Chapter V. Of Repentance, Preparatory to the Blessed Sacrament. Section III. What Actions of Repentance are specially required in our Preparations to the Holy Sacrament.
THE particular actions of repentance, which are to be performed in their proper seasons, which cannot be always actual, because they have variety, and cannot be attended to altogether, all such particulars of repentance are then in their season, they have this for their opportunity. For it is an admirable wisdom of God, so to dispose the times and advantages of religion, that by the solemnities of duty, our dispersions are gathered up,--our wanderings are united,--our indifferences are kindled,--our weariness is recreated,--our spirits are made busy,--our attention is called upon,--our powers are made active,--our virtues fermented: we are called upon, and looked after, and engaged. For as it is in motion, and as it is in lines, a long and a straight progression diminishes the strength, and makes languishing and infirmity; but by doubling the point, or making a new centre, the moving body gathers up his parts and powers into a narrower compass,--and, by union, as by a new beginning, is rescued from weakness and diminution; so it is in the life of a Christian:--when he first sets forth, he is zealous and forward, full of appetite, and full of holy fires; but when his little fuel is consumed, and his flame abates, when he goes on and grows weary, when he mingles with the world, and by every conversation is polluted or allayed, when by his very necessary affairs of life, he is made secular and interested, apt to tend his civil regards, and to be remiss in the spiritual, by often and long handling of money, beginning too much to love it,--then we are interrupted in our declining piety: we are called upon by religion, and by the sacredness of this holy duty; we are made to begin again, not to go back, but to be re-enkindled.
Every time we receive the holy sacrament, all our duties are summed up; we make new vows, we chastise our negligence, we mend our pace, we actuate our holy purposes, and make them stronger; we enter upon religion, as if we had never done any thing before; we bring again our first penitential heats. And as when we pray, and pray long, our devotion slackens, and our attention becomes trifling, and by wandering thoughts we are gone very far from the observation of the offices,--the good man that ministers, calls out to us, 'Let us pray;' and then the wandering thoughts run home, then we are troubled that we have lost so much of our prayers, as we have not attended to: then we begin again, and pray the more passionately, by how much we observe ourselves to have been more negligent before. If God did not particularly call upon us by these religious necessities, and stop us by the solemn return of the sacrament, and stir up our fires, and remind us of our duty, and make actual seasons and opportunities for actual and great attendancies on religion, if God did not make some days, and some necessities, and some opportunities for heaven; the soul and her interest would not be at all regarded. For this life is the day for the body: and our needs do indeed require so much attendance, and employ so much of our affections, and spend so much of our time, that it is necessary some abstractions and separations of time and offices be made.
Receiving the holy sacrament, is like a lock upon the waters, which makes them rise higher, and begin a fuller stream, as from a new principle of emanation. So that the repentance which is the duty of our life, and dispersed over all the parts and periods of it, like the waters in the first creation upon the face of the whole earth, is gathered together against the day of the Lord's communion, as into a bosom and congregation of penitential waters. Then you are to mourn for your sins, and to resolve against them: then you are to remember what vows you have already made and broken, how often you have prevaricated in your duty, and by what temptation you are used to fall: then you are to renew the strength of your purposes, to fortify your tenderest part, and to cut off all advantages from the enemy: then you must prune your vine and make the branches bleed: then the bridegroom comes, and you must trim your lamp, and adorn it with the culture of religion; that is, against the day of communion, you must sum up all the parts of your repentance; for the sacrament is a summary of all the mysteries, and all the duty of the whole religion of a Christian. But baptism and the holy eucharist do nothing for us, unless we do good works, and perfect them with a conjugation of holy duties, bringing forth fruits meet for repentance.
But our inquiry must be yet a little more particular.
There are some actions of repentance, which must be finished and made perfect, before we receive the holy communion: and there are some, which will be finishing all our life. Concerning the first, the question is, which they are, and what must be done concerning them. Concerning the second, we are to inquire how far we must have proceeded in them, before we may communicate.
