Imágenes de páginas
[ocr errors][merged small]
[ocr errors]

grace, to continue fuch to your lives end; if you find you are not, refolve to make yourselves fuch, as foon as is poflible. For nothing can be of more moment to you, than this knowledge, and thefe refolutions. "Examine yourselves whether ye be in the faith; prove your own felves."

In order to affift you in this enquiry, it shall be the bufinefs of my prefent difcourfe to propofe fome few plain marks, or tests, by which every man, who entertains any doubts of this kind fas very good men fgmetinies do), may, if he pleafes, try his own fincerity, and fully fatisfy himfelf, whether he be an hearty believer, and a found member of that body, of which Chrift Jefus is the head: Whether, and how far he hath obtained the great Chriftian perfection, which is to recommend all the reft, I mean that of fince rity.


1. And, Fir, The most obvious, and there fore the most fatisfying mark of religious finceri ty is if a man, upon a review of his own thoughts, finds, that his refolutions of obedience are uni verfal and unlimited; without a referve for any favourite fin, without excepting any particular inftance of duty, wherein he defires to be excufed. "Then (fays the good pfalmift) fhall I not be ashamed," i. c. Then may I fafely confide in my own innocence and uprightnefs, "when i have refpect unto all thy commandments;" when I find myfelf equally determined to obey every divine precept, and refolved to allow myself in no practice whatsoever, which the law of God doth not allow of. And where this is not the cafe, VOL. III. A a



there can be no true Chriftian fincerity; which consists in a true bent and inclination of the will towards God; and the will is never truly, but when it is tottally inclined towards him; when it is loft, and fwallowed up in the divine will; implicitly likes or dislikes, chuses or refufes, what God hath before-hand approved or difapproved by his holy precepts, or prohibitions. Is a man faid to be fincere to his friend, who betrays him in any one important fecret, committed to his trust, though he should be faithful in many others? Is a fervant faid to be fincere to his master, who hath any reserved cafes, wherein he refolves not to consult his honour, or interest? No more can a man be reckoned fincere towards God, who fets up any fingle luft, inclination, or thought, againft what he knows to be the divine will and pleasure. And this is evidently the reafon of that determination in St. Jame; "Whofoever fhalt keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For (as it there follows) he that faid do not commit adultery, faid also, do not kill. Now, if thou commit not adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a tranfgreffor of the law;" (James ii. e. 11.) i. e. If thou neglecteft to obferve any one divine command, knowing it to be one, thou art in that inftance as open, and declared a rebel to the authority enacting it, as if thou fhookeft off thy obedience to all.

If then, upon a careful furvey of ourselves, we find, that we are from the bottom of our fouls, difpofed, and refolved to comply with all the terms of duty (whether grateful, or ungrateful to flesh and blood) which the gospel proposeth to


[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

us; that it is our fixt intent not to do, in any cafe, what God had forbidden, nor to neglect what he hath enjoined; and that there is no appetite, defire, or defign fo dear to us, but we are ready to part with it, as foon as its oppofition to a divine command shall be made out; if this upon examination, prove to be our cafe, we have great reason to think well of ourselves, and to conclude, that we are in such a state of mind, as God will accept and reward. A

Second, and fure proof of religious fincerity may be drawn from a general view of the common courfe of our lives, and actions. If there be an even tenor of goodness visible in our conduct, a regular and fteddy pursuit of virtue, without any grofs and notorious failures in fcandalous inftances, and flagrant acts of wickedness; if, whenever we happen to fall by fome great temptation, we continue not long and quietly under the guilt of it, but recover our ground forthwith, and return to our duty; proceeding on in the paths of obedience and an holy life habitually, and discharging our obligations to God and man pretty evenly and uniformly; then may we, from hence alfo, make a comfortable guefs at the good. nefs of our condition in this world, and nourish very promifing hopes to ourselves of being happy in another. Tis not to be expected, that while we are in the body, we fhould live altogether free from the stains and infirmities of it. In the very best of men, their paffions will fometimes prevail over their reason, and the ftrongeft fenfe of their dury will give way to a prefent temptation. A A a 2


pious man may, now and then, be very cold and languid in the performance of his devotions, and very full of diftractions and wanderings. A meek and good man, by fome unforefeen accident, and by feveral confpiring circumftances, may be raifed up into an unbecoming pitch of anger and refentment. A temperate man may, through importunity, or for want of a due guard over himfelf, be gradually and infenfibly betrayed into fome degree of extefs. But then, in all these cafes, the perfon falling, quickly comes to himfelf again; the fit is fhort and foon over, and is fucceeded immediately by fhame and remorte, by new refolutions and more vigorous endeavours. Confider the man altogether, and you will find, that the general current of his behaviour bears witnefs to his integrity, though he fail now and then in particular inftances. And God, who fees all our actions at once, will judge us upon the whole view, and not fingle out our worst quali ties, without any regard to our beft, in order to exercife his feverity upon us. Let no man therefore too haftilly and too feverely condemn himself for frequent infirmites, flips, and neglects; let no man, who would judge aright of his fpiritual eftate, fix his eye too intently on fome particuluğ blemishes and failings, of which, perhaps, he is confcious; but let him look rather to the main fcope and drift of his thoughts, words, and actions; and by that let him try himself, as by the jufteft meafure and ftandard of fincere goodness. How contrary to this is the conduct of fome good and pious fouls! How ufual is it for perfons, well advanced in picty, when they are making fuch


enquiries as thefe, to dwell altogether on their de feets and miscarriages, without regaring the regular course of a virtuous and well-ordered life and to condemn themfelves, as falfe and infincere, becaufe they are not perfect and finlefs? God forbid, that thefe fhould be terms, upon which we are to be dealt with! For where then would be the man upon earth who could undergo the férutiny?" If thou, Lord, fhouldft be extreme to mark what is done amifs, O Lord, who may abide it?" Pfal. cxxx. 3. A

HE. Third Sign and teft of fincerity is, if a man be not content with any determined proportion of goodnefs, nor willing to fit down at fuch a point of virtue, as he hath already attained, without aiming at a further degree of increafe and proficiency. For "the path of the juft is as the fhineing light," fays the wife man, "fhining more and more unto the perfect day:" Prov. iv. 18. That is, the truly good are always aiming to be better, and how far foever they have run in the race of virtue, fill urge on-ward inceffantly, and cagerhy; "forgetting thofe things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, they prefs towards the mark for the prize of the high-calling of God in Chrift Jefus," Phil. ii. 12. A foul truly touched with the sense of its own fins and unworthiness, and of the infinite mercies and condefcenfions of God towards us, will never ftint and bound itself in its returns; but will endeavour to love as much, and to obey as far as is poffible. Let its attainments be what they will, yet it knows, that they are short, extremely fhort


« AnteriorContinuar »