« PreviousContinue »
happiness, that the soul is always in the sen-
by the laws of my own method obliged to consider the effects of this
branch of Christian Liberty in the perfeet man, and to shew what influence it has upon his happiness. But having, fe&t. i. ch. 4. discoursed at large of the subferviency of Perfection to our happiness; and in fect. 2. chap. 3. of the happy effects of Christiand liberty in general, I have the less need to say much here on this head: yet I cannot whoily forbear saying something of it, The conquest over original corruption, such as I have described it, raises man to the highest pitch of Perfection that our nature is capable of; makes him approach the nearest, that mortality can, to the life of angels, and plants him on the mount of God, where grace, and joy, and glory, shine always on him with more direct and strong rays. Now is virtue truly lovely, and truly happy; now the assurance of the mind is never interrupted, its joy never overcast; it enjoys a perpetual calm within, and sparkles with a peculiar lustre that cannot be counterfeited, cannot be equalled. Some faint and partial resemblance, I confefs, of this virtue, or rather of this state or confummation of it, have I, tho? very rarely, feen in some masterly strokes of nature. I have observed in some, that sweetness of temper; in others, that coldness and absolute command over themselves, with respect to the pleasures; and in several, that innate modesty and humility, that na
tural indifference for the power, honoui, and grandeur of life, that I could scarce forbear pronouncing, that they had so far each of them escaped the contagion of original corruption, and could not but bless and love them. But, after all, there is a yaft difference between these creatures of nature, and those of grace: the Perfection of the one is confined to this or that particular disposition ; but that of the other is in its degree universal: the Perfection of the one has indeed as much charm in it as pure nature can have; but the other has a mixture of fomething divine in it; it has an heavenly tincture, which adds something of sacredness and majesty to it, that nature wants : the Perfection of the one is indeed easy to its self, and amiable to others; but the Perfection of the other is joy and glory within, and commands a veneration as well as love from all it converses with. Blessed ftate! when shall I attain thy lovely innocence! when shall I enter into thy divine rest! when shall I arrive at thy security, thy pleasure !
CH A P. V. Of liberty, with respect to fins of infirmity. An enquiry into these three things
, 1.W kether there be any such fins, viz. Sins in which the most perfect live and die, 2. If there are, what they be; or what diftinguishes them from damnable or mortal fins. 3. How far we are to extend the liberty of the perfe&t man in relation to these fins. HIS is a subject, wherein the
very being of holiness or virtue, the falvation of man, and the honour of God, are deeply interested : for if we allow of such fins for venial, as really are not so, we destroy the notion, or evacuate the necessity of holiness; endanger the salyation of man, and bring a reflection upon God as a favourer of impiety. On the other hand, if we assert those sins damnable, which are not really so, we miserably perplex and disturb the minds of men, and are highly injurious to the goodness of God; representing him as a severe and intolerable master. But how important foever this subject be, there is no other, I think, in the compass of divinity, wherein so many writers have been so unfortunately engaged ; so that it is over-grown with dispute and controversy, with confusion and obscurity, and numberless absurdities and contradicti
gns. This I have thought necessary to observe in the entrance of my discourse, not to insult the performances of others, or to raise in the reader any great expectation for my own; but indeed for a quite contrary reason, namely, to dispose him to a favourable reception of what I here offer towards the rendring the doctrine of sins of infirmity intelligible, and preventing the disservice which mistakes about it do to rez ligion.
By sins of infirmity, both ancients and moderns, papists and protestants, do, I think, understand such fins as are consistent with a state of grace and favour; and from which the best men are never intirely freed in this life, though they be not imputed to them. This then being taken for gran: ted, I shall enquire into these three things.
1. Whether there be any such sins, fins in which the most perfect live and dye.
2. If there are, what these bę. What it is that distinguishes them from damnable or mortal ones.
3. How far we are the extend the liberty of the perfect man in relation to these.
1. Whether there be any such. That the best men are not without errors, without defects and failings, and that not only in their past life, or unregenerate ftate,