صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

to, we must at least desire. In this world, we cannot arrive thither; but in this life, we must always be going thither. It is 'status viæ ;' grace is the way to glory. And as he, that commands us to enter into a city from which we are hugely distant, means we should pass through all the ways, that lead thither, so it is here. The precept must be given here, and begun, and set forward; and it will be finished hereafter. But as a man may be an adulterer, or a thief, with his heart and his eye, as well as with his hand; so it is also in good things : a man's heart may be in heaven, that is, in the state of perfection, long before he sets his feet upon the golden threshold. His desires are first crowned and sainted, and then the work shall be made perfect.

43. III. There is another sort of perfection, which may not be improperly meant in this charge of duty, and that is, a perfection of state. “Be ye perfect,” that is, be ye holy; for teleteúw is 'sanctifico ;' and telety is . festum,' or 'a holy day,'a day that hath the perfection added to it of which a day is capable, a day sanctified to the Lord. For tedaloūv is the same with áyráSelv, to'sanctify’ is to make perfect.' “Nihil enim sanctificavit lex,” so the Latin reads the words of St. Paulo; but in the Greek it is érkelwcev, The law made that perfect which it did not sanctify.' So that, “ Be ye perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect,” is, Be ye holy like him, or in imitation of him. And thus the word is expounded in Plato : Τέλος των αγαθών το ομοιωθήναι τω θεω κατά το δυνατόν ομοίωσιν δε δίκαιον και όσιον μετά φρονήσεως Yevéolai. “That is the perfection of good, to be like God; but to be like him is to be just, and holy, and prudent.”That is katà duvaròv, “as much as we can;' that is, with a hearty, righteous, sincere endeavour: for so őolos or ' holy' is used. It signifies sincere, true, without error. Oủx 7orόν εστι τα μεγαλα σοφον γενέσθαι τον τα μικρά μη δυνάμενον. . So Damascius in Suidas:“ It is not likely or true, that he that is not wise in little things, should be wise in great things.” But to live holily in the Christian sense, is to live in faith and good works; that is Christian perfection. 'O τω θεώ διά πίστεως και αγαθοεργίας οικειωθείς όσιος και δίκαιος óvouášetal ELKÓTWS. “He is good and holy, who, by faith and good works, is like unto God. For this perfection or boió

Heb. vii, 10.

ins' holiness' is nothing else but a pursuance of that which is just and good; for so said Moses concerning the man that forsook God, and denied that he had made a covenant with him ;“Do not say in thine heart, "Oslá pou yévolto Xv tự ánoothvai átotou Kupiou, 'Let it be lawful or holy, or permitted to me to depart from the Lord.” To this sense was that of Justin Martyr, who expounds this phrase of “ Be ye perfect” by 'Christianum fieri;'Be perfect,' that is, ' Be Christians,' be Christ's disciples : for he who came ávaringwoal tòv vóuov' to fulfil,' to consummate obedience, to perfect the law,' -to obey him, and be disciples of his institution, is our perfection and consummation.

44. IV. This perfection of state, although it does not suppose a perfection of degrees, yet it can be no less than, 1. a perfection of parts. It must be a religion that is not mingled with interest, piety to God that is not spoiled with cruelty to our neighbours, a zeal that hath in it no uncharitableness or spite ; that is, our religion must be entire, and not defective in any constituent part. So St. James uses the word τέλειοι for ολόκληροι, “perfect and entire, wanting nothingp.” 2. To which add this also, that to this perfection of state, perseverance is of necessity to be added. For so we are taught by the same Apostle ; “Let patience have her perfect work;” that is, let it bear you through all your trials, lasting till all your sufferings are over; for he that endures to the end, shall be crowned, because he only is

perfect. Our holiness must persevere to the end. But, 3. it must also be growing all the way. For this word ' perfect is sometimes in Scripture used for degrees, and as a distinction between Christians in the measures of duty. St. Paul uses it to signify 'well-grown Christians,' or men in Christianity. Στήτε τέλειοι και πεπληρωμένοι εν παντί θελήματι του Jegū; "stand perfectly and full,” or “confidently fulfilling all the will of God 9:” for therefore “we preach Christ, and exhort every man, and teach every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man” τέλειον εν Χριστώ Ιησού “ perfect in Christ Jesus?;" that is, that they should not always be as babes, for whom milk and weak nutriment are to be provided; nor like those silly women, 'always learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth;' but it is commanded

P Jam. i. 4.

9 Col. iv. 12.

ri. 28.

us to be wise and perfect, to be men in Christ;' so St. Paul makes the antithesis ; “Be ye babes in malice, but in your minds tédalol yived.Jɛ be perfects," that is, Be men, wise, and confident, and strong, and well grown. “Perfectly instructed;" that is, " readily prepared to every good work;" not always employed in the elements and infant-propositions and practices of religion, but doing noble actions, well skilled in the deepest mysteries of faith and holiness. This is agreeable to that expression of St. Paul, who having laid the foundation of Christianity by describing the fundamentals, intending to speak of the more mysterious points of the religion, calls it ‘a going on to perfection :' so that by this precept of perfection it is intended we should do more than the lowest measure of our duties, and there is no limit, but even the utmost of our power; all that we can, is the measure of our duty: I do not say, all that we can naturally or possibly; but all that we can morally and probably, according to the measures of a man, and the rate of our hinderances and infirmities.

