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who pursue their own destruction, if thou wilt show thyself wiser than fops, more reasonable than sordid misers, thou must pursue that happiness, and study that wisdom which leads to God; for every other pursuit, every other way of life, however polite or plausible in the opinions of the world, has a folly and stupidity in it, that is equal to the folly and stupidity of fops and misers.
For a while shut thine eyes, and think of the silliest creature in human life; imagine to thyself something that thou thinkest the most poor and vain in the way of the world. Now thou art thyself that poor and vain creature, unless thou art devoted to God, and labouring after Christian perfection: unless this be thy difference from the world, thou canst not think of any creature more silly than thyself. For it is not any post, or condition, or figure in life, that inakes one man wiser or better than another; if thou art a proud scholar, a worldly priest, an indevout philosopher, a crafty politician, an ambitious statesman, thy imagination cannot invent a way of life that has more of vanity or folly than thine own.
Every one has wisdom enough to see, what variety of fools and madmen there are in the world.
Now perhaps we cannot do better, than to find out the true reason of the folly and madness of any sort of life. Ask thyself therefore wherein consists the folly of any sort of life, which is most condemned in thy judgment.
Is a drunken fox-hunter leading a foolish life? Wherein consists the folly of it? Is it because he is not getting money upon the exchange? Or because he is not wrangling at the bar? Or not waiting at court? No, the folly of it consists in this, that he is not living like a reasonable Christian; that he is not acting like a being, that is born again of Gol, that has a salvation to work out with fear and trembling; that he is throwing away his time
amonngst dogs, and noise, and intemperance, which he should devote to watching and prayer, and the improvement of his soul in all holy tempers. Now if this is the folly (as it most certainly is) of an intemperate fox-hunter, it shows us an equal folly in every other way of life, where the same great ends of living are neglected. Though we are shining at the bar, making a figure at court, great at the exchange, or famous in the schools of philosophy, we are yet the same despicable creatures as the intemperate fox-hunter, if these states of life keep us as far from the improvements of holiness, and heavenly affections. There is nothing greater in any way of life than fox-hunting, it is all the same folly, unless religion be the begining and ending, the rule and measure of it all. For it is as noble a wisdom, and shows as great a soul, to die less holy and heavenly for the sake of hunting and noise, as for the sake of any thing that the world can give us.
If we will judge and condemn things by our tempers and fancies, we may think sanie ways of life mighty wise, and others mighty foolish; we may think it glorious to be pursuing methods of fame and wealth, and foolish to be killing foxes; but if we will let reason and religion show us the folly and wisdom of things, we shall easily see that all ways of life are equally little and foolish, but those that perfect and exalt our souls in holiness,
No one therefore can complain of want of understanding in the conduct of his life, for a small share of sense is sufficient to condemn some degrees of vanity, which we see in the world; every one is able and ready to do it. And if we are but able to condemn the vainest sort of life upon true reasons, the same reasons will serve to show, that all sorts of life are equally vain, but the one life of religion. Thou hast therefore, as I observed before, no choice of any thing to labour after instead of Christian perfection; if thou canst be content to be the poorest, vainest, miserablest thing upon earth, thou mayest neglect Christian perfection. But if thou seest any thing in human life that thou abhorrest and despisest; if there be any person that lives so, as thou shouldest fear to live, throu must turn thy heart to God, thou must labour after Christian perfection; for there is nothing in nature but this, that can set thee above the rainest, poorest, and most miserable of human creatures. Thou art every thing that thou canst abhor and despise, every thing that thou canst fear, thou art full of every folly that thy mind can imagine, unless thou art all devoted to God.
Secondly, Another argument for Christian perfeetion shall be taken from the necessity of it.
I have all along shown that Christian perfection consists in the right performance of our necessary duties; that it implies such holy tempers, as con-. stitute that common piety, which is necessary to salvation; and consequently it is such a piety as is equally necessary to be attained by all people. But besides this, we are to consider, that God only, knows what abatements of holiness he will accept; and therefore we can have no security of our salvation, but by doing our utmost to deserve it.
There are different degrees of holiness, which it may please God to reward; but we cannot state these different degrees ourselves; but must all labour to be as eminent as we can, and then our different improvements must be left to God. We have nothing to trust to, but the sincerity of our endeavours; and our endeavours may well be thought to want sincerity, unless they are endeavours after the atmost perfection. As soon as we stop at any degrees of goodness, we put an end to our goodness, which is only vaitiable, by having all the de;rtes that we can add to it. Our highest improvement is a state of great imperfection, but will be accepted by God, because it is our highest improvement. But any other state of life, where
we are not doing all that we can to purify and perfect our souls, is a state that can give us no comfort or satisfaction; because so far as we are wanting in any ways of piety that are in our power; so far as we are defective in any holy tempers, of which we are capable; so far we make our very salvation uncertain. For no one can have any assurance that he pleases God, or puts himself with the terms of Christian salvation, but he who serves God with his whole heart, and with the utmost of his strength. For though the Christian religion be a covenant of mercy, for the pardon and salvation of frail and imperfect creatures; yet we cannot say that we are within the conditions of that mercy, till we do all we can in our frail and imperfect state. So that though we are not called to such a perfection, as implies a sinless state, though our imperfections will not prevent the divine mercy; yet it cannot be proved, that God has any terms of favour for those, who do not labour to be as perfect as they can be.
Different attainments in piety will carry diflerent persous to heaven; yet none of us can have any satisfaction that we are going thither, but by arriving at all that change of nature, which is in our power. It is as necessary therefore to labour after perfection, as to labour after our salvation ; because we can have no satisfaction that a failure in one, will not deprive us of the other. When therefore you are exhorted to Christian perfection, you must remember, that you are only exhorted to secure your salvation; you must remember also, that you
have no other rule to judge of your perfection, but by the sincerity and fulness of your endeavours to arrive at it.
We may judge of the measure and extent of Christian holiness, from the one instance of charity. This virtue is thus described, Charity seeketh not. her own, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Now this
charity, though it be in perfection, is yet by the apostle made so absolutely necessary to salvation, that a failure in it is not to be supplied by any other the most shining virtues. Though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. The apostle expressly teaches us, that this perfection in Christian charity is so necessary to salvation, that even martyrdom itself is not sufficient to atone for the want of it. Need we now any other argument to convince us, that to labour after our perfection, is only to labour after our salvation ? For what is here said of charity, must in all reason be understood of every other virtue, it must be practised in the same fulness and sincerity of heart as this charity. It may also justly be affirmed, that this charity is so holy a temper, and requires so many other virtues, as the foundation of it, that it can only be exercised by a heart that is far advanced in holiness, that is entirely devoted to God. Our whole nature must be changed, we must have put off the old man, we must be born again of God, we must have overcome the world, we must live by faith, be full of the Spirit of Christ, in order to exere cise this charity,
When therefore you would know, whether it be necessary to labour after Christian perfection, and live wholly unto God, read over St. Paui's description of charity. If you can think of any negligence of life, any defects of humility, any abatements of devotion, any fondness of the world, any desires of riches and greatness, that is consistent with the tem. pers there described, then you may be content with them; but if these tempers of an exalted charity cannot subsist, but in a soul that is devoted to God, and resigned to the world, that is humble and more tified, that is full of the Spirit of Christ and the cares of eternity; then you have a plain reason