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UPON CHRISTIAN PERFECT degrees of goodness, and reward them witorment
ss, dreams rent degrees of glory in another life, yet tha Christians are called to one and the same perfeci tion, and equally obliged to labour after it.
Thus much may suffice to give the reader a general notion of perfection, and the necessity of endeavouring after it.
What it is, and what holy tempers it requires, will, I hope, be found sufficiently explained in the following chapters.
The Nature and Design of Christianity, that its sole
end is to deliver us from the Misery and Disorder of this present state, and raise us to a blissful enjoyment of the Divine Nature.
He wisdom of mankind has, for several ages of
man, and the nature of the world in which he is placed.
The wants and miseries of human nature, and the vanity of worldly enjoyments, has made it difficult for the wisest men to tell what human happiness was, or wherein it consisted.
It has pleased the infinite goodness of God, to satisfy all our wants and enquiries by a revelation made to the world by his Son Jesus Christ.
This revelation has laid open the great secrets of providence from the creation of the world, explained the present state of things, and given man all the information that is necessary to quiet his anxieties, content him with his condition, and lead him safely to everlasting rest and happiness. It is now only necessary that the poor wisdom
of man do not exalt itself against God, that we suffer our eyes to be opened by him that made them, and our lives to be conducted by him, in whom we live move, and have our being.
For light is now come into the world, if men are but willing to come out of darkness.
As happiness is the sole end of all our labours, so this divine revelation aims at nothing else. · It gives us right and satisfactory notions of our selves, of our true good and real evil; it shows us the true state of our condition, both our vanity and excellence, our greatness and meanness, our felicity and misery
Before this, man was a mere riddle to himself, and his condition full of darkness and perplexity. A restless inhabitant of a miserable disordered world, walking in a vain shadow, and disquieting himself in vain.
But this light has dispersed all the anxiety of his vain conjectures; it has brought us acquainted withi God, and by adding heaven to earth, and eternity to time, has opened such a glorious view of things, as makes man, even in his present condition, full of a peace of God which passes all understanding.
This revelation acquaints us, that we have a spirit within us, that was created after the divine image, that this spirit is now in a fallen corrupt condition, that the body in which it is placed is its grave, or sepulchre, where it is enslaved to fleshly thoughts, blinded with false notions of good and evil, and dead to all taste and relish of its true happiness.
It teaches us, that the world in which we live is also in a disordered irregular state, and cursed for the sake of man; that it is no longer the paradise that God made it, but the remains of a drowned world, full of marks of God's displeasure, and the sin of its inhabitants.
That it is a mere wilderness, a state of darkness,
a vale of misery, where vice and madness, dreams and shadows, variously please, agitate, and torment the short miserable lives of men.
Devils also, and evil spirits, have here their residence, promoting the works of darkness, and wandering up and down seeking whom they may devour.
So that the condition of man, in his natural state, seems to be as if a person, sick of variety of diseases, knowing neither his distempers nor his cure, should be enclosed in some place where he could hear, or see, or feel, or taste of nothing, but what tended to inflame his disorders.
The excellency therefore of the Christian religion appears in this, that it puts an end to this state of things, blots out all the ideas of worldly wisdom, brings the world itself to ashes, and creates all anew. It calls man from-an animal life and earthly societies, to be born again of the Holy Ghost, and be made a member of the kingdom of God.
It crushes into nothing the concerns of this life, condemns it as a state of vanity and darkness, and leads man to happiness with God in the realms of light.
It proposes the purification of our souls, the enlivening us with the divine spirit; it sets before us new goods and evils, and forms us to a glorious participation of the divine nature.
This is the one sole end of Christianity, to lead us from all thoughts of rest and repose here, to separate us from the world and worldly tempers, to deliver us from the folly of our passions, the slavery of our own natures, the power of evil spirits, and unite us to God, the true fountain of all real good. This is the mighty change which Chrisa. tianity aims at, to put us into a new state, reform our whole natures, purify our souls and make them the inhabitants of heavenly and immortal bodies.
It does not leave us to grovel on in the desires of the flesh, to cast about for worldly happiness, and wander in darkness and exile from God, but prepares us for the true enjoyment of a divine life.
The manner by which it changes this whole state of things, and raises us to an union with God, is equally great and wonderful.
I am the way, the truth, and the life, saith our blessed Saviour, no man cometh unto the Father but by me.
As all things were at first created by the Son of God, and without him was not any thing made that was made, so are all things again restored and redeemed by the same divine person.
As nothing could come into being without him, so nothing can enter into a state of happiness or enjoyment of God but hy him.
The price and dignity of this redemption at once confounds the pride, and relieves the misery of man. How fallen must he be from God, how disordered and odious his nature, that should need so great a Mediator to recommend his repentance !----And on the other hand, how full of comfort, that so high a method, so stupendous a means should be taken, to restore him to a state of peace and favour with God!
This is the true point of view in which every Christian is to behold himself. He is to overlook the poor projects of human life, and consider himself as a creature through his natural corruption falling into a state of endless misery, but by the mercy of God redeemed to a condition of everlasting felicity.
All the precepts and doctrines of the Gospel are founded on these two great truths, the deplorable corruption of human nature, and its new birth in Christ Jesus.
The one includes all the misery, the other all the happiness of man.
It is on these great doctrines, that the whole frame of Christianity is built, forbidding only such things as fasten us to the disorders of sin, and commanding only those duties which lead us into the liberty and freedom of the sons of God.
The corruption of our nature makes mortification, self-denial, and the death of our bodies necessary. Because human nature must be thus unmade, flesh and blood must be thus changed before it can enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Our new birth makes the reception of God's Spirit, and the participation of the holy sacraments necessary, to form us to that life to which the resurrection of Jesus Christ has entitled us.
So that would we think, and act and live like Christians, we must act suitably to these terms of our condition, fearing and avoiding all the motions of our corrupted nature, cherishing the secret inspirations of the Holy Spirit, opening our minds for the reception of the divine light, and pressing after the graces and perfections of our new birth.
We must behave ourselves conformably to this double capacity, we must fear, and watch, and pray, like men that are always in danger of eternal death, and we must believe and hope, labour and aspire, like Christians, that are called to fight the good fight of faith, and lay hold on eternal life.
This knowledge of ourselves, makes human life a state of infinite importance, placed upon so dreadful a point betwixt two such eternities.
Well might our blessed Saviour say to one, that begged first to go and bury his father, follow me, and let the dead bury their dead.
For what is all the bustle and hurry of the world but dead show, and its greatest agents but dead men, when compared with that state of greatness, that real life, to which the followers of Christ are redeemed?
Had we been made only for this world, worldly