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THE highest state of moral goodness

is compounded of the avowed properties of ripened habits, growing out of genuine Christian principles, invigorated and confirmed by the energy of the Holy Spirit: this is evangelical virtue.

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Saint Paul contrasts the power of opposite habits with wonderful force in his two pictures, one of the debasing slavery of a vicious mind, and the other of the almost mechanical power of superinduced good habits in a virtuous one: "Know ye not that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey, whether of "sin unto death, or of obedience unto


" right

" righteousness ?” * What a dominion must holy principles and holy habits have obtained in that mind, when he could say, "The life that I now live, I live by "the faith of the Son of God, who loved “ me, and gave himself for me,”—“ I "am crucified to the world, and the world "is crucified to me!" Mere morality never rose to this super-human triumph, never exhibited such a proof of its own power to establish Christian practice. To these rooted habits the sacred writers sometimes apply the term perfection.

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Saint Paul, when he speaks of perfection, could only mean that fixedness of principle, and Christian elevation of character, which, under the influence of Divine grace, is actually attainable he could not mean to intimate that he expected man to be freed from liability to error, to be completely exempted from the inroads of passion, to be no longer

* Romans, ch. vi.

obnoxious to deviations and deflections from the law, by which he is yet mainly guided and governed. He could not expect him to be entirely and absolutely delivered from the infirmities of his frail and fallen nature. But though this general uniformity of good habits may occasionally, through the surprises of passion and the assaults of temptation, be in some degree broken, yet these invaders are not encouraged, but repelled: though some actions may be more imperfect, and some wrong tempers may still unhappily intrude themselves, yet vígilance and prayer obtain such a power of resistance, as finally almost to subdue these corruptions; and those that are not altogether conquered, but occasionally break out, induce a habit of watchfulness over the suspected places, and keep the heart humble, by a feeling of these remains of infirmity.


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But even here, such are the stratagems of the human heart for concealing its corruptions, not only from others, but from itself, that it is incumbent on every individual so to examine, as clearly to discover, his own real character; to inquire, whether he is at the same time sincerely mourning over his remaining disorders, and earnestly desiring and diligently cultivating a new vital principle of faith and holiness; or whether he has only been making a certain degree of improvement in this or that particular quality, while he continues both destitute and undesirous of this vital principle, which is the first seed of the Divine life.

It should seem, that the term " per"fect," as well in other parts of Scripture as in the writings of Saint Paul, not only has not always the exact meaning which we assign to it, but has different

ferent meanings, according to the occasion on which it is employed. Sometimes this term expresses the aim rather than the acquisition, as in that injunction of our Saviour"Be ye perfect as your "Father who is in heaven is perfect." Sometimes it appears to imply, being furnished with needful instruction in all points, as in Paul's direction to Timothy,

"that the man of God may be perfect, "thoroughly furnished unto all good "works." Often it means nearly the same with religious sincerity, as in Proverbs,- -"for the upright shall dwell in "the land, and the perfect shall remain " in it." Sometimes it is used with a special reference to abhorrence of idolatry, as when the expression "perfect "heart" is applied to various kings of Judah. The meaning in Philippians, "Let us therefore, as many as be per"fect, be thus minded," seems to import only real earnestness. Perfection, in the precise notion of it, admits not of gra


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