Those parts of repentance which must be finished, before we approach the blessed sacrament, are these.
1. We must have renounced, perfectly renounced, all affections to sin, and firmly purpose to amend all, to sin no more, to lead a new life in all solid and material practices of virtue. This we learn from Origen: "We eat the bread which is made a holy thing, and which sanctifies and makes holy all them, who use it with holy and salutary purposes," and designs of living holily: not by a solemn and pompous profession only, but with a real and hearty resolution, resolving not to say so, and be a fool; but to say so, because indeed we mean so; not to profess it because it is the custom of Christians, and the expectation of the solemnity, but because we intend really to be quit of the sin for ever. Now concerning our purposes of amendment, these things are to be taken care of.
1. That they be made prudently, attentively, sincerely, and with intuition upon a credible, possible, and designed effect. For there are some that make vows (purposes I cannot call them), which they believe impossible to keep; and no man can wisely purpose such things, of which he hath such belief: but they believe themselves inevitably engaged to commit a sin, and yet as inevitably engaged to say they will not. The Greeks tell of a famous fool among them; her name was Acco; who, when she saw herself in a glass, would discourse as wisely as she could to the other woman, and supposed her own shadow to be one of her neighbours; with whom sometimes she had great business, but always huge civilities; only she could never agree which of them should go away first, or take the upper hand. Such wise resolvers are some persons; they take the shadow of it for a substance, and please themselves by the entertainment of the images of things: and think that the outside, and the words of a promise, are the only thing that God requires: they and their promises do not know which shall go away first; the resolution quickly dies, and the man presently after; but the sin lives and abides there still, and will do so for ever. Cast about and see; have you promised what you are likely to perform, and do you intend it in good earnest never to consent to a sin, in no circumstance, and for no argument, and by no temptation? For he that resolves never to commit that which he knows he shall commit, is like him who resolves he will never die; his vain resolution sets not his death back one hour. It is hypocrisy and lying to say it before God, and it is folly and madness to pretend that we will do it, to ourselves. But of this I have already spoken d.
2. He that, in his preparation to the holy communion, purposes to live a holy life, must not judge of the goodness of his purposes by the present intendment, but by the consequent performance. He must not think it is well yet, because many good purposes are broken by temptations, disordered by supervening accidents, frustrate by impotency, and laid aside by purposes to the contrary; such which Plutarch compares to windy eggs, which, though they look fairly, yet produce no birds. Now by this consideration, it is not intended, that a man must defer his communion till he hath fully performed all his purposes of a holy life, for then he should never communicate till he dies: but by this we are advised to make such inquiry, and to use such cautions, and to require such indications of the reality of our purposes, as become wise, interested, and considering persons, who are undone if they be deceived, and receive damage by the profane and unholy usages of the divine mysteries, if they were cozened and abused themselves in the sincerity and efficacy of their preparatory purposes. Plato tells, that Alcibiades did sometimes wish Socrates had been dead, because he was ashamed to see him, for that he had not kept the promises which he had so often made to him. If we, who often have communicated, do find that the purposes of reformation, which we have formerly made, proved ineffective;--if we perceive that we have begged pardon for our lust, and yet still remain under the power of the passion; if we have deplored our pride, and yet cannot endure to have others preferred before us;--if we have resolved against our hasty angers, and yet, after the communion, find our peevishness to return as often s, and to abide as long-, and still to forage and to prevail;--we are like those foolish birds, who, having conceived by the wind, lay their eggs in the sand, and forget the place, and the waters wash them away.
