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HRISTIAN Perfection will perhaps seem to the common Reader to imply some State of Life which every one need not aspire after ; that it is made
of such Strictnesses, Retirements, and Particularities of Devotion, as are neither necelliry, nor practicable by the Generality of Christians.
But I must answer for my self, that I know of only one con:mon Christianity, which is to be the common Means of Salvation to all Men.
If the Writers upon Christian Perfection have fansied to themselves fome peculiar Degrees of Piety, or extraordinary Devotions which they call by that Name, they have not done Religion nuch Service, by making Christian Perfection to consist in any thing, but the right Performance of our necessary Duties.
This is the Perfection which this Treatise endeavours to recommend ; a Perfection that does not consist in any fingular State or Condition of Life, or in any particular Set of Duties, but in the holy and religious Conduct of our selves in every State of Life.
IT calls no one to a Cloyster, but to a right and full Performance of those Duties, which are necessary for all Christians, and common to all States of Life.
I CALL it Perfection, for two Reasons, first, because I hope it contains a full Representation of that Height of Holiness and Purity, to which Christianity calls all its Members : Secondly, that the Title may invite the Reader to peruse it with the more Diligence, as expecting to find not only a Discourse upon moral Virtues,
but a regular Draught of those holy Tema pers which are the perfect Measure and Standard of Christian Piety.
Now as Perfection is here placed in the right Performance of our necessary Duties, in the Exercise of such holy Tempers as are equally necessary and equally practicable in all States of Life, as this is the highest Degree of Christian Perfection, so it is to be observ’d, that it is also the lowest Degree of Holiness which the Gospel alloweth. So that tho' no Order of Men Can pretend to go higher, yet none of us can have any Security in resting in any State of Piety that is lower.
AND I hope this will be taken as a Sign that I have hit upon the true State of Christian Perfection, if I fhew it to be such, as Men in Cloysters and religious Retirements cannot add more, and at the same time such, as Christians in all States of the World must not be content with less.
FOR consider, what can Christian Perfection be, but such a right Performance of all the Duties of Life, as is according to the Laws of Christ? What can it be, but a living in such holy Tempers, and acting with such Dispositions as Christianity requires ? Now if this be Perfection, who can exceed it? And yet what State, or
Circumstances of Life, can allow any People to fall short of it?
LET us take an Instance in some one particular Temper of Christianity. Let it be the Love of God, Christians are to love God with all their Heart and all their Strength. Now can any Order of Christians exceed in this Temper? Or is there any Order of Christians who niay be allowed to be defective in it?
Now what is thus true of the Love of God, is equally true of all other religious Duties; and consequently all those holy Tempers of Heart which constitute the Perfection of Christian Piety, are Tempers equally necessary for all Christians.
A s'there is but one Faith and one Baptism, so there is but one Piety, and one Perfection, that is common to all Orders of Christians.
It will perhaps be here objected, that this supposes that all People may be equally good, which seems as impossible in the Nature of Things, as to suppose that all People may be equally wise.
To this it may be answer'd, that this is neither altogether true, nor altogether false.
FoR to instance in Charity, it is true that all people may be equally charitable; if we understand by Charity that Habit of