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Mifery of Souls is founded in their Vertue or Vice, and that there is as infeparable a Connection between Grace and Glory, Sin and Hell, as there is between Fire and Heat, Froft and Cold, or any other neceffary Caufe and its Effect. For if they were but throughly perfwaded of this, they would eafily difcern what wretched Non-fenfe it is, to think of going to Heaven or escaping Hell whilft they continue in any wilful Courfe of Difobedience to the Laws of Vertue.
Having thus treated at large of the first Sort of Means by which the End of our Chriftian Life is to be obtained, I proceed in the fourth Chapter, which is the largest of all, to give an Account of the fecond, viz. the Inftrumental Duties of Chriftianity, which are injoyn'd us as Means fubfervient to our Practice, Acquifition and Improvement of thofe Heavenly Vertues in the perfection whereof our Chief Happiness confifts. And for the more diftinct handling of thefe, I have confidered men under a Threefold State with refpect to the Chriftian Life; Firft, as entering into it; Secondly, as actually ingaged in it; Thirdly, as perfecting and improving themselves by Perfeverance in it; to each of which I have appropriated fuch of the inftrumental'
Duties as I conceived did more especially belong to them. 'Tis true, fome of the Duties here treated of, are not purely inftrumental, but of a mixt Nature, fuch as Faith, Prayer, actual Dedication of our good Works to God, &c. which are effential Parts of Divine Worship, and, as fuch, do belong to thofe Divine Vertues the Perfection whereof makes a Principal Part of the everlasting Happiness of Souls. But here I have confidered them only as Means and Inftruments in the Ufe of which we are to acquire and perfect those Beatifical Vertues. And of this fort of Means I do not remember any one Particular recommended in holy Scripture, but what hath been here treated of. Upon Some indeed I have infifted much more briefly, than upon others, because I find them already largely accounted for in other practical Books, and efpecially in those two excellent Treatifes above-named; but of those which they either curforily touch, or take no notice of at all, I thought my felf obliged to give a larger Account.
From the whole I would recommend to the pious Reader the Confideration of the admirable Structure and Contrivance of the Practical Part of Chriftianity, which having proposed to us an End fo great and fublime, and fo highly worthy of our most vigorous
gorous profecutions, hath alfo furnish'd us with fuch choice and effectual Means of all forts to attain it. The confideration of which would be in it felf a great Inducement to me to believe Chriftianity a Divine Religion, though I were utterly unacquainted with its External Evidence and Motives of Credibility. For it can never enter into my Head that fuch a rare and exquisite Contrivance to make men good and happy, could ever owe its Original to the meer invention of a Carpenters Son, and a company of illiterate Fibermen. Especially confidering how far it excels the Moral Precepts even of those divine Philofophers who believed the future State of a bleffed Immortality, and exercised their best Wit in prescribing Rules to guide and direct men thither.
And having given this large Account of the inftrumental Duties of the Chriftian Life, and also inforced the several Divisions of them with proper Arguments and Motives, I thought fit to add a fifth Chapter, wherein I have given fome Rules for the more profitable reading of this practical Difcourfe, and also fome general Directions for the Exercise of our private Religion in all the different States of the Christian Life, together with certain Forms of private Devotion fitted for each State. In which I have suppo
supposed, what I doubt is a very deplorable Truth, viz. that the Generality of Chriftians after their Initiation by Baptism into the Publick profeffion of Chriftianity, are fo unhappy as to be feduced either through bad Example or Education into a vicious State of Life; and that confequently from thence they must take their firft start into the through Practice of Chriftianity. Not that I make the leaft doubt, but that there are a great many excellent Chriftians, who by the Bleffing of God upon their pious Education, have been fecured from this Calamity, and trained up from their Infancy under a prevailing Senfe of God and Religion; and therefore for fuch as these, as there is no need of that folemn method of Repentance prescribed in the first Section of the fourth Chapter, fo neither is there of thofe first penitential Prayers in this fifth Chapter, which are accommodated to that State. For these perfons have long fince been actually ingaged in the Chriftian Life, and, as 'tis to be fuppofed, have made confiderable Improvements in it, and therefore as they are only concerned in the Duties of the fecond and third States of the Chriftian Life, fo they are only to use the Prayers which are fitted to thofe States, which with fome variation of those phrafes which fup 1 pose
pose the past Course of our Life to have been vicious, they may eafily accommodate to their own Condition. But the Design of this Difcourfe is not only to conduct them onwards in their Way who have already entered upon the Chriftian Life, but also to reduce thofe to it, who have been fo unhappy as to wander into vicious Courses; or rather, though it ferves both Purposes, 'tis wholly defigned for the fame Perfons, viz. to feek and bring back those loft Sheep who have ftraid from the Paths of Christian Piety and Vertue, and then to lead them on through all the intermediate Stages to the happy State of immortal Pleasures at the end of them. And now if what hath been faid fhould, by the bleffing of God, obtain its defigned effect upon any perfon, I ask no other Requital for all the Pains it hath cost me, but his earnest Prayers to God for me, that after my best Endeavours to guide and direct him to Heaven, I may not fall fhort of it my self.