« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
Lastly, He who does not find religion full of pleafure, who does not glory in Godoy and rejoice in our Lord Jesus, he who is not filled with an humble assurance of the di' vine favour, and a joyful expectation of immortalityand glory, does yet want something; he is
is yet defective, with respect either to the brightness of 'illumination, the absolute ness of liberty, or the ardor of love; he may be a good man, and have gone a great way in his Christian race; but there is something still behind to compleat and perfeet him; some error or other creates hima groundlefs féruples ; fome incumbrance or impediment or other, whether an infelicity of temper,.or the incommodiousness of his circumstances, or a little too warm an application towards fomething of the world, retards his vigazr, and abates his affections.
I have now finished all that I can think neceffary to form a general idea of religiDus Perfection : for I have not only given a plain definition or description of it, and conformed and fortified that description by reason and fcripture, and the concurrent fenfe of all fides and parties; but have also by various inferences, deduced from the general notion of Perfektion, precluded all groundleks pretenhons to it, and enabled men to fee how far they are removed and diftant from it, or bow near they approacb it. The next thing I am to do, according to the method I have proposed, is, to consider the fruits and advantages of Perfection. A consideration which will furnish us with many great, and, I hope, effectual incitements or motives to it; and demonstrate its fubferviency to our happia ness.
CHA P. IV. A general account of the blelled fruits and advantages of Religious Perfection. Which is reduced to these four beads. i. As it advances the honour of the true and living God, and of his Son Jesus, in the world. 2. As it promotes the good of mankind. These two treated of in the chapter of zeal. 3. As it produces in the perfečt man a full assurance of eter. nal“bappiness and glory. 4. As it puts him in poleffion of true happiness in this life. These two laft, assurance, and presént happiness or pleasure, handled in this chapter. Where the pleasures of the finner and of the perfe&t Chriftian are compared.
F the two former I shall say nothing
bere; designing to insist upon them more particularly in the following section,
under the head of zeal, where I shall be obliged by my method to consider the fruit of it ; only I cannot here forbear remarking, that Perfetion, while it promotes the honour of God and the good of man, does at the same time promote our own happinefs too; since it must on this account moft effectually recommend us to the love of the one and the other; Them that bonour me, faith God, I will honour, 1 Sam. ii. 30. And our Saviour observes, that even Publicans and finners love those who love them, Matth. v. 46. Accordingly St. Luke tells us of Christ, Luke ii. 52. That Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man; and of those eminently devout and charitable fouls, Axts ii. that they had favour with all the people; fo refiftless a charm is the beauty and loveliness of perfect charity, even in the most depraved and corrupt times. And what a blessing now, what a comfort, what a pleasure is it, to be the favourite of God and man!
The third and fourth I will now discourse of, and that the more largely, because as to assurance, it is the foundation of that pleasure, which is the richest ingredient of human happiness in this life. And, as to our prefent happiness, which is the fourth fruit' of Perfe&tion, it is the very thing for the sake of which I have engaged in my
present prefent fubject. And therefore it is very fit that I should render the tendency of Perfection to procure our present happiness very conspicuous. Beginning therefore with affurance, I will assert the poffibility of attaining it in this life; not by embroiling my felf in the brakes of several nice and fubtle speculations with which this subject is over-grown ; but by laying down in a practical manner, the grounds on which af furance depends; by which we shall be able at once to difcern the truth of the doctrine of afsurance, and its dependance upon Pere fection.
Now assurance may relate to the time prefent, or to come: for the resolution of two questions, gives the mind a perfect eafe about this matter. The first is, am I alured that I am at present in a state of grace?
The second, am I assured that I shall continue fo to my life's end? To begin with the first: the anfwer of this enquiry depends on three grounds. .
First, A divine revelation, which des clares in general, who shall be saved; namely, they who believe and repent. Nor does any feet doubt, but that repentance towards God, and faith in our Lord Jefus Chrift, as St. Paul speaks, are the indispenfable conditions of life. 'Tis true, the notion of repentance is miserably perverted by fome, and that of faith by others: but what re
medy is there against the lusts and passions of men ? The scripture does not only require repentance and faith ; but it explains and describes the nature of both, by such conspicuous and infallible characters, that no man can be mistaken in these two points, but his error must be owing to some criminal prejudices or inclinations that biass and pervert him. Good men have ever been agreed in these matters: and catholick tradition is no-where more uncontroulable than here: the general doctrine of all ages hath been, and in this still is, that by repentance we are to understand a new nature and new life : and by faith, when distinguished from repentance (as it fometimes is in fcripture) a reliance upon the mercy of God through the merits and interceffion of Jefus, and atonement of his blood. Heaven lies open to all that perform these conditions ; every page of the gospel attests this ; this is the substance of Christ's commission to his apostles, that they should preach repentance and remifpon of fins through his name amongit ail nations. And this is one blessed adyantage, which revealed religion has above natural ; that it contains an express decla. ration of the Divine Will, concerning the pardon of all fins whatsoever upon these terms. Natural religion indeed teaches us, that God, is merciful; but it