger of counterfeiting. And hypocrisy is but a kind of counterfeiting, as I shall shew you. Therefore as those times were, 'Be not like hypocrites.'
Not like them? and then of all other one would choose to be like, they of all others are most like to fast, they look as if they fasted, they carry their fast in their face, they. Why [405/406] that Christ likes not, the carrying it in their face; tells us plainly they be not the men we take them for, no true fasters they, they be but hypocrites.
Hypocrites? What is that? We must needs stay a little to search out the true sense of that word; they be so baited all the Gospel through, there be so many woes cried against them. The word hypocrite is neither English nor Latin, but as a denizen. Originally, it is a known Greek word, and is in that tongue the ordinary and proper name for those whom the Latin term histriones, and we in English, 'stage players;' such as in disguised attire and hair present themselves on a stage, and there often represent those whom, God knows, they are far from, but yet outwardly take upon them their persons as if they were.
And the ground of the word is, they are therefore called hypocritae, for that to give a true judgment of them, you must Øpokrnein, 'judge them not by their player's coat above, but by what they are underneath in their own,' when their gorgeous and gay attire is off. That may be gallant and brave, they themselves are it skills not what; peradventure, he that played the Souldan, but a Sowter.
The word in the tongue Christ spake is as much to say a one in a vizor, assumens vultum, a 'face-taker,' one who has got him a taken-on-face which is none of his own nor nothing like it, as in plays and shows the manner is. But we hold us to the word hypocritæ. The native sense of the word you see, and it is as if he had said in plain English, When ye fast, be not like these same stage players. So it signifies at the first. And at the second hand all others which do off of the stage that which they do upon it, and in court, city, or country, carry themselves with other faces than their own, as these do on the stage at play-houses.
The heathen man long since observed, that Mundus scena, that in his conceit 'the world was like a stage or theatre,' scarce a true face in it, all in a manner personate; and the actions in the world not much unlike to their acting of their parts in the acts and scenes of a stage-play; but our Saviour Christ goes farther, He tells us here of a stranger matter. That there want not that make His Church a very stage, and play with religion, and play religion and every part [406/407] of it, so carrying themselves in things pertaining to God as if they had some play or pageant in hand. It is but too true this. If you will set up a stage, I will find you actors for it now.
Will you see alms played? Out comes Judas sagely, with a sentence in his mouth, ut quid perdito hæc? 'Alas it would have been better bestowed upon a many of poor people, why should there be such waste upon Christ's head?' right the supplication of beggars.
Will you see prayer played? Look upon the players in the twenty-third chapter after, that under colour of 'a long prayer' now and then prey upon the houses and goods of a sort of seduced widows, and make as good gain of their prayers as Judas would have done of his alms.
But sermons go away with it now, the Church is then full, and God knows a few true hearers; the rest are but a sort of sermon-hypocrites. The scene is in the thirty-third of Ezekiel; 'O let us go hear the word,' and the Prophet adds, 'so was the fashion then,' and for fashion it was. And thither they come, and when they are come here sit they, but their heart is elsewhere wandering where it will. Either they attend not, or if they do it is to make jests. Or, at the best it is but as 'they hear a song of one that hath a pleasing voice,' and no more comes of the sermon than of the song. Or if you love the New Testament better, there have you in the sixth of Mark Herod sending for John Baptist oft and hearing full devoutly, till for a non licet tibi in one of his sermons, he made his head fly off his shoulders. And in very deed, the marriage at Shechem and the circumcision for it, Absalom's vow, Jehu's sacrifice, what were they but very plays, mere masks, imitations of him that is Roscius in scena, 'the master hypocrite of all,' who in the Old Testament got him on a mantle and played Samuel at Endor, and in the New got him wings and bright raiment, and came forth `transformed into an Angel of light?' To whose company they belong and whose they are that get them St. Paul's mÒrfwsij eÙsebeaj, 'the vizor or mask of godliness,' and make of it St. Peter's perik£lnmma kakaj, 'a cloak or cover for every bad intent.' They do no better but even play religion; and of this scenical, theatrical, histrionical godliness, [407/408] there is good store abroad in the world; God grant it be not found in Israel! Be not then like stage-players when about any religious act, not when about any.
