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much above the moral corruption of his nature by Perfection, as our Saviour was above the meanness and humility of his body, by his glorious Transfiguration. These two observations are of manifold use. For many expect pleasure when they have no right to it; they would reap, before virtue be grown up and ripened; and being more intent upon the fruit of duty, thani the discharge of it, they are frequently disappointed and discouraged. Others there are, who mistaking some fits and flashes of spiritual joy for the habitual peace and pleasure of Perfe£tion, do entertain too early confidences, and instead of perfecting holiness in the fear of God, they decline, or it may be, fall away through negligence and security; or, which is as bad, the duties of religion grow tasteless and insipid to them for want of that pleasure which they ignorantly or presumptuously expect should constantly attend them; and so they are disheartened or disgusted, and give back; which they would never do, if they did rightly understand, that Perfection is a work of time; that a settled tranquillity, an habitual joy of spirit, is the fruit only of Perfection, and that those short gleams of joy, which break in upon new converts, and sometimes on other imperfect Christians, do depend upon extraordinary circumstances, or arę peculiar favours of heaven. Lastly, there are many, who have entertained very odd fancies about the at. tainment of Perfection; they talk and act as if Perfection were the product, not of time and experience, but of an instant; as if it were to be infused in a moment, not acquired; as if it were a mere arbitrary fa, vour, not the fruit of meditation and discipline. 'Tis true, it cannot be doubted by a Christian, but that Perfection derives itself from heaven; and that the seed of it is the grace of God: yet it is true too, and can as little be doubted by any one who confults the goipel, and the experience of the best men, that we must watch, and pray, and contend, labour, and persevere, and that long too, ere we can attain it. And whoever fancies himself rapt up into the third beaven on a sudden, will find himself as suddenly let down to the earth again ; if he do not use his utmost diligence to fortify his resolutions, to cherish the new born flame, and to guard and improve his virtues.
3dly, It may be objected against the account I have given of the growth of virtue, that when I come to the maturity of it, my colours are too bright, my strokes too bold, and the form I have given it too. divine. For you describe it, will one say, as if man, now grown perfect, had nothing to do, but to enjoy God, and him
self; self; as if he were already entered into rest, and did actually sit down with Christ in beavenly places; as if, in a word, virtue were no longer his task, but pleasure ; as if he had nothing to do but to rejoice continually, nothing further to press after, nothing to combat, nothing to contend with : whereas the fathers gencrally, and all judicious modern writers, seem to place Perfection in nothing higher, than in a perpetual progress towards it ; they look upon life as a perpetual warfare, and utterly deny any such height or eminence as is raised above clouds and storms, above troubles and temptations. But to this I have Several things to say, which will clear my sense about this matter, and dispel all ob je&tions. First, I have described the last stage of the Christian's spiritual progress, which I call a state of zeal, and in which I suppose the Christian to commence perfect; this, I say, I have described in the fame manner, and, as near as I could, in the same words which the scripture does. Secondly, I do not pretend any where to assert, that there is any state in this life raised above trials and temptations. Alas! the most perfe&t man will find it work enough to make good the ground he has gained, and maintain the conqueft he has won; much watchfulness and labour, much humility and fear, and many other virtues
åre necessary to perseverance in a state of Perfection. Thirdly, Ås the world how goes, and indeed ever did, Perfection is à ftate we arrive at very late ; and all the way to it full of labour and travel, full of danigers and difficulties ; so that upon this acccount, the life of man may well enough be said to be a perpetual warfare. But; Fourthly, I do by no means affirm, that the perfect man is incapable of gidwth and improvement. Of this I shall have occalion to unfold my sense more fully afterwards. In the mean time I cannot forbeat observing here, that there is a great diffea rence between the growth of an imperfect and a perfe&t Christian; for supposing grace to be always increasing, and the very maturity of virtue to admit of degrees; yet the marks and distinctions of such different degrees are so nice and delicate, that the advances of the perfett man aré fcarcely perceptible to himself, without the clofest and ftri&teft enquiry, much less càn they fall under the observation of others. The first change of a finner from darkness to light, from vice to virtue, from an aversion for God and goodness, tò a fincere, tho’ not a perfect love of both, is very palpable: so again, the change from a state of weakness and inconstancy, to one of strength ; of confli&t and difficulty, to one of ease and liberty; of fear and
doubt, to one of confidence and pleasure, is little less evident than sensible. But the several degrees of growth afterwards, the improvements, whatever they be, of a mature state, are of another nature, not consisting in a change, but addition, and that made insensibly. Here therefore, the perfect man, in order to maintain the peace and pleasure of his mind, need not enter into a nice and scrupulous examination of the degrees and measures of his virtues ; 'tis sufficient that he make good his post; 'tis enough if he follow the advice of St. Paul, 1 Cor. xv. 58. If he be stedfast and unmoveable, and always abounding in the work of the Lord,
C H A P. VI. Of the means of Perfection. Five general
observations, serving for directions in the use of gospel-means, and instrumental-duties.1. The practice of wisdom and virtue, is the best way to improve and strength. en both. 2. The two general and imme. diate instruments, as of conversion, fo of Perfection too, are the gospel and the fpirit. 3 The natural and immediate fruit of meditation, prayer, eucharist, psalmody, and good conversation or friendship, is, the quickening and enli