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over our passions, even with regard to things in their own nature innocent, as shall make the world sit loose about us, reconcile us to every disposal of providence, preserve an evenness and resignation of mind, and be content to part with any, or all, our comforts here below, when God sees fit to command them from us, or us from them. In short, no man, who clings so close to any of these conveniences, as to be immoderately exalted with prosperity, or broke with afflictions, as not to love his God and Saviour better than everything else, as not to distribute of his abundance cheerfully, not to delight in doing good with his talent, more than in hoarding it up, to be better pleased with his devotions than his diversions, with the improvement of his virtue, rather than that of his estate, who would not choose to be the least in the kingdom of heaven, rather than the greatest monarch upon earth; he, I say, who hath not wrought his mind up to this noble and generous frame, though not a slave, like those men of sin, we described before, is yet but in a state of combat, the success of which is still doubtful. He is certainly far short of that truly Christian heroic bravery, which hath actually overcome the world.' He, in effect, is no better than one of those double-minded men, reproved by St. James; whose distorted affections have one mind for the Creator, and another for the creatures ; who are borne down, sometimes with the evidence of religion, and the testimony of their own consciences; and at other times again, by the weight of some worldly consideration, and the violence of their own passions: these are 'tost like a wave of the sea, unstable in all their ways;' ever floating between two; they ebb and flow, grow better or worse men, gain or lose ground in this spiritual encounter, just as the one, or the other of these principles happens, at that time, to be uppermost. But now the true conquerors of the world are distinguishable by nothing more than a constant and uniform manner of behaviour. And this must needs proceed from the loving of God with all the heart, and with all the mind, and with all the soul, and with all the strength.' For by this love alone it is, that we can be victorious; a love, that bears no rival, that values nothing in comparison, much less admits any thing into competition with him; and consequently maintains an absolute dominion over all below: for nothing here below will ever be able to control or disturb us, except when suffered either to exclude God
from our hearts, or to divide them with him. If the former be our case, we have hired ourselves out to a wrong, a tyrannical, a merciless, and an unprofitable master. If the latter, we are parted between two masters, and do in effect serve neither : in both cases, we are slaves, and otherwise we cannot be, till entirely devoted to, and continually employed in, that dear Lord's service which is perfect freedom.'
But are any of us, in good earnest, sufficient for such a conquest ? can a nature, mortal and frail, liable to our necessities, born with our appetites, bred up in the daily experience of the comforts and conveniences of life, so abstract himself from this world, that the things of it should no longer retain any place in his affections ?
The answer is plain and easy : though human powers alone are not of force to subdue our inclinations, yet there is a principle capable of doing it, with which every man may be armed; which every Christian pretends and is presumed to have ; and they, who have it and use it, will continue impregnable to all the rude assaults and treacherous allurements of this enemy. For warring against whom successfully, St. John hath here directed us to the only effectual expedient, by adding this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.'
II. By the victory, we are to understand the means or instrument of obtaining it; and, by our faith, is intended the belief of the Christian religion, as it is delivered down to us in the gospel, and summarily contained at ver. 5, in this one article, that • Jesus is the Son of God.' Hereby are implied, a firm assent to the truth of his doctrines, a steadfast reliance upon the merit of his sufferings, and an assured expectation of his glorious promises ; doctrines which a person divine could not have taught, had they not been true: sufferings which, because undergone by a person divine, cannot but be of infinite worth and efficacy; promises which a person divine can and will make good to the uttermost; and therefore to men, whose minds are possessed with this belief, the difficulty of overcoming the world is more than balanced, by that absolute certainty of a future reward, and by the excellence of that reward; a reward incomparably, inconceivably beyond any happiness this world can give: a reward peculiar to them, who are content to despise and reject the present less, in prospect of the distant greater, bliss : which this Son of God hath pledged his
truth most solemnly for; nay, hath already invested human nature in, by exalting our flesh to the right hand of the Majesty on high.