But of all parts of religion, our Saviour here may seem to have made choice of the worst. To say, When ye fast, be not like players--not then of all times. For a play and a fast suit not. A play is lightly had at feasts. Men when they fast are in heaviness; these agree not well. Well as evil as they agree, for all that fasts have been played too. There was a fast played to get Naboth's vineyard; it cost him his vineyard and his life too. There was another played to have got St. Paul made away. And they say, there was one played against the fifth of November, and a procession too, and all to have made us all away. From such fasts-playing the Lord deliver us! But so you may have a fast played too for a need.
That we may not marvel, these hypocrites that play in fasts Christ tells us are a special sort by themselves. 'Be not like hypocrites' at all, but of all other not like them. Why? the common sort of hypocrites abroad seek to put on a better face than their own; but here have you a monster, exterminans vultum, 'outlawing, as it were, and banishing his own natural countenance;' ¢fannxw is Christ's word, 'defacing his face,' as you can hardly know it is he; taking to himself a worse face far than ever God made him. To lay on a little, I wot not what, to the end to look the more fair, the better coloured, of a clearer complexion, that is not strange; but to affect a look more dim, more hollow, more evil-favoured, and to beleaven his face to that end, that passes, that is a new kind of hypocrisy per se, 'kind by itself that.' Yet such there be. There were that 'wore a coarse garment to deceive,' saith Zachary; so there is not only gay but ragged hypocrisy. And there were, saith Christ here, that rough-cast their countenance, and that to deceive too. That there is not only fucus, but, fermentum pietatis, 'not only fleeting but lowering,' not only well-complexioned but 'pale-coloured hypocrisy.' Such are they that play in Christ's fast here; tristes, torvi, austeri, the word is sknqrwpo, which is properly 'the look of a wild beast,' a lion or a bear robbed of their whelps, grim and ghast, one would be afraid to look on them. [408/409] These would Christ have us not be like, as indeed who would be like them such hypocrites as they?
Not like them? Why how do they? Exterminant vultum. We begin with vultam. The hypocrite's whole labour is but his look. Blame him not, for he is nothing but look; nothing but face and case but a very outside only. As for any inward matter, he never looks after.
In which point, they suit well with player whose names they bear. It is a very fit resemblance for them that are nothing but resemblance. In the very true and lively person of a Prince, the outward pomp or show is the less part by far. The regal qualities, the princely virtues are they we chiefly admire; a religious heart, high wisdom, heroical courage, clemency, like that of God without measure or end. In him that plays the King it is quite otherwise. No royal quality is required at all, no princely virtue needs, he never cares for them. But gesture and gait, the carriage of his countenance, to say his part, to pronounce and to act it well, that is all that is cared for by him, or that is looked for at his hands. And even so it fares her; 'contrition of spirit, a broken heart, unfeigned humility, truth in the inward parts;'--these are most requisite in the true fast. It skills not a whit for any of these in the stage fast; so he can set his countenance well, have the clouds in his forehead, his eyes somewhat hollow, certain wrinkles in his cheek, carry his head like a bull-rush, and look like leaven, all is well. As for any inward accomplishment, he never takes thought for any. Vultum only is it, he goes no farther. Only to be like, to be sicut, as one, though indeed none.
But why do they take all these pains to disfigure themselves? That do they ut videantur, 'that they might be seen of men,' and seem to men, appear to them in the likeness of such as fast indeed. The 'leaven of hypocrisy' in their looks is from the love of a videantur in their hearts. Vain-glory, the ground of hypocrisy ever. And here now they match again. The hypocrite's end is as the player's end, both to be seen. You never see the play begin till the spectators be come, so many as they can get; nor no more will you see this fast acted, unless there be some to eye and to note it. He will not fast on the ground, there must be a stage set up for him, [409/410] where, I dare say, they wish with the scaffolds full to see them, the more the better.
Both match in videantur, and it must be ab hominibus, 'of men.' Angel's eyes, God's eyes, will not serve the hypocrite's turn. Other eyes then there must be entreated to gaze on them, or ye get no fast.
