« AnteriorContinuar »
to holiness and virtue. This I fay then; he that will be free, must lay down as a general rule to himself, from which he must resolve never to swerve, that he is by all rational and possible methods to diminish the strength and authority of the body, and increase that of the mind. By this we ought to judge of the conveniences or inconveniencies of our worldly fortunes; by this we are to determine of the innocence or malignity of actions; by this we are to form and estimate our acquaintance and conversation, and by this 'we are to judge of the bent and tendency of our lives ; by this we are to regulate our diversions; by this we may resolve of the nature and degree of our pleasures, whether lawful, whether expedient, or not: and in one word, by this we may pass a true sentence upon the degrees and measures of our natural affections. There are many things that are in their own nature indifferent enough, that prove not so to me; and there is such a latitude in the degrees and measures of duty and deviations from it, that it is a very hard matter in several cases to define nicely and strictly what is lawful or unlawful: but I am lure, in all cases this is a wife and safe rule, that we are to aim at the strengthping the authority of our minds, and the
weakning the force and power of our carnal appetites. By consequence, every man ought to examine himself, by what arts, by what practices the light of his understanding comes to be obscured, the authority of his reason weakened, and the tenderness of his conscience to be so much blunted and worn off: and when he has discovered this, he must avoid these things as temptations and snares ; he must shun these paths, as those that lead to danger and death; and whatever he finds to have a contrary tendency, these are the things that he must do, these are the things that he must study, contrive, and follow. How happy would a man be, how perfect would he soon grow, if he did conduct himself by this rule t How little need would he have of outward comforts; how little value would he have for power and honour, for the state and pride of life? How little would he hunt after the pleasures offense? What peace should he maintain within, when he should do nothing that were repugnant to the reason of his mind? What joy and hope would he abound with, when he should have so many daily proofs of his integrity, as the living above the body would give him? And -how would all this strengthen and exalt the mind ; what flights would it take towards heaven, and how invincible would it prove to all tempta
tions? Happy and perfect that man, who has the kingdom of God thus within him, whose life is hid with Christ in God I when Christ, who is his life shall appear, he allb shall appear with him in glory. This is a comprehensive rule, and if well pursued, sufficient of its self to do the work I am here aiming at: but that it may be more easily reduced to practice, I think it not amiis to take a more particular view of it: and then it may be resolved into these two:
1. We must lay due restraints upon the body.
2. We must invigorate and fortify the mind, partly by the light of the gospel, and the grace of the Holy Spirit; and partly by accustoming it to retire and withdraw itself from the body.
§. 1. As to the restraints we are to lay upon the body, what they are, we easily learn from the scriptures: for first these exprefly forbid us to gratify the lusts and affections of the flesh ; and that not only because they are injurious to our neighbour, and a dishonour to our holy profession, but also because they have an ill influence upon the strength and liberty, the power and authority of the mind. Dearly Moved, I beseech you as jl rangers and pil
grims, abstain from flejhly lusts which war against the soul, i Pet. ii. 11. And whoever enters into the account of things, will easily discern this to be true; there is a deceitfulness in sin, a sensuality in lust: who sees not that there is more attraction in the pride and ostentation of life, than in the simplicity and plainness of it? That there is more temptation and allurement in riot and luxury, than in frugality and a competency? That the imagination of a Solomon himself cannot but be wretchedly abused, if he give it leave to wander and wanton in variety? In a word, if the mind follow a carnal or worldly appetite and fancy in all its excesses and debauches, it will soon find it self miserably inslaved and intoxicated; it will be wholly in the interest of the body, and wholly given up to the pleasures of it. Secondly, Tho1 the scripture do not prohibit some states or conditions of this life, which seems as it were more nearly allied to, or at least-wile at iess distance from the lufls of thefiejh, than others are; yet it forbids us to co-vet and pursue them. Thus St. Paul, Rom xii. 16. Mind not high things.' The apostle does not here oblige any man to degrade himself beneath his birth, or to fly from those advantages which God's providence and his own merits give him a just title to; but
certainly he does oblige the Christian not to aspire ambitiously to great things, nor fondly to pride himself in successes of this kind. So when a little after he commands us in honour to prefer one another, certainly he does not teach how to talk, but how to act ; not how to court and compliment, but to deport our selves consonant to those notions with which charity towards our neighbour, and humility towards our selves ought to inspire us. Thus again, we are not forbidden to be rich; no man is bound to strip himself of those possessions which he is born to, or to shut out that increase which God's blessing and his own diligence naturally bring in: but we are forbid to thirst after riches, or to value our selves upon them, and commanded to be content with those things that we have; and if God bless us with wealth, to enjoy it with modesty and thankfulness, and dispense it with liberality, 1 Tim. vi. 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. Godliness with contentment is great gain ; for we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out ; and having food and raiment, let us be therewith content. But they that 'will be riches all into temptation, and afnare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in deJlruBion and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil, which .while some coveted after, they have erred