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way soever we examine this matter, it appears
that an humility of mind, that is not an humility of person, of life, and action, is but a mere pretence, and as contrary to common sense as it is contrary to the doctrine and erample of our Saviour.
I shall now leave this subject to the reader's own meditation, with this one farther observation.
We see the height of our calling; that we are called to follow the example of our Lord and Mas ter; and to go through this world with his spirit and temper. Now nothing is so likely a means to fill us with his spirit and temper, as to be frequent in reading the Gospels, which contain the history of his life and conversation in the world. We are apt to think that we have sufficiently read a book, when we have so read it as to know what it contains: this reading may be sufficient as to many books; but as to the Gospels, we are not to think that we have ever read them enough, because we have often read and heard what they contain. But we must read them as we do our prayers, not to know what they contain, but to fill our hearts with the spirit of them. There is as much difference betwixt reading, and reading, as there is betwixt praying and praying. And as no one prays well but he that is daily and constant in prayer, so no one can read the Scriptures to sufficient advantage, but he that is daily and constant in the reading of them. By thus conversing with our blessed Lord; looking into his actions and manner of life; hearing his divine sayings; his heavenly instructions; his accounts of the terrors of the damned; his descriptions of the glory of the righteous, we should find our hearts formed and disposed to hunger and thirst after righteousness. Happy they, who saw the Son of God upon earth converting sinners, and calling fallen spirits to return to God! And next happy are we who have his discourses, doctrines, actions, and miracles, which then converted Jews and Heat
thens into saints and martyrs, still preserved to fill us with the same heavenly light, and lead us to the same state of glory!
An Exhortation to Christian Perfection. W
HOEVER hath read the foregoing chapters
with attention is, I hope, sufficiently instructed in the knowledge of Christian perfection. He hath seen that it requireth us to devote ourselves wholly unto God, to make the ends and designs of religion the ends and designs of all our actions; that it called us to be born again of God, to live by the light of his Holy Spirit, to renounce the world, and all worldly tempers; to practise à constant universal self-denial; to make daily war with the corruption and disorder of our nature; to prepare ourselves for divine grace, by a purity and holiness of conversation; to avoid all pleasures and cares which grieve the Holy Spirit, and separate him from us; to live in a daily constant state of prayer and devotion; and as the crown of all, to imitate the life and spirit of the holy Jesus.
It not only remains, that I exhort the reader to labour after this Christian perfection. Was I to exhort any one to the study of poetry or eloquence, to labour to be rich and great, or to spend his time in mathematics, or other learning, I could only produce such reasons as are fit to delude the vanity of men, who are ready to be taken with any appearance of excellence. For if the same person was to ask me, what it signifies to be a poet or eloquent, what advantage it would be to him to be a great
mathematician, or a great statesman, I must be forced to answer, that these things would signify just as much to him as they now signify to those poets, orators, mathematicians, and statesmen, whose bodies have been a long while lost among common dust. For if a man will be so thoughtful and inquisitive as to put the question to every human enjoyment, and ask what real good it would bring along with it, he would soon find that every success amongst the things of this life leaves us just in the same state of want and emptiness in which it found us.
If a man asks why he should labour to be the first mathematician, orator, or statesmun, the answer is easily given, because of the fame and honour of such a distinction; but if he was to ask again why he should thirst after fame and honour, or what good they would do him, he must stay long enough for an answer. For when we are at the top of all human attainments, we are still at the bottom of all human misery, and have no farther advancement towards true happiness than those whom we see in the want of all these excellences. Whether a man die before he has writ poems, compiled histories, or raised an estate, signifies no more than whether he died an hundred, or a thousand years ago.
On the contrary, when any one is exhorted to labour after Christian perfection, if he then asks what good it will do him, the answer is ready, that it would do him a good which eternity only can measure; that it will deliver him from a state of vanity and misery; that it will raise him from the poor enjoyments of an animal life; that it will give him a glorious body, carry him in spight of death and the grave to live with God, be glorious among angels and heavenly beings, and be full of an infinite happiness to all eternity. If therefore we could but make men so reasonable as to make the shortest e:quiry into the nature of things, we should have no occasion to exhort them to strive after Christian perfection. Two questions we see puts an end to all the vain projects and designs of human life; they are all so empty and useless to our happiness, that they cannot stand the trial of a second question. And on the other hand, it is but asking, whether Christian perfection tends to make us have no other care. One single thought upon the eternal happiness that it leads to, is sufficient to make all people saints.
This shows us how inexcusable all Christians are who are devoted to the things of this life; it is not because they want fine parts, or are unable to make deep reflexions; but it is because they reject the first principles of common sense; they will not so much as ask what those things are which they are labouring after. Did they but use thus much reason, we need not desire them to be wiser, in order to seek only eternal happiness. As a shadow at the first trial of the hand appears to have no substance; 60 all human enjoyments sink away into nothing, at the first approach of a serious thought. We must not therefore complain of the weakness and ignorance of our nature, or the deceitful appearances of wordly enjoyments, because the lowest degree of reason, if listened to, is sufficient to discover the cheat. If you will, you may blindly do what the rest of the world are doing, you may follow the cry, and run yourself out of breath for you know not what. But if you will but show so much sense as to ask why you should take such a chase, you will need no deeper a reflection than this, to make you leave the broadway, and let the wise and learned, the rich and great, be mad by themselves. Thus much common sense will turn your eyes towards God, will separte you from all the appearances of worldly felicity, and fill you with one only ambition after eternal happiness.
When Pyrrhus, king of Epirius, told Cineas what great conquests he intended to make, and how many nations he would subdue; Cineas asked him what he would do when all this was done: he answered, we will then live at ease, and enjoy ourselves and our friends. Cineas replied to this purpose. Why then, sir, do we not now live at ease, and enjoy ourselves? If ease and quiet be the utmost of our views and designs, why do we run away from it at present? What occasion for all these battles and expeditions all over the world?
The moral of this story is very extensive, and carries a lesson of instruction to much the greatest part of the Christian world.
When a Christian is eager after the distinctions of this life, proposing some mighty heights to which he will raise himself, either in riches, learning, or power; if one was to ask him what he will do wben he has obtained them, I suppose his answer would be, that he would then retire, and devote himself to koliness and piety. May we not here justly say with Cineas, if piety and holiness is the chief end of man, if these are your last proposal, the upshot of all your labours, why do you not enter upon happiness at present? Why all this wandering out of your way? Why must you go so far about? For to devote yourself to the world, though it is your last proposal to retire from it to holiness and piety, is like Pyrrhus's seeking of battles, when he proposed to live in ease and pleasure with his friends. I believe there are very few Christians, who have it not in their heads at least to be some time or other holy and virtuous, and readily own, that he is the happy man that dies truly humble, holy, and heavenly-minded. Now this opinion, which all people are possessed of, makes the projects and designs of life more mad and frantic than the battles of Pyrrhus. For one may not only say to such people, why do you neglect the present happiness of these virtues; but one must farther