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vening the conscience, the fortifying and confirming our resolutions, and the raifing and keeping up an heavenly frame of spirit. 4. 'The immediate ends of discipline, are the subduing the pride of the hearts and the reducing the appetites of the body. 5. Some kinds of life are better suited to the great ends of religion and virtue, than others.
SHould I insist particularly on every one of the means or instruments of Perfection, it would lead me through the whole iystem of religion; it would oblige me to treat of all the articles of our faith, and all the parts of moral righteousness. For the virtues of the gospel do all afford mutual support and nourishment to one another; and mutually minister to their own growth and strength. And prayer and the Lord's supper, not to mention meditation, psalmody, conversation, discipline, are founded upon the belief of all the mysteries of our religion ; and consist in the exercise of almost all Christian graces, as repentance, faith, hope, charity: but this would be an endless task. I purpose therefore here only to lay down some few general observations, which may serve for directions in the use of gospel-means, point out the end we are to aim at, and enable us to reap the utmost benefit from them.
§. i. The practice of wisdom and virtue, is the best way to improve and strengthen both. This is a proposition almost self-evident: for besides that it is acknowledged on all hands, that the frequent repetition of single aSls of virtue, is the natural way to arrrive at an habit of it; the practice of virtue gives a man great boldness towards God, mingles joy and pleasure in all his addresses to him, purifies and enlightens the mind, and entitles him to more plentiful measures of grace, and higher degrees of favour. If ye continue in my word, then are ye my dis* ciples indeed; and ye pall know the truth, dfid the truth shall make you free, John viiL 31, 32; To him that hath, shall be given, and be stall have more abundance, Matth. xiii. 12. If this be so, as undoubtedly it is, it is plain, that we ought not to be fond of such a solitude or retirement, as cuts off the opportunity of many virtues, which may be daily practised in a more publick and active life. The true Anchorite, or hermite, was at jirjl little better than a pious extravagant: I will not fay how much worse he is now. Meditation and prayer are excellent duties; but meekness and charity, mercy and zeal, are not one jot inferior to them. The world is an excellentyZ-^w/ to a good Christi
an; the follies and the miseries, the trials and temptations of it, do not only exercise and employ our virtue, but cultivate and improve it: they afford us both instruction and discipline, and naturally advance us on towards solid wisdom, and a well-settled power over our selves. 'Tis our own fault if every accident that befals us, and every one whom we converse with, do not teach us somewhat; occasion some wise Reflection, or inkindle some pious affection in us. We do not reflect on our words and actions, we do not observe the motions of our own hearts as diligently as we ought; we make little or no application of what we fee or hear, nor learn any thing from the wisdom and the virtue, the folly and the madness of man, and the consequences of both: and so we neither improve our knowledge, nor our virtue, but are the same to day we were yesterday, and life wasstes away in common accidents, and customary actions, with as little alteration in us, as in our affairs: whereas, were we mindful, as we ought, of our true interest, and desirous to reap some spiritual benefit from every thing, the virtues of good men would inkindle our emulation, and the folly and madness of finnert, would confirm our abhorrence for fin; from one we should learn content, from another industry; here we
should should see a charm in meekness and charity, there in humility; in this man we. should fee reason to admire discretion and command of himself; in that courage and constancy, assiduity, and perseverance: nor would it be less useful to us* to observe, how vanity exposes one, and peevishness torments another; how pride and ambition embroil a third; and how hateful and contemptible avarice renders a fourth; and to trace all that variety of ruin, which lust and prodigality, disorder and sloth, leave behind them.
And as this kind of observations will fill us with solid and useful knowledge, so will a diligent attention to the rules of righteousness, and discretion in all the common and daily actions of life, enrich us with true virtue. Religion is not to be confined to the Church, and to the closet, nor to be exercised only in prayers and sacraments, meditations and alms; but every-where, we are in the presence of God, and every word, every action, is capable of morality. Our defects and infirmities betray themselves in the daily accidents and the common conversation of life; and here they draw after the very important consequences; and therefore here they are to be watched over, regulated and governed, as well as in our moresolemn actions. 'Tis
to to the virtues or the errors of our common conversation and ordinary deportment, that we owe both our friends and enemies, our good or bad character abroad, our domestick peace or troubles; and in a high degree, the improvement or depravation ot our minds. Let no man then, that will be perfecl or happy, abandon himself to his humours or inclinations in his carriage towards his acquaintance, his children, his servants: let no man, that will be perfecl or happy, follow prejudice or fashion in the common and customary actions of life: but let him assure himself, that by a daily endeavour to conform these more and more to the excellent rules of the gospel, he is to train up himself by degrees to the most absolute wisdom, and the most perfecl virtue, he is capable of And to this end he must first know himself, and those he has to do with; he must diseern the proper season and the just occasion of every virtue; and then he must apply himself to the acquiring the perfection of it by the daily exercise of it, even in those things, which, for want of due reflection, do not commonly seem of any great importance. To one that is thus disposed, the dulness or the carelesness of a servant, the stubborness of a child, the sourness of a parent, the inconstancy of friends, the coldness of relations, the H neglect