Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

fountains of pleasure, which the finner never tastes of, which he cannot relish, which he is a stranger to; Next, As to qutward things, that he has even here, many adyantages above the other, But what is more confiderable yet, is,

All the claim the finner lays to pleasure, is confined to the present moment, which is extremely port, and extremely uncertain ; the time that is past and to come, he quits all pretensions to, or ought to do so. As to the time past, the thing is self-evident: for the finner, looking back, fees his pleasures and satisfactions; the good man his trials and temptations past and gone : the finner sees an end of his beauty and his strength; the good man of his weaknesses and follies: the one when he looks back is encountered with fin and folly, wickedness and mame; the other with repentance and good works : guilt and fear haunt the reflections of the one, peace and hope attend those of the other. As to the time to come, the atheist hath no prospect at all beyond the grave, the wicked Christian a very dismal one, the weak and imperfe&t a doubtful one, only the wife and perfe&t an assured, joyful, and delightful one. And this puts me in mind of that which is the proper fruit of Perfe&tion, and the truest and greatest pleasure of human life, that is, asurance, assurance of

[ocr errors]

the

the pardon of fin, assurance of the divine favour, assurance of immortality and glory.

Need I prove, that assurance is an unSpeakable pleasure ? One would think, that to man, who is daily engaged in a conflict with some evil or other, it were fuperfluous to prove that it is a mighty pleasure to be raised, tho' not above the assault, tho' not above the reach, yet above the venom and malignity of evils": to be filled with joy, and strength, and confidence; to ride triumphant under the protection of the divine favour, and see the sea of life, swell and tofs itself in vain, in vain threaten the bark it cannot fink, in vain invade the cable it cannot burst. One would think, that to man, who lives all his life long in bondage for fear of death, it should be a surprizing delight to fee death lie gasping at his feet, naked and impotent, without sting, without terror : one would, finally, think, that to man, who lives rather by hope than enjoyment, it should not be necessary to prove, that the Christian's hope, whose confidence is greater, its objects more glorious, and its fuccefs more certain than that of any worldly fancy or project, is full of pleaJure; and that it is a delightful prospect to fee the heavens opened, and Jesus, our fefus, our Prince and Saviour, fitting at the right hand of God.

Thus

Thus I have, I think, fufficiently made out the fubferviency of Perfection to the happinefs of this present life, which was the thing propofed to be done in this chapter. Nor can I imagine what objections can be sprung to invalidate what I have faid; unless there be any thing of colour in thefe two.

1. To reap the pleasure, will fome one fay, which you have described here, it requires fomething of an exalted genius, fome compafs of understanding, some fagacity and penetration. To this I answer, I grant indeed that some of those pleasures which I have reckoned up as belonging to the perfe&t man, demand a spirit raised a little above the vulgar : but the richest pleafures, not the most polished and elevated fpirits, but the moff devout and charitable fouls are best capable of. Such are the peace and tranquillity which arises from the conqueft and reduction of all inordinate affections : the satisfaction which accompanies a sincere and vigorous discharge of duty, and our refletions upon it; the security and reft which flows from self-regnation, and confidence in the divine protection : and lastly, the joy that springs from the full assurance of hope.

But 2dly, It may be objected, 'tis true all these things seem to hang together well enough in speculation, but when we come to examine the matter of fact, we are almost tempted to think, that all which you have said to prove the ways of wisdom, ways of pleasantness, and all her paths peace, amounts to no more than a pretty amusement of the mind, and a vihonary scheme of happiness. For how few are there, if any, who feel all this to be truth, and experiment the pleasure you talk of? How few are they in whom we can discover any signs of this spiritual joy, or fruits of a divine tran. quillity or security ? I answer, in a word, the examples of a perfečt and mature virtue are very few; religion runs very low, and the love of God and goodness in the bosoms of most Christians suffers such an allay and mixture, that it is no wonder at all, if fo imperfect a state breed but very weak and imperfect hopes, very faint and doubtful joys. But I shall have occasion to exa. mine the force of this objection more fully, when I come to the obstacles of Perfečtion.

С НА Р.

CHAP. V. Of the attainment of Perfeétion : with a

particular account of the manner, or the several steps, by which man advances or grows up to it: with three remarks to make this discourse more useful, and to free it from some fcruples. | Have in the first, second, and third chapIters explained the notion of Religious Perfection. In the fourth chapter I have insisted on two effečts of it, assurance and pleasure : my method therefore now leads me to the attainment of Perfe&tion. Here I will do two things. It, I will trace out the several steps and advances of the Christian towards it, and draw up, as it were, a short history of his spiritual progress, from the very infancy of virtue to its maturity and manhood. 2dly, I will discourse briefly of the motives and means of Perfection.

Of the Christian's progress towards Per

fection.

Many are the figures and metaphors by which the scripture describes this; alluding one while to the formation, nourishment, and growth of the natural man; another while to that of plants and vegetables: one

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »