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of its obligations; that the meafuies of grace, which we arrive at here, are only earnefts, and fpurs, and helps towards larger communications, and higher improvements; and, therefore, that a man is never fo good as he ought to be, who doth not heartily defire and defign to be as good as he can be; and breathe and pant after perfection itself, even in this life, though he be fatisfied, that it is not fully attainable, but in another; fince withal he is fatisfied, that the more uniformly and vigorously he preffes towards the mark of perfection in this life, the nearer ftill fhall he approach to it, though he fhall never reach it; and the nearer he is towards reaching it here, the more glorious fhall be his crown, and the more exalted his state of perfection hereafter, And therefore, if any one find himself inclined to circumfcribe his practice within fuch or fuch limits of duty beyond which he never intends, nor expects to go; to hold faft the pleafures of life, and to enjoy as much of them as ever he can confistently with the principles of religion; arguing always for the utmost extent of his Christian liberty, and defiring to make his obligations as narrow as may be; fuch an one hath reason to conelude,, that he is as yet fhort of thofe qualifications, which are neceffary to recommend him to the Judge of all hearts, and Difcerner of spirits.
IV. A Fourth mark or teft by which a man may difcover, whether he be fincerely religious, or not, is, to examine himself whether he be as inclinable to exercise the graces and virtues of the Chriftian life in private, as in public; without doing any thing merely for the applaufe, or fear of
of men; but under a confcientious regard to him, that feeth in fecret, and under an expectation that he, who feeth in fecret, will, at the great day of account, reward him openly, Matth. vi. 18. For example, let a man confider, whether he be as punctual and exact in performíug his closet-devotions, as in repairing to the public offices of the church, and is uneafy under the omiffion of the one, as the other; and when he prays in private, whether he be as compofed, and reverent, and devout in his behaviour, as he is, when the eyes of a great affembly are upon him. Again, as to points of mercy, generofity, and juftice, let him reflect, whether he be as ready to give alms in private, as in the ftreets; to defend the cause of the injured and oppreffed, and to fupport a good man's reputation, in fuch circumftances, when he is fure never to hear of it again, as he would be, if all the world heard, and obferved him. Finally, whether he be as loth to defraud his neighbour in a great matter, or a fmall, when hẻ might do it fecurely, without fear of a discovery as he fhould be, if he were fure to be arraigned in a court of judicature for it. He that can truly anfwer thefe queftions to his own fatisfaction, hath ho great reason to diftruft his fincerity; and he who cannot, hath as little reafon to depend upon it.
Hypocrify, when in perfection, will act real goodnefs fo well, and put on the shape and difguife of it fo exactly, as to deceive even him who plays the part, as well as those who look on, and create a belief in him that he is what he feems to be; till he compares himself with himself, his
private with his public conduct; And that touchftone never fails to diftinguifh true from counterfeit piety; for the fureft indications of mens characters are thofe actions and difcourfes which flow from them, when they are off their guard, and under no awe or reftraint from the eyes and obfervations of others.
V. A Fifth thing, by which fincerity in religi on manifefts itself, is, when a man appears to act, not out of bye-aims, and a private intereft, but out of a true zeal for the honour of God, the intereft of virtue, and the good of mankind. Would you fatisfy yourself, whether you fincere ly love fuch a relation, fuch an acquaintance, fuch a friend? Confider, do you, on all occafions, defign to promote what is for their fervice and reputation? do you heartily defire and endeavour their good, without having an immediate eye on your own advantage in it? If you do, 'tis certain that your friendship and affection are fincere; for no man can give better proofs and affurances of it. And the cafe is the fame with refpect to God and religion. If a man feels himfelf inwardly warmed and acted by a true concern for the glory of God, for the honour of his name, and of his worthip; if he be apt to undervalue worldly re gards, and petty private views, in comparison of this great end; if in evil days, when the manners of men are extremely corrupted, he is not afhamed to act up to ftrict principles of virtue which are not in fashion, nor is remifs in the practice of thofe duties, which, he forefees, will fcarcely turn to account; efpoufing firmly and unalter able the caufe of God, and goodness, even when
hundreds on his right hand have gone off, and thoufands have revolted on his left: In a word, when a man can be loose and sceptical, with the general applaufe of the world, and cannot be otherwife, without being defpifed, and pitied; and yet is fo far from being tempted to a com◄ pliance, that he doth what he can to ftem the torrent of impiety, and to make his virtue as confpicuous, as other men's vices: When a man I fay, doth, upon reflexion, find himself thus iefolved and qualified, he hath great reafon to be pleased with his condition, and to conclude, that it is well pleafing to God also: For there is no furer mark of integrity, than a courageous ad herence to virtue, in the midst of a general and fcandalous apoftafy. Which is the reafon that Noah and Abraham, Lot and Danie have fo high an encomium beftowed on them in fcripture, and are recommended as patterns of a ftrict, uncom plying uprightnefs, to all fucceeding ages. Further,
VI. Sixthly, It is no flight token of our fincerity in religion, if we are apt to fufpect it, on the account of little things; which is often the cafe of very devout Chriftians, and who have really the leaft occafion to miftruft themselves, of any men. Perfons of a nice and tender confcience, very careful to pleafe God, and very fearful of offending him, are, for that very reafon, prone to imagine that they fall infinitely fhort of their duty, if they do not, in every respect, exactly discharge it; and to disquiet themselves on this account, with many groundless fcruples and ter VOL. III.
rors. Sometimes, the principle, from whence their repentance fprang, gives them great uneafinels; for they remember, that the reformation of heart and life, in which they are now well advanced, began at first, not from a true and ardent love of God; but from the mere dread of punishment. Sometimes their unequal perform ance of religious duties dejects, and difpirits them; they find themfelves cold, and unmoved, when they are upon their knees; in the moft folema and railing parts of the fervice, and even at the reception of the bleffed facrament itself, they do not feel any holy warmth kindling in their hearts, nor their mind melting under the impreffions that are then made upon it: And they conclude therefore, that there is a vein of hypocrify running through all thefe performances, which makes them worthlefs, and unacceptable. Now thefe, and fuch as thefe, I fay, are, for the most part, the doubts and mifgivings of the fincerely good and pious; for they are fuch as feldom trouble the confciences of men of a different character: And therefore thofe very fcruples, which disturb good Chriftians fo much, would, if rightly under food, give them matter of found comfort and encouragement; their very doubts concerning the goodness of their ftate, are, if they had but the heart to think fo, a fure reafon why they fhould not doubt of it. Let not then the true faints and fervants of God perplex and afflic themselves with fuch difficulties; let them not give up religion, by their means, to the laughter and fcorn of profane men, who, from a few fuch inftances as thefe, take pleasure to represent it, as refid