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as the heavens are above the earth, so far are His ways exalted above ours.”
In praying, then, not to be led into temptation, we petition for two favours ; first, that we may not fall into temptation, that is, into opposition to the Divine law, whereunto we are tempted; that we may not abandon God and our fidelity to Him, but that we may oppose the spirit of lies, and may be assisted thereto by light and the power of God, which is His grace. The second favour for which we ask is, that we may not be exposed to those temptations which act powerfully or secretly, before which the Divine wisdom foresees that we should fall. So that the sixth petition expresses an act of humility in our infirmity and littleness, and the determination of our will to persevere in our fidelity and obedience to God.
It was in this sense that Christ bade His disciples to watch and pray, lest they should enter into temptation. Such also, according to John Moschus, is the interpretation of the Fathers. We pray not, say they, never to be tempted, but that we may never be overcome by temptation. The martyrs were tempted by bitter tortures; but they were not overcome, they did not enter into temptation ; they did not yield, as if assailed by the fury of some wild beast.
In the letters of the holy Cardinal Peter Damian, we read the history of an event which occurred in his days, not less remarkable than lamentable. A fisherman had placed his little son in the fore part of his boat, and had gone to a considerable distance from the shore, when suddenly a fish of enormous size darted into his net. Delighted with the possession of so rich a prize, the fisherman drew in his net, and cast the fish into the middle of the boat, so that its head was turned towards the child, who sat at one end. The man was now busy with the rudder, and, in his joy, thought of nothing but happiness, when his son, terrified by the look of the fish, raised a piteous cry, · Father, the fish is staring at me; it will swallow me!' •Foolish child,' replied the parent, 'thou wilt swallow it, not it thee! Again the boy cried out. Hereupon the father turned again to reprove his folly, when, behold, the fish sprung forward, darted on the youth, dragged him into the sea, and vanished, leaving not a track behind.
But what has this history to do with our present purpose? It may be considered as a picture of our own times. Traversing the sea of empiricism, our fathers of the eighteenth century—the fathers of the present generation-have made a great capture; they have taken that leviathan,—that monster before which, in former times, children, old and young, trembled, and have endeavoured to teach their children the fabulous nothingness of former times. The poor little ones; when left to themselves, shuddered at the appearance of the monster, and dreading his threatening eyes, they trembled at the sight of sin; the fresh and sinless life still dwelling in the breasts of these young citizens of the world of men has yet a stirring sentiment of what is above the senses, it recoils from the vapour of death and the odious aspect of lying and unclean perversity, and shudders at the sight of him who is called the liar and the deceiver from the beginning. But the old fishermen and new apostles, who cast not their nets in the name of Jesus, despise the simplicity of these innocent children, and seek to open their eyes, that they may scorn the phantom of superstition, and may not suffer themselves to be troubled by anxious prejudices in the enjoyments and pleasures of rational life. The result is, that this supposed phantom seizes these youths almost before they have passed the limits of childhood, and hurries them into the abyss of shameless immorality, from which only few are ever delivered. They are surrounded and overcome by temptations.
There are three powers which assail the human will, and which labour to withdraw it from the will and law of God. These are, the senses, the spirit, and Satan. • The senses,' writes St. Bernard, 'allure us with their enticements of gratification, the world with its vanities, and Satan with his violent and harsh temptations. But the Strength, the Truth, and the Fidelity, which came to destroy the works of the devil, for that end, and to offer as the high-priest of mankind the sacrifice of obedience, became in all things like unto us, excepting sin (Heb. ii., iv.), and desired therefore to overcome these three temptations ;— the senses, when He was required to change a stone into bread; the spirit, when allured to vanity by the offer of the kingdoms of this world ; and the devil, when He was required, through pride, to defy the omnipotence of God.'
And how did the heavenly Adam vanquish these temptations? By adhering to the Divine law, as it is declared in the holy Scriptures. And how may we, with the assistance of His grace, overcome temptations that may assail us ? By the same means, — by directing our will and our exertions that we may not depart from the law of God. Therefore does the Psalmist exclaim,
“ Enlighten, O Lord, my eyes, that I may not sleep in death; that the enemy may not glory that he has con. quered me. In the depth of my heart I have observed Thy commandments, that I may not sin.” (Ps. cvü.)
And lead us not into Temptation; but deliver us from Evil.
F, according to the ancient definition of
St. John Damascene, prayer be an elevation of the soul to God, in what prayer is this more true than in that which the Orient from above, the Son of the Most High, has taught us? Here, even in the
commencing words, we rise to the Uncreated and Eternal, that we may invoke Him as our Father, acknowledge Him in His threefold essence, holiness, and love, and pray for the hallowing of His name, the propagation of His kingdom, and grace to fulfil His will. What can be more exalted ? Can the human soul aspire to greater elevation ?
But even this soul, breathing such noble wishes, is not so free as to persevere in its elevation ; it is bound to an earthly element, perhaps deeply weighed down by the chains of sin. Who,” exclaims the Psalmist, “ will give me the wings of the dove, that I may fly away, and rest in Thee ?” As the lark, with rapid wing soaring on high and floating in the pure air, scatters around it sounds of sweetest song, must yet again de