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For thus we are injoyned not only to have Grace, but ftill to be growing in it, 2 Pet. iii. 18. and not only to do the work of the Lord, but to abound in the doing it, 1 Cor. xv. 58. and not only to walk. in all well-pleafing to God, but to abound in fo doing more and more, i Thef. iv. 1. to forget what is behind, i. e. the Degrees of Vertue and Goodness we have already attained, and to be fill preffing forward to the mark of our high calling, Phil. iii.13, 14. The fenfe of all which is, that we should not limit our felves to any prefent Attainments, out of a flothful Opinion that we are good enough already, ⚫ but that we should still be proceeding on to farther and farther Degrees of Perfection. For Holiness is every where injoyned in the Gofpel in unlimited and indefinite Measures, and our Progress in it hath no other Boundary than the farthermoft Degree of poffible Perfection. An Injunction which will keep us for ever fufficiently imployed, and oblige us to Eternity to be ftill afpiring beyond our prefent Attainments; and the Neglect of this is doubtlefs the Occafion of many a Mans final Mifcarriage. They aim at no more than what is abfolutely neceffary to remove them from the Brink of eternal Perdition, and if they can but fo far prevail against their Sin,as to arrive at the lowermoft Degree of Sincere Obedience, and but just pass the Line which feparates between a bad and good State, that fo if they die as they are, they may hope to escape Hell, and arrive at fome Degree of Happiness, they think they have very fairly acquitted themfelves. But now befides that that Line which parts thofe two States of Sin and Grace is not fo casily discernible, but that you may
very probably be deceived, and imagine that you are got over it into the State of Grace, whilft you are yet upon the Frontiers of the Dominion of Sin, and fo may perifh at last at the very Mouth of your Harbour; befides that, 'tis a fearful Sign that you are yet in your Sins, that you defign no farther but just to escape that Everlasting Ruine that attends them, which plainly fhews that the Fear of Hell is the Soul of your Religion, and that there is not the leaft Degree of true Love to God intermingled with it, without which your Religion will be altogether infignificant; befides all this I fay, while you reft in fuch an imperfect State of Goodnefs, you dwell in the next Neighbourhood to a finful State, and fo are in continual danger of returning thither again. For how is it poffible you should be fafe, while you stay upon the Brink of that miferable State out of which you are but just emerged and recovered, and have fo many ftrong Inclinations within you, concurring with the numberless Temptations without you,to thrust you headlong back again into it? So that if you would be fecure, it is not fufficient for you just to get out of your finful State, and stay there, but you must still be removing farther and farther from it, by proceeding on ftill to farther Degrees of Perfection. For you must confider that there is a vast Distance between a State of fincere, and of confirmed Goodness, and that all the while you are paffing on from the one to the other, you are more or lefs in Danger of relapfing. For you have been fincerely good, ever fince your firft Entrance into a firm and hearty Refolution of Amendment; but alas fince that, how many times have you
been in danger of relapfing into your old finful Courfes again? What ftrong Contentions have there been between your Flesh and your Spirit, your bad Inclinations, and your pious Refolutions? and though the later hath been most commonly victorious,yet how often hath it been yielding, yea, how often hath it been vanquifht? Infomuch that if you had not by a quick Repentance revived it immediately,it had been dead long fince, and you had been as much enflaved to your Lufts as ever. And from thefe dangers you will never be wholly free, till you have utterly extinguifht your vicious Inclinations, and in-wrought all the Vertues of Religion into your Natures; and then you will be arrived to that confirmed State of goodnefs, from which it will be morally impoffible for you to revolt. If therefore you would fecure your Perfeverance to the End, beware you do not limit your felves in the Way; for though if you die but juft fincerely good, you fhall certainly escape Hell; yet in all probability you will not be long fincerely good,unless you be fomething more; that is, unless you proceed in the Degrees of Vertue, and do more and more fupprefs your evil, and improve your good Difpofitions and Inclinations. For fo long as there remains in you any Luft to evil you will be in Danger of being betrayed by it; and the stronger that Luft is, the more it threatens your destruction. So that you can never be fafe, fo long as you have an Enemy alive in your Breaft, and whilft you reft in any Attainment on this fide the confirmed State of Vertue, in which there is an utter Extinction of all evil Inclinations, you are more or lefs in Danger, proportionably
as you are more or lefs diftant from that happy
VII. To our final Perfeverance, it is alfo neceffary that we fhould frequently entertain our felves with the profpect of our Mortality, and indeavour to compofe our felves before-hand into a good Pofture of dying. For thus we are called upon in this our militant State to confider our latter end, Deut. xxxii. 29. and by the Examples of the best men are invited to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom, Pfalm xc. 12. and to wait till our change comes, Job xiv. 14. to which End we are put in mind that here we have no abiding City, Heb. xiii. 14. and that 'tis appointed for all men once to die, Heb. ix. 27. and that our life is even as a vapour, that appears for a little time, and then vanishes away, James iv. 14. and to this purpofe the Apostle applies this Confideration, 1 Cor. vii. 29, 30, 31. Now this I fay, brethren, (that is, of our Abode and Continuance here, upon which he exhorts us to compofe our felves to a great Indifferency as to the things of this World,) it remains that both they that have Wives be as though they had none, and they that weep as though they wept not, and they that rejoyce as though they rejoyced not, and they that buy as though they poffeffed not, and they that ufe this world as not abufing it, for the fashion of this world paffes away, i. c. fince your Time here is very fhort, indeavour before-hand to loofen your felves from this World, and to put your felves into a fit Pofture of leaving it; for 'tis but a fhort Scene that will quickly be fhifted, and then there will an eternal State of things fucceed.
And indeed fince tó die well, is the last Act and final Confummation of our Chriftian Warfare, it must needs highly concern us to arm and prepare our felves for it before-hand, left we lofe the blessed Prize by ftumbling juft at the Goal, and af-` ter a long Voyage mifcarry for ever within Sight of Harbour. For in the hour of Death we throw our laft Caft for an Eternity of Happiness or Mifery, and how much are we concerned to throw that well, upon which fo vaft a Stake depends? O! 'tis a ferious thing to die, to pass this dark Entry of Eternity, through which as we go right or wrong we are made or undone for ever. For to carry us right through, 'tis not a few death-bed Sorrows, or good wilhes, a few extorted Promifes, or forced Refolutions, or frightful Prayers, or Lord have mercy upon us, will ferve the turn; O! no, it is an expenfive Paffage, which we shall never be able to defray, unless we carry along with us a large Stock of fpiritual Preparations. We fhall have need of a ftrong and active Faith, of a Mind well furnished with wife Confiderations, of a deep, a large, and a tried Repentance, an unreftrained Charity, a confirmed Patience, a profound Submission to the Will of God, and a wellgrounded Hope of a bleffed Eternity. For without all thefe together,we fhall be very ill-accoutred to die, and run a dreadful Hazard of miscarrying for ever. And thefe are fuch things as do not ufually fpring up like Mushromes in a Night, or in the few difturbed Moments of a dying Time, but do ask a much larger and ferener Seafon to grow and ripen in. So that if we mean to die well, and fo come off victoriously in this last Act of our spiritual