« AnteriorContinuar »
who has had so long an experience of the beauty, and of the pleasure of it? Good habits, when they are grown up to perfection and maturity, seem to me as natural as 'tis possible evil ones should be: and
• if so, 'tis no less difficult to extirpate the one than the other. And I think I have the scripture on my side in this opinion: Does the prophet "Jeremy demand, Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may you that are accustomed to do evil, learn to do well, Jer. xiii. 23. St. John on the other hand does affirm, .whosoever is born of God, doth not commit
fin ; for his seed remaineth in him; and he cannot fin, because he is born of God, 1 John iii. 9. Whosoever abideth in him, finneth not, v. 6. These are the grounds of assurance
- with respect of the time to come. As to personal and peremptory predestination to life and glory, 'tis at least a controverted point, and therefore unfit to be laid as the foundation of assurance. But suppose it were granted, I see not which way it can affect our present enquiry, since the wisest amongst those who stick le/or it, advise all to govern themselves by the general promises and threats of the goftel; to look upon the fruits of righteousness as the only solid proof of a state of grace . and if they be under the dominion of any fin, not to presume upon personal election, but to
look look upon themselves as in a slate of damnation, till they be recovered out of it by repentance. Thus far all sides agree; and this I think is abundantly enough; for here we have room enough for joy and peace, and for caution too; room enough for confidence; and for •watchfulness too: the Romanists indeed, will not allow us to be certain of salvation, certitudine fidei cui non potest subesfe faljum, with such a certainty as that with which we entertain an article of faith, in which there is no room for error; i. e. we are not so sure that we are in the favour of God, as we are, or may be, that there is a God: We are not so sure, that we have a title to the merits of Christ, as we are, or may be, that Jesus is the Christ. Now if this assertion be confined to that ajjurance which regards the time to come, as it generally is; and do not deny assurance in general, but only certain degrees or measures of it; then there is nothing very absurd or intolerable in it. For a less assurance than that which this doctrine excludes, will be sufficient to secure the pleasure and tranquillity of the perfect man. But if this assertion be designed against that assurance which regards our present state; then I think it is not sound, nor agreeable, either to reason, scripture, or experience. For first, the question being about a matter
of otfaB, 'tis in vain to argue that cannof be, which does appear manifestly to have been : and certainly they who rejoiced in Christ with joy unspeakable, and full of glory, were as fully perjwaded, that they were in a state of grace and salvation, as they were that Jesus was risen from the dead. Secondly, 'tis one thing to balance the strength and degrees of assurance; another to balance the reasons of it. For it is very possible that assurance may be stronger, where the reason of it may not be so clear and evident as where the assurance is less. Thus for example; the evidence of sense seems to most learned men to be stronger than that of faith: and yet through the assistance of the Jpirit, a man may embrace a truth that depends upon revelation, with as much confidence and certainty as one depending upon sense. And so it may be in the case of assurance; the Spirit of God may by its concurrence raise our assurance as high as he pleases; although the reason on which it be built, should not be divine and infallible, but merely moral, and subject at least to aposfibility of error. But thirdly, why should not the certainty I have concerning my present state, be as divine and infallible, as that I have concerning an article of faiths if the premises be infallible, why should not the conches on? he that believes
and and repents is in a Jiate of grace, is a divine and infallible proposition: and why may not this other, I believe and repent, be equally infallible, though not equally divine? what faith and repentance is, is revealed; and therefore there is no room for my being here mistaken: besides, I am assisted and guided in the trial of myself by the Spirit of God. So that the truth of this proposition, I believe and repent, depends partly upon the evidence of sense; and I may be as Jure of it, as of what I do or leave undone: partly upon the evidence of inward sensation, or my consciousness of my own thoughts; and I may be as sure of it as I can be of what I love or hate, rejoice or grieve for: and lastly, it depends upon the evidence of the Spirit of God, which assists me in the examination of myself according to those characters of faith and repentance, which he hath himself revealed. And when I conclude from the two former propositions, that I am in a state of grace, he confirms and ratifies my inference. And now, let any one tell me, what kind of certainty that is, that can be greater than this ? I have taken this pains to set the doctrine of assurance in a clear light, because it is the great spring of the perfect man's comfort and pleasure, and source of his strength and joy. And this puts me in mind of that
other other fruit of Perfection, which in the beginning of this chapter I promised to insist on, whkh is,
Its subserviency to our happiness in this life.
That happiness increases in proportion with Perfection, cannot be denied; unleis we will at the fame time deny the happiness of a man, to exceed that of an infant, or the happiness of an angel that of man. Now this truth being of a very great importance, and serving singly instead of a thousand motives to Perfection, I will consider it impartially, and as closely as I can. Happiness and pleasure, are generally thought to be only two words for the fame thing: nor is this very remote from truth; for let but pleasure be solid and lasting, and I cannot see what more is wanting to make man happy. The beft way therefore to determine how much Perfection contributes to our happiness, is to examine how much it contributes to our pleasure.
If, with the Epicurean, we think indolence our supreme happiness, and define pleasure by the absence of pain; then I am sure the perfeSl man will have the bell claim to it. He surely is freest from the mistakes and errors, from the passions and