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did he labour and toil; for this did he bleed and dit: Hath he wrought no deliverance in the earth? Shall he not see the travail of his soul? Certainly it is impossible that this great contrivance of heaven should prove abortive, that such a mighty undertaking should fail and miscarry. It hath already been eilectual for the salvation of many thousands, who were once as far from the kingdonin heaven as we can suppose ourselves to be; and our High Priest continueth for ever, and is able to sare them to the utter most that come unt) Goil by him. He is tender and compassionate; 113 knoweth our infirmities, and bad experience of our temptations: A bruised reed will he not break, and smoking flax will he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory. He hath sent out his Holy Spirit, whose sweet, but powerful breathings are stilt moving up and down in the world, to quicken and revive the souls of men, and awaken them wito the sense and feeling of those divine things for which they were made; and is ready to ussist such weak and languishing creatures as we are, in our essays towards holiness and felicity; and when once it hath taken hold of a soul, and kindied in it the smallest spark of divine love, it will be sure to preserve and cherislı, and bring it forth into it Hame, which many waters shall not quench, neither shall the floods be able to diowil it. Whenever this day begins to dawni, and the day-star to arise in the heurt, it will easily dispel the powers of darkness, and make ignorance and folly, and all the corrupt and selfish affections of men, flee away as fast before it as the shades of night when the sun cometh out of bis chambers: for the path of the just is as the shining light, which shineth more and more unto the perfect day. They shall go on from strength to strength, till every one of them appear before God in Zion.
Why should we think it impossible, that true goodness and universal love should ever come to sway and prevail in our souls? Is not this their primitive state and condition; their native and genuine constitution as they came first from the hands of their malier? Sin and cor
ruption are but usurpers; and though they have long kept the possession, yet from the beginning it was not so. That inordinate self-love which one would think were rooted in our very being, and interwoven with the constitution of our nature, is nevertheless of foreign extraction, and had no place at all in the state of integrity. We have still so much reason left as to condemn it. Our understandings are easily convinced, that we ought to be wholly devoted to him from whom we have our being, and to love him infinitely more than ourselves, who is infinitely better than we; and our wills would readily comply with this, if they were not disordered and put out of tune. And is not he who made our souls, able to rectify and mend them again? Shall we not be able, by his assistance, to vanquish and expel those violent intruders, and turn to flight the armies of the aliens ?
No sooner shall we take up arms in this holy war, but we shall have all the saints on earth, and all the angels in heaven engaged on our party. The holy church throughout the world is daily interceding with God for the success of all such endeavours. And doubtless those heavenly hosts above are nearly concerned in the interests of religion, and infinitely desirous to see the divine life thriving and prevailing in this inferior world; and that the will of God may be done by us on earth, as it is done by themselves in heaven. And may we not then encourage ourselves, as the prophet did his servant, when he showed him the horses and chariots of fire, Fear not, for they that be with us, are more than they that be against us. We must do what we can, and depend on the
divine assistance. Away then with all perplexing fears and desponding thoughts. To undertake vigorously, and rely confidently on the divine assistance, is more than half the conquest. Let us arise, and be doing, and the Lord will be with us. It is true, religion in the souls of men is the immediate work of God; and all our natural
endeavours can neither produce it alone, nor merit those supernatural aids by which it must be wrought: the Hoiy Ghost must come upon us, and the power of the Highest must overshadow us, before that holy thing can be forgotten, and Christ be formed in us. But yet wo must not expect that this whole work should be done without any concurring endeavours of our own: we must not lie loitering in the ditch, and wait till Omnipotence pull us fiom thence. No, no: we must bestir ourselves, and actuate those powers which we have already received: we must put forth ourselves to our utmost capacities, and then we may hope that our labour shall not be in vain in the Lord. All the art and industry of man cannot form the smallest herb, or make a stalk of corn to grow in the field: it is the energy of nature, and the influences of heaven, which produce this effect; it is God who causes the grass to grow, and herb for the service of man: and yet nobody will say, that the labours of the husbandman are useless or unnecessary. So