In such cases as these, something more must be done besides making resolutions. Let every man make some experiment of himself, and give some instances of performance, and get ground of his passion, and make no great haste to pass instantly to the holy communion. You may more safely stay one day longer, than pass on, one minute, too soon: but be sure of this, the fierce saying of a few warm and holy words is not a sufficient preparation to these sacred mysteries; and they, who, upon such little confidences as these, have hastened hither, have, afterwards, found causes enough to deplore their profane follies and presumptions. For they sec, when they have eaten the sop, they go out to sin against the Lord; as soon as the sacred chalice hath refreshed their lips, they dishonoured God with their mouths, and retain their affections here below, fastened to earth and earthly things.
This is it that makes our communion have so little fruit. Men resolve to be good, and then communicate; they resolve they will hereafter, but they arc not yet, and yet they will communicate; they resolve, and think no more of it, as if performance were no part of the duty and the obligation. In such cases, it is not good to be hasty; for a little stay will do better than twenty arguments to enforce your purpose. You must make new resolutions and reinforce your old; but if you have already tried, and have found your purposes to be easily untwisted, and that, like the scenes at masques, they were only for that show, to serve at that solemnity,--learn to be more wary and more afraid the next time. The first folly was too bad; but to do so often is intolerable. But here are two cases to be resolved.
But of what nature and extent must our preparatory resolution be? Must we resolve against all Sin, or against some kinds only? If only against some sorts, then we are not dean all over. If against all, then we find it impossible for us to perform it; and then either it is not necessary to resolve, or not necessary to perform, or not necessary to communicate.
I answer; it is one thing to say, 'I shall never fall, I shall never be mistaken, I shall never be surprised,' or I shall never slacken my watchfulness and attention, and another thing to resolve against the love and choice of every sin. It is not always in our powers to avoid being surprised, or being deceived, or being dull and sleepy in our carefulness and watches. Every good and well-meaning Christian cannot promise to himself security; but he may be tempted, or over-pressed with a sudden fear when he cannot consider, and be put sometimes to act before he can take counsel: and though there is no one sin we do but we do it voluntarily, and might escape it, if we would make use of the grace of God, yet the inference cannot run forth to all: we cannot, therefore, always escape all; any one we can, but not every one. The reason is, because concerning any one if we make a question, then we can and do deliberate, then we can attend, and we can consider, and summon up the arts and auxiliaries of reason and religion, and we can hear both sides speak: and, therefore, we can choose: for he that can deliberate, can take either side. For if he could not choose when he hath considered which to choose, he were more a fool in considering, than by any inconsideration in the world: for he not only does unreasonably by sinning, but he considers unreasonably and to no purpose, since his consideration cannot alter the case. Certain it is, by him that can consider, every sin can be avoided. But then, this is as certain, that it is not possible always to consider; but surprise and ignorance, haste and dulness, indifference and weariness, are the entries, at which some things that are not good, will enter; but these things are such, which by how much they are the less voluntary, by so much they are the less imputed.
Thus, therefore, he that means to communicate worthily, must resolve against every sin, the greatest and the least; that is, 1. He must resolve never to commit any sin, concerning which he can deliberate. And, 2. He must resolve so to stand upon his guard, that he may not frequently be surprised; he must use prayer against all, and prudent caution in his whole conversation, and all the instruments of grace for the destruction of the whole body of sin. And though, in this valley of tears, there are but few so happy souls as to triumph over all infirmities, we know of none; and if God hath any such on earth, they are peculiar jewels, kept in imdiscerned cabinets; yet all that intend to serve God heartily, must aim at a return to that state of innocence, to the possibility of which Christ hath as certainly recovered us, as we lost it by our own follies, and the sin of Adam: that is, we must continually strive, and every day get ground of our passions, and grow in understanding and the fear of God, that we be not so often deluded, nor in so many things be ignorant, nor be so easily surprised, nor so much complain of our weakness, nor the imperfection of our actions be in so many instances unavoidable. But, in the matters of choice, in voluntary and deliberate actions, we must resolve not to sin at all. In these things, we must be more than conquerors. 2. He that intends worthily to communicate, before his coming, must quit all his next and immediate occasions k of habitual sins, all those states of evil, by which so long as he dwells, he cannot stand uprightly. For to resolve against all sin, and yet to retain that temptation, which hath been to this time stronger than all our resolutions, is to abide in the midst of a torrent, against which you cannot swim, and yet resolve never to be drowned. There is no dallying in this case: he that will not throw out the bond-woman and her son,--he that will still retain the concubine,--let him resolve what he will, and will what he is commanded, and profess what he purposes; his profession is nothing but words: and his resolutions will prove as unstable as the thinnest air, which is not able to support a fly, unless with her wings she fans it into an accidental thickness.
