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the works of faith, the labour of love, and the patience of hope; in the purity and humility of a child of light; in the constancy and magnanimity which becomes one who has brought the body into subjection, and has set his affections on things above. This state of Perfection is well enough described by the rule of St. Bennet. Ergo bis omnibus humilitatis gradibus aseenfis, monachus mox ad charitatem, &c. The monk, having passed through these several stages of humility or mortification, will arrive at that love of God which cafieth cut fear j by which he will be enabled to perform all things with ease and pleasure, and, as it were, naturally, which before he performed with reluctancy and dread; beingnow moved and aCled, not by the terrors of hell, but by a delight in goodness, and the force of an excellent habit: both which Christ by his Spirit vouchsafes to increase and exalt in his servants now cleansed and purged from all fin and vice.
2. This notion of Perfection proves all men to lie under an obligation to it: for as aU are capable of an habit of holiness ; so is it the duty of all to endeavour after it. If Perfection were indeed an angelica) state ; if it did consist in an exemption from all defects and infirmities, and in such an elevation of virtue, to which nothing can be added; then, I confess, all dis
courses of it, and much more all attempts after it, would be vain, and insolent too. If again, it did consist in some heroick pitch of virtue, which should appear to have something so fingular in it, as should make it look more like a miracle than a duty, it were then to be expected but once in an age from some extraordinary person, called to it by peculiar inspiration and extraordinary gists. But if ChristianPerfectionbe, as I nave proved, only a well confirmed habit in goodness; if it differ from fincerity only, when sincerity is in its weakness and infancy, not when grown up; then 'tis plain, that every Christian lies under an obligation to it. Accordingly the scripture exhorts all to perfect holiness in the fear of God, to go on to Perfection, Heb. vi. and it assigns this as one great end of the institution of a standing ministry in the churches of Christ, namely, the perfecting thefaints, the edifying the body of Christ; till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ, Ephes. iv. 12, 13. And hence it is, that we find the apostles pursuing this great end, by their prayers and labours, earnestly contending and endeavouring to present all Christians perfect before God,. 1 Thess. iii. 10. Night and day prying exceedingly, that we might see your face, and might perfect
that that which is lacking in your faith, Colos i. 28. When we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ fefus, see i Pet. v. 10. Colos. iv. 13. Nay further, the scripture frequently puts us in mind, that they are in a state of danger, who do not proceed and grow in grace, and press on towards Perfection. Now all this is very easily accountable, taking Perfection fora well fettled; habit of holiness; but on fi& ether notion of it. ---.. . ;;i v. . .»
3. This account of PerfeStion removes those scruples which are often started about •the degrees of holiness and measures of duty, and are wont to disturb' the peace, clog the vigour, and damp the alacrity of jnany well-meaning and good peo*jple. Nay, many of acute parts and good learning are often purzled about this matter: some teaching,, that man is not bound toxic his-best; others on the quite contrary, that he is so far bound to it, that he is always obliged to pursue the moftperfect duty, to chuse the most perfect means, and to exert the utmost of that strengths and act according to the utmost of that capacity with which God has endowed him. Now all these things, when we come to apply these general doctrines to particular instances, and a vast variety of circum* stances, have so much latitude, ambiguity,
and uncertainty in them, that men of tender consciences, and defeStive understandings, reap nothing from such highflown indefinite discourses, but doubts and scruples. It requires a strong and penetrating judgment to resolve what is the utmost extent of our power and capacity; what the best mean, and what the most perfect duty, when many present themselves to us, and all variously circumstantiated. But now, as I have stated matters, we are bound indeed to pursue and labour after growth and improvement in the love of God, and charity towards our neighbour, in purity, humility, and the like. And this we shall certainly do, if we be fincere; in other matters we are left to our prudence, and if the error of our choice proceed only from an error in judgment, and a corruption in our hearts, we aresafe enough.
4. 'Tis very easy to discern now where we stand in reference to Perfection; how remote we are from it, or how near to it. For the nature of an habit being plain and intelligible, the effects and properties of it obvious to the meanest capacity, 'tis eajy to determine, upon an impartial examination, whether we be habitually good or not, or what approaches we have made towards it. And because this is a matter of no small importance, and men are generally
backbackward enough to advance too far into such reflections and applications, as may breed any disturbance to their peace, or any diminution of their good opinion for themselves, tho' neither the one nor the other be too well grounded; I shall not think my time mispent, if I here take this task upon me; and endeavour by several particular deductions, to lay every vaztisflateas plainly open to his view as I can.
i. Then, from the notion I have given of Perfection, it appears, that if a man's life be very uneven, unconstant, and contradictory to itself; if he be to day a faint, and to morrow aflnner ; if he yield to day to the motives of the gospel and impulses of the spirit, and to morrow to the sollicitations of the flesh and temptations of the world, he is far from being perfect; so far, that there is not ground enough to conclude him a fincere or real, tho' imperfect, convert. The only certain proof of regeneration is victory; he that is born of God, overcomesh the world, i John v. 4. faith, tho7 it be true, is not presently saving and justifying, till it have subdued the will and captivated the heart, i.e. till we begin to live by faith; which is evident from that corn in the parable, which tho' it shot up, yet.had it not depth of earth, nor root enough, and therefore was withered up, and brought forth no fruit. Regret -••• and