Page images

I have for fome years been a forrowful Spectator of the black Cloud that is gathering over my Native Country, and I muft confefs have not been without my fhare of the Fears and Anxieties of the Age; but being at laft quite fick of looking downwards upon this uncomfortable Scene of things, I had no other way to relieve my oppreffed Thoughts, but to raife them above this miserable World, and entertain them with the Comforts of Religion, and the Hopes of a better State beyond the Grave; wherein, I thank God, I have found fuch Reft and Satisfaction of Mind as rendered my blackest Apprehenfions of the enfuing Storm very tolerable. And now because I would not eat my Morfel alone, and enjoy my Satisfaction to my felf, I have endeavoured by this following Treatife of Heaven, and the Way thither, to break and di· ftribute it among my diftreffed Neighbours; that fo by carrying their Minds from these difmal Expectations into the quiet and happy Regions above, and directing their Lives and Actions thither, I might communicate to them the bleffed Art how to live happily in a diftracted World. And methinks, when our prefent State is fo perplext and uncertain, we should be more than ordinarily concerned to make fure of fomething,


and to provide for a future Well-being, that fo we may not be miserable in both Worlds.


As for the Argument I have undertaken, I may without breach of Modefty fay, it is a great and a noble one; it is the Chriftian Life, which next to the Angelical approaches nearest to the Life of God. But as for the Management of it, all that I can fay is this, I have imploy'd my best Thoughts and Skill about it; and if, after this, I have any where wronged or mifreprefented it, it is more my Unhappineß than my Fault. Perhaps it be thought that in the first three Chapters I have difcours'd more fpeculatively, than 'tis fit in a Book that is defign'd for common Ufe and Edification; but it may be when the Reader hath confidered the Nature of the Arguments I have there handled, and how neceffarily they fall in with my Defign, he will be convinced that 'twas unavoidable. And yet I doubt not but with a little Diligence and Attention of mind the plaineft Reader may be able to comprehend the main Reafon and Evidence of what I drive at.

In the first place I thought 'twould be neceffary in treating of the Chriftian Life, to give fome Account of the bleffed End it refers to, that fo from the Nature of that,



we might be the better able to judge of the Neceffity and Ufefulneß of thofe Means which Christianity prescribes in order to it. And this I have endeavoured in the first Chapter ; where I have only fo far explained the Nature of the heavenly State and Felicities, as was neceffary to light and conduct us through the enfuing Design.

In the fecond place, I judg'd it would be no less expedient to give fome general Account of what kinds of Means are necessary to our obtaining this End; that fo we might be convinced how requifite both the principal and inftrumental Parts of the Chriftian Life are to our everlasting Happiness. And this I have attempted in the fecond Chapter; wherein from the Confideration of the vast Distance there is between the pure and blesfed State of Heaven, and this corrupt and degenerate State of Humane Nature, I have indeavour'd to fhew that 'tis not only neceffary for us to practife and acquire thofe Chriftian Vertues, in the perfection whereof the heavenly Blifs confifts, but that to inable us to practise, acquire and improve them, there are fundry other inftrumental Duties indifpenfably neceffary; which Duties, as I have there proved, are of no other Use or Significancy in Religion, than as they are Means of Vertue and Piety.


[ocr errors]

And having thus diftributed the Means into their proper Kinds and Order, I have in the third Chapter treated largely of the first Kind, to wit, the Practice of the Chriftian Vertues; in which I confess I have neither handled the particular Vertues in their full Extent and Latitude, nor inforc'd them with all their moral Reasons; that being done already to excellent purpose in those two incomparable Treatifes of Holy Living and Dying, and of The Whole Duty of Man. Nor could I have done it without fwelling this Difcourfe, which is large enough already, into a Volume too large for common Ufe. And indeed all that was neceffary to my Purpose, was only fo far to explain the Nature of each particular Vertue as that the Reader might thereby understand what is meant by them; but that which moft concern'd me in pursuance of my main Design, was to prove that the Practice of every Vertue is an effential Part of the Chriftian Life, and a neceffary Means to the blessed End of it. And accordingly, as I have fhewn from the express Commands of our Religion our indifpenfible Obligation to practise every Vertue; fo I have endeavoured to fhew how in the Practice of it we do naturally grow up to the heavenly State, as, on the contrary, how in the courfe of a finful Life we do


by a neceffary Efficiency gradually fink our felves into the State of the Damned. For I have proved at large, that there is fomething of Heaven and Hell in the very Nature of each particular Virtue and Vice, and that in the perfection of these two oppofite Qualities confifts the main Happines and Mifery of thofe two oppofite States. From whence it will neceffarily follow, that as in the Practice of the one or t'other we grow, more virtuous or vicious, fo proportionably we rife up towards Heaven, or fink down towards Hell by a fatal Tendency of Nature. The Truth of which is not only acknowledged by the generality of Christian Writers, but alfo by the beft and wifest of the Heathen Philofophers; though this, I think, is the first Attempt that hath been made to derive the Heavenly and the Hellifh States from the nature of the particular Virtues and Vices. I pray God that what I have faid may but ingage fome more skil ful Pen in the Profecution of this noble Argument. For I know nothing in the World that can be more effectual to ingage men to be fubftantially Religious, to take them off from Hypocrifie and Formality, from all prefumptuous Hopes and falfe Dependencies, than their being throughly convinc'd of this Truth, that the eternal Happineß or

« PreviousContinue »