Why is there any harm in men's eyes, that they may not see, nor we may not be seen of them? Vere oculi hominum, saith Bernard, basilisci sunt bonorum operum: 'now truly there is in men's eyes venom-like that of the cockatrice to infect our well-doing with a well-meaning of ourselves.' O now I am seen! O ego quantus sum mundo censore! 'O what a holy mortified man am I taken for!' It troubles alms before, this, it troubles prayer, and now fasting; it troubles all. In all this is the point, this is the ut to be 'seen of men.' Not that it is unlawful to be seen well-doing; you will easily put a difference between to be seen to do well, and to do well to be seen; between facere et videri, and facere ut videare. It happens otherwhile, many good people do well, and are seen so doing as it falls out, but beside their purpose quite. But none save this masked crew sacrifice themselves and their fasts to the eyes of men, and do what they do for no other end but that.
You will easily discern them. You will not get one of them to do as Christ did, get him 'aside out of the way into the wilderness,' fast there--no. Christ was not so well advised to do it there, in a desolate place where there nobody to meet Him or see Him at it. They be all for the eye, these; a perspective fast, or not at all. Nothing out of sight, never by their good-will where nobody to look on. Jejunium oculare, Ñffqallmouhstea, this. The heathen man saith well; Ergo iste in tenebris non servaret hominem, 'such a one would not be entreated to save a man's life in the dark, if he might;' not but by torch light. For all is lost, he is clean undone if nobody sees or looks upon him.
Well if it were the 'Spirit of God led Christ into the wilderness' to fast there like an hermit, you may well know what spirit it is that sets one up a stage there to fast like [410/411] an hypocrite; to be seen then is their ut, the very butt they aim at..
And wherefore to be seen? In the play that they may have a plaudite; so plain, as they even crave it in their last words. So in this eye-serving fast seen they must be; and why must they be seen? To be given out for such a one is a great faster. And why that? 'That men seeing that in that good work of theirs might glorify God?'' No indeed, but them; the earthly child, not the 'heavenly Father.' And mark it when you will; there is no animal so ambitious, no chameleon so pants after air, as does the hypocrite after popular praise: for if he fasts, and so hungry and thirsty he is after it as you shall hear even beg for it Honora me coram populo hoc, saith one of them--it is Saul; 'O grace me, for the love of God seem to honour me in the people's eyes.' Loquimini in auribus populi hujus, saith another--it is Abimelech; 'O give it out in the peoples' ears I am thus and thus.' Mark: the 'people's eyes,' and the 'people's ears,' for hypocrisy is ever popular; for their, for men's applause, all in all.
Nay then will ye hear them expostulate for it, and that even with God Himself? 'Wherefore,' say they in the fifty-eighth of Esay, 'fast we and Thou seest it not?' So they would be seen. And why do we pinch and punish ourselves, `and Thou regardest it not?' So they must be regarded, or they will not take it well. To be short; 'the putting forth of the finger,' as Esay there calls it; or, as the Poet, Digit monstrari, 'to be pointed at,' and dicier His est, 'and said Look ye, there he goes;' to have it whispered, 'That is he;' to be magnified up and down the people's mouth, that is even the consummatum est of all this stage-devotion.
Which very point makes the fast, loose and indeed makes it no fast at all; they extermine their countenances so long that they extermine fast and all. This very ut videantur makes that it seems to be, but is indeed none. For in the true fast it is as David says of his, 'I sorrowed and my soul fasted;' it is an humbling of the soul. Else if it goes no further than the body, it is a fast without a soul. But these, though their stomach be empty, yet their souls do feed and feast all the while. Nam est quædam sagina laudis, saith the heathen man, 'praise will feed and fill both.' And it is our meat and [411/412] drink, and so we call it that we take delight in. And sure, if Esay be right, that one 'may be drunk and no cup come at his head,' it is like possible one may surfeit and yet no meat come in his belly, and with pride both. As for meat and drink, the devil never takes any, keeps a perpetual fast for that matter; but feeds on pride as one doth on his meals, and surfeits that way as much as any epicure. And even so, for aught I know, one may eat and drink no more than the devil, and yet be as proud as the devil- why not? So as upon the matter, their fast is but even the devil's fast and no better.
