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little after ascending up into heaven, always before him?
But I know it will be here objected^ we discern not this efficacy you attribute to t$s motive. The doctrine of another life i$ the great article of the Christian fait Au and it is every-where preached throughout Christendom ; and yet men generally seem to have as much fondness for this worlds as they could were there no other: they practise no virtues, but such as- are profitable and fashionable, or none any further than they are so. To this I answer; tbpT moft act thus, there, are many, I hope very many, who do otherwise; and, that all la, general do not, proceeds from wafit. either of due consideration or firm belief of this, doctrine of another life. First, From not considering it as we should. ^Tis the greatest disadvantage of the objects- o£ faith, compared, with those ofsense', that; they are distant and invisible,. He therefore shat will be perfect:, that wilt derive; any strength and virtue from this motive^ must supply this distance by devout ami daily contemplation; he must fetch the re^ mote objects of faith home to him; hemust render them, as it were, present; he must see and-, feel* them by the strength of: faith, and the force of meditation; whiclj if? he do, then will his faith certainly prove a vital and' victorious principle-', then will
no no pleasure in this world be able to combat the assured hopes of an heaven, nor any worldly evil or difficulty sustained for virtue, be able to confront the terrors of an hell. A second reason why this motive doth not operate as it should, is want of faith. We doubt, we waver, we stagger, we take things upon trust; assenting very slightly and superficially to the doctrine of another life, and looking upon good works rather as not injurious to this world, than serviceable to a better: and then 'tis no more wonder that the unbelieving Christian does not enter into Perfection and rest, than that the unbelieving Jew did not: 'tis no more wonder, if the word of life do not profit the Christian when not believed by him, than if it do not profit a pagan who has never heard of it. And what is here said of infidelity, is in its measure and proportion true when applied to a weak and imperfecl faith. He therefore that will be perfect must daily pray, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief He must daily confider the grounds on which the faith and hope of a Christian stand; the express declarations of the divine will concerning the future immortality and glory of the children of God; the demonstration of this contained in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, and his ascension, and session at the right
hand hand of God: and to this he may add, the love of God, the merits of Jesus, and the state and fortune of virtue in this world. From all which one may be able to infer the undoubted certainty of another world. The sum of all amounts to this: whoever will be perfect, must daily, I should, I think, have said almost hourly, ponder the blessedness that attends Perfection in another life; he must ponder it seriously, that he may be throughly persuaded of it; he must ponder it often, that the notions of it may be fresh and lively in his foul.
Of the several parts of Perfection, illumination, liberty, and zeah
WH A T the several parts of religious Perfection are, will be easily discerned by a very slight reflection, either on the nature of man, or the general notion of Perfection already laid down. If we consider man, whose Perfection I am treating of, as it is plain; that he is made up of foul and body, so 'tis as plain that moral Perfection relates to the soul, as the chief subject of it, and to the body no otherwise than as the instrmnent of that righteousness which is planted in the foul Now in the soul of man we find these three things; L understand'
understanding, will, and afseclions: in the improvement and accomplishment of which, human Perfection must consequently consist. And if we enquire wherein this improvement or accomplishment lies, 'tis a truth so obvious, that it will not need any proof, that illumination is the Perfection of the understanding, liberty of the wills and zeal of the assertions. If, in the next place, we reflect upon the description I have before given of Perfection, nothing is more evident, than that to constitute a firm habit of righteousness, three things are necessary: i. The knowledge of our duty, and our obligations to it. 2. Tfiesubduing our lusts and pastions, that we may be enabled to perform it. Lastly, Not only a free, but warm and vigorous prosecution of it. In the first of these consists illumination; in the second, liberty, and in the third, zeal. Upon the whole then 'tis evident, both from the nature of Perfection and of man., that I am now to treat in order of these three things, illumination, liberty, and zeal, as so many essential parts of religious Persection. Nor must I stop here, but must to those three unavoidably add humility: for whether we consider the fins of the perfect man's past life, or the slips and defects of , his best state; or whether we consider man's continual dependance upon God in all respects, but especially in reference to
the the beginning, progress, and consummation of his Perfection; or whether, lastly, vve consider the scantiness and deficiency, not only of this or that man's Perfection m particular, but of human Perfection in general, we cannot but conclude, that nothing can become mortal man (even tho' all the excellence human nature is capable of were united in one) better than humility. Humility therefore must begin and compleat-religious Perfection; it must accompany the Christian in every stage of his spiritual progress; it must crown all his actions, and add that beauty and excellence, that grace and lustre to all his other virtues, that is wholly necessary to render them acceptable to God.
The general notion of Perfection being thus resolved into its parts, 'tis plain I am now to discourse of each of these. And what I have to say on each ought, accordding to the strict rules of method, to be comprized within the (ame chapter: but to consult the ease and henefit of my reader, I shall flight this nicety, and distribute my thoughts into as many chapters (as I shall judge most convenient for the ease and support of the memory.