Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

much above the moral corruption of his nature by Perfeclion, as our Saviour was above the meanness and humility of his body, by his glorious Transfiguration. These two observations are of manifold use. For many expect pleasure when they have no right to it; they would reap, before virtue be grown up and ripened; and being more intent upon the Fruit of duty, than the discharge of it, they are frequently disappointed and discouraged. Others there are, who mistaking some fits and flashes of spiritual joy for the habitual peace and pleasure of Perfeclion, do entertain too early confidences, and instead of perfe&ing holiness in the fear of God, they decline, or it may be, fall away through negligence and security; or, which is as bad, the duties of religion grow tasteless and insipid to them for want of that pleasure which they ignorantly or presumptuoufly expect should constantly attend them: and so they are disheartened or disgusted, and give back ; which they would never do, if they did rightly understand, that Perfeclion is a work of time; that a settled tranquillity, an habitual joy of spirit, is the fruit only of Perfeclion; and that those short gleams of joy, which break in upon new converts, and sometimes on other imperfect Christians, do depend upon extraordinary circumstances, or are peculiar favours of

heaven.

[ocr errors][merged small]

heaven. Lastly, there are many, who have entertained very odd fancies about the attainment of Perfection; they talk and act as if Perfection were the product, not of time and experience, but ot an instant; as if it were to be infused in a moment, not acquired; as if it were a mere arbitrary favour, not the fruit of meditation and discipline. 'Tis true, it cannot be doubted by a Christian, but that Perfection derives itself from heaven ; and that the seed of it is the grace of God: yet it is true too, and can as little be doubted by any one who consults the gospel, and the experience of the best men, that we must watch, and pcay, and contend, labour, and persevere, and that long too, ere we can attain it. And whoever fancies himself rapt up into the third heaven on a sudden, will find himself as suddenly let down to the earth again ; if he do not use his utmost diligence to fortify his resolutions, to cherish the new- born flame, and to guard and improve his virtues.

3<//y, It may be objected against the account I have given of the growth of virtue, that when I come to the maturity of it, my colours are too bright, my strokes too bold, and the form I have given it too divine. For you describe it, will one fay, as if man, now grown perfect, had nothing to do, but to enjoy God, and himself j

self; as if he were already entered into rest, and did actually fit down with Christ in hea- venly places; as if, in a word, virtue were no longer his task, but pleasure ; as if he had nothing to do but to rejoice continually, nothing further to press after, nothing to combat, nothing to contend with: whereas the fathers generally, and all judicious modern writers, seem to place Perfection in nothing higher, than in a perpetual progress towards it; they look upon life as a perpetual warfare, and utterly deny any such height or eminence as is raised above clouds and storms, above troubles and temptations. But to this I have several things to fay, which will clear my fense about this matter, and dispel all objections. First, I have described the last stage of the Christian's spiritual progress, which I call a state of zeal, and in which I suppose the Christian to commence perfect; this, I fay, I have described in the same manner, and, as near as I could, in the fame words which the scripture does. Secondly, I do not pretend any where to assert, that there is any state in this life raised above trials and temptations. Alas! the most perfeSl man will find it work enough to make good the ground he has gained, ar>d maintain the conquest he has won ; much watchfulnels and labour, much humility and tear, and many other virtues

are

[graphic]

are necessary to perseverance in a state of PerfeBion. Thirdly, As the world now goes, and indeed ever did, PerfeBion is a state we arrive at very late; and all the way to it full of labour and travel, full of dangers and difficulties; so that upon this acccount, the life of man may well enough be said to be a perpetual warfare. But, Fourthly, I do by no means affirm, that the perfeB man is incapable of growth and improvement. Of this I shall have occasion to unfold my sense more fully afterwards. In the mean time I cannot forbear observing here, that there is a great difference between the growth of an imperfeB and a perfeB Christian; for supposing grace to be always increasing, and the very maturity of virtue to admit of degrees; yet the marks and distinctions of such different degrees are so nice and delicate, that the advances of the perfeB man are scarcely perceptible to himself, without the closest and strictest enquiry, much less can they fall under the observation of others. The first change of a sinner from darkness to light, from vice to virtue, from an aversion for God and goodness, to z fincere, tho' not a perfeB love of both, is very palpable: so again, the change from a state of weaknels and inconstancy, to one of strength; of conflict and difficulty, to pne of ease and liberty; of fear and

doubt, doubt, to oasl.of confidence and pleasure, is little less evident than sensible. But the several degrees of growth afterwards, the improvements, whatever they be, of a mature state, are of another nature, not consisting in a change, but addition; and that made insensibly. Here therefore, the ferfedi man, in order to maintain the peace and pleasure of his mind, need not enter into a nice and scrupulous examination of the degrees and measufeMflf his virtues; *tis sufficient that he make good his post; *tis enough if he follow the advice of St. Paul, i Cor. xv. 58. If he besledfasl and unmoveable, and always abounding in the _ work of the Lord.

[graphic]
[graphic]

CHAP. VL_

Of the means of Perfection. Five general observations, serving for directions in the use of gospel-means, and instrumental-<&ties, 1. Use practice of wisdom and virtue, is the befi way to improve and strengthen both. 2. The two general and immediate instruments, as of conversion, so of Perfection too, are the gospel and. the spirit. 3. The natural ana immediate fruit of meditation, prayer, eucharist, psalmody, and good conversation or friendship, is9 the quickening and enli-^

[graphic]
« AnteriorContinuar »