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Misery of Souls is founded in their Vertue or Vice, and that there is as inseparable à Connection between Grace and Glory, Sin and Hell, as there is between Fire and Heat, Frost and Cold, or any other necessary Cause and its Effect. For if they were but throughly perswaded of this, they would easily discern what wretched Non-fense it is, to think of going to Heaven or escaping Hell whilst they continue in any wilful Course of Disobedience to the Laws of Vertue.
Having thus treated at large of the first Sort of Means by which the End of our Christian Life is to be obtained, I proceed in the fourth Chapter, which is the largest of all, to give an Account of the second, viz. the Instrumental Duties of Christianity, which are injoyn'd us as Means subservient to our Practice, Acquisition and Improvement of those Heavenly Vertues in the perfection whereof our Chief Happiness consists. And for the more distinct hand. ling of these, I have considered men under a Threefold State with respect to the Chriftian Life; First, as entering into it ; Secondly, as actually ingaged in it; Thirdly, as perfecting and improving themselves by Perseverance in it ; to each of which I have appropriated such of the instrumental Duties as I conceived did more especially belong to them. 'Tis true, some of the Duties here treated of, are not purely instrumental, but of a mixt Nature, such as Faith, Prayer, actual Dedication of our good Works to God, &c. which are essential Parts of Divine Worship, and, as such, do belong to those Divine Vertues the Perfection whereof makes a Principal part of the everlasting Happiness of Souls. But here I have considered them only as Means and Instruments in the Use of which we are to acquire and perfect those Beatifical Vertues. *And of this sort of Means I do not remember any one Particular recommended in holy Scripture, but what hath been here treated of. Upon some indeed I have insisted much more briefly, than upon others, because I find them already largely accounted for in other practical Books, and especially in those two excellent Treatises above-named; but of those which they either cursorily rouch, or take no notice of at all, I thought my self obliged to give a larger Account.
From the whole I would recommend to the pious Reader the Consideration of the admirable Structure and Contrivance of the Practical Part of Christianity, which having proposed to us an Erd so great and sublime, and so highly worthy of our most vi
gorous prosecutions, hath also furnish'd us with such choice and effectual Means of all forts to attain it. The consideration of which would be in it self a great Inducement to me to believe Christianity a Divine Religion, though I were utterly unacquainked with its External Evidence and Motives of Credibility. For it can never enter into my
Head that such a rare and exquisite Contri|vance to make men good and happy, could
ever owe its Original to the meer invention of a Carpenters Son, and a company of illiterate Fishermen. Especially considering how far it excels the Moral Precepts even of those divine Philosophers who believed the future State of a blessed Immortality, and exercised their best Wit in prescribing Rules to guide and direct men thither.
And having given this large Account of the instrumental Duties of the Christian Life, and also inforced the several Divisions of them with proper Arguments and Motives, I thought fit to add a fifth Chapter, wherein I have given some Rules for the more profitable reading of this practical Discourse, and also fome general Directions for the Exercise of our private Religion in all the different States of the Christian Life, together with certain Forms of private De votion fitted for each State, In which I have
supposed, what I doubt is a very deplorable Truth, viz. that the Generality of Christians after their Initiation by Baptism into the Publick profession of Christianity, are so unhappy as to be seduced either through bad Example or Education into a vicious State of Life; and that consequently from thence they must take their first start into the through Practice of Christianity. Not that I make the least doubt, but that there are a great many excellent Christians, who by the Blessing of God upon their pious Education, have been secured from this Calamity, and trained up from their Infancy under a prevailing Sense of God and Religion; and therefore for such as these, as there is no need of that solemn method of Repentance prescribed in the first Section of the fourth Chapter, so neither is there of those first penitential Prayers in this fifth Chapter, which are accommodated to that State. For these persons have long since been actually ingaged in the Christian Life, and, as ’ris to be supposed, have made considerable Improvements in it, and therefore as they are only concerned in the Duties of the second and third States of the Christian Life, so they are only to use the Prayers which are fitted to those States, which with some variation of those phrases which sup
pose the past Course of our Life to have been vicious, they may easily accommodate to their own Condition. But the Design of this Discourse is not only to conduct them onwards in their way who have already entered upon the Christian Life, but allo to reduce those to it, who have been so unhappy as to wander into vicious Courses ; or rather, though it serves both Purposes, 'tis wholly designed for the same Persons, viz. to seek and bring back those loft Sheep who have straid from the Paths of Christian Diety and Vertue, and then to lead them on through all the intermediate Stages to the happy State of immortal Pleasures at the end of them. And now if what hath been said should, by the blessing of God, obtain its designed effect upon any person, i ask no other Requital for all the Pains it hath cost
me, but his earnest Prayers to God for me, that after
best Endeavours to guide and direct him to Heaven, I may not fall short of it my self