« PreviousContinue »
our acquiring and perfevering in the virtues of the Heavenly Life; to our conquering the Difficulties, and killing the vicious Averfations of our Natures against them: All which would have been needless, at least in a great measure, had not our Nature been fo depraved and corrupt as it is.
So that as the cafe now stands with us, there are Two forts of Means that are necessary to our obtaining of Heaven; The firft is the Practice of thofe Heavenly virtues, in the Perfection whereof confifts the ftate of Heaven; the Second is the Practice of certain Inftrumental Duties, which are neceffàry to our acquiring those Heavenly virtues, and overcoming the Difficulties of them. The first fort of these are the proximate Means, those which directly and immediately respect the Great and Ultimate End; The fecond the more remote Means, which immediately respect those Means that immediately refpect the End. The first is like the Art of the Builder which immediately respects the House ; The fecond like the Art of the Smith, which immediately respects the Means and Inftruments of Building.
I. One fort of Means necessary to the obtaining of Heaven, and that which more directly and immediately respects it,is the Practice of thofe Virtues in the Perfection whereof the Heavenly Life confists. For we find by experience that all Heavenly Virtues are to be acquired and perfected only by Practice; That as all bad Difpofitions are acquired and improved into Habits by bad Practices and Customs, fo are all the contrary virtuous ones by the contrary Practices. For Religion proceeds in the methods of Nature, and carries us on
from the Act to the Difpofitions, and from the Difpofitions to the Habits of Virtue. And by the fame method the Divine Grace which accompa nies Religion, does ordinarily work its Effects upon the fpirits of men, not by an infrantaneous Infusion of virtuous Habits into the Will, but by perfwading them to the Practice of thofe Vir thes that are contrary to their vicious Habits, and to perfift in the practice of them till they have mortified thofe Habits, and throughly habituated and inured themfelves to these. So that the Grace of God is like a Graff, which though it is put into a Stock which is quite of another kind, doth yet make use of the Faculties and Juices of the Stock, and so by co-operating with them, converts it by degrees into its own Nature. And this is exactly agreeable to the common experience of men, who in the beginning of their Reformation are fo far from acting vertuously from Habit and Inclination, that it goes against the very Grain of their Nature, and they would much rather return to their vicious courfes, if they were not chafed and purfued by the Terrors of an awakened Conscience; and when afterwards they come to act upon a more ingenuous Principle, yet still they find in themselves a great Averseness and Reluctancy to it, and 'tis a great while ufually ere they arrive to a Habit or Facility of acting virtuously. But then by perseverance in the practice of Virtue they are more and more inclined and difpofed to it, and fo by degrees it become's cafe and natural to them. If therefore we would ever arrive to that Perfection of Virtue which the Heavenly State implies, it must be by the Practice of Virtue, by a continual training and
exercifing our felves in all the parts of the Heavenly Life, which by degrees will wear off the Difficulty of it, and adapt and familiarize our Nature to it. A r δε μανθάνοντας ποιεῖν, ταῦτα ποιέν]ες μανθάνομεν : Thofe things which they that learn ought to do, they learn by doing them. Thus we learn Devotion by Prayer, Submiffion to God by Denying our felves, Charity by giving Alms, and Meeknefs by Forgiving Injuries. And we may as reafonably expect to commence learned without ftu dy, as virtuous without the Practice of Virtue. Since therefore the Formal Happiness of our reafonable Natures confifts in the Perfection of all the Heavenly virtues, and 'tis by thefe alone that we can relish and enjoy the blissful Objects of Hea ven; it hence follows, that the Practice of those virtues is the most direct and immediate Means to obtain the Blessed End ofour Religion. But then,
II. Another fort of Means neceffary to our obtaining of Heaven consists of certain Instrumental Duties by which we are to acquire, improve, and perfect these Heavenly Virtues. What thefe Means are will be hereafter largely fhown: All that I fhall fay of them at prefent is, That they are fuch as are no farther good and useful, than as they are the Means of Heavenly Virtue, sand do tend towards the acquiring, improving, and perfecting it. For the whole Duty of Man may be distri buted into these Two Generals, viz. The Religion of the End, and the Religion of the Means. The Religion of the End, contains all that Heavenly Virtue wherein the Perfection and Happiness of Humane Nature confifts, and this the Apostle diftri butes into three particulars, viz. Sobriety, Righte
oufnefs,and Godliness. The Religion of the Means comprehends all that Duty which does either natu rally,or by Inftitution, refpect and drive at this Religion of the End; and that all other Duty, that is not it felf a Natural Branch and Part of it, doth refpect and drive at it, the Apostle affures us, when he tells us that the Gospel or Grace of God, was revealed from Heaven for this very purpofe, to teach us to deny all ungodlinefs and worldly lufts,and to live foberly, and righteously and godly in this prefent world. And if we do not ufe the Religion of the Means to this purpose, it is altogether ufelefs and infignificant. For the purpofe of all Religious Duties is either,
1. To reconcile men to God, and God to them,
2. To perfect the Humane Nature; or, 3. Tointitle men to Heaven; or,
4. To qualifie and difpofe them for the Heavenly Life. To neither of which the Religion of the Means is any farther useful than as it produces and promotes in us thofe Heavenly Virtues which are implied in the Religion of the End. For,
1. It is no further ufeful towards the reconciling Uls to God, and God to Us. For there can be no hearty Reconciliation between adverfe parties without there be a mutual Likeness,and Agreement of Natures. Now the Carnal Mind, (which includes all that is repugnant to the Heavenly Vir tues) the Apostle tells us, is Enmity against God, Rom. vii. 17. that is, hath a natural Antipathy to the Purity and Goodness of the Divine Nature. And this Antipathy the fame Apostle tells us, is founded in our wicked works, Coloff. i. 21. So that
though we should practife never fo diligent ly all that is contained in the Religion of the Means, though we should pray, and hear and receive Sacraments, &c. with never fo much Zeal and Constancy, yet all this will be infignificant, as to the reconciling our Natures to God, unless it destroy in us that Carnal Mind and those wicked Works which render us fo averfe to his Goodness! And though God bears a hearty good Will to all that are capable of Good, and embraces his whole Creation with the out-ftretched Arms of his Bene volence, yet he cannot be fuppofed to be pleased with, or delighted in any but fuch as refemble Him in those amiable Graces of Purity and Goodness for which he loves Himfelf. For he loves not Himfelf meerly because he is Himfelf (which would be a blind Inftinit, rather than a Reasonable Love) but because He is Good, and he loves Himself above all other things, becaufe he knows Himself to be the Highest and most Perfect Good and confequently He loves all other things proportionably as they approach and refemble Him in Goodnefs. And indeed if He loved Us for any other Reafon befides that for which he loves Himself; he would not have infinite Reafon to love Himfelf; becaufe he would not have that Reafon to love Himfelf for which he loves and takes delight in Us Since therefore there is nothing but our Resemblance of God can reconcile Him to Us, and fince our Refemblance of Him confifts in Virtue and true Good nefs, it hence follows that all the Religion ofthe Means is infignificant to our Reconciliation with God, if it doth not render us truly virtuous. So that till this is effected, there is fo vastia Golphi between