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SERM. Shown you that the path of the just, of ree XII. ligious vistye exemplified in human characs
ters, or as practised by men having infirmitys is as a shining light; it is in itself excellent, beautiful and regular, uniformly conducted with wisdom ; and free from that obscurity, ignorance and confusion, which are inseparable characters of a wicked and vicious course; it is accompanied with a constant inward serenity and self-approving joy, and it conveys useful instructions to thofe who behold it.
I shall, in the next place, consider it as an increasing light, and advancing to pero fection, which the text plainly leads us to; for the path of the just is faid to shining light, that sủineth more and more unto the perfect day. It is not like a fierý meteor which, having no abiding cause of light, only inakes a blaze, and is extinguish'd, nor does it shine only by reflection with a borrow'd lustre, but like the fpring of day animated by an inward undecaying principle, it rises in splendor from its low and more obscure beginnings, going on gras, dually to perfection. Like the natural early dawn, in this respect, is the principle of virtue, or what the scripture calls the seed
of God, and the new creature; it is weak, SÉRM. but it is entire and perinament," naturally XII
. growing up to maturity. We shall be convinced it must be so if we attend to the conftitution of our own minds ; for the ina tellectual and moral, indeed all the active powers of the human nature, are weak and narrow at first; they enlarge by degrees, they acquire Itrength by exercise, and are improv'd by habits ; every ones experience will satisfy him in this, who reflects on his own progress in knowledge, and in all the qualities which render life either agreeable or useful. What a poor unfinished, unadorn’d, and infipid thing, is the life of man in infancy, though indued with all the capacities which belong to its kind, till obfervation and use have form'd it to the prosecution and attainment of its proper ends ? Religion must in this respect be like all other improvements of nature, which depend on the exercise of our own powers 3 nay, it is so more peculiarly, because it dem pends more upon ourselves, and requires a more serious and attentive reflection and care, than many other improveable qualities'or sciences, which we can attain: It differs there fore so fir from the visible light, which ne
SERM. ceffarily shine's more and more to the pers XIL feat day. The path of the juft, tho' naturally
capable of growth, and made for it, does not actually grow without the voluntary and vigorous exertion of its inward active powers'; every good man knows, for he is conscious of it, the progress of virtue in himself, the dexterity, the eafe and pleasure, which attend the practice of it in proportion las he makes it his earnest study, and the object of his constant and careful application; as on the contrary, by indolence and floth, darkness grows upon us, and indifpofitions of mind; our inward fatisfaction decays, and usefulness in the world to the glory of our heavenly father, and the good of mankind, by promoting the cause of truth and virtue, 'Tis thus that the scripture represents the ʻreligious state, as by the divine ordination concerning it, and the law of its nature, progressive. It is compared to the vegetable; and to the animal life, which from a very weak and low beginning, grows up to its appointed perfection, to its beauty and fruitfulness; and the sensitive kind to the full use of its powers and its enjoyment.': The fimilitude of a man, growing up from infancy to mature age,
familiar one, in
is a very
describing the progressive condition of chril SERM.
forth to the things which were before, he
the * , John äi. 12, 13. †2 Pet. iü. 18. Phil. ii. 13.
SERM, the ineafure of Shining, not apparent, but XIX. Teal genuine virtue here, so thall the future
felicity be; be that Joweth sparingly shall reap also fparingly, and be that yoweth bourtifully shall reap also bountifully *.
But there is an appointed standard of virtue, 'towards which we should always aspire, which is its most complete state, represented here under the notion of the perfe&t day. I do not mean that there is a precise limit let to intellectual and moral attainments, and pleasures, beyond which they cannot pass, even in the future state ; the inequality of the heavenly glory, plainly declared in fcrip. ture, and compared to the unequal bright: ness of the firmament, and of particular sparkling stars in it, or luminous ones, and to the difference between the stars thema felves ; this, I say, leads us rather : to fupe pose the contrary: And, indeed, cur rational nature and powers, infinitely Thort of absolute perfection, seem by their conftitu. tion to be always capable of progress: But what I mean, is, that there is a perfect day "to come, a state so far of consummate virtue and righteousness, as to be free of all moral blemishes, and to exclude all finful
2.Cor, ix. 6...