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S E R M.prefs towards the mark for the prize of the VIII. high calling of God in Christ Jesus. L "~ 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 fense 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 j it is the thing itself. And in the 2d chapter and 5th 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 fays, Rom, xiii. 9. For this, thou jhalt
not commit adultery, thou Jhalt not kill, thouSerm. foalt not steal, thou jhalt not bear false wit- VIII. 7ieJ}, thou Jhalt not covet, and if there be any ~r"~"J other commandment (directing our behaviour to bur fellow-creatures of mankind) // is .briefiy comprehended in this faying, namely, thou jhalt 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 necessary to add, that the sacred writers sometimes speak of religious perfection in a comparative fense. They distinguish christians into children and grown men, and exhort us always to endeavour that we mav advance from the one of these states to the other; the former are the sincere, 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 tos'd to and fro with every wind of temptation; they often fail, and are always endeavouring to recover themselves; they are constantly inclin'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 dispositions. The perfect man is he in whom virtuous habits
Se Rm.have taken deep root, are so confirm'd as to VIII. be superior to all temptations, and operate w """"'with such'ease and pleasure that the mind cannot but be sensible of, and rejoice in the testimony of conscience concerning its sincerity.
I hope it may not be amiss to mention some particular instances of virtue or diligence in duty, the eminent degrees whereof are in scripture, particularly call' d perfection j such 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 she almighty, when he appeared to Abraham, and made a covenant with him, gave him, Gert^ xvii. i. Walk before me, always,asunder my . inspection, always studying to obtain" my 'x approbation, fo (halt thou be perfeifr^ A mind habitually rais'd above the world, hav-" ing its affections not set on things On eartn^ but things above, with a prevailing taste £qr ^ religious exercises and entertainments j 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 j and so does a customary 3 vigilance
vigilance against all occasions and ways ofSERM. offending. St. James fays, chap. iii. 2. If VIIL *7«y offend not in words, thefame is a per- ^" * sect 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 earnestly recommended this virtue to his disciples, as "tis evident his institution carries it higher than any other ever did, urging them to love their enemies, to bless, to do good to, and pray for such, as curs'd, despitefolly used, and persecuted them j the conclusion of that discourse is in these words, ver. 48. Be yetherefore perfect, as your father who is in hea>i»» is perfecJ j which are thus varied in Luke vi. 36. as the conclusion of the fame 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 persevering patience and steddy adherence to the cause of truth and virtue, under all the difficulties, afflictions, and persecutions we meet with in
SERM.Iise, 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 thena constantly under the severest trials. And the apostle "James has taught us so in express words; * Let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and intire, wanting nothing. Having thus fhew'd you wherein the perfection of love consists, or what is meant by our being made perfect in it, I proceed
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
• James i. 4.