« AnteriorContinuar »
ten been successsul, by the blessing of God, to carry good men above their distrustsul sears to a free and evangelical temper.
2. Watch against every thing which tends to draw off your heart from God. Though it be ever fo innocent in itself, yet when you discover it to be his rival for your affections, peculiarly guard against it, that it may not be suffered to have the ascendant. And on the other hand, diligently fall in with every thing which you sind leading you to the love of .God; such divine institutions, such converse, such particular discoveries of divine truth, as you experience to be most apt to make your hearts burn within you;
3. Daily pray for the light and aids of the Spirit of God, to "shed abroad his love in your hearts," to folve your doubts, and fatisfy you of your relation; that he would " direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ," 2 Theff. iii. 5.
4. Set yourselves to act up to your hope as far as it goes, till you can proceed farther. Be much in thanksulness for general grace, while you have not an assurance of special in-terest. Animate yourselves by that to go on in duty, growing in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ; and your way will hardly fail to brighten as you go on.
2 Pet. i. 5. former part.
And besides this, giving all diligence, add to your faith, virtue.
CHRISTIANITY-encourages us to lay aside a slavish fear of the great God; and much more obliges us to get above a .cowardly sear of men. Nor is any thing more necesfary to our acquitting ourselves well in our course of obedience to our heavenly Father, than courage and undaunted refolution: which I apprehend the apostle here to recommend.
He suppofes thofe to whom he wrote, to "have obtained like precious faith with" him and the other apostles, ver. 1.1. e. to believe the Gofpel, as well as they. After this character given them in the inscription, we have the usual apostolical falutation; a prayer, that "grace and peace might be .multiplied to them." G\n this occasion he enlarges on the happy state they were brought into by the Gofpel, the great and good things given them and promised to them in Christ for this purpofe, that they might be wrought up to a divine temper and lise. Hereupon he immediately proceeds to exhort them to give all diligence m building a proper superstructure upon their belief of the Gofpel. That which he recommends, consists of seven important articles. The sirst mentioned, and which he immediately connects with faith, is virtue. ** Giving all diligence, add to your faith, virtue."
Some would understand virtue in a general sense, for an univerfal regularity of mind and manners, or a disposition to all virtuous actions. So Peter's exhortation would fall in with that of another apostle, Tit. iii. 8. "This is a faithsul faying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God, might be caresul to • maintain good works." But this general sense seems not fo natural here, because all the following particulars reckoned here, except knowledge, are comprehended in virtue taken in this large sense: "temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, charity." The answer which fome give to this reafon, seem* not fatisfactory; that the apostle sirst recommends virtue in general, and then fome principal parts and branches of it: for by the manner of expression it is imported, that every one of them signisies a distinct excellence, .fomething additional to what had gone before. Add on to the other.
Therefore I take the word virtue in a more limited sense here, to mean the particular disposition of christian fortitude. So the word «jfTV] is often taken in Greek writers, and vir'ttts by the Latins. This sense seems to agree 'best with the context. What could more naturally be prefled upon us after faith, or a be
Vol. I. H k lief
lief in the Gofpel, than courage in the proselsion of it, and in a practice correspondent to it? And what could more aptly follow upon this, than that we should add to our virtue or courage, knowledge, or a growing acquaintance with the doctrines and duties contained in the rule of our faith, that our courage and refolution may not be ill placed? . The truth then, which I am now to insist upon, is this,
That christian courage and fortitude is a temper of mind, very necesfary to be found in all true believers.
Here it will be my endeavour to shew, L, The nature of this christian grace. And, II. What may be intended in the exhortation to add it to our faith.
I. I am to explain the nature of this grace of christian courage or fortitude.
Courage in general is a temper which dispofes a man to do brave and commendable actions, without being daunted at the appearance of dangers and difficulties in the way. The heathen moralists reckon bravery in war to be the highest expression of courage, and that a foldier had the greatest opportunity to shew courage; because lise, the dearest thing in this world, is jisqued in war. Thus the christian lise being a warsare, gives the principal occasion and opportunity to shew christian courage. It is nothing else but to behave as " good foldiers of Jesus Christ," 2 Tim. ii. 3. to adhere to Christ, and to continue in the discharge of christian duty, in the view of the greatest discouragements and hazards.
To explain it more particularly, it may be proper to shew, 1. For what christian courage is to be exercised. 2. Against what it is to be exerted. And 3, In what acts and instances it should be expressed.
1. For what it is to be exercised.
For the cause makes it a christian grace. It is courage in Christ's cause; that is, in maintaining the prosession of the Christian faith, and adhering to the practice of our duty, as far as we are convinced of the mind of God; si>as not to deny a known truth, or admit the least sin, upon any consideration whatfoever. This is "warring a good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience," to which Timothy is exhorted, 1 Tim. i. 18, ig. These are the two things which christian fortitude is concerned to hold fast, and not tosusser either to be wrested away.
But it must necessarily be presuppofed, that we are caresul to inform ourselves well about the mind and will of God, relating both to faith and practice; that our courage may not be blind and rassi, without a good fo^idation to support it. Otherwise, for ought wts'kuow, we may be contending earnejtly for error, instead of the faith once\delivered to the faints; or for the mere precepts of men, or our own humours instead of the commands of God. This will not be esteemed by God christian courage, but mad rashness, is we have not made a caresul inquiry into the doctrines and duties of our religion. Though we should chance to be in the right, yet is we haye not arrived at a conviction of this upon conscientious