Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

THE

INTRODUCTION.

[graphic]

Y what steps lam advanced thus far in my Enquiry after Happiness, and what connexion or coherence there is, between this and two tthcr discourses already published on that subject, is veiy obvious. In the first, I endeavour to remove those objections which represent all enquiries and attempts after true happiness in this life, either as fantastick or unnecessary; or, which is as bad, yajnand to no purpose; and, after I have asserted the value and possibility of happiness, I do in general point out the true reasons of our ill success and disappointment in pursuit of it. In the seconds I state the true notion of human life, insist upon the several kinds of it, and shew what qualifications and virtues the aSlive and con* templative life demand; and then consider how life may be prolonged and improved. in this third, I prosecute the same design, which I had in the two former; the promoting human happiness. For life, perfection^ and happiness have a close and inseparable rable dependance on one another. For as life, which is the rational exercise and employment of our powers and faculties, does naturally advance on, and terminate in Perfection; so Perfection, which is nothing else but the maturity of human virtues, does naturally end in that rest and peace, that tranquillity, serenity, and joy of mind, which we call Happiness. Now Perfection, in an abstracted and metaphysical notion of it, is a state that admits neither of accession nor diminution. But talking of it practically, and in a manner accommodated to the nature of things, the Perfection of man consists in such endowments' and attaiments as man is generally capable of in this life. And because man may be considered either in relation to this, or to another world, therefore human Perfection may, I think, naturally enough be divided 1 into religious and secular. By secular, I mean that which regards our interest in this life: by religious, that which secures it in eternity. The one more directly and immediately aims at the favour of man j the other at the favour of God: the one pursues that happiness, whatever it be, that is to be found in outward and worldly advantages: the other, that which flows from virtue and a good conscience. 'Tis easy now to discern, which of these two kinds of'Perfection is the more desirable \ the one

purifies {)urifies and exalts our nature, the other poishes and varnishes it; the one makes a compleat gentleman, the other a true Christian; the success of the one is precarious, that of the other certain, having no dependance on time or chance, the humour or fancy of man ; the pleasure of the one, is short and superficial; that of the other, great and lasting ; the world admires the one, and God approves the other. To be throughly persuaded of this, is a good step towards true wisdom, as being that, which will enable man to steer the whole course of life aright. But while I prefer the one, I do not prescribe the neglect or contempt of the other; so far am I from it, that I am of opinion, that secular Perfection has very often some influence upon our spiritual state, as well as its ure and advantage in reference to our temporal one: that the most admired accomplishments of a secular life, are so far from being inconsistent with religion, that they naturally spring from it, and thrive and flourish most when they are influenced and cultivated by it; and judging that it might be of some service to the world to inform and convince them of this, I had it sometimes in my thoughts to have treated here as well of secular as religious perfection: but doubting how well this might suit with my function, and how tar the best observations I could make on this

subject

subject might fall short of answering the expectation of men of worldly parts and experience, I laid aside the design. Here then, I confine my meditations wholly to Religious PerfeEtion; I examine the nature of it, both in general, and in particular; not only stating the true notion of it, but also descending to the several branches and parts of it; I free it from those mistakes and disputes that perplex and incumber if; I lay down the motives to it, and prescribe the ways of obtaining it.

After this short account of my design; the next thing I am to do, js to prevent, if I can, those prejudices which may either wholly frustrate, or at least very much hinder aad diminish the success and influence of it. Some are apt to startle at the very mention of Perfection; they have entertained such humble thoughts, not only of <human nature, but, as it seems, of divine grace too and evangelical righteousness, that all talk of Perfection seems to them like the preaching a new gospel, and an obtruding upon the world a fantastick scheme .of proud and pretending morality. But this fear will soon vanish, when I tejl such; that I discourse of the PerfeBion of wen, not angels: and, that I .treat this. not like a monk, or a sublime and subtle schooi* man, but like one, who have been .daijy conversant wkh the doubts and scruples,

[graphic]

with the fears and frailties of human nature, and departing fouls. I do not pretend to bless the world with the discovery of new truths. If at any time I place old ones in a better light; if I wipe off the dust, which dispute and time, and the corruption of manners, has here and there scattered upon them, 'tis the utmost I aim at.

But how numerous, will some say, are the controversies that have in every age perplexed this subject? Grace and nature\ perfection and/?«, merit, supererogation, &c. these are themes that have exercised and embroiled the Church of Christ, almost through all the several ages of it down to this day: and with how little advantage to the honour of Christianity, and the interest of virtue, have the brightest parts, and the deepest learning been here employed? To this, all I have to fay, is, I write practically, and consult the interest of souls, not parties. I cannot but fee, and that with trouble and regret, how much Christianity has in almost all times suffered by those nice and subtle, by those obstinate and passionate disputes, with which writers have even oppressed and stifled the most practical subjects; and do most earnestly desire to fee the spirit of Polemical divinity cast out of the Church of Christ, and that of a practical and experimental one established in the room of it. Tho' therefore, I have considered

those

« AnteriorContinuar »