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THE great design of God in his saving mercies, is to transform us into the image of his unspotted holiness. We are elected to be holy; redeemed to be holy; called to be holy; and at last, we shall be received into heaven," and made glorious in holiness, without spot or blemish.”
It was worthy of the descending Deity into this lower world, to instruct and persuade men, by his perfect rules and example, to be holy as God is holy in all manner of conversation.
The enemy of souls, in combination with the carnal mind, use all their arts to cool our endeavours in following holiness; and raise an army of objections to dismay us, and stop our progress to perfection. Sometimes the deceiver inspires a temptation with so soft a breath, that it is not discerned: he suggests the counsel of Solomon, “ be not righteous overmuch :" the intention of the wise preacher, is to direct us in the exercise of compassionate charity towards others, and not to censure them with rigour and severity for human frailties; the tempter perverts his meaning, to make us remiss in religion and shy of strict holiness. Moral men value themselves upon their fair conversation ; they are not stained with foul and visible pollutions, but are externally sober and righteous; and they will advise, that men should not take a surfeit of religion, but rise with an appetite; that it is wisdom to use so much of religion as may quiet the clamours of conscience, secure reputation; and afford some colour of comfort : but it is a spice of folly to be over religious, and justly exposes persons to derision, as vainly nice and scrupulous. They commend the golden mean, and under the pretence of temper, lukewarmness.
The objection in some part of it is specious, and apt to sway the minds of men that do not attentively consider things. To
discover its false colour, and to make a true and safe judgment of our duty, it will be useful to consider.
It is true, there is a mediocrity between vicious extremes, wherein the essence of inferior moral virtues consists; for they are exercised upon objects of limited goodness, and must be regulated both in our affections and actions, correspondently to the degrees of their goodness. Thus fortitude is in the middle, between base fear and rash boldness; and the more firm and constant the habitual quality of fortitude is, the more eminent and praise-worthy it appears. But in spiritual graces, that raise the soul to God, whose perfections are truly infinite, there can be no excess. The divinest degrees of our love to God, and fear to offend him, our endeavours in their height and excellency to obey and please him, are our wisdom and duty.
That part of the objection, that strict holiness will expose us to scorn, is palpably unreasonable. Did ever any artist blush to excel in the art that he professes? Is a scholar ashamed to excel in useful learning? And shall a christian, whose high and holy calling obliges him to live becoming its dignity and purity, be ashamed of his accurate conversation? Can we be too like God in his holiness, his peculiar glory? Can that be matter of contempt, that is the supreme honour of the intelligent creature ? A saint, when despised with titles of ignominy of the carnal world, should bind their scorns as a diadem about his head, and wear them as beautiful ornaments. The apostles rejoiced, that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for the name of Christ. What reproaches did the Lord of Glory suffer for us? And what pride and folly is it, that we should desire to be glorified by his suffering reproaches, and not willingly endure reproach for his glory? Our continual and ardent endeavours to rise to perfection, commend us to our Sovereign and Saviour. A cold dead heathen is less offensive and odious to him than a lukewarm christian.
It is a common objection, that to live in all things according to rule, to walk circumspectly and exactly, to be confined to the narrow way, will not only infringe, but destroy our liberty. This is so precious a possession, that men will defend their liberty with their lives: an ingenuous person will rather wear a plain garment of his own, than a rich livery, the mark of servitude. But if men will appeal to their understandings, they will clearly
discern that the word, liberty, is abused, to give countenance to licentiousness. There is a free subjection, and a servile liberty: the apostle tells the Romans, “ when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness; and being made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.
The soul has two faculties, the understanding and will: the object of the understanding is truth, either in itself, or appear. ance; the object of the will is goodness, either real or counterfeit. Liberty is radically in the understanding, which freely deliberates, and by comparative consideration, directs the will to choose good before evil; and of good the greater, and of evil the less. When the understanding is fully illuminated of the absolute goodness of an object, without the least mixture of evil, and represents it to the will, it is an act retrograde in nature, and utterly repugnant to the rational appetite, to reject it. The indifference of the will proceeds from some defects in the object, or in the apprehension of it; but when an infinite good is duly represented to the will, the choice is most clear and free. Of this there is an illustrious example in the life of Moses; “ he refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season : esteeming the reproach of Christ, greater riches than the treasures of Egypt : for he had an eye to the recompence of reward.” His enlightened mind considerately pondered the eternal reward with the transient pleasure of sin, and his judgment was influxive on his will, to choose the glorious futurity, before the false lustre of the court. What is the goodly appearance of the present tempting world, but like the rainbow, painted tears? The heavenly felicity is substantial and satisfying. Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. He dispels the darkness of the mind, and by its illuminating guidance, turns the will to accept and embrace those objects that exceedingly satisfy its vast desires and capacity. This is an eminent part of the divine image engraven on the soul in its creation : for God is sovereignly free, “and does all things according to the counsel of his will.” Our servitude was by seduction ; Eve being deceived, was in the transgression. Our liberty is restored by light; the truth makes us free. The necessity that proceeds from external compulsion, and from the indeliberate and strong sway of nature, that determines to one pure.'
thing, is inconsistent with liberty. The understanding is a free faculty in the apprehension of objects, the will free in the election of them: but in the consequent choice of the will, that infallıbly proceeds from light and love, the perfection of its freedom consists. When God and his commands are duly represented in their amiable excellencies, the love of the Lawgiver, and his laws, certainly produces obedience to it with choice and complacency. David expresses his affection to the divine law, and the principal motive of it, “ I love thy law, because it is
." As the hands are free when they are directed by the eyes and will; so a saint, that with understanding and voluntary veneration worships God, and obeys his precepts, “which is our reasonable service,” exercises and enjoys the truest, sweetest, and most honourable liberty: * “ if the Son make you free, you are free indeed." Freedom and felicity are inseparable : servitude is the fatal concomitant of vice. When a philosopher was asked, what advantage he had obtained by the study of philosophy, he replied, this among others, that if all the laws were cancelled, a philosopher would live as uniformly, according to the rules of decency and honesty, as before.' A christian that has an inward principle of divine knowledge and love, without the constraint of penal laws, will from a clear judgment and election obey God with delight and constancy.
There is a servile liberty. There are three mistakes in the world of eternally destructive consequence to the souls of men; concerning wisdom and folly, happiness and misery, liberty and servitude. Some are seeming wise, whose ignorance is esteemed judgment: such are the worldly wise, who contrive and labour to lay up treasures for themselves here, but are not rich towards God. Our Saviour gives them a true character, “they are fools.” Others are esteemed happy in enjoying what they love; whereas if they set their love upon those objects that deserve not that principal affection, but are pernicious to their souls, they are truly miserable in the fruition of them. It is the sign of God's severe displeasure to give men up to satisfy their vile affections. Some are seeming free, whose bondage is esteemed liberty. Carnal men presume of their liberty, because they follow the
* In regno nati sumus, parere Deo est regnare, In virtute posita est vera felicitas. Sen. de Vita Beata,