likewise the human soul is immediately created by God; it is he who both formeth and enliveneth the chiid: and yet he hath appointed the marriage-bed as the ordinary means for the propagation of mankind. Though there must intervene a stroke of omnipotence to ettect this mighty change in our souls, yet ought we to do what we can to fit and prepare ourselves. For we must break up our fallow ground, and root out the weeds, and pull up the thorns, that so we may be more ready to receive the seeds of grace, and the dew of heaven. It is true, God hath been found of some who sought him not; he hath cast himself in their way, who were quite out of his; he hath laid hold upon them, and stopped their course of a sudden: for so was St. Paul converted in his journey to Damascus. But certainly this is not God's ordinary method of dealing with men. 'l hough he hath not tied himseif to means, yet he hath tied us to the use of them; and we have never more reason to expect the divine assistance, than when we are doing our utmost endeavours. It shall therefore be my next work, to show what course we onght to take for
attaining that blessed temper I have hitherto described. But here, if, in delivering my own thoughts, I shall chance to differ from what is or may be said by others in this matter, I would not be thought to contradict and oppose them, more than physicians do, when they prescribe several remedies for the same disease, which perhaps are all useful and good. Every one may propose the method he judges most proper and convenient; but he doth not thereby pretend that the cure can never be effected, unless that be exactly observed. I doubt it hath occasioned much unnecessary disquietude to some holy persons, that they have not found such regular and orderly transaction in their souls, as they have seen described in books: that they have not passed through all those steps and stages of conversion, which some (who perhaps have felt them in themselves) have too peremptorily prescribed unto others. God hath seyeral ways of dealing with the souls of men; and it sufficeth if the work be accomplished, whatever the methods have been.
Again, though, in proposing directions, I must follow that order which the nature of things shall lead to; yet I do not mean that the same method should be so punctually observed in the practice, as if the latter rules were never to be heeded, till some considerable time have been spent in practising the former. The directions I intend are mutually conducive one. to another; and are all to be performed as occasion shall serve, and we find ourselves enabled to perform them.
We must shun all manner of sin. But now,
that I may detain you no longer, if we desire to have our souls moulded to this holy frame, to become partakers of the divine nature, and have Christ formed in our hearts, we must seriously resolve, and carefully endeavour to avoid and abandon all vicious and sinful practices. There can be no treaty of peace, till once we lay down these weapons of rebellion wherewith we fight against heaven: nor can we expect to have our distempers cured, if we be daily feeding on poison. Every
wilful sin gives a mortal wound to the soul, and puts it at a greater distance from God and goodness: and we can never hope to have our hearts purified from corrupt affections, unless we cleanse our hands from vicious actions. Now, in this case, we cannot excuse ourselves by the pretence of impossibility; for sure our outward man is some way in our power; we have some command of our feet, and hands, and tongue, nay, and of our thoughts and fancies too; at least so far as to divert them from impure and sinful objects, and to turn our mind another way: and we should find this power and authority much strengthened and advanced, if we were careful to manage and exercise it. In the mean while, I acknowledge our corruptions are so strong, and our temptations so many, that it will require a great deal of stedfastness and resolution, of watchfulness and care, to preserve ourselves, even in this degree of innocence and purity.
We must know what things are sinful. And, first, let us inform ourselves well, what those sins are from which we ought to abstain. . And here we must not take our measures from the maxims of the world, or the practices of those whom in charity we account good men. Most people have very light apprchensions of these things, and are not sensible of any fault, unless it be gross and flagitious; and scarce reckon any so great as that which they call preciseness: and those who are more serious, do many times allow themselves too great latitude and freedom. Alas! how much pride and vanity, and passion and humour; how much weakness, folly, and sin, doth every day show itself in their converse and behaviour. It may be they are humbled for it, and striving against it, and are daily gaining some ground; but then the progress is so small, and their failings so many, that we have need to choose an exacter pattern. Every one of us must answer for himself, and the practices of others will never warrant and secure us. It is the highest folly to regulate our actions by any other standard than that by which they must be judged.