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Serm. fity, that we be temperate in all things, XIII. watchful and circumspect. And we may
meet with opposition and discouragement. And as in those exercises there was a crown or garland proposed to those who excelled, so a life of holineffe here will be rewarded with glorie and happinesse hereafter.
These resemblances are the foundation of this comparison, and of those allusive exhortations, which we meet with in the New Teftament.
The word exercise, fight, or strife, seems particularly to have a reference to the opposition we may meet with in the practise of virtue. In the
In the games alluded to there was always a contention. So are we likely to meet with things, that will try our strength, and oblige us to exert ourselves to the utmost. Not only in times of persecution, but in all seasons, there are difficulties attending a fincere profession of religious truth, and a steady practise of virtue. Hopes of preferment in times of ease and prosperity may be as dangerous, and ensnaring, as fears of death, or of the losse of goods, in a time of persecution. Yea both these temptations usually
The strictly conscientious must in most times forego fome advantages, which might be obtained, and incur fome inconve- Serm. niences, which might be avoided by com- XIII. pliances, not reconcilable with religion and virtue.
St. Paul therefore here 'requires, and earnestly exhorts Timothie, to exercise the good exercise of faith : that is, to be steadie and resolute, and hold out in the open profession and zealous defense of the plain truth of the gospel, and the practise of all the duties of righteousnesse, meeknesse, and charity : and to fhun every thing contrarie to them: so acting according to the directions of the gofpel, or the doctrine of faith, without being moved by hopes of worldly ease, wealth, honour and authority: and likewise without being terrified by threats of adversaries, and fears of any temporal evils, which he might be in danger of; as that he might not fail of obtaining that eternal life, which is proposed, as the reward of constance and perseverance.
This exhortation is much the same with that at the begining of the twelfth chapter to the Hebrews. With which therefore I conclude this head. Wherefore, seeing we are encompassed with fo great a cloud of witnesses ; let us lay aside every weight, and the sin that
SERM. does so easily beset us. And let us run with pa-
Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith :
11. In the next place we are to consider,
why this is called a good exercise. The
sign of it.
This could scarce be faid of the exercises
in those exercises. But those persons might not be altogether innocent in the principle they acted upon, nor in all their actions.
Their principle might be ambition or vain- Serm. glorie. And in some of their combats the XIII, action might be detrimental to the antagonist.
But the exercise of faith is perfectly innocent. It proceeds from no bad principle. It is injurious to none. The principles, it maintains, and contends for, are certain truths, built
sure evidence. And they have no bad tendences.
The principles of the gospel inspire not men with any hurtful designs. The actions, which they recommend, are all reasonable and beneficial, Nor are they who exercise in this exercise moved by envie, and ill-will to any : nor yet by an exorbitant love of gain; nor by pride, or ambition of worldly honour.
2. It is good, inasmuch as it is worthie and important, not mean and trifling.
The celebrated contentions, to which the Apostle alludes, though in so much repute, were trifling, in comparison of this exercise of faith. They consisted chiefly in the show of bodily strength, and some skill in matters of small moment. But they who exercise the exercise of faith are employed in matters of great value. The principles, which they
SERM. maintain, and resolutly refuse to deny, are XIII. truths of great importance. And they are
engaged in designs and actions of much moment; governing the affections, with regard to all the sensible things of this life, and ordering the whole of the conversation, according to the rules of right reason. This is much more considerable, than all the exploits of the Grecian combatants.
3. Consequently, the exercise of faith is a good exercise, as it is very honorable.
Though Christians were then had in contempt, and their faith was ridiculed the Apostle calls the exercise of faith, that is, steadinesse in the profession of truth, and the practise of virtue, a good exercise. It is a thing of more true honour, than the combats, so much applauded at that time, in many parts of the world. It is a thing of vast difficulty. And it depends upon a very noble resolution and firmnesse of mind. The
greatest offers, which the world can make, and the worst evils, which it can inflict, are oftentimes set before men, to induce them to desert the interest of known truth, and tranfgress the rules of virtue : and their compliance is solicited with long and tire