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if we believe and expect it in good earnest, we certainly shall make, even now. For that is my
III. Third and Last Head, That the knowing we shall be like God, and see him as he is, cannot, in the very nature of the thing, but be a proper and very powerful inducement to Piety and Virtue. Every one, says St. John, that bath this bope in him, purifeth himself even as he is pure. The purifying himself as he is pure, is to be understood, like those Commands of being holy as God is holy, and perfect, and merciful,
1 Pet. i. 15. as our heavenly Father is merciful and
Matth. v. 48. feat. All which are intended, not of an
Luke vi. 36. Equality, but of a Likeness only; and That, such a Likeness, as our present Condition' will admit. Not of a State altogether sinless; but such degrees of Goodness as may be attained to, such as imports an Allowance for necessary Frailties and inseparable Defects, and a gracious acceptance of sincere Endeavours, instead of absolute Perfection.
Such is the Purity mentioned here, as a natural Consequence of this glorious Hope. For, every one tbat bath this Hope in him, can have it no otherwise, than upon the Terms, which the Promises of God have thought fit to limit it by. Since therefore the Seeing God is a Blessing peculiar to the
Matth. v. 8. pure in heart; Since it is declared, that without Holiness no man shall see the Lord; that the Unrighteous, Fornicators, Idolaters, Cor. vi. 9, 10. Adulterers, Effeminate, Abusers of themselves with Mankind, Thieves, Drunkards, Covetous, Revilers, Extortioners, mall none of them inherit the Kingdom of God; 'Tis plain, that this Purity and Holiness here are indispensable Conditions of obtaining Happiness hereafter ; and They, who indulge themselves in any such Abominations, deceive their own Souls with false Expectations, and do not properly hope, but impudently presurne.
Heb. xii. 14.
The Truth is, God in his Wisdom hath so ordered the Matter, so admirably contrived our Nature and our Duty, that Virtue and Happiness are one and the same, differing but in the Circumstances and several Prospects, we consider and view them under. The Good begin their Heaven upon Earth, and finish there what was imperfect here. The more they mortify and master their sensual Appetites, purge off their Corruptions, raise their Affections up to things Above, improve their Minds by the study of Religion, acquaint themselves with God by frequent Prayer and heavenly Meditation, wean themselves from, and get above the World; the more they are spiritualized, and, as the Apostle expresses it, made meet to be partakers of the Inheritance with the Saints in light. They have rendred the Joys of the next Life more familiar to their Thoughts, have already learn'd to taste, and are in a better Disposition to enjoy, the full Delight they shall bring. As He, who is already vers’d in the Language, and Laws, and Customs, of a Country, is better fitted to converse in, and improve the Pleasures and Advantages of it, than any raw and unexperienced Person, who goes to settle there, without such previous Skill or Preparation. And therefore Those Men may at least be judged to have qualified themselves for higher Degrees of Bliss and Glory, who have, even before they came thither, already had their Hearts, their Treajure, and their Conversation in Heaven.
I know, some Men think those Arguments liable to Objection, which undertake to prove, that, were a wicked Man received into Heaven, he could not think himself happy, where every thing would be found so opposite to his Temper and Sense of Happiness. Now this is an Assertion, founded on that general Maxim, That all Pleasure results from the Agreeableness of the Object, and its being suited to the Faculty or Palate
of the Party enjoying it. And, have we any rant to pronounce this here a Case exempted from so general a Rule? They who argue thus, allow, with the Objectors, that Heaven must be perfect Happiness to all who inhabit there. The Objectors, I hope, allow too, that none but good Men can inhabit there. And it should be remembred, that they who put the Case, are sensible, they suppose a Condition impossible in Fact. The Design of this Argument therefore is only to shew, that the Day of Recompence will find us, exactly as Death left us: that if we have not killed the Man of Sin, Death will not do it for us : And, that there is so exact a Congruity between our Duty and our Reward, that they do not differ in Nature and Kind, but in Degree, and greater and less Perfection. Consequently, that the labouring to be like God here, is the only Expedient we know, for being like him hereafter.
