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Rules for our Intentions.

1. In every action reflect upon the end; and in your undertaking it, consider why you do it, and why you propound to yourself for a reward, and to your actions as its end.

2. Begin every action in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; the meaning of which is, 1, that we be careful that we do not the action without the permission or warrant of God; 2, that we design it to the glory of God, if not in the direct action, yet at least in its consequence; if not in the particular, yet at least in the whole order of things and accidents; 3, that it may be so blessed that what you intend for innocent and holy purposes, may not, by any chance, or abuse, or misunderstanding of men, be turned into evil, or made the occasion of sin.

3. Let every action of concernment be begun with prayer, that God would not only bless the action, but sanctify your purpose; and made an oblation of the action to God: holy and well intended actions being the best oblations and presents we can make to God; and, when God is entitled to them, he will the rather keep the fire upon the altar bright and shining.

4. In the prosecution of the action, renew and re-enkindle your purpose by short ejaculations to these purposes: ‘Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name, let all praise be given;’ and consider: “Now I am working the work of God; I am his servant, I am in a happy employment, I am doing my master’s business, I am not at my own dispose, I am using his talents, and all the gain must be his:” for then be sure, as the glory is his, so the reward shall be thine. If thou bringest his goods home with increase, he will make thee ruler over cities.

5. Have a care, that, while the altar thus sends up a holy frame, thou dost not suffer the birds to come and carry away the sacrifice: that is, let not that which began well, and was intended for God’s glory, decline and end in thy own praise, or temporal satisfaction, or a sin. A story, told to represent the vileness of unchastity, is well begun; but if thy female auditor be pleased with thy language, and begins rather to like thy person for thy story than to dislike the crime, be watchful, lest this goodly head of gold descend in silver and brass, and end in iron and clay, like Nebuchadnezzar’s image; for from the end it shall have its name and reward.1717Qui turatur ut maechetur, maechus est magis quam fur.

6. If any accidental event, which was not first intended by thee, can come to pass, let it not be taken into thy purposes, not at all be made use of; as if, by telling a true story, you can do an ill turn to your enemy, by no means do it; but, when the temptation is found out, turn all thy enmity upon that.

7. In every more solemn action of religion join together many good ends, that the consideration of them may entertain all your affections; and that, when any one ceases, the purity of your intention may be supported by another supply. He that fasts only to tame a rebellious body, when he is provided of a remedy either in grace or nature, may be tempted to leave off his fasting. But be that in his fast intends the mortification of every unruly appetite, and accustoming himself to bear the yoke of the Lord, a contempt of the pleasures of meat and drink, humiliation of all wilder thoughts, obedience and humility, austerity and charity, and the convenience and assistance to devotion, and to do an act of repentance; whatever happens, will have reason enough to make him to continue his purpose, and to sanctify it. And certain it is, the more good ends are designed in an action the more degrees of excellency the man obtains.

8. If any temptation to spoil your purpose happens in a religious duty, do not presently omit the action, but rather strive to rectify your intention, and to mortify the temptation. St. Bernard taught us this rule: for when the devil, observing him to preach excellently and to do much benefit to his hearers, tempted him to vain-glory, hoping that the good man, to avoid that, would cease preaching, he gave this answer only, “I neither began for thee, neither for thee will I make an end.”

9. In all actions which are of long continuance, deliberation, and abode, let your holy and pious intention be actual; that is, that it be, by a special prayer or action, by a peculiar act of resignation or oblation, given to God; but in smaller actions a pious habitual intention; that is, that it be included within your general care that no action have an ill end; and that it be comprehended in your general prayers, whereby you offer yourself and all you do to God’s glory.

10. Call not every temporal end a defiling of thy intention, but only, 1, when it contradicts any of the ends of God; or 2, when it is principally intended in an action of religion. For sometimes a temporal end is part of our duty; and such are all the actions of our calling, whether our employment be religious or civil. We are commanded to provide for our family; but if the minister of divine offices shall take upon him that holy calling for covetous or ambitious ends, or shall not design the glory of God principally and especially, he hath polluted his hands and his heart; and the fire of the altar is quenched, or it sends forth nothing but the smoke of mushrooms or unpleasant gums. And it is a great unworthiness to prefer the interest of a creature before the ends of God, the Almighty Creator.

But because many cases may happen in which a man’s heart may deceive him, and he may not well know what is in his own spirit; therefore, by these following signs, we shall best make a judgment whether our intentions be pure and our purposes holy.

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