This may seem the hardest commandment of Christianity; and Christ calls it "a cutting off the right hand, and plucking out the right eye;" as if it were the greatest violence of the world. Indeed it is oftentimes a great inconvenience to our affairs and fortune: for, it may be, he by whom we live, is he by whom we sin; and we cannot eat, but we must be in danger. If the case be so, it is indeed harder to leave the sin; but yet the command of pulling out our eye is not the hardness, but is an act of easiness, and an instrument of facilitation: for, first, it must be remembered, that it is a question of souls, and no interest can be laid in balance against a soul; it is moments against eternity, money against heaven, life eternal against a little pension. And, therefore, this precept of pulling out the right eye is very easy, when it is made the price or instrument of avoiding eternal torments. A man had better pull his heart out, than nurse a lust, by which he shall die for ever.
But then, next to this it is considerable, that this precept of putting out the right eye, that is, removing the next occasion of sin, is so far from being a hard commandment, that it is perfectly complying with our infirmities, and a securing of our greatest interests; by this he conducts us tenderly, because we have no strength. For if Christ had done as Xenocrates in Valerius, and commanded his disciples to dwell in danger, that they might triumph more gloriously,--we had reason to suspect ourselves, and to tremble under the load of the imposition; but Christ knew it would never consist with our safety, and never conduce to his Father's glory; therefore Christ bids us to avoid the occasion. He would not have weak and amorous persons to converse with fair women, that make weak eyes, and by the eyes wound the heart of a foolish man. For, as Trithemius observes, 'good angels never appeared in the likeness of women;' they are tempters and temptations: and, therefore, because of the danger, Christ would not have us look; unless we can do it with safety, we must not be in their company. And, therefore, as God gave us legs and hands in great kindness, yet we give money to have them cut off when they endanger the whole body; so must we quite cut off the advantages of our estate, and the pleasures of our life, rather than die eternally. There is no other variety but this; if we be tempted in our state of life or of society, we must do violence to our fortune or our will. But the particulars of the case are these:
1. If it be easy to quit the occasion, do it, lest you be tempted; for it is worth some pain to be secured in the question of your soul. When Alcibiades was sent for from Sicily to Athens to be tried for his life, he hid himself, and left this answer to be sent: "It is better to decline a trial, than to escape from under it." And so it is here: it is glorious to escape, but it is the safer way not to put it to the venture; and, therefore, when you can, decline the trial; for he that resolves to live, and yet will live under the ruins of a falling house, is but little better than a fool.
2. If it be difficult to part with the tempting occasion of your sin, then consider whether you can dwell with it, and yet not sin; if you can, you may; for if you neither love your danger, nor can easily part with it, it is sufficient that by plain force you resist it.
3. But if, by sad experience, you have learned your own weakness, and that as long as you dwell near the furnace, you are scorched with the flames, no interest in this world must make you lose your hopes of the other. It is not good to walk by a bank side, or to play in the hollow seat of an asp. He that hath escaped often, is not secure: but he that hath already smarted under the calamity, hath not so much left him to alleviate the evil, as the miserable excuse of, 'I did not think it:' for he hath found that it was so dangerous. But, therefore, he must decline no trouble that he may save his soul; and that estate is well spent that secures such an interest. But if a man be afraid of his forehead, he must not gather honey from a bee-hive: and in many cases, if a man stands upon the matter of inconvenience, he must not pretend to be a servant of God. If you dwell in a temptation, your are in danger of eternal death; and to be secure against such a danger, what danger is it which a wise man will not endure? All the glories of his father could never have tempted Phaeton to have come near one of the horses of the sun, after they had given him such an horrid falls. When you have seen yourself overpowered by the temptation, come not near it any more; change your dwelling: let not one house hold you both, nor the same stars ever see you meet.
