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much time, and a wary life, and a diligent circumspection, we cannot mortify our sins, or do the first works of grace.
I pray God we be not found to have grown like the sinews of old age, from strength to remissness; from thence to dissolution, and infirmity, and death. Menedemus was wont to say, ' that the young boys that went to Athens, the first year were wise men, the second year philosophers, the third orators, and the fourth were but plebeians, and understood nothing but their own ignorance.' And just so it happens to some in the progresses of religion; at first they are violent and active, and then they satiate all the appetites of religion; and that which is left is, that they were soon weary, and sat down in displeasure, and return to the world, and dwell in the business of pride or money; and, by this time, they understand that their religion is declined, and passed from the heats and follies of youth, to the coldness and infirmities of old age: the remedy of which is only a diligent spirit and a busy religion ; a great industry, and a full portion of time in holy offices; that, as the oracle said to the Cirrhæans, ' noctes diesque belligerandum,' they could not be happy 'unless they waged war night and day;' so, unless we perpetually fight against our own vices, and repel our ghostly enemies, and stand upon our guard, we must stand for ever in the state of babes in Christ; or else return to the first imperfections of an unchristened soul, and an unsanctified spirit.—That is the first particular.
2. The second step of our growth in grace is,- when virtues grow habitual, apt, and easy, in our manners and dispositions ;-for, although many new converts have a great zeal, and a busy spirit, apt enough, as they think, to contest against all the difficulties of a spiritual life; yet they meet with such powerful oppositions from without, and a false heart within, that their first heats are soon broken; and either they are for ever discouraged, or are forced to march more slowly, and proceed more temperately for ever after.
Την μέντοι κακότητα και λαδόν έστιν ελέσθαι
? It is an easy thing to commit a wickedness, for temptation and infirmity are always too near us ;' but God hath made care and sweat, prudence and diligence, experience and
watchfulness, wisdom and labour at home, and good guides abroad, to be instruments and means to purchase virtue.
The way is long and difficult at first; but in the progress and pursuit, we find all the knots made plain, and the rough ways made smooth.
-jam monte potitus Ridet
Now the spirit of grace is like a new soul within him, and he hath new appetites and new pleasures, when the things of the world grow unsavoury, and the things of religion are delicious : when his temptations to his old crimes return but seldom, and prevail not at all, but are reproached with a penitential sorrow and speedy amendment; when we do actions of virtue quickly, frequently, and with delight, then we have grown in grace, in the same degree in which they can perceive these excellent dispositions. Some persons there are who dare not sin ; they dare not omit their hours of prayer, and they are restless in their spirits till they have done; but they go to it as to execution ; they stay from it as long as they can, and they drive, like Pharaoh's chariots, with the wheels off, sadly and heavily; and, besides that, such persons have reserved to themselves the best part of their sacrifice, and do not give their will to God; they do not love him with all their heart; they are, also, soonest tempted to retire and fall off. Sextius Romanus resigned the honours and offices of the city, and betook himself to the severity of a philosophical life; but when his unusual diet and hard labour began to pinch his flesh, and he felt his propositions smart; and that, which was fine in discourse at a symposiac or an academical dinner, began to sit uneasily upon him in the practice, he so despaired, that he had like to have cast himself into the sea, to appease the labours of his religion ; because he never had gone farther than to think it a fine thing to be a wise man: he would commend it, but he was loath to pay for it at the price, that God and the philosopher set upon it. But he that is grown in grace,' and hath made religion habitual to his spirit, is not at ease but when he is doing the works of the new man: he rests in religion, and comforts his sorrows with thinking of his prayers; and in all crosses of the world he is patient, because
his joy is at hand to refresh him when he Hist, for he cares not so he may serve God; and if you make him poor here, he is rich there, and he counts that to be his proper service, his work, his recreation, and reward.
