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that he may not; though there are medicines which will cure him, yet he may put off the taking them too long, or may leave off the taking them too soon. But be it never so sure that he shall recover, yet there is uneasiness to be felt whilst he continues ill; when his distemper is gone, some relicks of it may still remain behind; or if he should perfectly recover his health and strength, and be as whole as before, yet he is at last but where he was ; and if health be a valuable thing, it was better to have kept it, than it is to regain it.
What health is to the body, that innocence or perfection is to the soul; and if we have the same value for our souls which we have for our bodies, we shall no more think it advisable to neglect the preserving ourselves innocent from all sin, because if we do amiss we may repent, than we think it prudent to neglect the means of preserving our health, because if we do fall sick we may recover. Repentance is by the ancients frequently compared to a plank after a shipwreck : when we are in danger of perishing, and have no other way to escape, we must lay hold on this ; but we must not so far trust to this, as not to be diligent to avoid every rock of offence against which we may chance to split. Absolute perfection is not to be attained, and therefore repentance comes in to supply the want of it: but a sincere endeavour after perfection is possible; and he who sins with a resolution to repent is not sure that God will give him grace to repent in time of need.
Now, if an endeavour after perfection, if the striving to come up to the height of what God requires of us, if doing the utmost we can do in all things to keep a conscience void of offence, is confessed on all hands to be the least that can be meant by that perfection which is the condition of our salvation ; then must doubleminded persons be in a very dangerous state, who cannot pretend that they perform this condition. For can that person be said to use his utmost endeavours to be perfect, who, though he resists some temptations, yet not only yields to but even invites others ? Doth he do all he can do to approve himself to God, who doth as many actions which he knows to be displeasing to God, as he doth actions acceptable and pleasing? Can his heart be said to be perfect with the Lord his God whose affections are equally divided betwixt God and the world? Can his life be said to be perfect, whose blemishes and spots are as eminent and conspicuous as his virtues ? Can he be thought to copy after a perfect pattern, whose transcript is full of gross and palpable errors ? Can he be thought in earnest to press forwards towards the mark, whose retreats are equal to bis advances? who is always in motion, but rids no ground; and who, after some years spent in a course of religion, is got no further than when he at first set out? As well may he be thought a perfect scholar, who, in that part of learning he professes, is ignorant of as many things as he knows; or that be deemed a perfect animal, which, of those limbs it should have, wants as many as it hath, or which is destitute of as many organs of sense as it enjoys.
And as this double-mindedness is inconsistent with that superlative love of God and that eminent degree of perfection which are indispensably required in all Christians ; so is it also with that sincere faith, which is another branch of that evangelical covenant upon the observance of which on our part we expect salvation.
Of the necessity of faith to salvation no doubt hath
been ever made; all the question hath been concerning its sufficiency, Some have pleaded so much for the efficacy of this alone, that they have allowed nothing else besides it to be necessary; but no one hath ever denied, but this, amongst other conditions, was absolutely necessary. Now that faith which is required in all Christians, I mean that saving faith which alone can avail them, is utterly incompatible with that maimed and imperfect obedience which is paid to the precepts of the gospel by the double-minded. For faith, if it be sincere, and founded upon a true bottom, doth not pick and choose some revealed truths, but gives an equal and uniform assent to all. It doth not embrace the speculative truths of the gospel, which are generally more obscure and controverted, and at the same time reject those practical truths which are plain and uncontested. And among practical truths, it doth not partially take some and leave others, but embraces all, which are equally well attested, with an equal readiness of assent. But if we examine the faith of a double-minded person, if we try it by that which our apostle St. James hath made the only true test of a lively faith, that is, by its works, we shall not find it thus general and impartial. He finds gracious promises in the gospel annexed to the performance of some duties, and these he pretends to discharge, on purpose that he may inherit those precious promises : but he finds also severe threats denounced against some sins, and, notwithstanding these threats, he goes on in a constant habitual commission of them. Now how is his performance of these duties a better proof that he heartily believes those promises, than his voluntary transgressions are, that in his heart he disbelieves those threats? At some times he resists the temptations to sin because of the ill consequences which his faith assures bim will attend it, but at other times he tamely yields to the very same temptations, and deliberately commits the very same sin, in spite of that long train of mischiefs which it will unavoidably draw after it.
Now, how comes that to be credible at one time which is not credible at another? Or, if at all times it be equally credible, that the sin which he is going to commit will expose him to the wrath of God, why is not that which is equally in itself credible equally by him believed ? And yet, if it be at all times equally believed, why is not this faith as strong to overcome the temptation at one time as it is at another? That
scripture which the double-minded person professes to Prov. xi. 18. make the rule of his faith assures him, that the wicked
worketh a deceitful work, but to him that soweth righteousness shall be a sure reward. There are several wicked works, therefore, which he dares not venture upon, lest in the end they should prove deceitful; and there are several righteous actions which he performs in prospect of this reward. But still there are other works as deceitful, which be knowingly worketh, and several righteous actions, to which as sure a recompense is promised, which he deliberately omits. When a petty advantage is offered to allure him to an act of injustice, his conscience, as he thinks, but in truth his
avarice, rejects it; and he is apt to say to himself, on Matt. xvi. this occasion, What is a man profited, if he shall gain it falls much short of the whole world, yet he shall think his soul well sold at the price, and shall act as if he looked upon himself as a gainer by the exchange.
the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul ? Now if this be a good answer to this temptation, it is as good an answer to another temptation of the same kind.
on of the same kind. But let the tempter bid higher, let a larger bribe be offered, though
It is evident, from the whole tenour of scripture, that there is no sin which doth not offend God, and draw down upon us his indignation; that his anger is the most terrible evil that can befall us; that it is unavoidable, so that the sinner cannot escape it; that it is insupportable, so that he cannot bear it ; that consequently, all things being rightly weighed, it is much more advantageous not to sin, than it is to sin; and yet the double-minded person, who pretends to be convinced of all these truths, and in the strength of that conviction to resist many sins, from which he might reap considerable profit or pleasure, doth allow himself in the practice of other sins purely on account of the profit they bring and the pleasure that accompanies them. Now, how are these things consistent? how can we reconcile these repugnant actions to one another? but, above all, how can we think them compatible with a steady, firm, unshaken belief of those principles which are in words professed, but by facts, which speak plainer than words, are manifestly denied? Is it not much more probable that those seemingly good actions, which such an unsteady person sometimes performs, proceed from some other principle than a firm belief of the gospel, than that these manifestly evil actions can be done by one who sincerely believes the word of God ? Some suspicions he who acts thus unevenly may have upon some occasions that the doctrine of the gospel may be true, and in those religious moods he may follow the directions it gives to quiet his fears; but still he often surmises, that after all it may be false, and therefore, when these surmises are
SMALRIDGE, VOL. II.