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perfect : but those who are settled in their defects, and lie still in their laziness, will be justly condemned.
2. It is objecteil, that “this duty is at least extremely dificult.” To this I answer ;
(1.) Difficulty is an unreasonable pretence in matters of indispensable duty, and infinite consequence. Our Saviour commands us “ to strive to enter in at the straight gate, for straight is the gate, and narrow is the way,” (it is hard to find, and hard to keep, but)" that only leads to eternal life. The kingdom of heaven is to be taken by violence, and the wrath to come escaped by flight." It is better to take pains than to suffer pains: the cords of duty are more easy than the chains of darkness,
(2.) There is nothing in religion insuperable to the love of Goll, and of our souls. Love is not cold and idle, but ardent and active in pursuit of its object. There are many instances that resolved diligence will overcome great obstacles to the designs of men. Demosthenes the Athenian, was the most vnqualified for an orator of a thousand : his breath was so short, that he could not speak out a full sentence; his voice and pronunciation was so harsh, and his action so ungraceful and offensive to the most delicate senses, the eve and ear, that the first time he spake in the public assembly, he was entertained with derision, and the second with disdain by the people ; vet by unwearied industry and exercise, he corrected his defects, and became the most eloquent and perfect orator that ever flourished in Greece. Now can there be any so difficult height in religion, but a strong resolution, joined with consequent endeavours, and the supernatural assistance of the Holy Spirit, will gradually attain to ?
To naked nature, the commands of " plucking cut the right eve, and cutting off the right hand, are extremely hard : carpal men pretend they can as easily stop the circulation of the blood, as mortify their se!isual inclinations. But by the grace of God it is not only possible, but pleasant, to “ abstain from fleshly lusts that war against the soul. I can do all things through Christ that strengthens me," saith the apostle; the word implies, “ I can easily:" St. John declares, his “ commands are not grievous: the yoke of Christ is a gracious yoke.” The impotence of men to obey Christ, consists in their obstinacy. They are not infected by fate, nor determined by destiny, and constrained by strict necessity to follow their sinful courses, but are chained to their alluring vicious objects by the consent of their own wills.
I will, to convince those who are christians only in title and profession, and pretend invincible impediments against performing their duty, propound the moral excellencies that shined in some heathens in regulating the angry and desiring appetites. Socrates, who had a fiery nature, that inclined him to sudden anger, yet attained to such a constant equal temper, that when provoked by injuries, his countenance was more placid and serene, his voice more temperate, his words more kind and obliging. Plato, surprised with passion for a great fault of his servant, took a staff to beat him, and having lift up his hand for a stroke, stopped suddenly; * and a friend coming in, and wondering to see him in that posture, said, I chastise an angry man ; reflecting with shame upon himself: thus he disarmed his passion. When Alexander had conquered Darius and taken his queen, a woman of exquisite beauty, he would not have her brought into his presence, that his virtue might not be violated by the sight of her. Scipio having taken a town in Spain, and among them a noble virgin very beautiful, resigned her untouched, with her ransom of great value, to the prince to whom she was contracted. If it be said, that vanity assisted virtue in these persons, and one carnal passion vanquished another, the desire of praise, the pride of life, the lust of the flesh: but shall not divine grace be more powerful than human motives? The impotence of carnal christians is not from the defect of assisting grace, but their culpable neglect of using it. But for the entire conviction of carnalists that are under the tyranny of the voluptuous appetites, and pretend they cannot resist the attractiveness, and unbind the charms that fasten them to the objects of their impure desires; let it be considered, that a little contempt, or coldness of the person by whom they are charmed, a favourable aspect upon a competitor, will turn their love into disdain, and break all society between them. And shall one carnal passion vanquish another, and the terrors of the Lord, the torments of an everlasting hell, be ineffectual to restrain them? The remembrance
* Exigo conas ab homine tracundo. Oblitus servi quia alium quem po. tius castigarel iavepera, Sen, de ira, lib. 3
of this will cover them with eternal confusion in the next world. The traveller complained of the roughness of the way, when a thorn in his foot made it uneasy. Carnal men complain, it is a sad task to obey the gospel, but their lusts make it so.
3. It is alledged, that the striving after a perfect holiness is unnecessary; by the covenant of grace a man may be saved without it.
Before I discover the falseness of this pretence, I shall observe, that carnal men, that they may live easily, endeavour to make their principles correspondent with their practices, they bend the rule to their depraved appetites, and will not order their life by the holy rule. The cursed and crafty serpent will assist them in drawing false conclusions from true premises, and in opposing the grace of the gospel to its precepts. When the carnal affections corrupt the judgment, the mind will give license to the affections: the case of such is dangerous, if not desperate. Thus the loose opinion, that men may be saved without absolute perfection, therefore striving after it is unnecessary, makes men remiss in religion, and produces vain delusive hopes, that end in fearful disappointments. To undeceive men, the following considerations may be effectual.
