Imatges de pÓgina
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to your practice, in respect of its absolute and indispensable necessity to your eternal salvation.

The two first of these heads I have already despatched; the third I entered upon, but did not go through with. The two former motives I made use of, as proper to work upon those who would approve themselves wise, or who had a value for their own ease and quiet of mind : but this last motive is better suited to the generality of mankind, as being adapted to prevail upon all who have a desire to be saved ; because, without this singleness of intention, salvation is not attainable. For God, who hath power to save or to destroy us, who is the disposer of eternal rewards and punishments, doth not dispense these to men arbitrarily and at random, but by set rules and measures, which he in his infinite wisdom hath prescribed to himself. What those terms are, upon which every one may hope to be saved, God hath, in his infinite goodness, opened unto us in the holy scriptures: we there find the characters of good and bad men, the distinctions of duty and sin, and the marks of such as are in a state of salvation or damnation, fully and plainly set fortb. God hath there, for our better direction in the paths of happiness, declared unto us upon what conditions we may expect the assistance of his grace here and the fruition of his glory hereafter; and if singleness of heart is either in express terms or by necessary consequence made one of those conditions, then will it be in vain for us to flatter ourselves with the foolish hopes of ever partaking of the promises of the gospel whilst we fulfil not this condition. One, and the chief article of the Christian covenant is the love of God; such a love of him, which if it doth not exclude the love of all other beings besides him, as some teach, yet it doth not admit the love of any other being more

than of him, or equally with him, as all agree. Now such a love of God as is superior to the love of all other beings is not consistent with those double intentions whereby we propose to ourselves the promoting our carnal interest equally with our spiritual, nor with those divided affections whereby we set our hearts as much upon the things of this world as upon the things above; and consequently those whose hearts are so divided between both, being destitute of the true love of God whilst they continue so, cannot have any rational assurance of their being within the terms of salvation.

I go on now to prove further the sinfulness and danger of such double intentions, and such uneven, partial, and broken obedience, from its inconsistency with that perfection, which is another condition of the gospel-covenant, and another condition required in all Christians to their everlasting salvation.

I observed to you before, that there were disputes among divines concerning the true measures of the love of God; but at the same time I showed you, that our argument was not concerned in the issue of those disputes, because, which way soever those disputes turned, whatever were the right measures of the love of God, double-mindedness was inconsistent with that lowest measure and degree of it, which all were agreed was absolutely necessary to make it acceptable to God, as being the lowest degree of affection which could possibly be understood to be intended in the divine commandment. And the same thing happens here again in reference to that perfection which the gospel requires in all Christians. Great disputes there are, always have been, and, among speculative men, probably always will be, concerning the measures of perfection which are prescribed to us in the holy scrip

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ture : but it is matter of great comfort to simple and well meaning Christians, who are not able to enter into these niceties, and to judge on which side the truth lies in these intricate questions, that their practice doth not at all depend upon the issue of these debates; but that it is plain what they ought to do, which way soever these questions are determined. Thus, however the measures of Christian perfection are stated; whether we raise them up to the utmost height at which they are placed by the most rigorous opinions, or sink them down to the lowest pitch to which they are brought by the most favourable construction; doublemindedness will be proved to be a sinful and dangerous state of soul, as being inconsistent with that lowest point of perfection, which it is agreed on all hands is the indispensable duty of all true and sincere Christians, and a necessary condition of our eternal salvation.

Perfection, according to the strictest sense of the word, signifies an exemption from all defect : for nothing is entirely perfect which wants any good quality it ought to have, or which hath any ill quality it ought to be free from. And if we understand perfection in this rigorous sense, it will include in its notion an exemption from all kinds and all degrees of sin, and the completion of all kinds and all degrees of holiness : so that no one will come within the character of perfect, but he who constantly and inviolably obeys the laws of God, by performing all such works, both inward and outward, as each command requires, after that manner, upon those views, and out of those regards which the law prescribes. And if we should look upon some texts of scripture abstractedly from all others; if we should attend to the bare letter and sound of them, without examining them by other texts, and interpreting them by the analogy of faith ;

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we might be induced, at first sight, to think such an

absolute, spotless, and entire perfection required at Matt. v. 48. our bands. Our Saviour commands us to be perfect,

even as our Father which is in heaven is perfect ; and the perfection of God, we know, excludes not only all kinds, but all degrees of imperfection ; and includes

not only all sorts, but the highest measures of all sorts Eph. v. 25, of perfection. Christ is said to have given himself for

the church, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water, by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing ; but that it should be holy, and without blemish. Now by the church we are to understand Christians; and if they are to be thus sanctified and cleansed ; if they are to be without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing ; if they must be holy and without blemish; then must they be perfectly free from all sin, which is a blemish to every soul that is polluted with it.

The end of Christ's coming in the flesh is said to Tit. ii. 14. have been to redeem us from all iniquity; to present us

unto God, as a peculiar people, purified by faith, zealous Col. i. 22. of good works ; holy and unblameable and unreproveable Col. iv. 12. in God's sight; entire and wanting nothing, perfect and

complete in all the will of God. Now, if we should examine the double-minded by this standard of perfection, it is plain that they fall much short of it; but then it is also too evident, that the most spiritual and heavenly-minded themselves must stand condemned at God's tribunal, if they put themselves upon this kind of trial. But God forbid we should conclude the state of any one Christian to be dangerous because he wants that degree of perfection which we are not sure is possible to be attained, and which other as express scriptures as those which have been cited do assure us no saint of God ever yet did attain. Our apostle St.James, who here requires of us purity of heart, lays down this as an uncontrollable truth, that in many things we of- Jam. iii. 2. fend all : and the apostle St. John, who hath taught us that he that committeth sin is of the devil, and that 1 John iii. whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin, nay can

8, 9. not sin, doth nevertheless as plainly teach, that if we 1 John i. 8. say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us ; and yet further, that by such a pretension to unspotted holiness we do not only deceive ourselves, but that we represent God as a deceiver; for he adds, If we say that we have not sinned, we make God a liar, Ver. 10. and his word is not in us.

Now if perfection is the mark of God's children, as the word of God every where makes it; and if there is no saint of God that sinneth not, as the same word over and over again instructs us; then can we not, without making one text of scripture clash against another, suppose that the perfection required in the gospel, as a necessary condition of our being saved, includes in it a freedom from all sin. Sure we are that those who in scripture are honoured with the character of perfect did not arrogate to themselves an exemption from all manner of sin ; for at the same time that their eminent virtues and graces are proposed to us as patterns, which we ought to imitate, their failings also are delivered down to us, both for our better caution, that we should be careful to avoid the like, and also for our consolation, that, if after all our care and diligence, we should be overborne by temptation, yet we might not despair. Holy Job had this character given him by God himself, that there Job i. 8. was none like him upon the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feared God, and eschewed evil. And yet the same holy person, when he sets himself before

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