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I monstrating its aptitude to plant exem-
plary Vertue and Sanctity. Page - /
nuine effe&t. --
The Charaéter of Christian Religion, demonstrating its aptitude to plant exemplary Vertue and Sanctity.
H E holy Psalmist gives it as part of the Cha
racter of Pious persons, and therewithal a I description of their felicity, Psal. 92. 13. That they shall bring forth more fruit in their Age: and what he thus observes of the members disjunctively and apart, reason suggests to be in a higher, and more eminent manner appliable to the whole body united: And it being as well the mark as duty of every single Christian to grow in grace, 2 Pet. 3. 18. we may by all rules of Proportion, conclude that the collective masle of such, the whole Church is by this time near attained to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ, Eph. 4. 3. And indeed this is so regular an inference, that whileft the premises stand firm 'tis impossible to shake the conclusion, the entire body mult necessarily augment answerably to the growth of its several parts. And if we should so far let loose to speculation as to forget our experience: If we measure the effect only by the power and energy of the cause, we should surely be as far from doubting the premises also. Christianity is in its self of lo prolifick a nature, so apt to impregnate the hearts and lives of its profelytes, that it is hard to imagine,
that any branch should want a due fertility that is engrafted into fo vigorous a stock.
FOR first, in its spring and original it is most supernatural and divinë, derived immediately from him, who had nothing more of nian than he purposely assumed to draw us the nearer to him as God. He it was that disseminated this doctrine, and that in order to the purifying to himself a peculiar people zealous of good works; and certainly his choice abundantly justifies its propriety to that end, and his defcent from Heaven on that errand puts so venerable a solemnity upon it, that though his descent were very astonishing, yet it will be much more so, that it should fail of the designed effect.
AND indeed did our Faith give us no clue to lead us to the author, yet its composition would speak it to be of no humane extraction, its precepts are so excellent and refined, so agreeable to the more spiritual part of our temper, and so apt, as to forestall, fo to cleanse and sublimate the more grofs and corrupt, as shews Aesh and blood never revealed it. Nay farther, so effectually providing for all those advantages to mankind, which the wisest of mens laws have in vain attempted, that methinks they all stand before it like the Magicians before Mofes, and by their impotence tacitly confess it to be the finger of God. 'Twere too large a Theme to confront them in the several instances, let it suffice to observe one which has a common influence on all; and that is the immaculate clearneß of heart, which Christs,and only Christs law requires. This is the only proper basis on which to superitruct, first innocency, and
then vertue, and without this the most rigid exactors of outward purity, do but transcribe the folly of him, who Pumps very laboriously in a Ship, yet neglects to stop the Leak: or the worse tyranny of Pharaoh in requiring Brick without Straw: so far is it from a severity in our law-giver, thus to limit and restrain our thoughts, that it is an act of the greatest indulgence : by no means the laying on a new burden, but the furnishing us with an Engine to bear with ease that weight which otherwise the stoutest Atlas muft sink under. And were but this one precept sincerely conformed to, it would not only facilitate but ascertain the obedience to all the rest. If the first parks of ill were quencht within, what possibility is there they should ever break out into a fame? How shall he kill that dares not be angry? Be Adulterous in act, that did not first tranfgress in his desire? How shall he be perjured that fears an oath? Or defraud that permits not himself to covet? In the like manner all positive acts of vertue, are but the natural effects of the interior habit. Where the love of God is seated in the Heart, 'twill operate in all the faculties, keep them in a busie endeavour of doing acceptable service: when fear is planted there, it will break forth in outward reverence and duty; and so proportionably 'twill be in every other instance. 'Tis therefore an advice well becoming the wisdom of Solomon, Prov. 4. to keep the heart with all diligence : but then it is withal the work of him who is greater than Solomon, to teach us how to do this : for unles he keep that Gity the watchman waketh but in vain. If he instruct
not to secure those issues of life, they will betray · and ruine, appear indeed the favour of death unto death. Now of this divine art of Taclicks and defence, Christianity is the only School, and therefore most fitly qualified for the producing all those fupernatural excellencies to which the timely prepoflession of the heart, is the rudiment and principle.
AND as the preceptive part enjoyns the most exact, and elevated vertue, fo is it most advantageously enforc't by the Promissory, which both in respect of the kind and value of the rewards; and also the manner of proposing them, is most exquisitely adapted to the fan
FOR first, if we consider the nature of the things promised, we shall find they are not gross and carnal, such as may court and gratifie the bestial part of us; but such as are proportioned to the fupream and leading principle, as feast a Soul, and suit with the capacities of an intelligence. All the beatitudes the Gospel tenders to its votaries, either relate to the purity or peace of the mind in this life; or else to its completer felicity hereafter. And though'tis true, the body is not wholly unconsidered, though the addition of all temporal necessaries be promised, yet even those are for the Souls fake, cither to secure it from the sin of solicitude and distrust, or to preserve it a useful instrument for the others service. And as for the future glory in which the body is to partake, 'tis to be observed, that flesh and blood can not inherit it; that load of earth which now engages to corruption must be put off,