45. V. But the last sort and sense of perfection, is that which our blessed Saviour intended particularly in the instance and subject-matter of this precept, and that is, a perfection in the kind of action, that is, a choice and prosecution of the most noble and excellent things in the whole religion. Three are especially instanced in the holy Gospel.

1. The first is,-a being ready, or a making ourselves ready to suffer persecution,-prescribed by our blessed Saviour to the rich young man ; " If thou wilt be perfect, sell all and give to the poor;" that is, If thou wilt be my disciple, make thyself ready, “and come and follow me.” For it was at that time necessary to all that would follow Christ's person and fortune, to quit all they had above their needs. For they that followed him, were sure of a cross; and therefore to invite them to be disciples, was to engage them to the suffering persecution; and this was that which our blessed Saviour calls perfection.

Dulce periculum est
(0 Lenæe !) sequi Deum

Cingentem viridi tempora pampinos.
It is an easy thing to follow God in festivals and days of

• 1 Cor, xiv. 20.

1 Heb. vi, 1.

u Matt. xix. 21.

* Hor. S. 25. 18.

eucharist; but to serve him in hard battles, to die for him, is the perfection of love, of faith, and obedience. Obedient unto death,' was the character of his own perfection; for "greater love than this hath no man, than to lay down his life.”-“ Scis quem dicam bonum, perfectum, absolutum? Quem malum facere nulla vis, nulla necessitas potest:" " He is good, absolute, and perfect, whom no force, no necessity, can make evily."

II. The second instance is,-being merciful ;--for St. Luke recording this precept expounds it by èlenuovec, ‘Be ye perfect?,' that is, “Be ye merciful, as your heavenly Father is merciful;" for by mercy only. we can be like him. "OOTIS TOŪTINσίου αναδέχεται βάρος, ος ενώ κρείσσων έστιν έτερον τον έλαττούμενον ευεργετειν έθέλει, όσα παρα του θεου λαβων έχει, ταυτα τοις επιδεομένοις χορηγών, θεός γίνεται των λαμβανόντων, OŬTOÇ Muunths to SEOU." He that bears his neighbours' burden, and is willing to do benefit to his inferiors, and to minister to the needy of the good things which God hath given him,-he is as God to them that receive, he is an imitator of God himself.”—And Justin Martyr, reciting this precept of our blessed Saviour, instead of rédeloc uses the word Xonoroi kaì oiktipuovec, “ Be ye good and bountiful, as your heavenly Father is.”—And to this purpose the story of Jesus and the young man before mentioned, is interpolated in the Gospel according to the Hebrews or the Nazarenes, " The Lord said unto him, How sayest thou, I have kept the law and the prophets, when it is written in the law, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself? and behold, many of thy brethren the sons of Abraham are covered in filth, and die with hunger, and thy house is full of good things, and nothing goes forth to them from thence. If therefore thou wilt be perfect, sell all and give to the poor.”--Charity, which is the fulfilling the commandment, is also the perfection of a Christian : and that a giving of alms should be perfection,' is not disagreeing with the design of the word itself; τελεϊν γαρ δαπανών, say the grammarians; it signifies 'to spend ;' and folutelis is a great spender' or a bountiful person.

III. The third is the very particular to which our blessed Master did especially relate in the words of the sanction or institution: and we are taught it by the particle oùv or

2 Luke, vi. 36. * Scriptor ad Diognetum.

y Seneca.

* therefore.' For when the holy Jesus had described that glory of Christianity, that—" we should love our enemies, bless them that curse us, do good to them that hate us, and

pray for them which despitefully use us and persecute us ;"—he propounds the example of our "heavenly Father; for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good.” But the publicans love their friends, and salute their brethren: but more is expected of us; “Be ye therefore perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect;" that is, do more than the publicans, do as your Father does, be perfect as he is, that is,"love your enemies."

46. VI. Now concerning this sense of the precept of perfection, which is the choice and pursuance of the noblest actions of religion, we must observe that they are therefore 'perfection,' because they suppose a man to have passed through the first and beginning graces, to have arrived at these excellences of piety and duty. For as no man can, on a sudden, become the worst man in the world, his soul must by degrees be unstripped of holiness, and then of modesty, and then of all care of reputation, and then of disuse; and by these measures he will proceed to the consummation of the method of hell and darkness : so can no man on a sudden come to the right use of these graces.

Not dies in a good cause, shall have the reward of martyrdom; but he that, having lived well, seals that doctrine with dying, which before he adorned with living. And therefore it does infinitely concern all them that suffer in a good cause, to take care that they be not prodigal of their sufferings, and throw them away upon vice. Peevishness or pride, lust or intemperance, can never be consecrated by dying or by alms. But he that after a ‘patient continuance in well-doing,' adds charity or martyrdom to the collective body of his other graces, he hath made them 'perfect with this kind of perfection.' Martyrdom can supply the place of actual baptisms, but not of repentance : because without our fault it may so happen, that the first cannot be had; but, without our fault, the second is never left undone.

47. Thus perfection and repentance may stand together. Perfection does not suppose the highest intention of degrees in every one, but in all according to their measures of grace and time. Evangelical perfection is such as supposes a be

every man that

« السابقةمتابعة »