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. iñ what I have laid down. If we appeal to Reason, no mán càn doubt, but that an habit of virtuě hás much inore of excel, lence and merit in it, than single accidental atts, or uncertain fits and passions ; since an habit is not only the source and spring of the noblest actions and the most elevated passions, but it renders us more regular and steadý, more uniform and constant in every thing that is good. As to good natural difpofitions, they have little of strength, little of perfection in them, till they bé raised and improved into habits : and for our natural faculties, they are nothing else, but the capacities of good or evil; they are undetermined to the one or other, till they are fixed and influenced by moral princí. ples. It remains then, that religious Pér. fe&tion must confift in an habit of righteoulness. And to prevent all' impertinent scrùples and cavils, I add a confirmed and well established one.
That this is the fcripture notion of Pérfection, is manifest; First, From the use of this word in scripture. Secondly, From the characters and descriptions of the best and highest state which any ever actually attained, or to which we are invited and exhorted.
i. From the use of the word: whereever we find any mention of Perfection in scripture, if we examine the place well,
we shall find nothing more intended, than uprightness and integrity, an unblameable and unreproveable life, a state well advanced in knowledge and virtue. Thus upright and perfeet are used as terms equivalent, Yobi. And that man was perfeet and upright, fearing God and eschewing ea vil; and Psalm xxxvii. 37. Mark the perfečt man and behold i he upright man, for the end of that man is peace. Thus again, when God exhorts Abraham to Perfection, Gen. xvii. i I am the Almighty God; walk before me and be thou perfect, all that he exhorts him to, is a steady obedience to all his commandments, proceeding from a lively fear of, and faith in him; and this is the general use of this word Perfe£t throughout the Old Testament, namely to signify a sincere and just man, that feareth God, and escheweth evil, and is well fixed and established in his duty. In the New Testament, Perfection signifies the same thing which it does in the Old; that is, universal righteousness, and strength, and growth in it. Thus the perfe&t man, 2 Tim. iii. 17. is one who is throughly furnished to every good work. Thus St. Paul tells us, Col. iv. 12. that Epaphras laboured fervently in prayers for the Colossians, that they might stand perfeet and compleat in all the will of God. In fames i. 4. the perfect man is one, who is entire, lacking nothing, i. e. one who is advanced to
a maturity of virtue through patience and experience, and is fortified and established in faith, love, and hope. In this sense of the word Perfeet St. Peter prays for those to whom he writes his epiftle, i Pet. y. 10. But the God of all grace, who called us into his eternal glory by Christ Jefus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, ftablish, strengthen, fettle you. When St. Paul exhorts the Hebrews to go on to Perfection, Heb. vi. he means nothing by it, but that state of manhood which consists in a well settled habit of wisdom and goodness. This is plain, first, from ver. 11, 12. of this chapter, where he himself more fully explains his own meaning; and we defire that every one of you do shew the same diligence, to the full assurance of hope unto the end; that ye be not Nothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promise. Next, from the latter end of the 5th chapter; where we discern what gave occasion to this exhortation; there distinguishing Christians into two classes, babes and Atrong men, i. e. perfe&t and imperfet, he describes both at large thus : For when for the time ye ought to be 'teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God, and are become fuch as have need of milk, and not of strong meat, for every one that useth milk is unskilful in the wòrd of righteousness; for he . B 3.
is a babe; but strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their Jenses exercised to discern both good and evil. And tho' here the apostle Teems more immediately to regard the perfection of knowledge ; yet the perfection of righteousness must never, in the lana guage of the scripture, be separated from it. Much the same remark must I add concerning the integrity of righteousness, and the Christians progress or advance in it. Tbo? the scripture, when it speaks of Perfe&tion, doth sometimes more directly refer to the one, and sometimes to the other; yet we must ever suppose that they do mutually imply and include one another ; since otherwise the notion of Perfection would be extremely maimed and incompleat, I will insiff therefore no longer on the use of the words Perfect and Perfection in scripture ; but as a further proof that my notion of Perfection is truly ]criptural, I will shew, i
2. That the utmost height, to which the scripture exhorts us, is nothing more than a steady habit of holiness ; that the bright test characters it gives of the perfect man, the loveliest descriptions it makes us of the perfecteft ftate, are all made up of the natural and confeffed properties of a ripe bar bit: There is no controversy that I know of, about the nature of a habit, every
teft characahit of holins nothing m
man's experience instructs him in the whole philosophy of it; we are all agreed, that it is a kind of second nature, that it makes us exert our selves with desire and earnestness, with satisfa&tion and pleasure ; that it renders us fixed in our choice, and constant in our actions, and almost as averse to those things which are repugnant to it, as we are to those which are diftafteful and disagreeable to our nature. And that, in a word, it so entirely and absolutely possesses the man, that the power of it is not to be refifted, nor the empire of it to be shaken off; nor can it be removed and extirpated without the greatest labour and difficulty imginable. All this is a confess’d and almost palpable truth in babits of fin: and there is no reason why we should not ascribe the fame force and efficacy to babits of virtue; especially if we consider that the strength, easiness, and pleasure which belong naturally to these habits, receive no small acceson from the supernatural energy and vigour of the Holy Spirit. I will therefore in a few words shew how that state of righteousness which the scripture invites us to, as our Perfection, directly answers this account I have given of an habit
ti, Is babit in general a second nature? This ftate of righteousness is in fcripture called the new man, Ephef. iv. 24. the new