But that 'this must be done before you receive the blessed sacrament' is therefore affirmed--because no man can resolve against all sin, unless he be stronger than his temptation, or fly from it: But he that chooses to dwell with the next and proper opportunity of sin,--either he directly loves the sin, or by interpretation he loves not God, who will not for his service suffer the inconvenience of leaving his mistress, or venture the favour of his patron, or is afraid to grieve his tempter, or will at no hand suffer the diminution of his fortune.
It may be deferred upon the same terms, upon which it can be quite omitted; that is, when, upon any sure account, we are impregnable against it: but when you know not that, you must fly away directly. If you cannot, with water, quench your fire, take the wood from under it. I only add one general advice, which will fit all sorts of persons, that desire truly to serve God, and to arrive at an excellent state of virtue;--although they live in the world, and are engaged by their duty and relations to many secular divertisements, yet as they must do what they can to change these into religion and into some good thing one way or other; so by these difficulties and divertisements, they will find it to be impossible that they should do any thing that is greatly good; unless they cut off all superfluous company, and visits, and amusements. That which is necessary, is too much; and if it were not necessary, it would not be tolerable: but that which is more than needs, is a millstone about the neck of religion, and makes it impossible to be excellently virtuous.
But is he that intends to communicate, bound to quit all those occasions of Sin, by which himself was tempted, and did fall, and die?
1. I answer, that it is impossible he should. If1 you live in delights, your chastity is tempted; your humility is assaulted by receiving honour; your religion by much business: your truth by much talk; your charity by living in the world; and yet we must not hasten out of it, nor swear eternal silence, nor lay aside all our business, nor quit our preferment and honourable employment, nor refuse all secular comforts, and live in pains that we may preserve these respective graces, and yet something we must do; some occasions must be quitted before we communicate. To that, therefore, the answer is certain and indisputable: that the occasion that is immediate to the sin, must be quitted in that which it does minister to sin. A woman is not bound to spoil her face, though by her beauty she hath fallen: because her beauty was not the immediate cause: it was her unguarded conversation, and looser society; the laying her treasure open, or her wanton comportment. For beauty will invite a noble flame, as soon as kindle a smoking brand; and, therefore, the face may be preserved and the chastity too, if that be removed which brings the danger and stands closer to the sin.
2. When Dionysius, of Sicily, gave to Aristippus five Attic talents, he and his servant dragged them home upon their backs; but finding himself too glad of his money, he threw it into the sea, as supposing the money to be the tempter, and no safety to be had, as long as it was above the water. If he had thought right, he had done right: if he would not have cured his covetousness and kept the money, he had done well to part with it; but, it may be, he might have been as safe, and yet wiser too. But the resolution is this. In this question distinguish the next occasion from that which is further off; and we are bound to quit that, not this, because the virtue may be secured without it. A man may very well live in the world, and yet serve God: and if he be hindered by the world, it is not directly that, but something else by which the cure must be effected. But it nothing else will do it, then there is no distinction, no difference between the nearest occasion and that which is further off: for they must be all quitted: the face must be disordered, the beauty sullied, the money thrown away, the world renounced, rather than God be provoked to anger, and thy soul ruined by thy inevitable sin.
