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ward Man of all sinful Foulness and Corruption in order to render the Soul more free and expedite in its Motions : The most pure and refined Structure of our mortal Body is a Load and Incumbrance to the Mind, but indulged Appetites and daily Converses with the Pollution of this World, encrease those Clogs and Presfures which our fleshly Tabernacles do of themselves sufficiently furnish out : Besides, in this our lapfed State of Frailty and Corruption there is a constant Struggle between the Law in the Mind and the Law in the Members ; every Degree of Remiffness gives incredible Advantage on the Side of the latter, and our Souls are thereby frequently betrayed into the Defilements of actual Sin. The Discipline of Religious Austerities consequently must never be entirely given over, but the Repetition of them must be as frequent and as large, as is necessary both to produce and preserve in us a due Subordination of our vile and base Affections to the rational and superior Faculties of our Souls, and likewise an entire Subje&tion of those Faculties to the Purity of God's Law. And H 4
thus much for the preparative Duties in order to render us fit Competitors in our Spiritual Race. The Duties necessary for our successful Running may be compriz'd under these three Articles, Zeal, Regularity and Perseverance. The most ob. vious Notion of a Race is that of a warm and vigorous Contention, of labouring with all Earnestness, and pressing forwards with all Diligence and Expedition to arrive foremost at the Mark : In this our heavenly Race therefore we must pursue the Course of Virtue with full Purpose and hearty Endeavours of improving in every Instance of Duty, by attaining Divine Graces, advancing in Gospel - Precepts, brightening and exalting our godly Tempers and Habits, and drawing forth our pious Dispositions into the constant zealous and industrious Exercise of Holy Living. The Reason of those Religious Severities which made up the Acts of Preparations before mentioned, was to restore the Soul to its natural State of Freedom, Strength and Vigour ; but to what Purpose will the Soul be thus recovered, unless by an adual Exertion of every Faculty, it evi
dences those Improvements which the Application of such Severities was intend. ed to procure? Wherefore after having laid aside the Pressure of every Weight, the Pollution of every sin, the Incumbrance of every Temptation, which in this our State of Trial and Contention do so strongly and easily beset us, we must with all Labour and Patience, with all Zeal and Alacrity run the Race that is set before us : Perfection, in short, is our Mark, and press towards it we must, provided we would come up to the Allusion now before us, by the quickest and most exalted Advances in the Soundness of Christian Faith and Purity of Christian Virtue.
But this brings me to the 20 Article of Duty I proposed to speak to under this Head, viz. Regularity.
It is not barely Vigour that will bring us to the End proposed, but the Exera cise of our Vigour in a proper Way. If a Man strive for Masteries, faith St. Paul, yet he is not crown'd unless he strive lawfully ; lawfully, i.e. with an entire Conformity to the Precepts of the Gospel ;
for to be zealous in the Exercise of some Precepts, and remiss in the Perfor. mance of others, is an impious Neglect of Gospel-Terms, and consequently an utter Rejection of Gospel-Reward : The Crowns of Glory we contend for are the entire Gift and Favour of Almighty God, and consequently he may annex, and we must comply with whatever Terms He pleases for their Attainment : Our Blessed Saviour hath both by Precept and Example mark'd out to us that plain and certain Course of Holy Living which alone will lead us to Happiness, and he, who neglecting that Course, attempts to become happy in his own Way, shall by the Largeness and Certainty of the Misery he will thereby incur, discover, when it is too late, the impious Absurdity of his Folly and Presumption.
BUT, 3dly, To our Zeal and Regularity we must add Perseverance : To set out with Vigour, but immediately to suffer our Spirits to flag, and to relapse in a State of Inactivity, are Circumstances which will never bring us forward to the Mark; our Vigour must þe constant, nay, it must
even encrease upon us ; for the State of a Christian Race is a State of continual Improvement, every fresh Stage of Duty, every new Attainment of Holiness niuft refine and exalt the Faculties of the Soul, must actuate and invigorate them in all their Functions : As we proceed in the Paths of Goodness, we must rise from one Degree of Spiritual Strength to another, and evidence such our Advances by a more brisk and vigorous, a more bright and elevated Practice of every Virtue. There is no fix'd Pericd of Holiness on this fide of Eternity whitherto we can go and no farther, but the higheft Pitch of Piety we have or can be supposed to have attained, will still qualify us for higher Improvements : Fond and arrogant are all those Presumptions of being as good as we need be ; and he, that under the Conceit of fuch Notions, neglects farther Adyances in Gospel-Righteousness, will find his Neglect attended with the entire Loss of his Eternal Reward. Nor is it less dangerous to be discouraged from pursuing that Course of Virtue, wherein we are engag’d, through the Difficulty and