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1. The beginning of virtue is the most difficult part of it: the nearer we approach to Perfe&tion, the easier, as well as pleasanter, is religion. And therefore, whoever startles at the difficulties, which lie in the way to an exalted virtue, has as much reason to be startled at those which will encounter him in his first entrance upon religion: and yet thefe must be conquered. 2. The avoiding the difficulties of religion, does but plunge us into worse. We are necessarily under this Dilemma : if we will attain the peace and tranquillity of the mind, we must mortify and reduce the appetites of the body : if, on the other hand, we propose to gratify the appetites of the body, and enjoy the pleasure of fin, we cannot do fo without offering much violence to the mind. And if this be lo; if such be the war and opposition between the soul and the body, that there is no way to a true and well-fettled peace and pleafure, but by the reduction and mortification of the one or the other; then it will be eafy to resolve what we are to do. For those appeals which atheists themselves make to reason, proclaim the foul of inan to be the ruling and nobler part of him. Besides, the foul is the more viral, the more tender and sensible part of us : and consequently the afflition of this must render us far more miserable, than any hardships
or difficulties virtues can impose upon the body. ' 3. Whatever be the difficulties of virtue, they will soon vanish, if we often call to mind, that peace and joy are the fruit of virtue ; but shame and remorse, of fin : that no man ever yet repented of his resisting and conquering his sufts; but no man ever yet did not repent of following them; unless he died as much a brute as he lived : that heaven is a cheap purchase, whatever it costs us ; but the pleasure of fin a very dear one, how easily foever we come by it: and finally, that we are not our own masters: there is a God to whom we stand accountable for our actions : and consequently, whether we will, or will not, we must either undergo the hardship and discipline of virtue, or the eternal plagues and punishments of sin. Lastly, The truth is, this opinion of the impoffibility of Perfection, has both been begot and cherished by those wild schemes of it, which have been drawn by the hands of a flaming, indeed, but an indiscreet zeal. But I have here recommended to the world, no fantastick, or enthusiastick Perfection. I have advanced no heights of virtue, but what many do, I hope, at this day actually feel
and experiment in themselves : none, I · am sure, but what the followers of the blessed Jesus actually attained and practi
fed. Be ye followers of us, said the apoftle, as we are of Christ. Their lives were as bright a rule as their doctrine: and by their own actions they demonstrated the power of the faith they taught. They did not, like the Scribes and Pharisees, bind heavy burdens upon others, and not move them with their finger; they did not, like Plato and Aristotle, magnify temperance and modesty at the tabernacles and carnavals of princes ; nor commend the pleasure of wisdom in the gardens of Epicurus: but they lived as they taught, unspotted by the pleasures, unbroken by the troubles of the world ; modest, serene, equal, and heavenly minded, in honour or dishonour, want or abundance, liberty or prison, life or death. Let us then no longer obje&t or dispute, but with faith and patience be followers of those who have inherited the promises : being incompassed with a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the pin which doth fo’eafily beset us; and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto
Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who, for the joy that was set before him, ens dured the Cross, despising the Mame, and is fet down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider ohim thať endured such contradiction of finners against himself; left ge be wearied and faint in your mind, Heb.
xii. xii. 1, 2. I have done with thofe, who endeavour to foften or fun the difficulties of religion, not to conquer them.
9. 3. There are others, who will look upon this setting up the doctrine of Perfe&tion, as a delign against the pleasures of mankind. What, says such a one, shall I let go my present pleasures out of my hands, to hunt after I know not what, and I know not where? Shall I quit pleasures that are every-where obvious, for such as have no being, it may be, but in speculation ? or at least, are never to be enjoyed by any, but some few rare and happy creatures, the favourites of God and nature? Pleafures, that have matter and substance in them, for such as I can no more grasp and relish than I can dreams and visions ? But to this I answer, This pretty talk is all but stupid ignorance and gross mistakes. For, 1. As to innocent and virtuous pleasure, no man needs part with it. I endeavour not to deprive man of this ; but to refine and purify it. And he, that prefers either filly, or vicious pleasure before religion, is wretchedly mistaken. For, 2. Perfect religion is full of pleasure. Had we but once arrived at true purity of heart, what could be so full of pleasure as the business of religion? What can be more delightfu', than blessing and praising God, to a grateful foul;
Allelujabs, to a foul snatched from the brink of destruction, into the bofom of its Master? What can be more transporting than the melting tendernesses of a holy contrition, made up, like Mary Magdalen's, of tears and kisses, forrow and love, humility and glory, confusion and confidence, shame and joy? What can be more transporting than love, the love of a Christian, when he is all love, as God is Love; when he desires nothing in heaven nor on earth, but God; wlien all things are dung and dross to him, in comparison of Jesus? 4. If the pleasures of the world be more transporting than those of religion, 'tis because our faith is weak, our love imperfect, and our life unsteady. A constant and exalted pleasure is, I grant it, the fruit of Perfe&tion alone. The peace and joy of the Holy Ghost reigns: no-where, but where that "zeal and love, which is an effect of the fulness of the Spirit, reigns too. I had once proposed to have inlisted on the reasons of this here; but this labour is prevented, for they are very obvious to any one who hath read the chapter of Zeal with seriousness and attention. Lastly, What is insinuated in the objection, that the pleasures of the world are more numerous, or obvious, than those of religion, is altogether a false and groundless fancy. In every place, and in every state, do the pleasures of virtue wait upon