3. He that comes to the holy sacrament, must, before his coming, so repent of his injury, of his rapine, of his slander, or whatever the instance be, that, before he communicates, he make actual restitution, perfect amends, entire satisfaction, and be really reconciled to his offended brother. This is to be understood in these cases:--
1. If the injury be remaining and incumbent on thy brother: for it is not fit for thee to receive benefit by Christ's death, so long as by thee thy brother feels an injury. Thou art unjust so long as thou continuest the wrong: and if the evil goes on, the repentance cannot. No man that repents, does injure any man; and "this eucharistical sacrifice will never sanctify any man, unless he have the holy Spirit of God; neither will the Lord bring advantages or give him blessing consequent to these solemn prayers, if he hath already injured the Lord, or proceeds to do injury to his brother." There is no repentance, unless the penitent, as much as he can, make that to be undone which is done amiss: and, therefore, because the action can never be undone, at least undo the mischief: untie the bands of thy neighbour's arms; do justice and judgment; that is repentance: restore the pledges; give again that you had robbed; ask pardon for thy injury; return to peace; put thy neighbour, if thou canst, into the same state of good, from whence, by thy sin, he was removed. That is a good repentance that bears fruit, and not that which produces leaves only. When the heathen gods were to choose what trees they would have sacred to them, and used in their festivals; Jupiter chose the oak,--Venus, the myrtle,--Apollo loved the laurel; but wise Minerva took the olive. The other trees gave no fruit; a useless apple from the oak, or little berries from the laurel and the myrtle; but besides the show, they were good but for very little: but the olive gives an excellent fruit; fit for food and physic: which when Jupiter observed, he kissed his daughter, and called her Wise: for all pompousness is vain; and the solemn religion stands for nothing, unless that, which we do, be profitable and good for material uses. 'Cui bono?' 'To what purpose' is our repentance? Why do we say we are sorrowful what is that? 'Nollem factum,' 'I wish I had never done it,' for I did amiss. If you say as you think, make that it shall be no more; do no new injury, and cut off the old: restore him to his fame, to his money, to his liberty, and to his lost advantages.
2. But this must suppose, that it is in thy power to do it. If it be in thy power to do it, and thou doest it not, thou canst not reasonably pretend, that thou art so much as sorrowful. For what repentance is it which enjoys the pleasure and the profit of the sin, that reaps the pleasant fruits of it, that eats the revenues, that gathers the grapes from our neighbour's vine, that dwells in the fields of the fatherless, and kneads his bread with the infusion of the widow's tears? The snake, in the apologue, crept into the holy phial of sacred oil, and licked it up, till she swelled so big, that she could not get forth from the narrow entrance; but she was forced to refund it every drop, or she had there remained a prisoner for ever. And, therefore, tell me no more thou art sorry for what thou hast done: if thou remainest the purchase of thy sin, thou lovest the fruit of it; and, therefore, canst not curse the tree. Thou didst never love the sin for itself without the profit; and, therefore, if thou didst love that, thou lovest the sin as much as ever neither more nor less, but thou art still the same man.
But can it, in no case, be lawful to put off our restitution or reconciliation with our brother? Is it not sufficient to resolve to do it afterwards and, in the mean time, to receive the sacrament? For if the heart be peaceful, and the mind be just, the outward work may follow in its due time, and all be well enough.
