Page images


Se r M. of the new testament is so full of expressions
XXII. to this purpose; and that such an air of sadness

and melancholy runs through the whole tenor
of the Gospel ; because crosses, and pain, and
trouble, do all of them break and suppress the
vitious inclinations of the lower man; they
quicken the mind, and make it exert all its
strength and force: Whereas riches, and
plenty, and quiet, make provison for the flesh,
to fulfil all the lusts thereof. And this is the
reason why our Saviour says, it is so hard for
a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven;
because there are constant supplies of all ob-
jects, which gratify their fleshly desires ; info-
much that it is next to a natural impossibility
for those who live in softness, and ease, and
pleasure, ever to gain an entire conquest over
the lower man.

And therefore, all those who live in plenty
and ease would do well to consider, that since
the providence of God hath exempted them
from necessary want, and croffes, and afflic-
tions; how neceffary it is for them to supply
the absence of them with voluntary self-de-
nials and severities upon themselves, one way
or other ; for it is most true that, through much
tribulation we must enter into the kingdom of

How much felf-denials and mortifications are out of request, and undervalued by those ' very persons, who fancy the grace of the Gofpel will dispense with the sins they commit with great reluctance, I need not mention;



because though they are always uneasy. atS ER M. hearing the truth, yet they are never con

XXII. vinced. Fasting from sin, say they, is the true falt; and denying our lusts; the best felfdenial : Yes, if they could be sure of denying their fin, without ever denying themselves that which is no sin. But of all people living Tall they have this in their mouths, who yield to their lusts in hopes of mercy, because they are too violent to be overcome; and at the same time despise this only effectual means of conquering them ? Catch them in such a contradiction as this is, in buying and selling if

you can.

But I am more concerned to take notice of the great neglect of these things, among those of our own communion. It is hard to tax the lightness of the age, after any manner, without the imputation of ill nature and fourness: But if we must not upbraid people with their vices, yet I hope we may bewail the danger of their condition ; since it is almost impossible to reconcile all the modes of vanity and usual gaiety of the world to chriftianity. That vain, and costly, and affected variety of dress, shews plainly that the mind is funk in flesh; and that notwithstanding some little appearance of a fashionable piety, yet, there is a manifest want of the very life and substance of religion. They that are after the flesh, says St. Paul, do mind the things of the flesh; and they that are after the Spirit, the things of the Spirit: Which of these

[ocr errors]

Ser M. two is their case, they must be blind that can XXII. not fee; it is a sure way of judging whether

or no they give way to those fefnly lufts that war against the foul : And therefore, fince they thus fow to the flesh, they mụst expect of the flesh to reap corruption.

Our Saviour fays, if any man will be my difciple, let him deny bimself, and take up bis crossand follow me. Let him not wait for afflictim ons, and troubles, and croffes ; but take it up of his own accord, by many instances of self-denial, and the frequent exercises of feverities upon himself.

himself. And St. Paul tells us, he fought not as one that beat the air; because be kept his body under and brought it into fubjection; and indeed all religion is but hypocrify without it. So that we see what is generally mistaken for a degree of perfection in religion, is for the moft part a thing of indifpenfable obligation. And from hence we may see the true value even of the greatest voluntary feverities, and retirements, and abnegations of the world; because they affect the maftery of themselves in a little time, and as it were all at once; which perhaps would not otherwife be compafled in the course of many years : Though it must be confeffed, they commonly have this ill effect, that they puff men up with an opinion of themselves; fo that they become haughty, and troublesome, and arrogant. I do not say that these extraordinary degrees are matter of duty; but as much of them is necessary as is required to vanquish these bodies of


ours, and bring them into absolute subjection :Ser M. And still the more we are mortified to our- XXII. felves and the world, the clearer and more affecting fenfe we shall have of virtue and holinefs; and the greater advances we thall make towards heaven and happiness.

Let us therefore set ourselves to the work of renewing our nature, and purging it from all this dross and corruption ; let us offer up our prayers to almighty God for daily fupplies of grace, that the spirit of God may work together with our spirit, that it may obtain an intire victory over the lower man; and let us omit no means of doing this ; let us in this conteft give the mind fair play; let us hearken to its dictates, and cherish all its motions; let us give it all the helps we can ; affist and encourage it, by cutting off all fupplies of the lower man; and let us maintain the ground it gets by constant perseverance, till by degrees our bodies become a living facrifice, holy and acceptable unto God.

I must confess there is a great deal of trouble and uneafiness in the work; and it will cost many a fore conflict before it comes to this; and little do those people know, who never tried heartily, what a difficult thing it is to be intirely and sincerely good; all the means we can ufe is little enough. Let us therefore be content to be restless and uneasy for a-while ; and then reft ; eternal rest will follow. This little pain will be our security from eternal tor


Ser m. ments, and will purchase for us an exceeding XXII. weight of glory.

O! it will be a most glorious change, even in this life, when all the appetites and palfions of the lower man, by a holy violence and course of rigorous and voluntary severities, are so tamed and intirely subdued that they shall wait the motions of the mind; when it governs them with absolute power, says to one go, and it goes; to another come, and it comes; and can say to the proudest passion, bitherto shalt thou come, and no farther:

Then shall be effected the most wonderful change in nature; these two combatants shall lay down their animosities, and kiss and embrace each other; these enemies, from the most inveterate enmity, and implacable malice, shall become the most intimate, dearest friends ; they will live together here in a more than conjugal affection ; till they depart hence in peace, and their next joyful meeting shall be the resurrection of the just; never to part again, and yet never to be weary

of one another; never to fall out or disagree: There will not be the least jar nor suspicion of one another left; but they shall live in everlasting joy; and peace, and love.

This flesh, in which now there dwelleth no good thing, shall then have nothing in it that is bad; that which is now so full of stubbornness and contradiction, shall then close with the pure mind in all its motions; and what is now its load, and its prison, shall then be its orna


« PreviousContinue »