Fasting then being an act of humility, if the devil can make it matter of pride, habetur propositum, 'he has what he would,' he will give you good leave to fast and spare not. And even matter of pride he make sit. The Pharisees, whom Christ would have us non sicut, they were in their own conceits the non sicuts of the world. They tell it God, non sicut alii, 'not like other men.' Others did but fast once a week, if that; they twice, and never missed. And in the Ecclesiastical story, there is a rare example of it. He, that same John the Patriarch of Constantinople that first took upon him the proud title of Universal Bishop, that very man was called and known by the name of 'Iw£nnnhj _ nhsteut_j, Joannes Jejunator, 'John the great Faster.' So pride will grow of fasting. Being then ordained to take down the soul, if he can bring it to puff it up, and so turn our fast into sin, that is even a fast of the devil's own choosing. One which he is sure, God will look at. The Prophet gives the reason; 'if we fast for men's eyes,' we fast for ourselves not for God neither. Now what God should reward should be done for God. And with God a righteous thing it is to put men over to receive their rewards at their hands for whom they fasted, that they pay them their wages that set them on work; for at His hands they are likely to receive none, seeing for Him they did it not; He was not the ut of their fasting. And this is the last point. As before not like them in their sicut, so not here in their ut neither; neither in their manner nor in their end.
Suppose now, one may be so in love with the praise of men as he is altogether out of love with an invisible fast,and must [412/413] needs look a little, that way, what harm will come of it? Amen dico vobis quia receperunt mercedem suam; this must needs be their punishment, for there is none other but this. And sure, as strange a punishment as you shall read of, to say 'Amen' to that one desires, to say one 'shall receive a reward.' Can it be a punishment to receive, to 'receive a reward,' and a reward of our own desiring? It is surely none. You do it be seen, you shall be seen to be praised; why, you shall be praised; this is your end, you end be it. You hunger and thirst for men's praise, fain you would have it, you shall have it; there it is, take it to you, much good do it you with it. Call you this a punishment to receive a reward, to have one's desire? Surely it seems but an easy one, if it be one.
True, if the reward be worth the while first. And secondly, if by receiving it we forfeit not one incomparably greater. But in these two cases, 1. If the reward be but some slight thing little worth: 2. and then, If by getting if we lose another above all worth, then have we no great cause to rejoice at our receiving; then, instead of a reward, it is a punishment say I, and that an heavy one, whensoever both these cases meet.
Now both these cases meet here. First, it is a poor thing they receive. Shall we value it as it is? I mean this goodly reward of popular praise which they so itch after. What is the popularity but a sort of men nothing judicial? Not one among a hundred. Not praising but out of passion, lightly if that; and not constant in that passion neither.
Praise if it be judicial is somewhat worth, and so worth the desiring. The popular is not so. Christ saith, 'They have always spoken all good of false Prophets;' as for the true, they have ever followed them with all disgrace; and then, what judgment is there in them? Christ Himself, will ye hear their verdict of Him? Some there was said, 'He was a good man,' but some other and the greater sum said, 'No, but a very seducer, a cozener of the people;' and then who can think there is any judgment in them? In the nineteenth of the Acts the whole multitude was together, and when Demetrius had set them in for 'two hours together they never left crying, Great is Diana; and the most part [413/414] of them never knew why they were come together,' nor why they cried so; and then, what judgment is there in them? No sure; out of lightness of mind, out of passion it is, they praise or dispraise, magnify or vilify a man, for the most part.
But is this, be it passion or what it will, of any endurance? will it hold? No indeed; Isicut luna mutatur, 'every new moon a new mind,' nay every quarter. No better witness of this than our Saviour Himself, Who heard, 'Hosanna in the highest,' and 'not Him but Barabbas' both within the space of a sevennight. St. Paul's was yet shorter, for he was first a 'murderer,' and suddenly a God and no less, in a manner 'with one breath.' There is their constancy; this, the hold you can have of it. No lock nor key to shut up our reward in, no tenendum to our habendum, to hold it when we have it. And who then would much esteem it?
But say there were both lock and key, yet what is praise but words? and words but wind? what is speech but breath; breath but air? tenuissimus fructus, 'a thin reward,' God wot. For what is more thin than air? This is sure no great reward. Mihi pro minimo est; so Paul makes but a minim of it we make so much of.
