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SERMON XIX.

THE TRUE CHARACTER OF GOOD MEN DELINEA

TED.

ROMANS vii, 18. For to will is present with me; but how to perform

that which is good, I find not.

HAVING shown in the preceding discourse, that it is the desire of saints to be perfect--that notwithstanding this desire they are still imperfect--and that their imperfection consists in positively sinful exerciscs, it only remains to improve the subject, by drawing a number of inferences from it.

INFERENCE I.-If the imperfection of saints consists in the inconstancy of their holy exercises, then it is their duty to become absolutely perfect. It appears from what has been said, that there is nothing to pre.. vent their reaching perfection in this life, but their own free, voluntary, sinful exercises. They would be en tirely sinless, if they would only continue to exercise just such holy affections as they sometimes do exercise. If they are able to have one good affection, why not another, and another, without intermission? And if they are able to have a constant series of good affections, why are they not under moral obligation to have such a series, and to be uniformly holy? No reason can be given, why they should not be perfect, which will not be as good a reason, why they should voluntarily commit sin. But who can believe, that saints ought to commit the least iniquity? Though no man has been absolutely perfect in this life, and though it is very evident, that no man ever will be so in the

present state; yet this affords not the least excuse for the least moral imperfection. It is the indispensable duty of all saints to keep themselves always in the love of God, and to be holy as he is holy, and perfect as he is perfect. They cannot fall short of moral perfection, without exercising positively sinful affections, which must be condemned by the divine law, and by their own enlightened consciences.

Inference 2.-If the present imperfection of saints consists in the inconstancy of their holy exercises, then it is easy to conceive how, they will all be equally perfect in a future state. : The Scripture assures us, that all true believers will be perfectly pure, as soon as they are absent from the body and present with the Lord. We read, "There shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie.Those, who have already reached the mansions of the blessed, are called “the spirits of just men made perfect.And the Apostle tells us “When that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away." But how can all true saints be. come thus equally perfect, the moment they arrive at the kingdom of glory? They will enter into the regions of light with unequal capacities, with unequal knowledge, and with unequal reasons of gratitude and praise. These inequalities must lay a foundation for an inequality of holiness to all eternity. How, then, can they all be equally perfect, while they are unequally holy? T'he answer to this is easy, if, their imperfection will cease, the moment their sinful exercises cease; and, if, their perfection will commence, the moment their holy exercises become constant and uninterrupted. : And this will certainly be the case, if their present imperfection wholly consists in the inconstancy of their holy

exercises. We must suppose, that all their positively sinful exercises will cease, before they are admitted into the immediate presence of God, and as soon as these cease, their holy affections will of course become constant; and that constancy.of. perfectly holy exercises, must constitute sinless perfection. In this way the least saint will be as perfect as the greatest; and the greatest will be as 'perfect, the first moment he enters the gates of Paradise, as he ever will be, in any period of eternity. : Though all the inhabitants of heaven will incessantly make advances in holiness, yet none will make advances in perfection, which essentially and necessarily consists in the constant exercise of holy affections. 1. INFERENCE' 8.-If the imperfection of saints be owe ing, not to the weakness, but to the inconstancy of their holy exercises; then there is a propriety in their being called perfect, notwithstanding they are far from being free from moral corruption. The Scripture both directly and indirectly represents all good men as perfect. We read, “Noah was a just man, and perfect in his generations.” . It is said of Job, “That man was perfect and upright.” We are told, “God will not cast away a perfect man, neither 'will he help the evil doers.”. The Psalmist says, "Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace. Solomon observes, “The upright shall dwell in the land, and the perfect shall remain in it.” He says again, "The righteousness of the perfect shall direct his way: but the wicked shall fall by his own wickedness.” That the word perfect is here used in a strict and proper sense, appears from other texts, in which saints are represented as having a perfect heart. We read, “Asa's heart was perfect all his: days.” Hezekiah pleads the perfection of his own heart before God. “I

present state; yet this affords not the least excuse for the least moral imperfection. It is the indispensable duty of all saints to keep themselves always in the love of God, and to be holy as he is holy, and perfect as he is perfect. They cannot fall short of moral perfection, without exercising positively sinful affections, which must be condemned by the divine law, and by their own enlightened consciences.

INFERENCE 2.-If the present imperfection of saints consists in the inconstancy of their holy exercises, then it is easy to conceive' how they will all be equally perfect in a future state. . The Scripture assures us, that all true believers will be perfectly pure, as soon as they are absent from the body and present with the Lord. We read, "There shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie.Those, who have already reached the mansions of the blessed, are called “the spirits of just men made perfect.And the Apostle tells us “When that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.” But how can all true saints become thus equally perfect, the moment they arrive at the kingdom of glory? They will enter into the regions of light with unequal capacities, with unequal knowledge, and with unequal reasons of gratitude and praise. These inequalities must lay a foundation for an inequality of holiness to all eternity. How, then, can they all be equally perfect, while they are unequally holy? T'he answer to this is easy, if, their imperfection will cease, the moment their sinful exercises cease; and, if, their perfection will commence, the moment their holy exercises become constant and uninterrupted. And this will certainly be the case, if their present imperfection wholly consists in the inconstancy of their holy

exercises. We must suppose, that all their positively sinful exercises will cease, before they are admitted into the immediate presence of God, and as soon as these cease, their holy affections will of course become constant; and that constàncy.of perfectly holy exercises, must constitute sinless perfection. In this way the least saint will be as perfect as the greatest; and the greatest will be as perfect, the first moment he enters the gates of Paradise, as he ever will be, in any period of eternity. : Though all the inhabitants of heaven will incessantly make advances in holiness, yet none will make advances in perfection, which essentially and necessarily consists in the constant exercise : of holy affections. 1. INFERENCE' 8.-If the imperfection of saints be owe ing, not to the weakness, but to the inconstancy of their holy exercises; then there is a propriety in their being called perfect, notwithstanding they are far from being free from moral corruption. The Scripture both directly and indirectly represents all good men as perfect. We read, “Noah was a just man, and perfect in his generations.” It is said of Job, "That man was perfect and upright.” We are told, “God will not cast away a perfect man, neither will he help the evil do. ers.”. The Psalmist says, “Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace.” Solomon observes, “The upright shall dwell in the land, and the perfect shall remain in it.” He says again, "The righteousness of the perfect shall direct his way: but the wicked shall fall by his own wickedness."

That the word perfect, is here used in a strict and proper sense, appears from other texts, in which saints are represented as having a perfect heart. We read, “Asa's heart was perfect all his days.” . Hezekiah pleads the perfection of his own heart before God. “I

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