3. But because in the course of holy living, although the duty be regular and constant, yet the sensible relishes and the flowerings of affection, the zeal and the visible expressions, do not always make the same emission; but sometimes by design, sometimes by order, and sometimes by affection, we are more busy, more entire, and more intent upon the actions of religion : in such cases we are to judge of our growth in grace, --if after every interval of extraordinary piety, the next return be more devout, and more affectionate;-the labour be more cheerful and more active, and if religion returns oftener, and stays longer in the same expressions, and leaves more satisfaction upon the spirit. Are your communions more frequent ? and, when they are, do you approach nearer to God? Have you made firmer resolutions, and entertained more hearty purposes of amendment? Do you love God more dutifully, and your neighbour with a greater charity? Do you not so easily return to the world as formerly? Are not you glad when the thing is done? Do you go to your sécular accounts with a more weaned affection than before? If you communicate well, it is certain that you will still do it better; if you do not communicate well, every opportunity of doing it is but a new trouble, easily excused, readily omitted ; done because it is necessary, but not because we love it; and we shall find that such persons, in their old age, do it worst of all. And it was observed by a Spanish confessor, who was also a famous preacher, that in persons not very religious, the confessions, which they made upon their death-bed, were the coldest, the most imperfect, and with less contrition than all that he had observed them to make in many years before. For so the canes of Egypt, when they newly arise from their bed of mud and slime of Nilus, start up into an equal and continual length, and are interrupted but with few knots, and are strong and beauteous, with great distances and intervals; but when they are grown to their full length, they lessen into the point of a pyramid, and multiply their knots and joints, interrupting the fineness and smoothness of its body; so are
the steps and declensions of him that does not grow in grace. At first, when he springs up from his impurity by the waters of baptism and repentance, he grows straight and strong, and suffers but few interruptions of piety; and his constant courses of religion are but rarely intermitted, till they ascend up to a full age, or towards the ends of their life; then they are weak, and their devotions often intermitted, and their breaches are frequent, and they seek excuses, and labour for dispensations, and love God and religion less and less till their old age, instead of a crown of their virtue and perseverance, ends in levity and unprofitable courses ; light and useless as the tufted feathers upon the cane, every wind can play with it and abuse it, but no man can make it useful. When, therefore, our piety interrupts its greater and more solemn expressions, and, upon the return of the greater offices and bigger solemnities, we find them to come upon our spirits like the wave of a tide, which retired only because it was natural so to do, and yet came farther upon the strand at the next rolling; when every new confession, every succeeding communion, every time of separation, for more solemn and intense prayer is better spent, and more affectionate, leaving a greater relish upon the spirit, and possessing greater portions of our affections, our reason, and our choice; then we may give God thanks, who hath given us more grace to use that grace, and a blessing to endeavour our duty, and a blessing upon our endeavour.
4. To discern our growth in grace,—we must inquire concerning our passions, whether they be mortified and quiet, complying with our ends of virtue, and under command ;-for since the passions are the matter of virtue and vice respectively, he that hath brought into his power all the strengths of the enemy, and the forts from whence he did infest him, he only hath secured his holy walking with God. But because this thing is never perfectly done, and yet must always be doing, grace grows according as we have finished our portions of this work. And in this we must not only inquire concerning our passions, whether they be sinful and habitually prevalent, for if they be, we are not in the state of grace; but whether they return upon us in violences and undecencies, in transportation, and unreasonable and imprudent expressions; for although a good man may be incident to
a violent passion, and that without sin, yet a perfect man is not; a well-grown Christian hath seldom such sufferings. To suffer such things sometimes may stand with the being of virtue, but not with its security; for if passions range up and down, and transport us frequently and violently, we may keep in our forts and in our dwellings; but our enemy is master of the field, and our virtues are restrained, and apt to be starved, and will not hold out long. A good man may be spotted with a violence, but a wise man will not; and he that does not add wisdom to his virtue, the knowledge of Jesus Christ to his virtuous habits, will be a good man but till a storm come. But, beyond this, inquire after the state of your passions in actions of religion. Some men fast to mortify their lust, and their fasting makes them peevish; some reprove a vice, but they do it with much impatience; some charitably give excellent counsel, but they do that, also, with a pompous and proud spirit; and passion, being driven from open hostilities, is forced to march along in the retinue and troops of virtue. And, although this be rather a deception and a cozenage than an imperfection, and supposes a state of sin, rather than an imperfect grace; yet, because it tacitly and secretly creeps along among the circumstances of pious actions,- as it spoils a virtue in some, so it lessens it in others, and, therefore, is considerable, also, in this question.
And, although no man must take accounts of his being in or out of the state of grace, by his being dispassionate, and free from all the assaults of passion; yet, as to the securing his being in the state of grace, he must provide that he be not a slave of passion: so, to declare his growth in grace, he must be sure to take the measures of his affections, and see that they be lessened, more apt to be suppressed; not breaking out to inconvenience and imprudences; not rifling our spirit, and drawing us from our usual and more sober tempers. Try, therefore, if your fear be turned into caution; your lust, into chaste friendships; your imperious spirit, into prudent government; your revenge, into justice; your anger, into charity; and your peevishness and rage, into silence and suppression of language. Is our ambition changed into virtuous and noble thoughts? Can we emulate without envy? Is our covetousness lessened into good husbandry,