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deration which spiritual prudence requires ; neither exposing nor entangling our selves, nor discouraging others by excesses and extravagancies. 2. That our self-denial never betrays us into pride or uncharitableness; for if it tempts us to over-rate our selves and to despise others, this is a flat contradi&tion to one of the main ends of Christian discipline, which is, the humiliation of the heart. 3. That we ever preserve, nay, increase the sweetness and gentle, ness of our minds ; for whatever makes us four and morose, or peevish and unsociable, makes us certainly so much worse; and, instead of begetting in us nearer res. semblances of the Divine Nature, gives us . . a very strong tin&ture of a devilish one.
Athanasus therefore, in the life of Antkony'.:. the hermite, observes, amongst other his great virtues, that after thirty years spent in a strange kind of retired and solitary life, rj 78 o'x. ws ope respe's voixdi gepwr Jercufua, arenor fixe na, na sj zaρίες ήν, και πολιτικός. He did not appear to his friends with a sullen or savage, but with an obliging sociable air: and there is indeed but little reason, why the look Thould be louring and contra&ted, when the heart is filled with joy and charity, goodness and pleasure. A serene open countenance, and a chearful grave deport,
ment, does best suit the tranquillity, puris ty, and dignity of a Christian mind.
§. 5. Lastly, Some kinds of life are better suited and accommodated to the great ends of religion and virtue than others. I shall not here enter into an examination of the advantages or disadvantages there are in the fèveral kinds of life with reference to religion. The settling this and several other things relating to it, was one main design of my last book. All therefore that I have here to do, is but to make one plain inference from all that has been advanced in this chapter. If Perfection and happiness cannot be obtained without a frequent and serious application of our felves to the means here infisted on; then 'tis plain that we ought to cast our lives, if we can, into such a method, that we may be in a capacity to do this. To speak more particularly and clofely ; since meditation, prayer, and holy conversation are so necessary to quicken the conscience, excite our pasions, and fortify our resolutions; it is evident that it is as necessary fo to model and form our lives, that we may have time enough to bestow on these. For they, whofe minds and time are taken up by the world, have very little leisure for things of this nature, and are very little disposed to them, and as ill qualified for them. As to conversation, as
the world goes now, 'tis not to be expected that it should have in it any relish of piety, unless between such as have entered into a close and strict friendship. But the worldly man is a stranger to true friendship; 'tis too sacred, too delicate a tħing, for a mind devoted to the world, to be capable of. A regard to interest, to fome outward forms and decencies; the gratification of some natural inclination, the neceffity of some kind of diversion and eqjoyment, may invite him to more familiarity with fome, than others. But 'tis hard to believe, that there should be any thing in fuch combinations, of that which is the very life and soul of friendship, a sincere and undesigning passion, increased by mutual confidences and obligations, and supported and strengthened by virtue and honour. As to prayer, men of business do, I doubt, oftener read or say prayers, than pray; for 'tis very hard to imagine, that a foul that grovels perpetually here upon earth, that is inceffantly follicitous about the things of this world, and that enters abruptly upon this duty without any preparation, should immediately take fire, be filled with heavenly vigour, and be transported with earnest and impatient desire of grace and glory. Ah! how hard is it for him, who hungers and thirsts perpetually after the profits of this world, to hunger and . K 4
thirst after righteousness too! if such minds as these retain the belief of a providence, some awe of God, and some degree of gratitude towards him, 'tis as much as may reasonably be expected from them : and may this avail them as far as it can! Lastly, as to meditation, how can it be imagined, that such, whose minds and bodies are fatigued and harrassed by worldly business, should be much inclined to it, or well prepared for it? How should these men form any notion of a perfect and exalted virtue, of deyout and heavenly paffion? What conceptions can they have of the power and joy of the Holy Ghost, of poverty of spirit, or purity of heart, or the diffusion of the love of God in our fouls? What idea’s can they entertain of an heaven, or of angelical pleasure and beatitude ? In à word, the religion of men intent upon this world, when they pretend to any, which too often they do not, consists especially in two things, in abstaining from wickedness, and doing the works of their civil calling ; and how far they may be sensible of higher obligations, I determine not. Good God ! what a mercy it is to these poor creatures, that 'tis the fashion of their country, as well as a precept of our religion, to dedicate one dảy in seven to the service of God and their souls! but have I not often taught, that purity of intention converts the works' of a secular calling into the works of God? I have so"; 'tis universally taught; 'tis the doctrine of the gospel; and therefore I shall never retra£t it: but ah! how hard a thing is it for a worldly man to main, tain this purity of intention ! how hard a thing is it for a mind, eaten up by the love and cares of this world, to do all to the honour of God! tho' therefore I cannot retract this doctrine, yet the longer I live, the more reason do I see for qualifying and guarding it with this caution : let no man that desires to be saved, much less that desires to be perfect, take sanctuary in purity of intention, while he suffers the works of his fecular calling to ingross his foul, and entirely usurp his time. If secular works exclude and thrust out of doors such as are properly religions, it will not be easy to conceive, how the power of godliness should be maintained, how any wise thoughts, or heavenly desires should be preserved in such men; or show, finally, those who have utterly given up themselves to the wisdom of this world, should retain any true value for those maxims of the gospel, wherein confifts the true wisdom that is from above. All that I have said against a lite ness, may, with equal or greater force, be urged against a life of pleasure; I mean that which they call innocent pleasure : the