ON PERSEVERANCE IN GOOD
Consider first, that every Christian ought at this time, pursuant to the precept of the church of God, to have made his peace with God, and to have signed and sealed it with a worthy communion. So that it is the business of every Christian now at least, to begin a new life, and to walk henceforward in the newness of life, even to the end. ‘Be thou faithful until death, and I will give thee the crown of life,’ saith our Lord, Apoc. ii. 10. Alas! what will it avail us to have made a good beginning at this time, if after having been ‘enlightened, and having tasted the heavenly gift, and been made partakers of the Holy Ghost’ &c., Heb. vi. 4, we should quickly fall away, and return to our former darkness, and to the husks of swine, under the slavery of Satan? Would not our latter condition become worse than the former? That this may never be our case, we must consider upon the means that may effectually preserve us from relapsing into mortal sin, and that may maintain us in the happy state of the grace and love of God. In particular we must labour to establish in our souls a horror of the dreadful evil of sin, and of all the dangerous occasions of it; to keep up in ourselves a penitential spirit for what is past, joined with a lively sense of that infinite mercy that kept us so long out of hell, and so graciously received his prodigal children, when they offered to return to him; and with a firm resolution (which should be renewed every day and every hour) for no consideration whatever to turn our backs upon him any more by wilful sin. O how happy is that Christian who is ever ready to lay down his life rather than to return any more to sin!
Consider 2ndly, that another great means to persevere in good is to live by rule and order, to renounce an idle life, as the mother of all evil, and to regulate our time and all our daily exercises; to be constant in the performance of our devotions, and in frequenting the sacraments; and to take care to do well all that we do. Sanctity and perfection do not so much depend upon doing extraordinary actions, as upon doing our ordinary actions extraordinarily well; now, we shall do them extraordinarily well if we do them with a pure intention, for the love of God; and if we take care to season them with frequent and fervent aspirations to God. Thus, like the ancient Saints, shall we walk with God, and be perfect. This is the surest way to perseverance.
Consider 3rdly, that in order to perseverance in grace, it will be also necessary to set out and to continue in a full persuasion and conviction that we have not a more dangerous enemy to our souls than our own self-love, with all its branches and passions; that the gratifying our own humours is gratifying a mortal enemy; that we must deny ourselves, renounce ourselves, and hate ourselves in this life, if we would save ourselves for eternity. In a word, the mortification of our passions, and the total victory over ourselves, is the sovereign means of perseverance. In order to this, every Christian ought to study well to know himself and the true state of his own interior, that he may discover what passions are predominant there, and may turn all the forces of his soul against them, till he has quite subdued them. This warfare is one of the most essential duties of every disciple of Jesus Christ: no one shall be crowned by him, that has not fought and conquered himself. ‘To him that overcometh he will give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’ Apoc. ii. 7.
Conclude, in order to perseverance in good, to practise well all these lessons, and particularly to be earnest with God in prayer, that he may be thy keeper, to keep thee from sin. O beg of God every day that thou mayest rather die a thousand deaths than once commit a mortal sin!