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faithful in it all; another may have small dealings, and be honest in them; but provided that there be in both of them the same justice and integrity of mind, they are equally honest, though their instances of honesty, as to external acts of it, are as different as great things are different from small.
But as it is the habit of the mind, which is the justice which religion requires, so in this respect all people may be equally just.
Now this may serve to show us in what respect all people may be equally virtuous, and in what respect they cannot.
As to the external instances or acts of virtue, in these they must differ according to the difference of their circumstances, and condition in the world; but as virtues are considered as habits of the mind, and principles of the heart, in this respect they may all be equally virtuous, and are all called to the same perfection.
A man cannot exercise the spirit of martyrdom till he is brought to the stake; he cannot forgive his enemies till they have done him wrong, till he suffers from them. He cannot bear poverty and distress till they are brought upon him. All these acts of virtue depend upon outward causes. But yet he may have a piety and heroic spirit equal to those who have died for their religion. He may have that charity of mind which prays for its enemies; he may have that meekness and resignation to the will of God, as disposes people to bear poverty and distress with patience and humble submission to the divine providence.
So that they are only the external instances and acts of virtue, which depend upon outward causes and circumstances of life; a man cannot give till he has something to give; but the inward piety of the heart and mind, which constitutes the state of Christian Perfection, depends upon no outward cir
cumstances. A man need not want charity because he has no riches, nor be destitute of a forgiving spirit, because he has no persecutors to forgive.
Although, therefore, we neither are, nor can be all in the same circumstances of life, yet we are to be all in the same spirit of religion; though we cannot be all equal in alms-giving, yet we are to be all alike in charity; though we are not all in the same state of persecution, yet we must be all in the same spirit that forgives and prays for its persecutors; though we are not all in poverty and distress, yet we must all be full of that piety of heart which produces meekness, patience, and thankfulness in distress and poverty:
From these considerations it is easy to apprehend how persons may differ in instances of goodness, and yet be equally good; for as the perfection of piety is the perfection of the heart, so the heart may have the same perfection in all states and conditions of life. And this is that perfection which is common to all states, and to which all orders of Christians are equally called.
Again, there may be another difference of virtue founded in the different abilities of persons; one may have a more enlightened mind than another, and so may see farther into his duty, and be able to practise it with greater exactness, but then as his goodness seems to consist in this, that he is true and faithful to what he knows to be his duty, so if another is as true and faithful to that measure of light and knowledge which God has given him, he seems to be as good a inan, as he that is true and faithful to a greater light.
We can hardly reconcile it with the divine goodness to give one man two talents, and another five, unless we suppose that he is as high in his master's pleasure who makes the right use of two, as he that makes the right use of five talents. So that it still holds good, that it is the perfec
tion of the heart that makes the perfection of every state of life.
It may, perhaps, be farther objected, that the different degrees of glory in another life, supposes that good men, and such as åre accepted of God, da yet differ in their degrees of goodness in this life.
I grant that it does.
But then this is no proof that all men are not called to the same goodness, and the same perfection.
Perhaps it cannot be said of the best of men that ever lived, that they performed their duty in such perfection in all instances, as they might have done.
Now as it suits with the divine mercy to admit men to happiness, who have not been, in every respect, so perfect as they might have been, notwithstanding that he gave them such a rule of perfection; so it equally suits with the divine mercy to admit men to different degrees of happiness, on account of their different conduct, though he gave them all one common rule of perfection.
Did not God pardon frailties and infirmities, the best of men could not be rewarded. But consider now, does God's pardoning of frailties and infirmities, in the best of men, prove that the best of men were not called to any other perfection, than that to which they arrived? Does this prove that God did not call them to be strictly good, because he receives them to mercy with some defects in goodness? No, most surely,
Yet this is as good an argument, as to say, that all men are not called to the same state of goodness or perfection, because they are admitted to different rewards in the other life.
For it is as right reasoning, to say, God rewards frail and imperfect men, therefore they were called to no higher perfection; as to say, that because God rewards different degrees of goodness, therefore men are not called to one and the same goodness.
For as God could reward none, unless he would reward such as had failings, so their difference in their failings may make them objects of his different mercy and rewards, though the rule from which they failed, was common to them all.
It therefore plainly appears, that the different degrees of glory in anotủer life, are no more a proof that God calls some persons to different and lower states of goodness than others, than his pardoning variety of sinners is a proof that he allowed of those kinds of sin, and did require men to avoid them. For it is full as good an argument to say, God pardons some sinners, therefore he did not require them to avoid such sins, as to say, God rewards different degrees of goodness, therefore he did not call people to higher degrees of goodness.
So that the different degrees of glory in the world to come are no objection against this doctrine, that all Christians are called to one and the same piety and perfection of heart.
Lastly, it may be further objected, that althouglx the law of God calls all men to the same state of perfection, yet if there are different degrees of glory given to different degrees of goodness, this shows that men may be saved, and happy, without aspire ing after that perfection to which they were called.
It may be answered, that this is a false conclusion: For though it may be true, that people will be admitted to happiness, and different degrees of happiness, though they have not attained to all that perfection to which they were called; yet it does not follow that any people will be saved who did not endeavour after that perfection. For surely it is a very different case, to fall short of our perfection after our best endeavours, and to stop short of it, by not endeavouring to arrive at it. The one practise may carry men to a high reward in heaven, and the other.casts them with the unprofitable servant into outer darkness.
There is, therefore, no foundation for people to content themselves in any lower degrees of goodness, as being sufficient to carry them to heaven, though not to the highest happiness in heaven.
For consider, thou hearest there are different degrees of glory; that they are proportioned to different states of goodness in this life, thou wilt therefore content thyself with a lower degree of goodness, being content to be of the lowest order in heaven. Thou wilt have only so much piety as will save thee.
But consider how vainly thou reasonests for though God giveth different rewards, it is not in the power of man to take them of himself. It is not for any one to say, I will practise so much goodness, and so take such a reward. God seeth different abilities and frailties in men, which may move his goodness to be merciful to their different improvements in virtue: I grant thee that there may. be a lower state of piety which, in some persons, may be accepted by God.
But consider, that though there is such a state of piety that may be accepted, yet that it cannot be chosen, it ceases to be that state as soon as thou choosest it.
God may be merciful to a low estate of piety, by reason of some pitiable circumstances that may attend it; but as soon as thou choosest such an estate of piety, it loses those pitiable circumstances, and instead of a low state of piety, is changed into a high state of impiety.
So that though there are meaner improvements in virtue, which may make some persons accepted by God, yet this is no ground for content or satisfaction in such a state; because it ceases to be such a state, and is quite another thing, for being chosen and satisfied with.
It appears therefore, from these considerations, that notwithstanding God may accept of different