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The desire of goodness is the last thing that Serm. leaves a man, it is the ultimum moriens in a XXI, christian sense ; something of it remains while there is any vital heat or spirits left, and is hardly quite extinguished till the man is spiritually dead: And then if a state of virtue and holiness were to be had for a wish, he can hardly frame his mind to it; for the very mind and conscience is defiled. His soul is so polluted in every faculty, and the most secret recesses of it so impregnated with the gust and relish of sin, that he can have no more desire of being good than a man in the height of drunkenness, of being sober; the cause and the effect is the same in nature; he hath sinned away his reafon, his head swims, and for the remainder of his life he talks and thinks from a disordered imagination: Then at last he tumbles into the grave, where having slept out his debauch, reason then takes its place again, it recoils terribly upon him, and fills him with endless and unspeakable remorse.
Now though we cannot say that such men have finned out their day of grace, so as to be sealed up to damnation by any positive act of God's; yet we know that the spirit of God may be so far grieved as to leave off striving, and when that hath left a man he is carried to all sin as necessarily as a body moves downwards : So that though we cannot say his damnation is absolutely certain, yet it is highly probable; because there is no ground of hope left either in nature or grace; And there
SER M. fore all who have any fufpicions of their bors XXI. dering upon this condition, would do well tơ
look before them, and fee how hear they are to the very brink of this precipice; and, for aught they know, one step farther may plunge them into the bottomless pit. The less inclination they have to God and goodTiefss let them suspect their condition the more, and if they find in themselves any remains of this spiritual principle; any sparks of these holy desires, let them improve them without delay; let thein call up all the powers of their mind, and shew what is the mightý force of an obftinate resolution; and a perfevering prayer:
3. The last thing I shall infet is the encouragement that may be drawn from hence, to all who are fincere and hearty in the work of religion, and do in earnest fet about the conquest of all their lusts, and healing all the vitious tendencies of nature; but are apt to be discouraged at the prevalence and constancy of temptation. Watch and pray that ge enter not into temptation. And therefore if ye do use these means ye will not enter into it, (i. e.) fo as to be overcome by it; for God will never Suffer you to be tempted above what you are able; (i.c.) above the power of those means that he hath appointed for that purpose.
Wherefore, if God hath given us a willing fpirit and put in our mind good desires, our business is to cherish and improve them into a bunger and thirst after righteousness. Till these
inclinations have taken full poffefìion of our Ser M. fouls, and got the ascendency over all thé àf- XXI. fections and appetites of nature ; insomuch that the main current of our thoughts runs all that way, fo as to put in practice all the means of grace, with the same vigour and application and eagerness, that we would endeavour to get meat and drink when we are thirsty and starving: And to use as much temperance and retraint and management in healing this weakness of the flesh, as we would do to save our lives in a dangerous languishing distemper.
If we thus press on forward, and not suffer ourselves to be beaten off from our hearty endeavours by any difficulties we meet with; a sure and certain victory attends us : For thro God that strengthens us we shall be able to do all thing's: We shall gain insensibly every day, till at last our strength is made perfect in weakness
, (i. e.) till temptation itself shåll serve only to renew our resolutions and increase the vigour of our minds, till it shall be only the exercise of our virtue, and not the occafion of sîn to us; and then it is that we may count it all joy, when we fall into divers temptations.
O! it is a glorious conquest this, when temptations become only an occasion of our virtue, and that the Devil himself withdraws them out of malice to us, left they fhould be inftruments of our virtue here, and of greater degrees of glory to us hereafter. When light and wanton objects only raise our indignation, and the most.exquisite meats and drinks be
Ser Micome opportunities of self-denial
. When XXI: the highest station doth not raise our minds
above the level of the meaneff fincere chriftián, and that the hardest pressure of affliction exalts our souls above the world; insomuch that the greatest extremities make us take the fafter hold on the promises of God. When our very religion and piety cause in us a jealousy of ourselves; so that spiritual pride, the last and most subtle temptation of the Devil
, is fully discovered, and itself become a prevailing motive of humility in us. When temptatia ons beät upon us as the waves upon a rock not only to recoil again, but to wash off all the dist, and leave our virtue brighter and more conspicuous.
Then is the man all tranquillity and innocence within, though there is nothing but storm and tumult about him; and like Lot in the midst of the Sodomites keeps his reserve till he leaves the world to be consumed with all its lusts and vanities. In short, he hath then gained a good resemblance of the Holy Jesus, on whom the greatest temptations could not make the least impression. Then the soul is fit for that place where there is no temptation; it is already upon the wing for Heaven, and waits ivith impatience till this clog of flesh and blood is ftruck off. Blefied God what a semblance of Heaven is there in the breast of that man, in whom all the pleasures of the world have lost their charms, and that we have a quick gust and relish of virtue and goodness; so that all our
longings are that way, even to pant after them Ser M.
Having therefore this encouragement (dear-