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2. Whence was it that some of the saints became so perfect in the prayer of contemplation, but because it was their continual study and endeavour to mortify all earthly desires, and abstract themselves from all worldly concerns, that being free from perturbation, they might adhere to God with all the powers of the soul. But we are too much engaged with our own passions, and too tenderly affected by the business and pleasures of this transitory life, to be capable of such high attainments: nay, so fixed are our spirits in slothfulness and cold indifference, that we seldom overcome so much as one evil habit.
3. If we were perfectly dead to ourselves, and free from all inward entanglement, we might then have some relish for Divine enjoyments, and begin to experience the blessedness of heavenly contemplation. But the principal, if not the only impediment to such a state is, that we continue in subjection to violent passions and inordinate desires, without making the least effort to enter into the narrow way, which Christ has pointed out as the one way of perfection for all the saints of God. Thus, when any adversity, however trifling, comes upon us, we are soon dejecte ed, and have immediate recourse to human consolations : but did we endeavour, like valiant soldiers, to stand our ground in the hour of battle, we should feel the succour of the LORD descending upon us from Heaven: for He is always ready to assist those that resolutely strive, and place their whole confidence in the power of His Grace; nay, He creates occasions of contest, to bless us with so many opportunities of victory.
4. If the progress to perfection is placed only in external observances, our religion, having no Divine
life, will quickly perish with the things on which it subsists: but the axe must be laid to the root of the tree, that being separated and freed from the restless desires of nature and self, we may possess our souls in the peace of God.
5. If every year we did but extirpate one vice, we should soon become perfect men: but we experience the sad reverse of this, and find that we were more contrite, more pure, more humble, and obedient in the beginning of our conversion, than after many years profession of a religious life. It would be but reasonable to expect that the fervour of our affections, and our progress in holiness, should have advanced higher and higher every day : but it is now thought to be a foundation of comfort, and even of boast, a man, at the close of this mortal state, is able to retain some degree of his first ardour. 6. That the path of holiness may
and delightful, some violence must be used at first setting out, to remove its numerous obstructions. It is hard, indeed, to relinquish that to which we have been accustomed; and harder still, to resist and deny our own will. But how can we hope to succeed in the greatest conflict, if we will not contend for victory in the least? Resist, then, thy inordinate desires in their birth; and continually lessen the power of thy evil habits, lest, as they increase in strength in proportion as they are indulged, they grow at length too mighty to be subdued. O! if thou didst but consider, what peace thou wilt bring to thyself, and what joy thou wilt produce in Heaven, by a life conformed to the Life of CHRIST; I think thou wouldst be more watchful and zealous for thy continual advancement towards spiritual perfection.
OF THE BENEFIT OF ADVERSITY.
1. IT is good for man to suffer the adversity of this earthly life; for it brings him back to the sacred retirement of the heart, where only he finds, that he is an exile from his native home, and ought not to place his trust in any worldly enjoyment. It is good for him also to meet with contradiction and reproach; and to be evil thought of, and evil spoken of, even when his intentions are upright, and his actions blameless; for this keeps him humble, and is a powerful antidote to the poison of vain glory: and then chiefly it is, that we have recourse to the witness within us, which is God; when we are outwardly despised, and held in no degree of esteem and favour among
Our dependence upon God ought to be so entire and absolute, that we should never think it necessary, in any kind of distress, to have recourse to human consolations.
2. When a regenerate man is sinking under adver. sity, or disturbed and tempted by evil thoughts, he then feels the necessity of the power and presence of God in his soul, without which he certainly knows that he can neither bear evil, nor do good; then he grieves, and prays, and "groans to be delivered from the bondage of corruption;" then weary of living in vanity, he wishes to “ die, that he may be dissolved, and be with CHRIST;" and then he is fully convinced, that absolute security and perfect rest are not compatible with his present state of life.
OF RESISTING TEMPTATIONS.
1. AS long as we continue in this world, we cannot possibly be free from the trouble and anguish of temptation: and, in confirmation of this truth, it is written in Job, that “ the life of man upon earth is a continual warfare.” Every one, therefore, ought to be attentive to the temptations that are peculiar to his own spirit; and to persevere in watchfulness and prayer, lest his “adversary the devil, who never sleepeth, but continually goeth about seeking whom he may devour,” should find some unguarded place, where he may enter with his delusions.
2. The highest degree of holiness attainable by man, is no security against the assaults of temptation, from which his present life is not capable of absolute exemption. But temptations, however dangerous and afflicting, are highly beneficial; because, under their discipline, we are humbled, purified, and led towards perfection. All the followers of CHRIST have through “ much tribulation and affliction entered into the kingdom of God;" and those that could not endure the trial, have fallen froin the faith and expectation of the saints, and become reprobate.”
3. There is no order of men, however holy, nor any place, however secret and remote, where and
among whom temptations will not come for the exercise of meekness, and troubles rise for the trial of patient resignation. And that this must be the condition of human nature in the present life, is evident, because it is born in sin," and contains in itself those restless and inordinate desires which are the ground of
every temptation : so that when one temptation is removed, another succeeds ; and we shall always have some degree of evil to suffer, till we have recovered the purity and perfection of that state from which we are fallen.
4. Many, by endeavouring to fly from temptations, have fallen precipitately into them; for it is not by fight, but by patience and humility, that we must become superior to all our enemies. He who only declines the outward occasion, and strives not to pluck up the inward principle by the root, is so far from conquest, that the temptation will recur the sooner, and with greater violence, and he will feel the confict still more severe. It is by gradual advances rather than impetuous efforts, that victory is obtained ; rather by patient suffering that looks up to God for support, than by impatient solicitude and rigorous austerity.
5. In thine own temptations, often ask counsel of those that have been tried and have overcome ; and in the temptations of thy brother, treat him not with severity, but tenderly administer the comfort which thou desirest to receive.
6. That which renders the first assaults of temptation peculiarly severe and dangerous, is the instability of our own minds, arising from the want of faith in God; and as a ship without a steersman is driven about by the force of contrary winds, so unstable man," that has no faith in God, is tossed and borne away upon
the wave of every temptation. iy, “ Gold is tried in the fire, and acceptable men in the furnace of adversity.” We frequently know not the strength that is hidden in us, till temptation calls it forth, aud shews us how much we are able to sus