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restrained from it by fear; for he that casts behind him the fear of an offended God, cannot possibly persevere in any thing that is good, but must run preci. pitately into every snare of the devil.
OF ZEAL IN THE TOTAL REFORMATION OF LIFE.
1. BE watchful and diligent in the service of God; and frequently recollect, that thou hast left the broad way of the world, and entered into the narrow path of holiness, that thou mightest live to God, and become a spiritual man. With increasing ardour, therefore, “press” continually “ towards the mark," and ere long thou wilt receive the prize of the high calling of God in Christ JESÚS ;" when there shall be fear nor sorrow, for God will wipe all tears from our eyes," and take away all trouble from our hearts. Thus will a short life of inconsiderable labour be exchanged for an everlasting life, not only of perfect rest, but of increasing joy. If thou continue faithful and diligent in labouring, God doubtless will be faithful and rich in recompensing. Thou mayst, therefore, maintain a comfortable hope, that in the end thou shalt inherit the crown of victory ; only beware of security, lest it betray thee into sloth or presumption.
2. A certain person, deeply perplexed- about the state of his soul, and continually fluctuating between hope and fear, came one day to a church, overwhelmed with grief; and prostrating himself before the altar, repeatedly uttered this wish in his heart: “O that I certainly knew, I should be able to persevere !" Immediately the Divine voice speaking within him,
answered thus : “ And what wouldst thou do, if this certain knowledge was bestowed upon thee? Do now, that which thou wouldst then do, and rest secure, of thy perseverance." Comforted and established by this answer, he resigned himself to the Divine disposal, and his perplexity and distress were soon removed. Instead of indulging anxious inquiries into the future condition of his soul, he applied himself wholly to know what was “the good and acceptable' will of GOD,” as the only principle and perfection of every good work.
“ Trust in the LORD, and do good," saith the Royal Prophet; “ 80 shalt thou dwell in the land, and be fed with the riches of his Grace."
3. The principal obstacle to the reformation and improvement of life, is the dread of the difficulty and labour of the contest. And it is true, that they only make the most eminent advances in holiness, who resolutely endeavour to conquer in those things, that are most disagreeable and most opposite to their appetites and desires; and then chiefly does a man most advance, and obtain higher degrees of the grace of God, when he most overcomes himself, and most mortifies his own spirit.
4. But though all men have not the same degree of evil to evercome ; yet a diligent Christian, zealous of good works, who has more and stronger passions to subdue, will be able to make a greater progress, than he that is inwardly calm, and outwardly regular, but less fervent in the pursuit of holiness.
5. Two things are highly useful to perfect amendment: to withdraw from those sinful gratifications to which nature is mo inclined, and to labour after that virtue in which we are most deficient. Be particularly careful also to avoid chiefly those tempers and
actions that chiefly and most frequently displease thee in others. Wherever thou art, turn every thing to an occasion of improvement: if thou beholdest or hearest of good examples, let them kindle in thee an ardent desire of imitation ; if thou seest any thing blameable, beware of doing it thyself; or if thou hast done it, endeavour to amend it the sooner. As thy eye observeth and thy judgment censureth others, so art thou observed and censured by them.
6. If it is good and pleasant to behold brethren in the same religious society, full of fervour and devotion in spirit, modest, courteous, and submissive, in their outward deportment : it must be proportionably grievous and offensive, to find among them a dissolute and inordinate life, totally repugnant to the obligations of that holy state, which all have freely chosen. How dangerous and hurtful is it, to forget the nature and design of so great a salvation, and turn all the thoughts and desires of the heart to that which is not only foreign to it, but its greatest enemy, a sen. sual and worldly life!
7. Be mindful, therefore, of that holy vocation with which thou hast been called, and keep continually impressed upon thy mind the image of the crucified Je
Thou wilt find abundant reason to be ashamed and confounded, when, after considering the life of CHRIST, thou reviewest thy own, which, though thou hast long professed the imitation of that Blessed Exemplar, thou hast yet taken so little care to make conformable to it.' He that inténtly and devoutly exercises himself in the most holy life and passion of his LORD, will find all that is useful and necessary to his redemption in such great abundance, that he need not
seek after any thing out of or better than Jesus. , if Jesus crucified would come into our hearts, how soon and how sufficiently should we be taught !
8. The zealous, and watchful Christian bears, patiently, and performs cheerfully whatever is commanded him : but he that is cold and negligent suffers tribulation upon tribulation, and of all men is most miserable ; for he is destitute of inward and spiritual comfort, and to that which is outivard and carnal he is forbidden to have recourse. He that obstinately throws off the restraints of “ Christ's easy yoke,” iş not only in danger of irrecoverable ruin, but will find himself deceived in the expectation of a life of relax- , ation and liberty ; for restraint, opposition, and disgust, will perpetually arise, wherever he turns the imaginations and desires of his heart.
9. But do thou consider the example of those, who have voluntarily submitted to the severest discipline ; who live in a state of total abstraction from the pleasures and cares of animal life : who
abroad seldom, eat sparingly, clothe coarsely, labour much, talk little, watch late, rise early, pray long, read often, and always keep their spirits under the restraint of some holy exercise. Consider also the spiritual and Divine life of the apostles and first followers of CHRIST, as the object of thy imitations; and doubt not but the mercy of God to all that turn the desire of their heart to him, will enable thee to follow it. In this path, thou mayst go forward with increasing hope and strength; and, in this path, thou wilt approach heaven with such speedy steps, as soon to despise and forget all human, strength, consolation and dependence.
10. Would to God, that we had no other employment, but with heart and voice to glorify his holy name ! that we never stood in need of meat, drink, or sleep, but could always praise God, and attend to the illuminating and purifying influences of his HOLY Spirit! The blessedness of the Divine Life would not then be interrupted, as it is now, by the numerous infirmities and necessities of the body. ( that these necessities were wholly removed ; and we had nothing to hunger after, but those spiritual refreshments which we now so seldom taste!
11. When a man is so far advanced in the Christian life, as not to seek consolation from any created thing, then doth he first begin perfectly to enjoy God; then, “ in whatever state he is, he will therewith be content ;" then, neither doth prosperity exalt, nor adversity depress him; but his heart is wholly fixed and established in God, who is his all in all ; with respect to whom, nothing perisheth, nothing dieth ; but all things live to his glory, and are continually subservient to his blessed will.
12. Be always mindful of the great end of temporary nature ; and remember, that time once lost will never return. Without perpetual watchfulness and diligence, holiness can never be attained ; for the moment thou beginnest to relax in these, thou wilt feel inward imbecility, disorder, and disquietude. But if thou press forward with unabated fervour, thou shalt find strength and peace; and through the mercy of God, and that love of holiness which his grace hath inspired, wilt perceive thy yoke" become daily“ more easy, and thy burthen more light." Reflect, that it is only the fervent and diligent soul that is prepared for