(1.) It is true, we must distinguish between the preceptive moral part of the covenant of works and of grace, and the fæderal. They agree in the former, and differ in the latter. The gospel enjoins perfect obedience as well as the law; but the first makes it the condition of the covenant, whereas the second makes provision for our imperfections. According to the tenour of the first, the transgressing of one command was a violation of the covenant, and death was the unavoidable consequence of sin: for entire obedience was the condition of it. Adam sinned once, and must die for ever : but to sin against the command of the gospel and the covenant, is not the same : the Mediator interposes between the righteous Judge and the sinner; and faith in him, notwithstanding the killing law, and the accusing conscience, secures us from revenging justice. Only final impenitence and unbelief, cut off from the benefit of the gospel.
(2.) Though the gospel allays the severity and rigour of the law, and pardons our defects, yet it as strictly requires our sincere earnest endeavours after perfection, as the law required exact obedience. We are commanded to “grow in grace,” it is direct matter of duty, we are obliged « to be holy, as God is - holy, in all manner of conversation :" the rule is inflexible, and none can by dispensation or privilege be exempted from serious and constant endeavours to be entirely like God. Those who are pleased with the pretence, that perfect holiness is unattainable here, and indulge their imperfections, are in the state of unrenewed nature. They are sure they shall be bad always, and therefore will not labour to be better. But the consideration that we cannot attain to the highest pitch of holiness, is a spur and incitation to the saints to greater diligence, as appears by the example of St. Paul before cited.
It is true, there are different ages of the children of God; some are as new-born babes, in a state of infancy and infirmity, others in their minority, others are arrived to more maturity: and as the crying of an infant discovers life, as well as active mirth, so mourning for our imperfections discovers the truth of grace. And saints of different degrees are received into glory : but none are who did not aim and endeavour to “ cleanse then. selves from all pollutions of flesh and spirit, and to perfect holiness." For without sincerity we are not capable of the present favour of God, nor future blessedness; and sincerity is inconsistent with the wilful neglect of our duty.
Grace is a plant of heaven, productive of fruits suitable to its quality; and it is proper to its nature to be tending to perfection. A tree that ceases to grow before it is come to its perfection, and brings not forth fruit in its season, withers and dies. A christian that is unfruitful has no life, but is exposed to the just threatening of excision and the fire. He that limits himself in religion, is in a state of death. I have insisted the longer upon this matter, that by clearness and conviction, men may be disenchanted from that pernicious persuasion, that without using sincere endeavours to be perfectly holy, they may safely go to heaven.
I shall add to what has been discoursed of before, some other arguments and motives to excite us to be attentive to this great work. I shall first consider the perfection of the rule laid down in the gospel.
1. The moral law in its purity and perfection, that forbids sin in every kind and degree, “ thou shalt not covet,” and commands holiness in the most spiritual sublimeness, “thou shalt love the Lord with all thy mind, heart, soul and strength,” is the rule of our duty prescribed in the gospel. It is true, that personal perfect obedience as the condition of life, is abolished, as was before observed: if that lives, we must die for ever. But the command binds without relaxation. There is no permission of the least sin by the gospel. The looking to the brazen serpent, did not alter the deadly quality of the poison of the fiery serpent, but stopped its deadly operation : faith in Christ does not change the nature of sin to make it lawful, but hinders its deadly malignity in working. Our Saviour tells us, “ he came not to destroy the law, but to fulfil it. And that heaven and earth should pass away, before one tittle of it shall fail;" that is, lose its binding authority. It is as unalterable as the Lawgiver, whose purity it represents.
Not only the mysterious and supernatural doctrines, the objects of faith, but moral duties, the matters of practice, are fully revealed only in the gospel. The human understanding was darkness to supernatural truths, and dim with respect to the rules of life. Our Saviour has cleared the law from the false glosses of the pharisees, who by favourable explications, and correctives of its strictness, instead of curbing their lusts, did cherish and foment them. But the oracle speaks without ambiguity: the interpretation of our Saviour is clear and decisive, that the “purifying the heart,” as well as the “cleansing the hand,” is an indispensable duty. Holiness must be so pure, that we must not only abstain from polluting acts, but quench all polluting thoughts and desires: we must not only pardon externally the most provoking injuries, but internally quench all inclinations to revenge : now it will require our noblest cares, and most excellent endeavours to practise these high rules.
If there were an extract of the corrupt morals in the philosophy of the heathens, it would be visible how defective it is to restore man to his primitive holiness. They were idolaters, not merely by temptation, but by principle and resolution : it was their maxim, that a wise man should conform to the worship practised in the places where they lived. Their moral philosophy ascended no higher than to instruct us how to act as men : for it considers in them only human qualities, and directs their actions in a respective order to natural felicity. To do justly, to die generously, to allay the fiery agitations of the passions,