I answer, that a man is not tied in that mathematical instant, in which he remembers his injustice, to go and make restitution. He is riot tied to go out of the church, or to rise at midnight, or to leave his meat, as Tobit did, to go and bury the dead; unless there be danger, that if he do not do it then, it shall never be done at all: for in this case he must do it, whether it be convenient or inconvenient, whether it be seasonable or not. But every man is bound to do it, as soon as he morally can; and he must go about it, as he does about other actions, in which he is mightily concerned. If a man did diligently examine himself, and yet thought not of the obligation,'--though that can hardly be supposed,--yet if it be so, and he did not think of it, till he were kneeling before the holy table,--then it were sufficient to resolve to do it speedily after, because he cannot, without scandal, remove and go forth: but, without prejudice to his brother, he can stay till next day. If he inquired diligently, and had a mind ready to do every thing which he could learn to be his duty, there was no unworthiness in him to hinder him from coming; and this cannot be prejudiced by a new and sudden discovery, if it be entertained with the same justice and readiness of mind. But else; what you can learn in these cases ought to be done at all, must be done before the communion, if we can: that is, there must be no let in the will, no imperfect resolution, no indifference of affections to it: if it can be done before, it must. For so said our blessed Saviour, "If at the altar thou rememberest, go and be reconciled:" That is, if thou art not reconciled, it thou art not in charity, or if thou beest in thy heart still injurious, and has not a just and a righteous soul, go even from before the altar; but if thou hast a real charity, and hast done the duties of these graces by a moral diligence, you may come; and a sudden remembrance of an undiscovered obligation need not to expose thee to the reproach of sudden departure: provided, I say, always that thou wert indeed truly reconciled, and truly charitable. For, by our Lord's express command, you must, at no hand, offer till thou hast been in charity: till thou hast forgiven, or till thou dost cease to hate, till thou beest 'reconciled,' that is our Saviour's word; for it is the inward grace which thou art tied to in all circumstances, and, therefore, in that; but, to the outward, something else may be necessary, and fit to be considered. Nothing can hinder thee from charity, in any circumstances whatsoever; from present or actual restitution, many things may, and yet thou be innocent: but if thou beest an angry person, or an unjust, or malice be upon thy heart, or injustice upon thy hand, let not thy hand be upon the altar, nor thy heart upon the sacrament. If thy brother hath aught against thee, I know not, why thou shouldest make haste to receive the sacrament, make haste to be reconciled: there is haste of this, there is no such haste of the other; but thou must yet stay, till thou hast done thy duty.
Only remember this, every deferring of it is some degree of unwillingness to do it; and, therefore, it is not good to trust thy own word, till thou hast served thy own end. After thou hast received, thou wilt think that there is less need than before; and, therefore, thou wilt make less haste. For what a religious man said in the case of a dying person, is also in proportion true of him who is to communicate; 'He that will not restore presently, if he can,--is not to be absolved, is not to be communicated, although he promise restitution." Because it cannot be likely that he intends it heartily, that puts it off longer than the day of its extreme, or the day of its positive, necessity. Let us not deceive ourselves: of all the things in the world, the holy sacrament was never intended to give countenance to sinners, or palliation to a sin; warranty or colour, excuse, or perpetuity. There is a hard expression in the prophet, "They have filled the land with violence; and have returned to provoke me to anger, and lo they put the branch to their nose, and behold they are as mockers;" so the seventy c read it; but make no mention of putting the branch to their nose. Theodotian puts them both together: "they hold out the branch like mockers;"--and to this Symmachus gives yet a little more light, "They lifted up the branch, making a noise like them that mock with their noses." But this interpretation is something hard; there is yet an easier, and that which makes these words pertinent to our present duty, and a severe reproof to them who come to this holy service of God, not with the love of sons, and the duty of servants, but with the disaffection of enemies. The carrying of branches, in the superstition of the Gentiles, and the custom of the Jews, was a sign of honour. Thus they carried the pine-tree before the shepherds' god: they gave the cypress to Sylvanus, and the apricot-tree to Isis: and the branches of palms the Jews did carry before our blessed Saviour; and this is it that God complains of; 'They carried branches, as if they did him honour; but they held them to their noses like mockers: that is, they mocked him secretly when they worshipped him publicly; they came with fair pretences and foul hearts; their ceremony was religious all over, but their lives were not answerable. The difficulty came from the homonymy of the Hebrew word, which signified, a 'branch,' and a 'noise;' and it will be as difficult to distinguish a hypocrite from a communicant, unless we really purpose to live better, and do so; unless we leave the next occasions to sin, and do justice and judgment, and cease to do evil, and cause that my brother shall no longer feel the evils of my injustice, and of my foolish crimes.