« 前へ次へ »
self, and does Honour to the Divine Grace, by rendring it victorious over Flesh and Blood ; the larger Measures of that Grace he fall obtain from God, and become more exemplary in the World.
There are not, 'tis confefs’d, in every Man, the same Passions, or not the fame Degrees of them, to master and mortify. But tho' a Man, whose Affections are vehement, and his Disposition by Nature or Custom more stubborn and averse to Virtue, hath more to make his way through : Yet if this Man's Resolutions be firmer, and his Vigor be proportionably greater, he shall be able to advance farther, than others of a quieter Temper, and less rebellious Passions, if that Sedateness at the same time dispose them to Ease and Inactivity.
Now in this Undertaking, Two Things there are, of mighty Moment for promoting it. The First is, To observe the Tendencies of one's Temper and Constitution ; and take care to bend Nature the contrary way, by keeping aloof off from all those Temptations and Occasions of sinning, with which we feel our selves moft casily befet, and strongly inclined to comply. The Other, to discover our peculiar Defects, and labour with all our Might to attain those Virtues, which we chiefly want.
And as this Knowledge of our own Frailties and Necessities is greatly inftruinental to our Improvement, so we shall do well to profit by what we see in Others, and to be particularly concern'd for avoiding and subduing those Habits, which we find most usual and offensive, in them with whom we converse. For the Commonness of any ill Thing is so far from exte . nuating the Blame of those who copy after it, that it is the direct contrary; and fuch Examples should be look'd upon, as Marks which discover to us where the Rocks and Sands lie ; such as are set to warn us off, - not to invite us in. Indeed a wise and good Man will turn Examples of all forts, to his own Advantage.
The Good he will make his Patterns, and strive to equal or excel them. The Bad he will by all Means avoiờ. Or if by Reflection the Deformity of his Neighbour's Actions happen to represent that of his own, he will be sure to do so no more ; and think it a happy Occasion, that he is thus grown wiser by the Folly of others. For we often fee and judge that in the Deportment of those we converse with, which too near
a Light will not let us discern, or Partiality let us 1 condemn, in our own. And this should make us cauti
ous, when we remember, that the Eyes of others are as sharp, as critical Observers, as severe Judges of Us and all we do, as ours can possibly be of Them. From this universal Disposition to observe and judge, proceeds, no doubt, that pleasing Approbation, or vehement Dislike of Good and Bad Examples. For what indeed gives us a more sensible Satisfaction, than the seeing Men in every Point agreeable to their Character? When They, who call themselves by the Name of Christ, and pretend in a peculiar manner to belong and be resigned up to him, are eminent in good Works and Heavenly Dispositions ; when they submit entirely to his Yoke, and think nothing too much to do or suiffer in Obedience to his Will; how charming, how delightful a Sight is this? And again, how offensive, how very shocking, when They, who make the same outward Profession, shall dishonour and defile it by a fcandalous and profligate Conversation ; and, instead of that severe, that Spiritual and Heavenly Life, to which their very Name, and the Pattern of their MaIter obliges them, abandon themselves to all manner of Excels, and wallow in the most brutish and detestable Pollutions ? But, even where Men do not degenerate into all this Beastlinefs; where Cares and Business of the World divert and draw them off from better Employments,'tis unfeemly to others and of ill Confequence to themselves, to neglect their proper Con
cern, and engage their Thoughts and Time in Mat. ters foreign to their main Defign.
Quicken therefore your self up to Duty, by the Remembrance of your Station, who you are, and what you have obliged your self to be. Bear constantly ahout you a lively Idea of Christ crucified. Consider carefully his Life, and let the Perfection of That shame you into the reforming your own : Your own, I fay, whose very Baptism represents you!r Profesion, which is, to follow the Example of our Saviour, and to be made like unto him; and yet, after so many Years being called a Christian, you are still too far from being one, if Dying to Sin, and Living to Righteousness, as your fefiis died and rose again for you, be that which makes a Christian, and distinguishes him from other Men. If Persons dedicated to Piety and Virtue, would but with due Attention fix their Thoughts upon the Actions and Sufferings of Christ, this single Subject would furnish them with Instructions and Motives abundantly fufficient for their Purpose. St. Paul, we see, de
termined to know nothing but Jesus I Cor. xi.
