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Dictates of Reason in endeavouring after these Virtues, or whether we look up to the Deity, and copy from the Perfection of his Nature; it is evident, that in both Cafes we follow the same Virtues, though placed before us in a different View. For, since our Notion of the Perfections of the Deity must be formed from such natural Notions of moral Perfection, as Reason and the Light of Nature can supply; whether we consider these Perfections as inherent in the Deity, and endeavour to copy after the First and Great Original, or whether we take our natural Notions of moral Virtue, as Principles and Rules of Religion, which ought to influence and direct our Lives, the Issue will be the fame with respect to our Practice. It is easier for Men, when once they Notion of a perfect righteous Being, to consider, in particular Cases, what such a Being would do or approve, than to run up in an abstracted way of Reasoning to first Principles and Maxims for Direction. But which ever Way you take, the Inquiry is the same, namely, what is fit and reasonable to be done in this or that Case: And let the Method of Inquiry be what it will, the Judgment must be such as our present Share
of Reason will enable us to make. And therefore the Imitation of God is a Principle of Religion arising from, and depending on, the right Use and Exercise of Reason, as much as any other whatever. And this
may serve to shew upon what Foundation the Imitation of God stands in Natural Religion, and how we may apply this Principle for our Direction in particular Cases. It may shew also what is to be understood by being perfect, as God is perfect: It is absurd to aim at the Measure of his Perfection; but we are then, to all the Purposes of Life and Religion, perfect as He is perfect, when we do nothing but what He will approve: For to stand approved in the Eye of an Allperfect and Holy Being, is the true Perfection of every Creature. This is the Christian Excellency, as described by St. Paul in the Words once already quoted, and with which I Ihall conclude this Difcourse, That we may stand perfect and complete in all the Will of God.
JOHN iii. 19. This is the Condemnation, that Light is come
into the World, and Men loved Darkness rather than Light, because their Deeds
GET AN being a reasonable Creature,
and endued with Faculties to M Hjudge and chufe for himself in
all Cases, it is contrary to Na
ture to suppose, that there should be any Thing absolutely or necessarily good to him; since the Advantage to be drawn from any Thing whatever, depends on the right Use and Application of that Thing to its proper Ends and Purposes. Wholesome Food is good for the Sound, but if taken in Y 3
undue Measure it grows into a Disease. Physic is proper for the Sick; but if the Patient will not submit to proper Regulaa tions, that which might have been his Cure will certainly be his Destruction.
As it is with respect to the Body, fo is it likewise with respect to the Mind; there is no such thing as an absolute or necessary Cure for the Frailties and Infirmities of it, but the properest Method for attaining that End must still depend on the proper Use and Application of it. The best Instructions are of no Use whilst not attended to; and the greatest Helps and Afliftances yield no Profit, as long as they are rejected and despised.
Were the Case otherwise, that is, were there any System of Religion pretending, in virtue of fome uncontrolable Power, to make Men righteous, such a System might be valued as a good Piece of Spiritual Mechanism; but it could never be considered as a Rule of Virtue and Morality, since the Operation of the Will being excluded, the Morality of all human Actions would be excluded with it.
And hence it follows, that the utmost that can be done for us in Religion, is so to instruct us, that we may not err for Want of Know