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Descriptions of Luft; are the indecent Adions, the amourous Transports, the wanton Address of the Actors, which make so great a Part of the inost sober and modest Tragedies, are these Things an Entertainment confiftent with this Christian Doctrine ? You may as well imagine, that Murder and Rapine are consistent with Charity and Meekness. I hope it will not now be said, that I have spent too much Time upon a Subject, that seems not necessary in a Treatise upon Christian Perfektion. For tho' these Things are generally look'd upon as little because they are called Pleasures and Diversions, yet they may as justly be called Vices and Debaucheries ; they affect Religion, as Lies and Falmood affect it, in the
very Heart and Effence, and render People as incapable of true Piety, as any of the grossest Indulgences of Sensuality and Intemperance. And perhaps it may be
true, that more People are kept Strangers to the true Spirit of Religion, by what are called Pleasures, Diversions, and Amusements, than by confesi’dVices, or the Cares and Business of Life. I have now only one Thing to beg of the Reader, that he would not think it a sufficient Answer to all this, to say in general, that it is a Do&trine too strikt and rigid, but that he would consider every Argument as it is in it self, not whether it be strict and rigid, but whether it be false
Reasoning, or more strict and rigid than the Doctrine of Scripture: If it prescribes a Purity and Holiness which is not according to the Spirit and Temper of the Scriptures, let it be rejected, not as too strict and rigid, but as a Species of false Worship, as vain and ridiculous as Idolatry: But if what is here asserted, be highly conformable to the most plain Doctrines of Scripture, the faying that it is too strict and rigid, is of no more Weight against it, than if it was said, that it was too true. It is not my Intention to trouble the World with any particular Notions of my own; or to impose any unnecessary Rules, or fanfy'd Degrees of Perfection upon any People. But in declaring against the Stage, as I have done, I have no more follow'd any particular Spirit or private Temper, or any more exceeded the plain Doctrine of Scripture, than if I had declared against Drunkenness
and Debauchery. Let a Man but be lo 1 much a Christian, as not to think it too
high a Degree of Perfection, or too striet and rigid to be in earnest in these two Pe. titions, Lead us not into Temptation, but deliver us froin Evil ; and he has Christianity enough to perswade him, that it is neither too high a Perfection, nor too strict and rigid, constantly to declare against, and always to avoid the Entertainment of the Stage.
C H A P.
3 Christians are called to a constant
State of Prayer and Devotion.
T is one principal Article of our
Right Hand of God, there making perpetual Intercession for us, till the Redeniption of Mankind is finish'd. Prayer there fore is undoubtedly a proper Means of drawing near to God, a necessary Method of restoring Sinners to his Favour, since he who has conquer'd Sin and Death, who is constituted Lord of all, is yet, as the great Advocate for Sinners, oblig'd to make perpetual Intercession for them.
WHENEVER therefore, we are in the Spirit of Prayer, when our Hearts are lifted up to God,
to God, breathing out Holy Petitions to the Throne of Grace, we have this Encouragement to be constant and fervent in it, that we are then joining with
an Intercession at the Right Hand of God, and doing that for our selves on Earth, which our Blessed Saviour is perpetually doing for us in Heaven. This Reason of Prayer is perhaps not much consider'd, yet it certainly contains a most powerful Motive to it. For who, that considers his Reden;ption, as now carrying on by an Intercession in Heaven,can think himself so agreeable to God, so like his Saviour, as when the Constancy of his own Prayers bears some Resemblance to that never ceasing Intercession which is made above? This shews us also, that we are most of all to desire those Prayers, which are offer'd up at the Altar, where the Body and Blood of Christ are joined with them. For as our Prayers are only acceptable to God through the Merits of Jesus Christ
, so we may be sure, that we are praying to God in the most prevailing Way, when we thus pray in the Name of Christ, and plead his Merits in the highest Manner that we can.
DEVOTION may be consider’d, either as an Exercise of publick or private Prayers at set Times and Occasions, or as a Temper of the Mind, a State and Disposition of the Heart, which is rightly affected with such Exercises. Now external Acts of Devotion, are like other external Actions, very liable to Falseness, and are only so far
good good and valuable, as they proceed from a right Disposition of Heart and Mind. Zealous Professions of Friendship are but the more abominable Hypocrisy, for being often repeated, unless there be an equal Zeal in the Heart; so solemn Prayers, rapturous Devotions, are but repeated Hypocrisies, unless the Heart and Mind be conformable to them. Since therefore it is the Heart only, that is devout, since the Regularity and Fervency of the Heart, is the Regularity and Fervency of Devotion; I shall consider Devotion chiefly in this Respect, as it is a State and Temper of the Heart. For it is in this Sense only, that Christians are called to a constant State of Devotion, they are not to be always on their Knees in Acts of Prayer, but they are to be always in the State and Temper of Devotion.
FRIENDSHIP does not require us to be always waiting upon our Friends in external Services, these Offices have their Times and Seasons of Intermission, it is only the Service of the Heart, the Friendship of the Mind, that is never to intermit; it is not to begin and end, as external Services do, but is to persevere in a Constancy like the Motion of our Heart, or the Beating of our Pulse. It is just so in Devotion, Pray, ers have their Hollys, their Beginning and Ending, but that Turn of Mind, that Dif