And yet even this, slight as it is, were it only to receive it and that were all, there were no great hurt in it. But now comes the hurt; for when it will come to this that we are so to receive it as in full payment; for so it is, not cousi 'have it,' but ¢p_couoi 'have it all,' that ever they shall have; so to receive it, tanquam mercedem, as it will be our last pay, our final and full recompense and satisfaction for all that ever we have done--then it goes hard.
And that is it Christ meaneth, and that is it every good mind fears; that here will be all, a few good works, a little warm breath, a blast of vain praise, of a sort of vain men. And when we have this, we have no more for ever to receive or look for besides this. That as Christ tells us, in the first verse of the chapter, this acceperunt infers an amiserunt; acceperunt suum here, an amiserunt meum elsewhere. And that, where of all we would least be without it. That the receiving of this cuts us off from another infinitely above and more worth than this. The reward we receive, nothing less to be regarded; the reward we lose, the damage we incur, nothing [414/415] more to be feared. Lay these together, we shall find it a punishment, such a punishment as no man would ever wish his very enemy more.
Of this 'Amen' here, of these words, 'they have received their reward,' you shall read in St. Gregory, that never did any saying so sound in his ears, so run in his head, reign in his heart, work upon his conscience, as he deeply protests as did these. This he took for one of the most fearful sayings in the whole Bible; that what he did here receive, were it praise or preferment or what other earthly thing, it should be his last receipt, his final reward, his portion for ever, his Amen: for Amen is the last word, we know, that ends all. For so are we in a manner proceeded against, and deprived of all hope of farther reward, at the last great receipt of all.
The praise of men which we here sought and found shall deprive us of hearing, Euge serve bone, one syllable whereof is more worth than all the panegyrics that ever were. And not only of that but of Intra gaudium Domin besides, much more to be esteemed than all the euges in the world, nay, than the world itself. That the winning of one shall be the losing of the other.
And now judge whether this receiving be not a loss invaluable, this reward a punishment unsufferable, this Amen to be prayed against of all. Nay, whether there by any so penal a punishment, so heavy a censure: this shall be your punishment, that this shall be your reward, and never more but this.
For do but ask; why do they this wrong to their faces? To seem to men to fast. And what then? Then they will be 'commended of men.' And what then? No, there is all. And God comes to a point with them; saith, Let them be commended for it: and they have no wrong, they making it their end, if God make it so too.
To punish one by his own desires, to say, as God doth in Osee, 'Because Ephraim will have altars to sin, they shall be to sin;' because you make this your reward, it will be your reward; to say, So be it, to have our fast conclude with the hypocrites' Amen;--no more fearful punishment in the world.
'Knowing then this fear, we persuade, exhort, entreat' [415/416] men, and no otherwise than Christ here does, to fast. And the cum is now come; now then to do it. Not to do it as these, yet in anywise to do it, to fast to God. Not to the world; to our hearts, not to other men's eyes; to conscience, not to form. Not to set us up a stage to do it, but with Christ to do it apart 'in secret.' And think not if men see it not, it shall not be seen, be it never so secret, that you shall do it without witness. Besides the witness, testis in corde, set by the heathen man at a thousand witnesses, there is, as Job calls Him, Teste in Coelo, 'One in Heaven Who sees it,' needs no light to see it by; Whose theatre is the dark, and beholds us as clearly when the candle is put out as when it burns. Fast then, do it to be seen of Him; and being done not for men but for Him, Him will you be sure of to cast His eyes to look on it to like it, to regard it and reward it both.
So much doth Christ undertake in the verse following, and that in His Father's Name, and seals it with His 'verily,' that most certain it shall be so. Our secret fast will have His open reward. It may be, even here upon earth He will 'make our light break forth as the morning.' If here He do not, there He will. The less earth answers, the more heaven reserves. In that day is another manner praise, if praise be it; another manner reward than earth has any. Both together, Merces magna nimis' Abraham's reward, 'an exceeding great reward,' it exceeds the heart of man to think how exceeding great.
Which reward, Almighty God grant we may set before us, and seek it in all our doings; so seek it here on earth in this life, as we may there find it in Heaven in the life to come, to our endless comfort and content, through Christ our Lord!