I will not deny, but fome, who have led ill Lives, may, upon their Repentance at last, be suddenly received to Mercy; Nor will I venture to say, such is uncovenanted Mercy. But, when even this is done, there must be a Change of Affections, (the very Notion of Repentance implies thus much ;) And certainly no Man, who considers this matter with Seriousness, will venture his All upon it. The Hazards are so many, the Uncertainty so great, the Encouragements so Nender, the Examples for it so few, and when closely examined, so short of the Point ; that I should think that Man much more ingenuous and of a piece, that lives ill, and absolutely disavows any Thoughts of a Life to come ; than He is, who profeffes to entertain such a Hope, and yet leaves himself nothing, but one such desperate push for it. To conclude all, (for I have been carried to an unusual length) Nothing can ever be more absurd, than the Principles of a Christian and the Life of a Pagan ; than to call our felves the Sons of God, and all the while be Servants to the Devil; to hope for Christ's coming again, and to do the Works he came before on purpose to destroy ; to hope to be like God hereafter, and to make our felves as unlike him as may be, in the mean while. To pretend we wait and pant for that Likeness, as the compleat Felicity of Human Nature, and wilfully to obstruct our own Happiness, in such Measures of it, as may be compass’d here, and are the only rational Evidences of desiring the fulness of it hereafter. These things can never stand together, never approve us to the Judgment of God or Man. No. Let us remember the End and Temper
of the Christian Faith, the Design of our great and precious Promises, and the Purpose of our Blessed Lord's causing himself and his Gospel to shine upon us. Let our Thoughts, our Words, our every Action shew, we have duly considered that memorable Text of St. Paul, so nearly allied to the Offices of this
Day: The Grace of God, that bringeth Sal
vation, hath appeared to all Men, teaching us, that denying ungodliness and worldly lufts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godlily, in this present world ; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God, and our Saviour Jesus Chris ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people zealous of good works.
The only Application I shall make of this Discourse, is earnestly to conjure every Christian, that he would very seriously, very frequently, meditate upon these things. For, the more he does so, the more familiar they will be to him ; the Belief of them more firm and lively, and the Value of them better understood. All which, how necessary, and how useful it is, will easily appear by this One Observation; That no Man ever yet did an evil thing, knowingly and
Tit. ii. 11, 12.
deliberately, but with a Proposal of some Good from it. Now the imposing upon Men with false Opinions, and false Estimates, of the Ends they propound to themselves, is the very Foundation of all the Wickedness in the World. And consequently, the most effectual course to prevent, or give a check to Wickedness, is the setting Men right in their Judgments of the good and evil Consequences, of good and bad Actions. Were this Persuasion firmly rooted in their Hearts ; were it, as it ought to be, always uppermost in their Thoughts, that a Future State certainly awaits us, that the Glories and Bliffes of that State, even by what we do or may know of them already, are infinitely to be preferr'd before All this World can give us ; and, that there are besides many and great Pleasures, yet hidden from our Eyes, unutterable, unconceivable, both for their Worth and Number : Can it be supposed, that Men, who in earnest believe, and actually remeinber, and duly weigh these things, could ever be seduced so easily, as we find they are, into Practices, which the Scripture declares the Enjoyments of these Blessings was never intended for? No, 'tis impossible. Men must · lay aside all pretence to Reason, if they can act at this rate. The Fact is far otherwise. God promises future and unseen Advantages, as Motives to Virtue ; The Devil baits with such as are present and sensible indeed, but in no degree so valuable, as Allurements to sin. Now these Latter could never prevail above the Former, were it not, that Men under Temptation are wanting to themselves, either in the Vigour of their Faith, or in the Justness of their Computation, or in urging upon their. Conscience the Necessity of the Condition. That is, they do not sufficiently think, and convince themselves of such a State, but, being out of sight, it is out of mind too. And for the Benefit of these I designed my First Head. Or