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SER MON XIII,
The Christian Life a progreslive
PROV, iv, 18.
The Path of the Just is as the Mining
Light; Joining more and more unto the perfect Day.
S IR M.
Great many, and some too who call
themselves Philosophers (who, by the Way, never understood the true End of Living) have represented human Life, as a dull Business not worth a Man's Care; where the same Things come over and over again, like a Tale that is told: Which, however entertaining it may appear while it is new ; yet, by frequent Repetitions, at last becomes perfectly tedious and infipid. The Consequence of which has been, that many, viewing the Picture in this disagreeable Light, have been inclined to throw off all Concern about it; any farther than to arrive at a
The Christian Life a progressive State. 299 secure Indolence of Body, and a peaceful S er m. Tranquillity, or rather Insensibility of Mind; to shut out all Reflexion any farther than just to remedy or remove such Inconveniences, as the common Accidents of Life may occasionally produce : and others, loathing the same Viands so often served up, or fretted and foured by the many Croftes and Calamities intailed upon this imperfect State, have, as ridiculously as rafhly, put an End to their Being.
And true it is, that the Lives of too many have been but one barren Circle, to which they have been as it were inchanted, going round and round continually; ever in Motion, but never ridding any Ground. But though many may have made Life a dull Round of insignificant Actions, yet no Man had ever Occasion to make it so. It is so indeed to Brutes, which soon arrive at that Pitch of Perfection which is allotted to their Nature : Where they must top short, without a Poisibility of going any farther. Sense, which is the highelt natural Power they have, moves in a narrow Sphere ; it's Objects in Comparison few; and moreover dull and gross : And therefore not only come more quickly round, but become more languid and dull in every Revolution. But Man is endued with nobler Faculties, and presented with pobler Objects whereon to exercise and
Ser m. employ them. The Contemplation of all XIII. moral and divine Truths to engage his
Understanding : The Love of the Creator, and all the Beauties of the natural and moral World to attract and captivate his Affections : The Power, Wisdom, and Goodness of God manifest in the whole Extent of the Creation, to exalt his Admiration, and call forth all his Praise. The Opportunities of all good Actions to produce the Pleasures of Virtue and a good Conscience. Nothing can bound the noble Range of Reason, ever improving, and ever improvable ; nothing can abate the Ardor of the Affections, which are placed upon the Fountain and Foundation of all Love, of all Beauty and Harmony : Nothing can diminish the Admiration of a Universe, where the very minutest Parts are above the highest human Comprehension : Nothing can deaden the Pleasure of Virtue and a good Conscience, which, the more they are tasted, the more they are defirable. Here is a noble Path for a rational Creature to travel in : His continued Ada vancement in it, his daily Improvement in Knowledge, Virtue and Goodness, will constitute his highest Perfection here, and terminate in a perfect Consummation of endless Bliss and Glory: The Path of the Just is as the shining Light ; Shining more and
more unto the perfe&t Day. From which Serm. Words I shall take Occasion to shew,
Ist, That it is in every Man's Power to make his Life a progressive State.
IIdly, Offer some Reasons and Considerations to engage us in such a Practice; and,
Lastly, Conclude with some Reflexions relative to the Subject.
And, First, it is in every Man's Power to make his Life a progressive State. If we trace the Progress of the human Mind from the first Dawnings of Sense and Reafon, we may see from what small Beginnings it acquires a prodigious Store of intellectual Knowledge. The View fills us with Admiration, and we are naturally led to wish, nay, to make it the Sum of our Wishes, that we could be able to traverse thofe Regions of Science, whereof some noble Genius's have made themselves Mafters: But though we admire, we need not complain. It has indeed pleased the Allwise Governor of the World to make a great Distinction in the original Frame of human Souls, with Respect to the intellectual Powers: A Provision absolutely necesfary for answering the Purposes of civil Government, where a Subordination is ne
Serm. cessarily implied; for fo much Wisdom XIII. will always produce so much Power. Buť
whether we may always observe it or no, our Saviour's Command to his Disciples is virtually fulfilled in every Community: He that is the greatest among you, let bim be your Servant. If the Men who are blessed with distinguithed Abilities, make a proper Use of them (and otherwise they need not be envied) they are really increasing the Measure of the public Good; and, in that, doing Service to the meanest Individual : And therefore Reputation and Efteem are but a due Acknowledgment for their good Offices. But to expect or desire Honour from Men is but a low Ambition. Let us try to recommend ourselves to the Approbation of him, whofe Judgment is not as Man's Judgment. The very best Part of Knowledge is knowing how to difcharge rightly our Duty to God; and therefore the Performance of that Duty must still be of higher Estimation. And in this Mankind are more upon an equal footing. The moral Powers, like the natural Perfections of the Body, are more equally distributed; and in them there is as Targe a Field laid open for our Advancement towards Perfection, as there is in the Intellectual.
It is true, we may have unhappily ftruck into a wrong Path, and be wanders