Chrift, and bim Crucified and this indeed, truly known, is the best, the most useful, and most comprehensive Learning.
This fires Men with an eager holy Zeal, 'and renders them not only exact, but chearful in their Duty; it makes them perforin what he commands with Diligence, and suffer all that he ordains with Patience and Contentedness. Whereas a negligent and lukewarm Christian conspires against himself; his Life is one perpetual Torment, for want of entire Refignation and fervent Love. The 'Trials and Adictions bear hard upon his Spirit, and the Good he attempts is strained and against the Grain. He feels not the Support of Spiritual Comforts; he knows he must not have recourse to Worldly ones; Or, if he might, they will not do his Business, and so he is left deftitute of all. For
by transgressing the Rules of Christian Discipline, be hazards the Safety of his Soul ; And by seeking Relief in inconvenient Liberties, he creates fresh Torments to himself; because these cannot satisfy his Confci-. ence, but will be sure to leave some Displeasure and Bitterness behind them. And who can ever be easy, who is reproached with his own ill Conduct, and chuses a Remedy worse than the Distemper?
To this Pattern fet us by Christ himself, it will be of great
use to add those of the Apostles, and other eminent Lights in the Church heretofore. These capable of ; and if we heartily aspire after their Perfečtions, we ought not to distrust God's Affiftance; but may confidently promise our felves, that an equal Degree of Zeal will be supported by an equal Measure of Grace and Strength. Observe then their Austerities, their fervent Prayers and heavenly Meditations ; observe the great and happy Efficacy of them, in raising those holy Perfons above the World and its Temptations, -and rendring their Conversation all heavenly and divine, even whilft upon Earth. It were indeed a desirable Thing, that we could so wholly abstract our felves from Flesh and Sense, that the Praises of God, and Attendance upon his Commands, the Contemplation of his Glories, and the ravishing Satisfaction of devout Minds, might be our constant and only Employment. And happy should we be, if the necessary Cares of Life gave no Distraction to our Thoughts, no Interruption to those holy Exercises. But these are Charms and Joys reserved for a future and better State ; We cannot here be so refined, we cannot be excused from the Incumbrances of the Body, and its inseparable Frailties and Necessities. And therefore the Virtue proper to our prefent Condition is of another Nature. Use these worldly Comforts we may, but we must not place
our Happiness in them ; live upon them our Bodies must, but our Souls should relish nothing but God. Whatever his Providence thinks fit for us, we are to receive with Meekness and Contentedness ; as being well assured, that His Wisdom can, and His Goodness will chuse and ordain what is best. In the Day of Prosperity we may rejoice, but that Joy must be fo tempered with Gratitude and Moderation, às neither to swell into Infolence and Pride, nor to engage our Affections in the Love of the World. In the Day of Adversity we are to consider, and entertain the most calamitous Accidents, without Murmuring or Discontent. In every Change of Circumstances, our Minds must be entirely resigned to God ; For he is all in all, Eternal and Unchangeable ; Perfect and Happy in Himself, Abfolute and fole Lord of the Universe ; And every Creature is, and ought to be, entirely at his Disposal.
But tho' He be always the same, and can at any time do what is good in his sight, yet this is by no means our Case. Frail, and of short Continuance is our CharaEter; and this should excite our Diligence, to work
while it is Day, because our Night cometh John ix.
on apace, wherein no Man can work. Consider therefore, you must dye ; dye you know not how foon; and be afraid left that fatal Hour overtake you, before the Business of Life be finished. Remember that the Time once yours, can never be so again : The Wealth of both the Indies cannot redeem one single Opportunity, which you have once let slip; and therefore lay fast hold on all that offer, and suffer no Hour to slide by, without its due Improvement.
Virtue can never be attained without great Pains and Diligence ; and if you cool and linger in this Pursuit, the Moment that you gain not Ground, you lose it. For the Affairs of our Souls can never stand at one stay ; but, as oft as we favour our felves in point of Duty, we decline and fall back again toward Sin, !