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happy if compared with those who have contrary dispositions : for such a capacity does its portion of the work towards complete felicity, from which the contrary quality does estrange and disentitle us. 2. The special and minute actions and instances of these three preparatives of repentance are not under any command in the particulars, but are to be disposed of by Christian prudence, in order to those ends to which they are most aptly instrumental and designed. Such as are fasting and corporeal severities in satisfaction, or the punitive parts of repentance : they are either vindictive of what is past, and so are proper acts or effects of contrition and godly sorrow; or else they relate to the present and future state, and are intended for correction or emendation, and so are of good use as they are medicinal, and in that proportion not to be omitted. And so is confession to a spiritual person an excellent instrument of discipline, a bridle of intemperate passions, an opportunity of restitution. “Ye which are spiritual, restore such a person overtaken in a fault,'' (saith the apostle). It is the application of a remedy, the consulting with the guide, and the best security to a weak, or lapsed, or an ignorant person; in all which cases he is unfit to judge his own questions, and in these he is also committed to the care and conduct of another. But these special instances of repentance are capable of suppletories, and are like the corporeal works of mercy, necessary only in time and place, and in accidental obligations. He that relieves the poor, or visits the sick, choosing it for the instance of his charity, though he do not redeem captives, is charitable,
| Gal. vi. 1.
and bath done his alms. And he that cures his sin by any instruments, by external, or interior and spiritual remedies, is penitent, though his diet be not ascetic and afflictive, or his lodging hard, or his sorrow bursting out into tears, or his expressions passionate and dolorous. I only add this, that acts of public repentance must be by using the instruments of the church, such as she hath appointed; of private, such as by experience, or by reason, or by the counsel we can get, we shall learn to be most effective of our penitential purposes. And yet it is a great argument that the exterior expressions of corporeal severities are of good benefit, because in all ages wise men and severe penitents have chosen them for their instruments.
() eternal God, who wert pleased in mercy to look upon us when we were in our blood, to reconcile us when we were enemies, to forgive us in the midst of our provocations of thy isfinite and eternal Majesty, finding out a remedy for us which mankind could never ask, even making an atonement for us by the death of thy Son, sanctifying us by the blood of the everlasting covenant, and thy all-hallowing and divine Spirit; let thy graces so perpetually assist and encourage my endeavours, conduct my will, and fortify my intentions, that I may persevere in that holy condition which thou hast put me in by the grace of the covenant, and the mercies of the Holy Jesus. O let me never fall into those sins, and retire to that vain conversation, from which the eternal and merciful Saviour of the world haih redeemed me: but let me grow in grace, adding virtue to virtue,
· Vide Disc. of Mortification, Part. 1 ; and Disc. of Fasting, Part II.
reducing my purposes to acts, and increasing my acts till they grow into habits, and my habits till they be confirmed, and still confirming them till they be consummate in a blessed and holy perseverance. Let thy preventing grace dash all temptations in their approach; let thy concomitant grace enable me to resist them in the assault, and overcome them in the fight : that my hopes be never discomposed, nor my faith weakened, nor my confidence made remiss, nor my title and portion in the covenant be lessened. Or if thou permittest me at any time to fall, (which, holy Jesu, avert for thy mercy and compassion sake,) yet let me not sleep in sin, but recall me instantly by the clamours of a nice and tender conscience, and the quickening sermons of the Spirit, that I may never pass from sin to sin, from one degree to another; lest sin should get the dominion over me, lest thou be angry with me, and reject me from the covenant, and I perish. Purify me from all uncleanness, sanctify my spirit, that I may be holy as thou art: and let me never provoke thy jealousy, nor presume upon thy goodness, nor distrust thy mercies, nor defer my repentance, nor rely upon vain confidence ; but let me, by a constant, sedulous, and timely endeavour, make my calling and election sure, living to thee and dying to thee; that having sowed to the Spirit, I may, from thy mercies, reap in the Spirit bliss, and eternal sanctity, and everlasting life, through Jesus Christ our Saviour, our hope, and our mighty and ever-glorious Redeemer. Amen.
Considerations upon Christ's Sermon on the Mount,
and of the Eight Beatitudes. 1. The holy Jesus being entered upon his prophetical office, in the first solemn sermon gave testimony that he was not only an interpreter of laws then in being, but also a lawgiver, and an angel of the new and everlasting covenant: which because God meant to establish with mankind by the mediation of his Son, by his Son also he now began to publish the conditions of it. And that the publication of the Christian law might retain some proportion at least and analogy of circumstance with the promulgation of the law of Moses, Christ went up into a mountain, and from thence gave the oracle. And here he taught all the disciples; for what he was now to speak was to become a law, a part of the condition on which he established the covenant, and founded our hopes of heaven. Our excellent and gracious Lawgiver, knowing that the great argument in all practical disciplines is the proposal of the end, which is their crown and their reward, begins his sermon, as David began his most divine collection of hymns, with blessedness. And having enumerated eight duties, which are the rule of the spirits of Christians, he begins every duty with a beatitude, and concludes it with a reward; to manifest the reasonableness, and to invite and determine our choice to such graces which are circumscribed with felicities, which have blessedness in present possession, and glory in the consequence; which, in the midst of the most passive and afflictive of them, tells us that we are blessed : which is indeed a felicity, as a hope is good, or as a rich heir is rich, who, in the midst of his discipline and the severity of tutors and governors, knows he is designed to, and certain of a great inheritance.
2. The eight beatitudes, which are the duty of a Christian, and the rule of our spirit, and the special discipline of Christ, seem like so many paradoxes and impossibilities reduced to reason; and are indeed virtues made excellent by rewards, by the sublimity of grace, and the mercies of God, hallowing and crowning those habits which are despised by the world, and are esteemed the conditions of lower and less considerable people. But God 'sees not
as man sees,' and his rules of estimate and judgment are not borrowed from the exterior splendour, which is apt to seduce children, and cozen fools, and please the appetites of sense and abused fancy; but they are such as he makes himself, excellencies which, by abstractions and separations from things below, land us upon celestial appetites. And they are states of suffering rather than states of life: for the great employment of a Christian being to bear the cross, Christ laid the pedestal so low, that the rewards were like rich mines interred in the deeps and inaccessible retirements, and did choose to build our felicities upon the torrents and violences of affliction and sorrow. Without these graces we cannot get heaven; and without sorrow and sad accidents we cannot exercise these graces. Such are,
3. First, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.'' Poverty of spirit is in respect of secular affluence and abundance, or in respect of great opinion and high thoughts; either of which have divers acts and offices. That the first is one of the meanings of this text is certain, because St. Luke, repeating this beatitude, delivers it plainly, 'Blessed are the poor,'? and to it he opposes riches. And our blessed Saviour speaks so suspiciously of riches and rich men, that he represents the condition to be full of danger and temptation: and St. James calls it full of sin, describing rich men to be oppressors, litigious, proud, spiteful, and contentious. Which sayings, like all others of that nature, are to be understood in common and