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of the Field there is still before us, and how short a time is left us to compass it in. This is an Enquiry, very fit to be frequently and diligently made, especially at each of our Approaches to the Blessed Table ; at all solemn Seasons of Humiliation and Repentance: (and consequently very proper to be recommended now, as a good Introduction to the LentFast) That so, upon every fresh Examination, the State of our Souls may be distinctly known ; And that, when this is rightly understood, such Knowledge may produce its due Effect. That, if we have, (as alas !' Who hath not?) stood still, or loitered, or loft Ground, we may quicken our Pace, and fetch it up, before it be too late : Or, if we find our felves moving forward, that the nearer we approach, the more we may exert our Strength : and not by rough Ways, dead Hearts, and feeble Knees, by fainting, and growing weary in well-doing, not only lose our Crown, but have the Calamity of that Loss doubled to us, by disappointing all our past Hopes and Toil, and missing the Prize, to our Shame and Eternal Confusion; when we were just in sight, and might, by bearing up but a little longer, certainly have secured the Bliss and Honour of it. Of so useful, so necessary Consequence, is this Allusion to us ; And of so much concern, to consider every Christian in this Life, as one engaged in a Race; To reflect, what Value each of us runs for, and how he ought to acquit himself, in the glorious Undertaking.
2. The other Allusion of St. Paul, in this Scripture, to the Wrestling and Cuffing in the Games celebrated among these Corinthians, resemble the Christian's Duty to a Fight. And This is likewise a Direction in several Instances, particularly in these that follow.
(1.) This is a farther Incitement to our Zeal, as it represents to us the Opposition, we are like to meet with, in our great Affair. The former Similitude supposes every Competitor for the Prize obliged to make the best of his way; but the Present intimates a danger, not only of being out-fripp'd by the more vigorous Endeavours of Others, but of encountring great Difficulties and Obstructions in our Own. And there. fore it calls upon us to prepare for a Combat. The Nature whereof when we rightly understand, it will plainly appear to be such, as we can neither decline, nor behave our selves negligently in, without suffering the utmost Damage and Dishonour.
For (2.) This Combat is here resembled to those of the Olympick Games, where Men contended, not out of hatred, or with an intent to destroy, but for a Prize, and with design to master, their Adversary. That Adversary, in the Case before us, is by St. Paul, Verse 27. said to be the Body. That is, the Sensual and Carnal Appetites ; which are ever putting us upon endeavouring after, placing our Affections upon, and esteeming our chief Happiness to consist in, the Gratifications of Sense, and Enjoyments of the present World. This is reputed an Adversary, because it wars against our Spiritual Part, diverts our Pursuit of purer and more lasting Joys, renders us carelefs of our main Concern, that future State, where alone complete Happiness is to be had. And, the more we indulge the Suggestions of this Part, the farther we swerve from the Principles of Reason and Religion. Yet still this is a Part of us. God hath implanted those Desires in our Nature for excellent Purposes ; He continues them there for a constant Exercise of our Virtue; And therefore, though the Body be an Adversary, yet it is not such a one, as must be hated or Nain, but only kept under and brought into subjection. These Passions and Affections then it is not
the business of Religion utterly to root out; but only, by prudent Restraints, and proper Acts of Self-denial, to govern, and reduce, and contain within due Measures: that fo They, upon all Occasions, may obey, and the nobler Faculties of our Mind may rule, and set bounds to them.
