« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
bered no more ; for they cease to commit fin, being born of the seed of God. If by fin here, he means, as he seems to do, deliberate or presumptuous sin; I do not think any established Church, whether Proteltant or Popish, teaches otherwise. Mr. Barclay (f) goes very methodically to pot.
Thej.s. work, and first sets down the state of the question; then confutes those that differ from him ; answers their objections out of scripture; and, lastly, establishes his own doctrine. As to the Perfe£tion which he asserts, he lets us know, that it is to be derived from the Spirit of Christ; that it consists not in an impossibility of finning, but a possibility of not finning; and that this perfe&t man is capable of daily growth and improvement. When to this I have added, that he speaks all along of that which we call wilful fin, as appears from his description of it'; for he calls it iniquity, wickedness, impurity, the fervice of Satan, and attributes fuch effects to it as belong not at all to what we call fins of infirmity; when, I say, this is added to render the sense clear, I can readily subscribe to him : for, I know no such doctrines in our Church as those which he there opposes ; namely, that the regenerate are to live in hin, and that their good works are impure and finful. But then, he either mistakes the main point in debate,
or prudently declines : for the question is
. refraining from fin: I advance higher, and place it in a well-settled habit of righteousness. And I believe they will be as little dissatisfied with me for this, as I am with them, for asserting the perfect man freed from sin. For, as Mr. Barclay expresses himself, I think he has in reality no adversaries but Antinomians and Ranters.
As to that Perfection which is magnified by mystical writers, some of them have only darkened and obscured the plain sense of the gospel, by figurative and unintelligible terms. Those of them, which write with more life and heat than other men ordinarily do, recommend nothing but that holiness which begins in the fear, and is consummate in the love of God; which enlightens the mind, purifies the heart, and fixes and unites man to his soveraign good, that is, God: and I am sure I shall not dif fer with these.
There are, I confefs, almost innumerable sayings of the fathers, which sufficiently testify how little friends they were to Perfection, in such a notion of it as is too generally embraced in the Church of Rome. The primitive spirit breathed nothing but humility: it was a professed enemy to all self-confidence and arrogance, to supererogation and merit; and it invited men earnestly to reflect upon the fins and lips of life, and on that opposition which the law of the body maintains against the law of the mind, in some degree or other, in the best men. This conlideration forced the bishop of Condome to that plain and honest confeffion ; Itaque
Juftitia nostra, licet per charitatis infuhonem fit vera, &c. Tho? our righteousness, because of that love which the Spirit peds abroad in our heart, be fincere and real; yet it is not absolute and confummate, because of the oppofition of concupiscenfe : fo. that it is an indispensable duty of Chriftiani. ty, to be perpetually bewailing the errors of life: Wherefore we are obliged humbly to confess with St. Austin, that our righteoufness in this life confifts rather in the pardon of our fins, than in the perfe&tion of our virtues. All this is undoubtedly true, but concerns not me: I never dream of any man's passing the course of life without un : nor do I contend for such a Perfettion as St. Austiri calls absolute, which will admit of no increase, and is exempt from defects and errors. Tho' on the other hand, I confess, I cannot but think, some carry this matter too far; and while they labour to abate the pride and confidence of man, give too much encouragement to negligence and prefumption. I cannot see how frequent relapses into deliberate acts of wickedness can consist with a well-set
tled and established habit of goodness. The heat of dispute in fome, and a sort of implicite faith for their authority in others, has produced many unwary expresons, and I doubt very unsound and pernicious notions about this matter.
СНАР. ІІІ. Several inferences deduced from the true no
tion of Perfection. With a plain method how perfons may judge of their present state. The difference between the extraor. dinary primitive converhons, and those which may be expected in our da
our days, with a remark about infused babits.
T JAVING in the two former chapters
fixed the notion of religious Perfection, and proved it consonant to reason and fcripture; and not so only, but also made it appear, that it is countenanced by the unanimous consent of all, who have ever handled this subject: I have nothing now to do, but by way of inference to represent the advantages we may reap from it.
1. It is from hence plain, that Perfeétion must not be placed in fantastick speculations or voluntary observances, but in the folid and useful virtues of the gospel ; in