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St Macarius the Great Spiritual Homilies

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HOMILY 11: Christians that are willing to improve and increase, ought to force themselves to every thing that is good.

1. He that is desirous to come to the Lord, and to become the mansion-house of CHRIST, and to be filled with the Holy Spirit, that so he may bring forth the fruits of the Spirit, and perform the commandments of CHRIST in purity; ought to begin first with believing in the Lord, to give himself entirely up to the directions of his commandments, and to bid an universal farewell to the world, that so his mind may not be engrossed by any of the things that do appear.

2. He ought ever to continue instant in prayer, in the faith and expectation of the Lord, waiting at all times for his help, with the full bent of his mind continually, fixed upon it. Then ought he to force himself upon every good work, and to all the commandments of the Lord. For instance, let him force himself to be of a lowly mind before all men, and let him esteem himself worse than they, not seeking honor, or praise, or glory from any one; but setting the Lord ever before his eyes, desirous of pleasing him only, in meekness of heart, as the Lord himself prescribes, "Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly of heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls." 3. In like manner let him accustom himself to be merciful, kind, tender-hearted, and good to the utmost of his power, as our Lord expresses it, " Be ye merciful, even as your heavenly Father is merciful." 4. Above all things, let him keep inviolably in mind the humiliation of our Lord, and his manner of life, his meekness of conversation, as the standard that is never to be overlooked, And thus the things which he does now by violence, and with a reluctant heart, he will in time do freely, by being ever mindful of the Lord, and in, much love waiting for him. For the Lord observing how he forces himself, and even wrests his heart, though never so unwilling, shows mercy to him, and redeems him from his enemies, and from the sin that dwells in -him, filling him with the Spirit. And thus for the future, without compulsion or difficulty, does he perform the commands of the Lord in truth. Or rather, the Lord himself does his own commandments in him; and then he brings forth the fruits of the Spirit in purity.

5. But first he ought thus to force himself to that which is good; and though his heart be ever so much against it, to wait continually for mercy; to force himself to show compassion, to endure contempt with a courageous patience; and though he is set at nought, not to be moved with indignation, as it is written, " Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves;" to force himself to prayer,. if he have not the spiritual prayer. And thus does GOD, beholding him in these conflicts, grant unto him the true prayer of the Spirit, the true love, the meekness of truth, the bowels of mercies, yea, all the fruits of the Spirit.

6. Yet if, any one forces himself to pray only for the gift of prayer, but exerts no such vigor after meekness, and humility, and love, and the other commandments of the Lord, this is sometimes granted him; but then it is apart by itself, just according to his petition. But in his Behavior he is exactly as he was before; without meekness, for he sought it not; without humility, because he asked nat for it; nor has he a love for all men; forasmuch as he never had any concern or agony in the offering up of his prayer for it. And in the execution -of the work he is upon, he has not faith and confidence towards GOD, because indeed he has not discovered that he wants it; neither has he labored to obtain from the Lord a steady and true affiance in him..

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