Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

little after afcending up into hemorom hefe after afcending up into heaven, always

But I know it will be here objected, we difcern not this efficacy you attribute to this motive. The doetrine of another life is the great article of the Christian faith, and it is every-where preached throughout Christendom ; and yet men generally feem to have as much fondness for this world, 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 fo. To this I anfwer; tho? moft at thus, there are many, I hope very many, who do otherwife; and, that all in general do not, proceeds from want, either of due conßderation or firm belief of this doctrine of another life. First, From not considering it as we should. Tis the greatest disadvantage of the objects of faith, compared with those of fenfé, that they are distant and invisible. He there. foré that will be perfect, that wilt derive any strength and virtue from this motive, muft fupply this distance by devout and daily contemplation; he must fetch the remotė objects of faith home to him;, be muli render them, as it were, present; he must see and feel them by the strength of faith, and the force of meditation; which if he do, then will his faith certainly prove a vital and victorious principle; then will

no

lenting ver we take thindbt, we waves

no pleasure in this world be able to combát the assured hopes of an beaven, nor any worldly evil or difficulty sustained for virtue, be able to confront the tera. rors 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 few 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 beard of it. And what is here faid of infidelity, is in its measure and proportion true when applied to a weak and imperfect faith. He there. fore that will be perfečt must daily pray, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief. He must daily consider 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 afcension, 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 soul.

SECT. II. Of the several parts of Perfe&tion, illumi

nation, liberty, and zeal. W H AT the several parts of religious

VV 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 Perfe&tion 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 instrument of that righteoulness which is planted in the foul. Now in the foul of man we find these three things;

understand

understanding, will, and affečtions : in the improvement and accomplishment of which, human Perfe&tion must confequently confist. 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 will, and zeal of the affe&tions. 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: 1. The knowledge of our duty, and our obligations to it. 2. The subduing our lufts and passions, 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 mån, that I am now to treat in order of these three things, illumination, liberty, and zeal, as so many essential parts of religious Pers fection. Nor must I stop here, but must to those three unavoidably add humility: for whether we consider the sins 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, we consider the scantiness and deficiency, not only of this or that man's Perfe&tion in 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 same chapter : but to consult the ease and benefit of my reader, I shall night this nicety, and distribute my thoughts into as many chapters, as I shall judge most convenient for the ease and support of the memory.

[merged small][ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »