« AnteriorContinuar »
I. There are no counsels of perfection given in Scripture. This is evident from the nature of those commands which devolve on all men. We are required “ to love God with all our heart, “and with all our soul, and with all our
strength, and with all our mind; and our
neighbour as ourselves.” (Luke, x. 27.). These commands are of so great extent, that we cannot imagine how any thing can be acceptable to God, which does not fall within them; for, if there be a degree of pleasing God, to which we do not study to attain, then we do not love him so entirely as this command obliges us, and therefore we commit sin. To avoid this consequence, Roman Catholic writers have asserted, that we are only bound to value God above all things, but not to have a love of such a vast extent for him. This assertion, however, needs no refutation.
Further, we are said " to be bought with a price,” and are, therefore, required “to glorify “ God in our bodies, and in our spirits, which
are his.” (1 Cor. vi. 20.) This and similar commands are of universal obligation, and include every good act; for, if we are Christ's property, then we ought to apply ourselves to every
a Hence, if a man can exceed this command, he must love God beyond his strength, that is, he can love him more than
• This is asserted by Bellarmine, ( de Monac. 1. 2. c. 6. p. 360, c.)
thing in which his honour, or the honour of his religion are concerned.
In support of this doctrine, however, the folJowing texts are adduced: 1. When the young man who inquired what he should do that he might have eternal life, told our Saviour that he had kept the commandments from his youth, and further asked, what lack I yet ? our Lord replied, “ If thou wilt be perfect, go, sell that thou hast, " and give to the poor, and thou shalt have trea
sure in heaven, and come and follow me.” (Matt. xix. 21.) On this text, it may be observed, 1. the word perfect means, fully instructed in order to that which he pretended, which was eternal life. 2. Treasure in heaven is another phrase for eternal life, opposed to the riches he was to lose on earth, and which were to be thus compensated. And this is evident from our Lord's observation, on the difficulty of a rich man's entering the kingdom of heaven, of which the young man was an instance, by refusing to sell his property. 3. Hence, it is plain that this is no counsel, but a positive command given to that particular person on this occasion.a 4. In applying this command to others, a distinction should be observed between those things that equally bind all mankind, and those whose obligation arises only from particular circumstances. Thus, in cases of a famine, or persecution, it might devolve on some as a necessary duty to sell all, in order to the relief of others; so in ordinary cases, such an act would rather be a tempting of providence, than a trusting to it, for then a man should part with those means of subsistence, which God has provided for him, without any pressing occasion."
* In this sense it is constantly used. Thus, in 1 Cor. ii. 6. “We speak wisdom among those that are perfect," that is, fully instructed in the faith.–See Whitby's Com. on Matt. xix. 21. This is further evident from the young man's question, “ what lack I yet?”– What lack I still in order to obtain my object.
• See Def. of Cath. Faith, contained in K. James's Book, by Pierre Du Moulin, p. 288. Lond. 1610.
Our Saviour's words, therefore, must be understood to bind as all positive commands, in consistency with the other rules and orders that God has set us. Thus, we must not rest on the Sabbath day, if a work of necessity or charity calls on us to labour ; we must not obey our parents in disobeying a public law. So if we have families, or the necessities of a weak constitution, we must not throw away the provisions with which God has supplied us, and cast ourselves upon others.
2. They allege these words of St. Paul :
a For if the young man had attained his object, of gaiving eternal life, why should he “ go away sorrowful ? v. 22.
• St. Paul declares, that, “ if any provide pot for his own, and “ specially for those of his own house, he bath denied the faith, and “ is worse than an infidel.” 1 Tim. v. 8, see also, 1 Cor. xii. 3.
"They who marry do well, but they who marry
not do better;" (1 Cor. vii. 38 :) from which they infer that an unmarried life is a state of perfection beyond that to which a man is obliged to attain. On this text it may be observed, l. St. Paul is speaking only of the judgment that is to be formed of men by their outward actions, and in relation to their worldly circumstances. This is evident from v. 26, where he confines his advice to “the present distress.” 2. A distinction is to be made between such an obligation as arises out of a man's particular circumstances, and other mutives, which can be known only to himself, and such as devolves on him by general stated rules. Thus, he who marries not, is (as to external appearances) to be judged to do better ; yet inwardly and before God, this matter may be far otherwise, for he who marries not and burns, certainly does worse than he who marries and lives chastely. But he who finds that he can limit himself without endangering his purity, though no law restrains him from marrying, is certainly under obligations to follow that course of life in which there are fewer temptations, and greater opportunities to attend on the service of God. The same distinction applies to the example of St. Paul, who, though it was lawful for him as an Apostle, to suffer the Corinthians to supply him in temporals, when he was serving them in spiritual things, yet he chose, for
the honour of the Gospel, and to take away all occasion of censure from those who sought for it, to work with his own hands, and not to be burdensome to them. But under these circumstances, though there was no law or outward obli. gation on him to spare them, yet he was under an inward law of doing all things to the glory of God. And by this law he was as much bound as if there had been a stated compulsory law lying
II. No man can perform works of supererogation.a
This is evident from the following reasons: (1.) There are no counsels of perfection in Scripture. This has been already proved, and therefore voluntary works founded on them can have no existence. (2.) Though there were such counsels, no man could perform works of supererogation. St. James says, “ In many things we offend all.” Now, if the guilt of sin be eternal, and the pretended merit of obeying counsels is only temporary, no temporary merit can take off an eternal guilt. So that it must first be supposed, that a màn both is, and has been perfect as to the precepts of obligation, before he can have an overplus of merit.
(3.) Scripture is silent as to the existence of
a See Discourses by Archdeacon Goodman in Gibson's Preserv. against Popery, v. 2. Tit. 8.