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Followers from amongst those who had been thus prepard for him by John; that he trained them up gradually, and try'd them in a way adapted to their growing Capacities; that he first gave them Milk, and then Strong Meat, and for a Time with-held from them fuch Duties as they were not able to bear. That the Apostles afterwards had their Children, their Young-men and Fathers, in Spiritual Improvement, and that for several Ages such like Classes were preserv'd in the Church, as long as it preserv'd its first Lustre. From these Hints we may conclude, that the Attainment of internal rectitude, the procuring a clean Heart and a right Spirit is a Business of greater Delicacy as well as Importance chan is commonly apprehended. Strive, therefore, to enter in at the strait Gate, for many I say unto you fall seek to enter in, and shall not be able, Luke xiii. 24.
Repentance the leading Principle of
MA T. iii. 2.
AVING in a former Difcourse shewn you at large, that Love is the fulfilling
of the Law and the end of the Commandment ; That the principal and most peculiar Do&trine of Christianity, and the most distinguishing Test or Characteristick of our being the Disciples of Christ, is that we love one
another as he loved us; and further, that Love is the proper and most excellent Source of all Religion and Virtue; and that the same Acts, whether they be of Worship towards God, or of Beneficence to our Neighbour, differ in their Value or Degrees of Acceptance, as they proceed more or less from this Principle of Love; That this Love which is so emphatically press’d upon us by our Lord, is the true and real Perfection of our Nature, as we are social and immortal Beings; That whosoever is possess’d of it, or any good Degrees of it, does thereby become a Law unto himself, and does not stand in need of those little and low moral Instructions, which the World at present seems to be fo fond of, but is ready upon
all Occasions, from the Influence of his own Mind, to suffer long and to be kind, not to envy, vaunt himself or be puffed up, not to behave himself
unseemly, not to seek his own, or to be easily provoked, or to think Evil ; not to rejoice in Iniquity but in the Truth, to bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, and endure all things; That this Love supersedes all the ordinary Rules of Morality, and breaks forch into an exalted and heroic Virtue, taught only of God, and exemplified only by Christ and his Disciples; and further, that this Love of his is the only Principle of clear and distinct Knowledge in Matters of Religion and Virtue; that whilst our Love is irregular ic will blind our Understandings, make us rejoice in Iniquity and hate the Truth, and those that press it upon us; that it is also the only Principle of Power by which we can be enabled to dischage the Offices we are convinced of; Having, I lay, set before you the principal Scope and Design of the Christian Revelation which is to love God and one another after the Ex
ample of Christ's Love, the bare Representation whereof sets it above the Misinterpretations of its false Friends, and the Aspersions of its avowed Enemies. I come now, according to a former Intimation, to consider the Provision made, the Means furnish'd forth, by the Use of which we may acquire this Love which we are assurd not only from the Word of God, but also from the Nature and Reason of things, as far as we are acquainted with them, is the utmost Perfection and Happiness of our Natures. The End must stand approv'd as most beneficial to Man, and of Consequence, most worthy of God; and the Means, I doubt not upon further Enquiry, will carry in them the same Marks of divine Wisdom and Goodness.
The first Means prescrib'd is chat of Repentance. It is term'd in the Epistle to the Hebrews, the Foundation, (vi. 1.) It stands foremost in the