Imágenes de páginas

our acquiring and persevering in the virtues of the Heavenly Life; to our conquering the Difficulties, and killing the vicious Aversations of our Naa tures against them: All which would have been needless, at least in a great measure, had not our Nature been so depraved and corrupt as it is.

So that as the case nov stands with us, there are Two sorts of Means that are necessary to our obtaining of Heaven ; The first is the Practice of those Heavenly virtues, in the Perfection whereof confifts the state of Heaven; the Second is the Practice of certain Inftrumental Duties, · which are necesary to our acquiring those Heavenly virtues, and overcoming the Difficulties of them. The first fort of these are the proximate Means, those which directly and immediately respect the Great and ultimate End; The second the more remote Means, which immediately respect those Means that immediately respect the End. The first is like the Art of the Builder which immediately respects the House ; The second like the Art of the Smith, which immediately respects the Means and Instruments of Building.

I. One fort of Means necessary to the obtaining of Heaven, and that which more directly and immediately respects it, is the Practice of those Vira tues in the Perfection whereof the Heavenly Life confifts. For we find by experience that all Heavenly Virtues are to be acquired and perfected only by Practice; That as all bad Dispositions are acquired and improved into Habits by bad Practices and Customs, so are all the contrary virtuous ones by the contrary Practices. For Religion proceeds in the methods of Nature, and carries us on


[merged small][ocr errors]

from the Afts to the Dispositions, and from the Dipositions to the Habits of Virtue. And by the same method the Divine Grace which accompa pies Religion, does ordinarily work its Effé&s upon the Ipirits of men, mot by an inftant uncom Infusion of virtuous Habics into the Will, bet by perswading them to the Practice of those Virus thes that are contrary to their vicious Habits, and to persise in the practice of theni till they have mortified those Habits, and throughly habituated and inured themfelves to these. So that the Grace of God is like a Graff, which though it is put into a Stock which is quite of another kind, doth yet make use of the Faculties and Juices of the Stock, and so by co-operating with them, converts it by degrees into its own Nature. And this is exactly agreeable to the common expérience of men, who in the beginning of their Reformation are so far from acting vertuoully from Habit and Inclination, that it goes againft the very Grain of their Nature; and they would much rather return to their vicious courses, if they were not chased and purfued by the Terrors of an awakened Conscience; and when afterwards they come to act upon a more ingenuous Principle, yet till they find in themselves a great Aver fexefs and Reluctancy to it, and 'tis a great while usually ere they arrive to a Habit or Facia lity of acting virtuously. But then by perseverance in the practice of Virtue they are more and more inclined and disposed to it, and fo by degrees it becomes eafit and natural to them. If therefore we would ever arrive to that perfe&ion of Virtue which the Heavenly State implies, it must be by the Practice of Virtue, by a continual training and


exercising ourselves in all the parts of the Heavenly Life, which by degrees will wear off the Difficulty of it, and adapt and familiarize our Nature to it. Α δ μανθάνοντας ποιών, ταύτα ποινίες uerberouer: Those things which they that learn ought to do, they learn by doing them. Thus we learn De votion by Prayer, Submission to God by Denying our selves, Charity by giving Alms, and Meek ness by Forgiving Injuries. And we may as reasonably expect to conļmence learned without ftua dy, as virtuous without the Practice of Virtue. Since therefore the Formal Happiness of our reasonable Natures consists in the Perfection of all the Heavenly virtues, and 'tis by these alone that we can relish and enjoy the blissful Objects of Heaven ; it hence follows, that the Practice of those virtues is the most direct and immediate Means to obtain the Blessed End of our Religions. But then,

II. Another fort of Means neceffary to our oba taining of Heaven consists of certain Instrumental Duties by which we are to acquire improue, and perfelt these Heavenly Virtues. What these means are will be hereafter largely shown : 1 All that I fhall say of them at present is, Thatchey are fuch as are no farther good and useful, than as they are the Means of Heavenly Virtue, sand do tend towards the acquiring, improving, and perfecting it. For the whole Duty of Man buted into these Two Generals, viz. The Religion of the End, and the Religion of the Means. The Religion of the End, contains all that Heavenly

örtue wherein the Perfe&tion and Happiness of Humane Nature consistsand this the Apostle distributes into three particulars, viz. Sobriety, Righte


oxfness, and Godliness. The Religion of the Means comprehends all that Duty which does either natka rally, or by Inftitution, respect and drive at this Rea ligion of the End; and that all other Duty, that is not it self a Natural Branch and Part of it, doch respect and drive at it, the Apoftle'assures us, when he tells us that the Gospel or Grace of God, was revealed from Heaven for this very purpose, to teach us to deny all ungodliness and worldly lufts, and to live soberly, and righteously and godly in this prefent world. And if we do not use the Religion of the Means to this purpose, it is altogether useless and insignificant. For the purpose of all Religious Duties is either,

1. To reconcile men to God, and God to them,


[ocr errors]

2. To perfect the Humane Nature; or, : 3. To intitlemen to Heaven ; or,

4. To gualifie and dispose them for the Heavenly Life. To neither of which the Religion of the Means is any farther useful than as it produces and promotes in us those Heavenly Virtues which are implied in the Religion of the End. For,

Î. It is no further useful towards the reconciling Us to God, and God co Us. For there can be no hearty Reconciliation between adverfe parties without there be a mútual Likeness and Agreement of Natures. Now che Carnal Mind, (which in.. cludes all that is repugnant to the Heavenly Vito tues) the Apostle tells us, is Enmity against God, Rom. vii. 17. chat is, hach a natural Antipathy to the Purity and Goodnefs of the Divine Nature. And this Antiparby the fame Apoftlé tells us, is founded in our wicked works, Coloff. i. 21. So that 1, 13:


though we should practise pover so diligently all that is contained in the Religion of the Means, though we should pray, and hear and receive Sacraments, &c. with never fo much Zeal and Constancy, yet all this will be insignificant, as to the reconciling our Natures to God, unlefs it destroy in us that Carnal Mind and those wicked Works which render us fo averfe to his Goodnefsa And though God bears a bearty good Wilt to all that are capable of Goad, and embraces his whole Creation with the out-ftretched Arms of his Benevolence, yet he cannot be supposed to be pleafed with, or delighted in any but such as resemble Him in those amiable Graces of Purity and Goodrefs for which he loves Himself. For he loves not Himself meerly because he is Himself ( which would be a blind Inftinét, rather than a Roa fonable Lorie) but because He is Goad; and he loves Himself

above all other things, becaufe he knows Himself to be the Highest andi moft Perfe&t Good : and consequently He loves all other things proportionably as they approacla and refemble Him in Goodness. And indeed if He loved us for any other Reafon besides that for which he loves Himfelf; he would not have infinite Reafon to love Himself, because he would not have that Reafon to love Himself for which he loves

and takes delight in Us. Since therefore there is nothing but our Resemblance of God can reconcile Him to us, and since our Resemblance of Him confifts in Virtue and true Goodies nefsit hence follows that all the Religion ofthe Means is infignificant to our Reconciliation with God

iftir doth not render us truly vint nous. So that tik this is affecteda there is fo veft a Calpleri


« AnteriorContinuar »