(3.) That these Self-denials may not be misunderstood, as Commands tyrannical and unreasonably severe, we shall do well, once more to cast our Eye upon the Allusion, made use of by the Apostle. He at Verse 25. compares them to the Temperance, prescribed and practised, by way of preparation for the Olympick Games. The Observance whereof contributed to Mens Activity and Vigour, and more successful Performance, in the parts they undertook, and desired to signalize themselves by. This is directly Our Cafe. God does not tie us up with Arbitrary Laws, to unnatural Cruelties, that should make Life a Burden ; but commands us to maintain such a Conflict, as the Condition of Human Nature hath made unavoidable. He would have us subdue such Desires, and deny our selves such Gratifications only, as, when freely indulged, are prejudicial, and obstruct the great End, and true Happiness, of Human Nature. Such as are below the Dignity, and disturb the Operations, and enervate the noblest Powers, of a reasonable Mind; and therefore ought to be curbed by us, as Men. But especially, such as are inconsistent with the strict Sobriety and Purity, with the generous Charity, and heavenly Mindedness of Christians. Who, as such, should, in their whole Behaviour, keep up the distinction between a perishing Body and an immortal Soul ; and reckon all below, but Dross and Dung in comparison ; no farther worth their care, than as it may be serviceable to them in obtaining, but not by any means fit to come in competition with, or suffered to divert them from, or hinder
them in their Endeavours after, their incorruptible Crown of Glory.
Since then the Reward we have in view, is so excellent ; if the Terms of attaining it were yet much more difficult, we could not be just to our own Interest, should we refuse to comply with them. But then, since those very Terms are for our Interest ; how inexcusable are those wretched Men, who will not submit to the Methods of being as happy, as they can be here, in order to being infinitely happy hereafter? The Conibat I have been treating of every Man is called to. And every Man, if the fault be not his own, may prove victorious in it. That Passage before us of One obtaining the Prize, is not intended by St. Paul to lessen our Hopes, but to encourage our Labours. It is meant to teach us, that the utmost we are able to do is little enough, that the Benefit we aim at will recompense all our Pains, and, that each Person, upon that account, should exert himself as vigorously, and be as careful not be outdone by any other, as if only the One best in the whole Number could win the Prize, that All are striving for. Let us then (and God grant we may) put forth our whole Strength, fix our Minds upon this Crown, and be continually pressing forward to it. Let us not suffer our Thoughts to be dissipated by Impertinence or Vanity; by any of the Follies or the
Trifles, which, upon pretence of entertaining, would loosen them, and break their Force in this most necessary, as well as most important Affair. For we are not so much as at liberty to engage in, or to stand clear of, this Race and Combat. Were the Choice left to Us, yet not to come in were to be undone. But that was happily made for us long ago. We set out in this Course, and were listed in this Service at our Baptism, and cannot retract without Desertion and A postacy. The greater Reason is there, why,
having gone so faralready, we should by all means disengage our selves from the weight of our sensual and corrupt Affections. Mortifying them by the Abstinence, and other Holy Severities, proper for that Season of Humiliation and Fasting, to which this Portion of Scripture is so wisely propounded, by our Admirable Church, as a seasonable Preparation. And, lastly, Let not any of Us presume to think those Remedies a Difpensation below us, to which St. Paul himself did not disdain to have recourse. For if He, who was caught up into the Third Heaven, favoured with extraordinary Visions and Revelations, above the Power of Human Tongue to utter, entrusted with the Conversation of so many Nations, and indefatigably laborious in that Ministry ; If He, notwithstanding all these Virtues and
Advantages, found it necessary to keep
under his Body, and bring it into subjection ; If he saw reason to fear, that otherwise He, after having preached to others, should himself be a Cast-away; what Care can be too great for Us, whose Attainments and Zeal are so much less? How can we answer it to God, or to our own Souls, if we so far forget our own Sinfulness and Frailty; as not readily to submit to every Method of forwarding us in the Race that is set before us, and make not a diligent and thankful use, of every advantage and defence, in this War of the Spirit against the Flesh? For sure we ought to esteem it a most happy thing, if, by all possible means, we can at last arrive to that unspeakable Blessing, of having our whole Spirit,
and Soul, and Body, preserved blameless un
to the Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and Colleet for the be in that great Day mercifully delivered by Day.
. Which he of his infinite Mercy grant we may; To whom be Glory and Honour, for ever and ever.
1 Thefl. v. 23.