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image of the heavenly." But now we can never bear this heavenly image unless we pursue that resemblance to Christ upon which we have already entered. Thus, and thus only, will the blessed change expected from us be perfected, and we shall become what before we were not, if the lustre of our new birth do shine in us with all advantage, if the rules we proceed by appear every way worthy of God their author, and if he be glorified in all our actions. To this he hath encouraged us by repeated exhortations, and hath promised all fit returns to those who shall so glorify him: "Them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed." For a participation of this honour, and for such a degree of resemblance between God the Father and his children, Christ our Lord in his gospel was endeavouring to form and to prepare us, saying: "Ye have heard that it hath been said, thou shalt love thy neighbour amd hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven; for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust." Now if men take a pleasure in the resemblance of their children to them, and the satisfaction of a father is encreased by observing a similitude
between the root and its branches, and by seeing his own features copied out in his offspring, why should we not conceive in God somewhat near akin to such a reasonable pleasure, upon children being born to him after a spiritual manner, in whom his image shall shine, and by whom his glorious perfections shall be transcribed and imitated? What an handle of triumph, and of holy exaltation, will it be to you, if God shall not pronounce of you, and such as you, what once he did of his people the Jews: "I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me"—but if instead of any such complaint against you, Christ shall commend and applaud your conduct, and invite you to receive the reward of it in those transporting words: "Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world."
9. With these, and such like considerations, my beloved brethren, we should endeavour to arm and strengthen our virtue against the several assaults of our ghostly enemy. The book of God should be before our eyes, our hands should work the thing which is good, and we should set the Lord always before our thoughts. We should pray without ceasing, and never be weary of well-doing. We should be occupied evermore in some spiritual employment; that in what part soever the tempter shall form his attack against us, he may find every pass well guarded, and all the powers of our souls in readiness to resist him. There are more crowns than one for the christian to aim at; the martyr's crown is not our only one; but even times of peace and settlement present us with occasions of trying our strength and courage in our spiritual warfare, and thence of being crowned with the trophies of victory upon our successful struggles. There is a crown due to that victory which overcometh our lusts; another to the resistance we shall make against the impressions of wrath, and a sense of injurious treatment; and a third to our contempt of superfluous wealth. Thus our faith hath also its proper commendation, when, in view of our future recompense, we endure affliction patiently. Our humility is entitled to its portion of honour when affluence and prosperity do not swell us with pride and insolence. He whose dispositions lead him to have pity on the poor, and to relieve the exigences of the necessitous and distressed, gains thereby the recompense of a treasure in heaven: and he who is a stranger to emulation and envy, and loves his brethren in simplicity of heart and unity of affection, becomes interested in the reward which is assigned to the peaceable and charitable. The race of these several virtues we all run daily; it is our proper business and employment to press forwards without loss of time to these crowns of righteousness. Wherefore that you, who have hitherto been governed by the malignant influences of an envious disposition, may not lose your share in these several trophies of honour and victory, you must be persuaded to lay aside all perverseness of mind and temper, and to pursue those courses which may lead you directly to the way of salvation; to weed out of your heart those thorns and briars which would choke it, and to receive into it those seeds of righteousness which may spring up, and bring forth fruit abundantly. Wherefore be persuaded, I again beseech you, to love henceforwards those whom before you hated; and embrace with a cordial and sincere affection those whom you have hitherto envied. Turn your views towards paradise, to which Cain found no return when envy once had moved him to kill his brother. Entertain yourself with meditations upon the kingdom of heaven, to which none will be admitted who are not disposed to live in unity and love. Remember, too, that none but peace-makers are entitled to the name or character of the children of God; none but such as act agreeably to their, heavenly parentage, and are united together like God and Christ. Imagine yourself, therefore, appearing before the presence of God, and accounting to him for each step and passage of your past conversation; and consider that as you hope to see him hereafter with joy, you must so behave that he may see your actions here with pleasure: and as you expect to please him for ever in his kingdom of glory, you must labour to please him now beforehand in the kingdom of grace.
ON THE CASE OF THE LAPSED.
Upon the death of Decius, the Church of Christ was soon and gradually restored to peace, and the persecution which was promoted by his edicts and authority was presently ended. Many who had yielded to the force of temptation, and had forsaken their religion when it could not be adhered to without great difficulties and dangers, were now desirous to be readmitted into the church without any previous penance. Cyprian, therefore, wrote this treatise, on the case of the Lapsed, to urge such as had fallen to consider the heinousness of their sin, and to exhort them to all becoming proofs of their hearty sorrow for it, before they could be received to communion.
l. The church, we see, my beloved brethren, hath once more peace restored to her; and though her desponding sons considered it as an event extremely improbable, and her false ones pronounced it utterly impossible; yet, through the assistance of God to his servants, and by his just judgments upon their enemies, the profession of our religion is now no longer dangerous. The hippy expected day is come to all our wishes, wherein, after the dismal terrors of a long and thick darkness, the glorious light of the gospel is now at liberty to shine upon the world, with a full and undiminished lustre. We look with pleasure