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man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway. But peradventure some may imagine, that there is something singular and extraordinary in these eminent persons, which we must never hope to equal; but must be content to follow them at a vast distance. Well, let this be so; what have we to fay to whole churches animated by the fame spirit of zeal? what are we to think of the churches of Macedonia, whose charity St. Paul thus magnifies, 2 Cor. viii. 2,3. In a great trial of
ftciion, the abundance of their joy and their p poverty abounded to the riches of their liberality. For to their power I bear record, yea, and beyond their power, they were willing of themselves. And St. Paul declares himself persuaded of the Romans, that they were full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, Rom. xv. 14. And of the Corinthians he testifies, that they were inriched in every thing, and came behind in no gift, 1 Cor. i. 5, 6. That they did abound in all things, in faith, in diligence, &c. 2 Cor. viii. 7. I will stop here; 'tis in vain to heap up * more instances: I have said enough to shew, that vigour and fervency in the service of God, is no miraculous gift, no extraordinary prerogative of some peculiar favourite of heaven, but the natural and inseparable property of a well-confirmed habit of holiness. Lastly;
Lastly; Is* Constancy and steadiness tfrev property of an habit? it is an undoubted' property of perfeSlion too. In scripture' good men are every-where represented as' standing fast in the faith, stadfast and* mi-* moveable in the works (f'God; holding fast their integrity: in one word, as constantly" following after righteousness, and maintaining a good conscience towards Gotf and man. And so natural is tfils to o'n'e' habitually good, that St. John affirms of such a one, that he cannot fin; I John iii. 9; Whosoever is born of God, doth not ddmntit' fin, for his fed remaineth in\ hint, and he cannot fin, because he is horn of God. Accordingly, Job is said' so. have feared God, and eschewed evil; which must be'Urtdei?- stood of the constant course of his; fc Zachary and Elizabeth are said t6 be righteous, walking in alt the commandments' os' God blameless, Luke i. 6. Enoch, Noah, tkvid, and other excellent persons, who are pronounced by God' righteius, and Just, and per jeSl, are said mjcripturei to wait with Go'd, to serve him with a perfect hears with a full purpose of heart to cleave to him, and. the li&e. And this is that constants which Christians are often exhorted to; watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit ye like men, be strong, r Cor. xvf. FJ. And'of which; the first followers of mtLord left us suchremarkable example's. The di/ciples' are;
said to have been continually in the temple bleffing and praising God, Lu&e xxiv. And the first Christians are said to have continued sledsastfy in the apostles doSfrine and fellow/hip, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers, Acts ii. 42.
Thus; 1 think I have sufficiently cleared my notion of PerfeSlion from scripture: nor nee$l multiply more texts, to prove what I think no man can doubt of, unless he mistake the main design and end of the go/pel; which is to raise and exalt us to a steads habit of holiness: The end os the commandment, faith St. Paul, 1 Tim. r. 5V is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned. This is the utmost Perfection man is capable of, to have his mind enlightened, and his heart purified; and to be informed, acted, and influenced by faith and love, as by a vital principle; and all this is essential to habitual goodness.
If any one desire further light or satisfaction in this matter, let him read the eighth chapter to the Romans, and he will foorr acknowledge, that he there finds the fabftance of what I have hitherto acTvanced. There, though the word itself be not found, the thing called Perfection is described in all the strength and beauty, in all the pleasure and advantages of it: there the disciple of Jesus is represented
as one, who walks not after the flesh, but after the spirit \ as one, whom the law of the spirit of life in Chrift Jesus has set free from the law of fin and death; one, who «<p&>v£9 does not mind or reli/h the things of the flejh, but the things of the spirit; one, in whom the spirit of Christ dwells: he does not stand at the door, and knock; he does not make a transient visit; but here he reigns, and rules, and inhabits: one finally, in whom the body is dead because of fln, but the Jpirit is life because of righteousness. And the result of all this is the joy and confidence, the security and transport that becomes the child of God. Te have not received the Jpirit of bondage again to fear, but ye have received the Jpirit of adoption, whereby we cry Abba, Father. The jpirit itjelfbeareth .witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God; and if children, then heirs, heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ. And now 'tis no wonder, if the perfect man long for the revelation of the glory of the sons of God; if he cry out in rapture, If God be for me, who can be against me? who Jh all lay any thing to the charge of God's eleil? who stall separate me from the love of Christ? and so on. If any one would see the perfeSl man described m fewer words, he needs but casthis eye on Æoflz.vi. 22: But now being made free from fin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. CHAP.
'This notion of Perfection countenanced by all parties, however different in their expresfions. Some short reflections upon what the Pelagians, the Papists, the Quakers, and the mystical writers, have said concerning Perfection.
AF T E R I have shewed that this notion of Perfection is warranted by reason and scripture; I fee not why I should be very solicitous whether it do or do not clash with the opinions of men. But the truth is, if we examine not so much the expressions and words, as the sense and meaning of all parties about this matter, we shall find them well enough agreed in it at the bottom. And 'tis no wonder, if (notwithstanding several incidental disputes) they should yet agree in the main: since the experience of mankind does easily teach us .what fort of Perfection human nature is capable of; and what can, or cannot actually be attained by man. The Pelagians did not contend for an angelical Perfection, .nor St. Austin deny such a one as was truly suitable to man: the one could not be to far a stranger to human nature, as to exempt it in reality from those errors and defects which the best of men complain of, C and