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tirely the product of faith and love ; and his greatest business is to maintain the ground which he has got, and to hold fast the stedfastness of his hope unto the
To render this short account of the growth of virtue, from its very feed to maturity, the more useful, and to free it from some scruples, which it may otherwise give occasion to; I will here add two or three remarks. 1. That the state and habit of perfe&tion, is a different thing from some sudden flights, or efforts of an extraordinary passion, and so is the fixt and established tranquillity of the mind, from some sudden guits, and short-liv'd 'fits of spiritual joy. No man attains to the habits of virtue and pleasure but by degrees ; and the natural method and order by which he advances to either, is that which I have set down. But as to some fallies of the most pure and exalted passions, as to short-liv'd' fits of perfe&tion, as to tranfient tastes, short and sudden transports of spiritual pleasure, it is very often otherwise. God sometimes, either to allure the frailty of a new convert, or to fortify his resolution against some hazardous trial, does raise him to an extraordinary height, by more than usual communications of his blessed Spirit; and ravishes him by some glances, as it were, of the beatifick vision.
Raptures, of love, the melting tenderness of a pious forrow, the strength of resolution and faith, the confidence and exultancy of assurance, do sometimes accompany fome sort of Christians in the beginnings of righteousness, or in the state of illumination. Where the conviction is full, the imagination lively, and the paso fions tender, it is more easy to gain perfection, than to preserve it. When a profiigate sinner in the day of God's power is Inatched like a firebrand out of the fire, rescued by some amazing and surprizing call, like Ifrael by miracles out of Egypt; I wonder not, if such a one loves much, because much has been forgiven him; I wonder not, if he be swallowed up by the deepest and the liveliest sense of guilt and mercy ; I wonder not, if such a one endeavour to repair his past crimes by beroick acts, if he make haste to redeem his lost time by a zeal and vigilance hard to be imitated, never to be paralleld by others. Hence we read of Judah's love in the day of her espousals, Jer. ii. 2. And of the first love of the church of Ephesus, Rev. ii. 4. as the most perfect. And in the first times of the gospel, when men were converted by astonishing miracles ; when the presence and example of Jesus and his followers ; when the perfpicuity and authority, the spirit and power, the lustre and surprize
of the word of life and falvation dazzled, over-powered and transported the minds of men, and made a thorough change in a moment; and when again no man professed Chriftianity, but he expected by his fufferings and martyrdom to seal the truth of his profeffion; I wonder not, if virtue ripened falt under such miraculous influences of heaven; or if assurance sprung up in a moment from these bright proofs of an unshaken integrity. But we, who live in colder climates; who behold nothing in so clear and bright a light as those happy souls did, must be content to make shorter and slower steps towards perfection, and satisfy our selves with a natural not miraculous progress. And we, whose virtues are so generally under-grown, and our tryals no other than common ones, have no reason to expect the joys of a perfect assurance, till we go on to Perfection.
2dly, As Perfection is a work of time, so is it of great expence and cost too; I mean, 'tis the effect of much labour and travel, self-denial and watchfulness, resolution and constancy. Many are the dangers which we are to encounter thro' our whole progress towards it; why else are we exhorted, to learn to do good? To. perfe&t holiness in the fear of God, 2 Cor. vii. 1, 2, To be renewed in the spirit of our minds from day to day, Eph. iv, 23. To - G 3
watch, jt and fájt, to quit us like men, tò ba Atrong, 1 Cor xvi. 13. To take to us the whole armour of God, that we may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil; and when we have done all, to stand, Eph. vi. ii, 13. To use all diligence to make our.calling and election fure, 2 Pet. i. 10. and such like? nay, which is very remarkable, these and the like exhortations were addressed to Chris fians in those times, which had månifold advantages above these of ours. If I should say, that the Spirit of God, the sanctifying grace of God, was then poured forth in more plentiful measure than ever after, not only scripture, as I think, but reason too, would be on my side. The interest of the church of Christ required it; sanctity being as necessary as miracles to convert the Jew and the Gentile. But besides this, the then wonderful and surprizing light of the gospel, the presence of Hesus in the flesh, or of those who had been eye-witnesses of his glory; á croud of wondrous works and mira: cles, the expectation of terrible things, temporal and eternal judgments at the door, and an equal expectation of glorious ones too. All these things breaking in, beyond expectation, upon a Jewis and Pagan world, overwhelmed before by thick darkness, and whose abominations were too notorious to be concealed, and too detestable to be excused or defended, could not but produce a very great and sudden change. "Now therefore, if in these times many did start forth in a moment fit for baptism and martyrdom; if many amongst these were suddenly changed, justified and crowned, I wonder not. This was a day of power, a day of glory wherein God' asserted Himself, exalted his Son, and refcued the world by a stretched-out hand. I should not therefore from hence be induced to expect any thing like at this day. But yet if, not withstanding all this, ChriItians in thote happy times, amidit 10 many advantages, stood in need of such exhortations, what do not we in these times? if so much watchfulness, prayer, patience; féar, abstinence, and earnest contention became them, when God as it were bowed the heavens, and came down and dwelt amongst men ; what becomes us in these days, in the dregs of time, when God stands as it were aloof off, to see what will be our latter end, retired behind a cloud, whicla our heresies and infidelities, schisms" and divisions, fins and provocations have raifed ? To conclude, he that will be perfect must not fit like the lame man by Bethef: da's pool, expecting till fome angel come to cure him ; but, like our Lord, he must climb the mount, and pray, and then he may be transformed ; he may be raised as