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CH A P. XIII.
Of Perseverance. HAVE discoursed against Relapsing
into a sinful course, not as if it were lutficient for us to forbear going backWard, or to stand at a stay, but because in order to our progress in Virtue, it is the first thing necessary, to stand upon your Legs, and to be in a moving and walking posture. ,
2. THE second thing therefore we are to be careful of, is, to remember the Promises and Resolutions we have made, and to pursue them so as to transmit them into a settled Practice of all manner of Virtue. This Direction consists of several Branches.
1. We are to keep our Vows of Amendment as fresh in our Memories as 'tis poffible. For the Understanding being the original Principle of Action, which governs the Lower Faculties of the Soul, according to those Idea's and Notions that it works by it self, it is impossible to act with any certain regularity, when a Man doth not Apprehend, or doth not Remema ber what he is to do. Notions that are
quite loft have no more Power and Influ. ence upon us, than if we had never enter tained them: And this is one great cause of the Decay of Religion, that Men de not sufficiently charge their Duty upod their Memories, 'nor revolve their Obli gations in their Minds as they should do but lay aside the thoughts of their former Engagements, like those unfruitful Hearers St. James speaks of, who though they find by the Precepts of Christ how Uadefiled and Pure their whole Man fhould be; yet inconsiderately drop all care e of cleansing themselves from their Pollutions, as those who behold their natural face in a glaß, and then go their ways, ftreightway fora getting what manner of Men they were : that is, what Spots there are in their Faces which are necessary to be wiped off, Jam, 1. 23, 24. when the confidera, tion of those Resolutions we made at the Lord's Table, doth slide 6o foon out of the mind, it is impossible to conceive how they should bring any Fruit, ynto Perfection, though many were serious and strong for the time, because they are not rooted enough in the Heart to spring up, like Cora cast into the Bosom of a Kindly Soyl, but are lost presently for want of deep digestion, like Seed (catter'd by the way lide, upon stony ground, which
lies a little, to be picked up by the next Bird that comes.
Due Confideration is very powerful to Invigorate the Faculties of the Soul, and to make them productive of a New Life ; because it keeps the mind in fucha constant motion as maintains the whole Soul at its daily Work. Be sure therefore often to renew the remembrance of those Vows, which you made to God at this Covenant-Feast; consider and meditate
upon day, as you should upon your Latter End; or, that I
may allude to Moses in another case, Lay up those Vows in your heart, and in your soul, and bind them for a Yign upon your band, that they may be as Phyla&teries before your eyes, and think of them when you fit in
your Houses, when you walk by the
lie down, and when you rise up, Deut. 11. 18, 19.
2. THE next business is, to transmit them into Practice. For neither are lazy Wishes to any purpose; nor can feeble Resolutions or faint Endeavours ever answer the great Ends of Christianity. As Virtue is acquired by fingle Ads, lo is it Improved by repeated exercise, and Perfected by the assiduous Discipline of
Tis a mistake to think, that Christ's Spirit works after such a Physical Manner, as to Transform a Man
perfectly in à moment, or to make him complearly Religious all at once, by a fudden and uncontroulable Infufion of Habitual Holiness. His Operations are fuccessive; alluring, stirring, and strengthning Men to perfect Holiness in the fear of God gradually; and by helping them to Rectifie and Refine Humane Nature more and more, just as evil Custom helps to deprave it. Therefore the Practice of Virtue is absolutely necessary, because it cannot be thought how the frequent Lufts of the Flesh can otherwise be mortified, or how a crooked Dispofition can otherwise be Reformed and streightned; or how inveterate Habits can otherwise be eradicated to the full.
3. THIS, Thirdly, must be a setled Practice,' a State, a Tenour, a Life of Virtue. To resolve one Day upon a regular Progress, and then to let those Resolutions go off with ones first Sleep, is but a parting with ones Sins in a . kind of
pet, like the parting of Lovers, whom the next opportunity reconciles. Many things may provoke People to fall out with their Lusts for a while, either the penetrating faculty of the Word of God; or a sudden and surprising prospect of Hell; or the snubbings and lashes of a restless Mind; or some outward Calamity
that reneweth the smart of an old Sore,
and revives the sense of former Guilt, ás Ite the Imprisonment of Jacob's Sons in Ein sypt brought it into their freth remem
brance how guilty they had been cone cering their Brother, Gen.42.. Nor do I
deny, but such Passions are sometimes preparatory to a true Repentance, it right realon steps in before the fit be over, and obtains full Liberty of Audience. But if these motions of the Soul do not settle into a composed State of Virtue, but are only Temporary and Transient things, like a Morning Cloud, and the early Dew that goeth away, to use the Prophet's comparison, Hof. 6. 4. They cannot profit as to the main, because they fall short of the Ends of our Religion, being not effectually perfective of our Natures.
4. FOR, Fourthly, our Resolutions should pass into the practice of Universal Holiness. The Perfection of God himself consists in the Infinite Glory and Recitude of his Nature, that he is most pero fe&ly Wise, Just, Good, Pure, True, and the like, and that there is such an entire Harmony' within himself, that there cannot be the least Aberration or Declension of his Will from the Infinite Reason of his Mind; but that in all his Actions his Power is conducted by Rca