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SERM.press towards the mark for the prize of the VIII. high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

To understand this subject the better, it is to be remember'd, that perfection in love is really perfection in all religion and all virtue, for love is the fulfilling of the law. Our whole obedience to God is comprehended in love to him, as the root and principle of it. And that this is the true sense of our sacred author, will appear from what he says in the 5th chapter of this epistle and the 3d verse, This is the love of God that we keep his commandments : not only it is the best evidence of our love ; it is the thing itself. And in the ad chapter and gth verse, Whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected. Our love to God is that dutiful and affectionate respect we owe him as the moral governor of the world, which certainly, therefore, implies obedience, or doing sincerely and constantly what we know he requires. And for charity, or the love of our neighbour, St. Paul teaches us, that it directly includes all the duty we owe him, not only the offices of beneficence and mercy, but of justice, fidelity, and whatever else is required from one man to another; for he says, Rom. xiii. 9. For this, thou shalt

not

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not commit adultery, thou shalt not kill, thou SERM.
fhalt not steal, thou shalt not bear false wit- VIII.
ness, thou shalt not covet, and if there be any
other commandment (directing our behaviour
to our fellow-creatures of mankind) it is
briefly comprehended in this saying, namely,
thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. But,
tho'this is the substance of that wherein we
must be made perfect, that we may have
boldness in the day of judgment, it is necef-
sary to add, that the sacred writers sometimes
speak of religious perfection in a comparative
sense. They distinguish christians into chil-
dren and grown men, and exhort us always
to endeavour that we may advance from the
one of these states to the other ; the former
are the fincere, but weak disciples of Christ,
in whom are the true, though low beginnings
of religious virtue, so feeble that, as the
apostle speaks, they are like children toss'd to
and fro with every wind of temptation ; they
often fail, and are always endeavouring to
recover themselves ; they are constantly in-
clin’d to do their duty, but perform it in
such an imperfect manner, as scarcely to be
conscious of what is called the spiritual life,
or the prevalence of good difpofitions. The
perfect man is he in whom virtuous habits

have

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ŞERM. have taken deep root, are so confirm’d as to VIII. be superior to all temptations, and operate

with such'ease and pleasure that the mind cannot but be sensible of, and rejoice in the testimony of conscience concerning its fincerity.

I hope it may not be amiss to mention some particular instances of virtue or diligence in duty, the eminent degrees whercof are in fcripture, particularly call'd perfection; fuch as, a constant attention to ourselves, to our hearts, our tempers, and the principles of action in us, that we may fulfil our obedience to God, and be kept from offending him. This was the charge which the almighty, when he appeared to Abraham, and made a covenant with him, gave him, Gen. xvü. 1. Walk before me, always, as under

my inspection, always studying to obtain my approbation, fo shalt thou be perfect. A mind habitually rais'd above the world, having its affections not set on things on earth, but things above, with a prevailing tafte for religious exercises and entertainments; this is not what every christian finds in himself, but wherever it is found, I think it may well be allow'd to belong to a character of eminence in piety; and so does a customary

vigilance

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vigilance against all occasions and ways of SERM.

VIII.
offending. St. James says, chap. iii. 2. If
any man offend not in words, the fame is a per-
feet man. Again, eminency in the practice
of charity, and mercy, is an important part of
religious perfection, of which I shall only
give you one plain proof from the words of
our Saviour, Matth. v. When he had earneft-
ly recommended this virtue to his disciples,
as 'tis evident his inftitution carries it higher

other ever did, urging them to love
their enemies, to bless, to do good to, and
pray for fuch, as curs’d, despitefully used,
and perfecuted them; the conclusion of that
discourse is in these words, ver. 48. Be ye
therefore perfeet, as your father who is in bean
ven is perfect ; which are thus varied in
Luke vi. 36. as the conclufion of the same
discourse, be

ye therefore merciful, as your father is merciful; intimating, that the most extensive disinterested goodness and mercy

is true moral perfection, and the best imitation of the Deity which the human nature is capable of. And lastly, by a perfevering patience and fteddy adherence to the cause of truth and virtue, under all the difficulties, afflictions, and perfecutions we meet with in

life,

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SER M.life, we are made perfect in love. This VIII. will appear plainly to an attentive person

from the nature of the thing, for what better evidence can there be of the strength, and indeed the perfection, such as we can attain, of good principles, than an inviolable adherence to them, and acting upon them constantly under the severest trials. And the apostle James has taught us fo in express words;

Let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfeet and intire, wanting nothing. Having thus shew'd

you wherein the perfection of love consists, or what is meant by our being made perfect in it, I proceed

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Secondly, To consider the happy effect of this perfection, which is establishing our hearts in the expectation of the future judgment, as giving us boldness in it, and casting out all tormenting and disquieting fear. At our entrance on this part of the subject, it is necessary to observe, that as the mind of man rests with satisfaction in the discovery of truth, with different degrees of satisfaction, however, according as the truth discovered is apprehended to be of importance to itself, so there are different kinds and degrees of evidence. There are self-evident

propositions, James i. 40

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