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things, and how they act the part of Antichrift in thus letting and hindring the Course of the Christian Religion.
IN the mean time I fhut up all with this Prayer, that God would give Light to thofe Heathens, Jews and Mahumetans that fit in Darkness and in the Shadow of Death, and that in order to this, he would first guide the Feet of us Chriftians into the Way of Peace, Amen.
DISCOURSE the Eighth.
MATTH. V. Ver. x, xi, xii.
Bleffed are they which are perfecuted for Righteouf nefs fake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Or, as it may be read from the Clofe, Great is their Reward in Heaven.
T has been ever a great Occafion of Diffatisfaction to fome Men that there fhould be any fuch thing as Evil in the World. A greater yet, that this Evil fhould often fall upon good, and fometimes upon the best of Men. But the greatest of all is, that not only good Men fhould meet with Evil, but that their very Goodness fhould betray them into it; that fuffering fhould not only be the Portion of the Righteous, but that Men should fuffer for the Sake of their Righteousness. It seems
hard indeed that a Righteous Man fhould fuffer, but much more that he fhould fuffer for his being Righteous, and that Affliction should not only be the Lot, but alfo the Effect and Confequence of his Vertue. For if Honefty and Integrity cannot be a Defence and Privilege against Evil, yet one would expect it fhould not be a Procurer of it, and that if the Man were not the better for his Vertue, yet at leaft he fhould not be the worse.
THESE have been always as perplext Appearances in the Moral, as any that arife in the Natural Syftem of the World; a frequent Trouble and Difcouragement to the Good and Pious, and a more frequent Occafion of Triumph to the Atheistical and Prophane, who have raised from hence their moft plaufible Objections both against the Being and the Order of Divine Providence, which by thefe greatest Difficulties of it they have been incouraged either to Deny or to Condemn.
WITH the two firft of thefe Difficulties I am not at prefent concern'd, nor fhall I determin of what Force the laft and greatest might be, were this the laft State of things, and the Allconcluding Scene of the World. Perhaps it might then be strong enough to conclude what fome. are how fo weak as to wifh and believe. But certainly with the Suppofition of an After-state the Objection is fo far from being Desperate, that I can fee nothing Difficult in it: And I think 'tis here fufficiently antwer'd by that ample Com
penfation promis'd by our Saviour to all those whofe faithful Adherence to a good Cause, shall at any time engage them in Sufferings and AffliЄtions. For fays he, Blessed are they which are perfecuted for Righteousness fake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
WHICH laft Words (as our Saviour afterwards explains them) contain not only a Promife of Heavenly Happiness in general, but of a greater Degree and Measure of it, and intitle the Sufferers for Religion, thofe who undergo Perfecution for Righteoufnefs fake, to a more than ordinary weight of Glory. So that hence arife two Propofitions to be diftinctly confider'd:
FIRST, That there are Degrees in that Glory which shall be the Reward of Saints in Heaven. SECONDLY, That one of the highest Degrees of it fhall be the Reward of those who fuffer Perfecution for the fake of Righteousness.
THAT there are Degrees of Glory, tho' by fome a much contefted, is yet I think a most certain and unquestionable Truth. The Certainty of which I fhall endeavour to establish upon these few evident Principles.
FIRST, I confider that this must needs be the natural and neceffary Refult of things. And here I defire only it may be granted me, That there are fome certain Difpofitions of Soul neceffary to relish and enjoy the Happiness of Heaven. This I think is a Suppofition that need
not be difputed, fince even to the Enjoyment of fenfible Good there is requifite a Proportion of Senfe. The Ear must be tunably fet to relish the Charms of Mufick, and the Palate must be rightly difpofed to find any Pleasure in the fweetest Delicacies. And if thefe groffer Objects that have a more natural Affinity with the Organs of Senfe, and ftrike hard upon them, will not yet affect them without fome more particular inward Preparation; there is greater reason to think that the Delights of Heaven that are so far above the Level of our Natures, fo pure and fo refined, cannot be tafted but by a fuitable Dif pofition of Soul. The Neceffity of which appears fo great, that I am apt to think Practical (as a late worthy Writer of our Death, p. 76. Church does) that the whole Moral Excellency of fome Vertues is their Qualification for the Happiness of another State, they being of no great confequence to the present Order of this World.
WELL then, if certain Difpofitions of Soul be required to fit us for the Happiness of Heaven, then it follows, that the more difpofed any Soul is for the Glories of Heaven, the more happy fhe muft needs be in the Enjoyment of them. And if fo, then 'twill be neceffary to fay, either that all Souls are equally difpofed, which would be to contradict the Senfe and Experience of the whole World; or if one be better difpofed than another, then in proportion one will also be more happy than another. The Confequence is
plain and neceffary, If there must be a Moral Qualification of Soul to fit a Man for Happiness, then certainly the more qualified the more happy. Which has made me often wonder at the Self-inconfiftency of those who allowing a vertuous Frame and Temper of Mind to be a Natural Difpofition for Happiness, do yet deny greater Degrees of Glory to greater Degrees of Vertue. Indeed if a Moral Difpofition of Soul did not fit us for Happiness, the cafe were otherwise; but fince 'tis allowed to do that, I cannot conceive but that the Degrees of Happiness must follow the Degrees of Vertue. And indeed how can he that thinks at all, think otherwife, but that a Soul well purg'd and purify'd, that has undergon a long Course of Mortification, till fhe is throughly awakened into the Divine Life and Likeness, and is arrived to the measure of the ftature of the fulness of Christ, Eph. 4. 13. must find more Happinefs in the Vifion of God, than a Soul juft pregnant with the Divine Form, and that carries away with her only the firft Rudiments of Spiritual Life! Certainly that Soul which is most like God will be moft happy in the Fruition of him. This is no more than what may be concluded from the meer natural neceffity of things, without having recourse to any positive Order of God about it. But neither may that be fup. pofed to be wanting. For,
SECONDLY, I confider that the fame may be concluded from the Justice and Goodness of God, as well as from the Nature of things. And firft,