So that, upon a just stating of the whole matter, the point at last turns upon this ;—that we, in fighting against, and overcoming the world, do not deny or contend with nature, but only the corruptions of nature: we reduce and restrain our desires of things agreeable here, but we choose to do it as an expedient to get into our possession things infinitely more agreeable hereafter. It is true, the one sort are present, and the object of sense, which gives us a certainty of them; the other are future, but not less certain, because they are the object of faith : for God can no more deceive us, than even our own sight and experience can. Let it but be our care to have this spiritual shield always in readiness to fix our minds in this belief, and be continually conversant with God and heaven, by pious meditations, and acts of holy hope; and when our hearts are set upon their true treasure, the false ones here below will be so far from captivating our affections, that they will scarce be able to disquiet us, or make a resistance of any consideration. In a word, faith is the very principle, by which we attain to our second and better birth : it is the seed of that new life in us, which implies a new heart, and new affections ; a dying to the vanities, and corruptions, and inordinate desires of the world ; and a love and likeness of God, by which we resemble our Father, and, by that resemblance, prove ourselves his children. But of this resemblance, one material part is such an indifference to the things of this world, as becomes them, who look upon themselves to be only sojourners here, but have their hope and home, their relations and friends, their dwelling and inheritance, in another and better country,
In virtue of this faith it was, that difficulties and dangers, scourgings and imprisonments, tortures and death, have been encountered, endured, defeated, triumphed over, by that glorious and invincible army of prophets, apostles, and martyrs, who have fought this good fight, and approved themselves more than conquerors in it. And what should hinder us from being equally successful? Their passions and infirmities we
Our arms and assistances are the same. Human nature and the Christian religion continue unchangeable in every age of the Church. They conquered not through their own
strength, but through him that loved them;' and he that loved them,' loves us also : and provided we be careful not to degenerate from such principles and such examples, will be equally ready to sustain us in our combat, and to recompense us for it, and after it, with the same crown of life and righteousness.
SECOND SUNDAY AFTER EASTER.
A DEATH-BED REPENTANCE. Num. Xxiii. 10.-_Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last
end be like his. [Tert taken from the first Morning Lesson for the Day.) There is not any thing, that so notoriously defeats the design of our Saviour's coming into the world, and renders our Christianity so useless to us, as this one presumption ;-that the whole of religion, or all that is necessary to salvation, may be performed upon a sick or death-bed. The extreme folly and danger of this presumption, I shall endeavour to evince by several particulars.
As I am willing to allow the dying penitent all advantages, and to consider his repentance in the very best circumstances, --I shall not instance in such, as are violently and suddenly hurried out of the world, in the midst of their wickedness, and have hardly time so much as to beg merey at God's hands ;nor yet in those, who are taken with such diseases, as render them incapable of any rational thoughts: I shall only put the case of one, who dies leisurely and by degrees—who retains his memory and understanding to the last—and is able, in some measure, to recount all his former wickedness. And yet what can such a one do towards the securing his everlasting salvation ? For,
Suppose he may be truly sorrowful for what he hath done amiss, and the remembrance of his evil ways is very bitter and grievous to him; yet it is hard to think, that his mind should, on a sudden, be really altered (I speak of such as have den
lighted in sin and vanity, and hated nothing so much as piety and virtue ;) that such men's judgements would be so wonderfully changed, as immediately to lay aside all their former prejudices against goodness and righteousness; and be reconciled, in a moment, to what they have so long declared open enmity against ; that just a little before they die, they should become as absolutely of another mind, as if they were, in truth, other men : for a man at once to think, believe, judge, and act quite contrary to what he hath thought, believed, and done, for forty, fifty, or sixty years, is really incredible. So that, in truth, the grief of a dying penitent, is no other than that of every com, mon malefactor, who, when he is ready to receive the punishment of his crimes, is then very angry with himself for what he hath done. He is sorry and troubled, not that he sinned, but that he cannot escape suffering for it: it grieves him to think he can now sin no longer,—that all the pleasure of it is past, and nothing remains but a sad reckoning and account. So that if wicked men are confounded at the sense of their guilt when they come to die, yet this is more the effect of those fears and horrors they at such times feel, than of any true, sincere repent
But if the dying penitent most earnestly begs God's pardon, for the sake of Jesus Christ, pleading his merits and satisfaction,--yet this is but to mock God, who thinks it enough to ask him forgiveness with the remainder and lastdrawing of their breath. For what do they otherwise, that die this kind of well-dying, but say unto God, We beseech thee, O Lord, that all the falsehood, forswearing, and treachery of our life past, may be pleasing to thee, and acceptable in thy sight: that thou wilt, for our sakes, (who had no leisure to do any thing for thine,) change thy nature, and forget to be a just God ; that thou wouldst love injuries and oppression, call am, bition wisdom, and charity foolishness.'--Certainly they who depend upon such prayers, have either found out a new God, or made one.
And should he back his prayer with restitution of all that he hath gotten unjustly, and with charity to the poor, and forgiveness of all the injuries he hath received from other men, (which are excellent beginnings of a new life, if done in time,) yet there can be no virtue in restoring that which we can no longer keep, or in giving away what we must necessarily part with. And as for pardoning injuries received, alas ! wicked