Nay, we sometimes proceed so far as to trust in ourselves, and depend on our own power, strength, and abilities. Then it is that God in mere mercy interposes, and breaks us in pieces; humbles, and confounds us, and so empties us of ourselves, that we may be filled with all the fullness of God. Which we cannot be, without being first emptied of that arrogance and self-conceit which stand in perfect opposition to the grace of God. Hence it appears that hope is a MILITANT VIRTUE, fighting against all that confidence in ourselves; all that self-exaltation upon the score of our own gifts, merits, righteousness, prosperity, honours, and riches, in which the natural man reposes all his confidence. The business of hope is to oppose and conquer all these delusions of the devil, and to seek its rest in the sanctuary of God.
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True Christianity consists only in pure faith, love, and an holy life; which holiness of life springing up in the soul with faith and love, hath its beginning out of TRUE CONTRITION. And this contrition is never without a knowledge of one's self, whereby we perceive daily more and more our own defects, and amend them day by day. And thereby we arrive at a participation of the righteousness and holiness of Christ by faith. Wherein if we do walk, as having the continual fear of God before us, after the example of good children and loyal subjects, we must be sure not to nourish any thing that belongs to the FLESH. 'All things are lawful for me (saith the true Christian) but all things are not expedient. All things are indeed lawful for me, but all things edify not.' For as a dutiful son in his father's house doth not all what seemeth good unto him, though it were lawful for him so to do; but warily observeth the will and pleasure of his father, and, as it were, setting him still before him, doth consult with him, before ever he say or do any thing: so a true Christian, as the child of God, will behave himself in his Father's house, which is the church of God; will not allow himself in all things lawful, but will chastize his senses with Christian moderation, and will never do or speak any thing without consulting first his Father in heaven.
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By daily contrition, and habitual mortification of the flesh, man is day by day RENEWED, bearing heavenly fruits and celestial graces, of an inexplicable sweetness. Contrariwise, the pleasure of the world bringeth heaviness of heart, vexation of spirit, and a wounded conscience: yea, so great hence is the calamity of the soul, and so heavy the loss of the heavenly gift (a loss which necessarily flows from the pleasures of the flesh, and from worldly delights) that he who duly calls the same to mind, cannot be exceedingly fear and dread any of the fleshly and worldly joys, which serve but to divert him from those that are spiritual and heavenly, and to quench in him the most sweet grace of devotion that brings the soul into the kingdom of God.
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For true conversion doth not consist in putting away great and outward sins only, but in descending deeply into your own self, searching into the inmost recesses of the heart, the secrets and closets, all the windings and turnings thereof; changing and renewing them throughout, with the grace that is given you: and so, by faith, you are converted from self-love to Divine love; from the world and all worldly concupiscences, to a spiritual and heavenly life; and from a participation of the pomps and pleasures thereof, to participating the merits and virtues of Christ, by believing his word, and walking in his steps.
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Let therefore this PURE LOVE OF CHRIST prompt thee to all that is good; let this be the motive of mortifying thy flesh with all its desires: and let the remembrance of that death which he most willingly accepted for thee, make thee willing to lay down thy life for him; and out of sincere gratitude for all his inestimable benefits, to accept the cross at his hand, and to resist sin and the world even unto blood.
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Happy man, who is dead to the world, and alive to God! separated from the world, and collected into Christ! Blessed is the man into whose heart such Divine graces are infused, as withdraw it wholly from every tendency to inferior things, and exalt it to the supernal light and glory in the heavens. To obtain which, it is needful to pray daily and instantly to God: seeing it is not possible for a Christian to live without it,
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Besides God, nothing should live in man; besides God, nothing should in man put forth itself: nothing but God himself should appear, operate, will, love, think, speak, act and triumph in him. For if any thing else besides God does move and work in man, then man cannot be the image of God; but he is become the image of THAT whatever it be, which now moveth and worketh in him. If man therefore would continue the image of God, there is a necessity for him to surrender up himself wholly to God.
The first help to prayer is our only Mediator and Advocate, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, 1 John 2:2. He is pleading our cause before God, when we are hardly able to express what we want; who is therefore called the Word of the Father, because God, by him, has discovered his will to us; as he is also called 'the Mediator, ' because he solicits our cause before God. When Moses complained that he was of slow speech, and a slow tongue, that so he might avoid carrying the commanded message to Pharaoh, God tells him, 'Aaron thy brother can speak well, he shall be to thee instead of a mouth.' Se we also, when we shall pray, are dull, and slow of speech, and therefore must fly to Christ, our heavenly Aaron, who is to us instead of a mouth. Therefore Christ commands us to pray in his name, who is our eternal High-priest, 'having an everlasting priesthood, ' (Heb. 7:24, ) 'interceding for us, ' (Rom. 8:34, ) 'in whom we have boldness, ' and access with confidence by the faith of him, ' Eph. 3:12.
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The obedience of Christ was far more acceptable to God, than the innocence of Adam; so that a thousand such as Adam could not have equalled Christ alone. For however he, had he continued in the state of innocence, would have left us an hereditary righteousness, of which we should have been possessed: notwithstanding, unspeakably greater, and more excellent, is our union with God in Christ, since he being made man, hath so purified and exalted the human nature in himself, that the primitive state of Adam is not once to be compared with it.
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Give me ... a compassionate heart, quickly moved to grieve for the woes of others and to active pity for them, even as our Lord Jesus Christ beheld our poverty and hasted to help us. Give me grace ever to alleviate the crosses and difficulties of those around me, and never to add to them; teach me to be a consoler in sorrow, to take thought for the stranger, the widow, and the orphan; let my charity show itself not in words only but in deed and truth.
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