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The second general instrument of Holy Living, Purity of Intention.

That we should intend and design God’s glory in every action we do, whether it be natural or chosen, is expressed by St. Paul,14141 Cor. x. 31. “Whether ye eat or drink, do all to the glory of God. Which rule, when we observe, every action of nature becomes religious, and every meal is an act of worship, and shall have its reward in its proportion, as well as an act of prayer. Blessed be that grace and goodness of God, which, out of infinite desire to glorify and save mankind, would make the very works of nature capable of becoming acts of virtue, that all our life-time we may do him service.

This grace is so excellent that it sanctifies the most common action of our life; and yet so necessary that, without it, the very best actions of our devotion are imperfect and vicious. For he that prays out of custom, or gives alms for praise, or fasts to be accounted religious, is but a pharisee hypocrite in his fast. But a holy end sanctifies all these and all other actions, which can be made holy, and gives distinction to them, and procures acceptance.

For, as to know the end distinguishes a man from a beast, so to choose a good end distinguishes him from an evil man. Hezekiah repeated his good deeds upon his sick-bed, and obtained favour of God, but the pharisee was accounted insolent for doing1515Atticus eximie si coenat, lautus, habetur; Si Rutilus, demens — the same thing: because this man did it to upbraid his brother, the other to obtain a mercy of God. Zacharias questioned with the angel about his message, and was made speechless for his incredulity; but the blessed Virgin Mary questioned too, and was blameless; for she did it to inquire after the manner of the thing, but he did not believe the thing itself; he doubted of God’s power, or the truth of the messenger; but she only of her own incapacity. This was it which distinguished the mourning of David from the exclamation of Saul; the confession of Pharaoh from that of Manasses; the tears of Peter from the repentance of Judas: ‘for the praise is not in the deed done, but in the manner of its doing.’1616Seneca. If a man visits his sick friend, and watches at his pillow for charity’s sake, and because of his old affection, we approve it; but if he does it in hope of legacy, he is a vulture, and only watches for the carcass. The same things are honest and dishonest: the manner of doing them, and the end of the design, makes the separation.’

Holy intention is to the actions of a man that which the soul is to the body, or form to its matter, or the root to the tree, or the sun to the world, or the fountain to a river, or the base to a pillar: for, without these, the body is a dead trunk, the matter is sluggish, the tree is a block, the world is darkness, the river is quickly dry, the pillar rushes into flatness and a ruin; and the action is sinful, or unprofitable and vain. The poor farmer that gave a dish of cold water to Artaxerxes was rewarded with a golden goblet; and he that gives the same to a disciple in the name of a disciple, shall have a crown; but if he gives water in dispute, when the disciple needs wine or a cordial, his reward shall be to want that water to cool his tongue.

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