« 前へ次へ »
inportunity of counsel and persuasion, as namely, 10 the practice of any virtue, and the quitting and abandoning of any vice, a prince and a great man that is good himself, may easily gain them to, without ever speaking a word to them, by the filent authority and powerful allurement of his example. So that though every man have not a particular profession, yet the highest among men have some employment alloted to them by God, suitable to their condition, a province which he expects they should administer and adorn with great care.
The great business of the lower part of mankind isito provide for themselves the necessaries of life, and it is well if they can do it with all their care and diligence ; but those who are of a higher rank, their proper business and employment is to dispense good to others; which surely is a much happier condition and employment, according to that admirable saying of our Saviour, men. tioned by St. Paul, It is a more blessed thing to give, than to receive. Those of meaner condition can only be men to one another, and it were well if they would be so; but he, that is highly raised and advanced above 0. thers, hath the happy opportunity in his hands, if he have but the heart to make use of it, to be a kind of God to men.
Let no man then, of what birth, or rank, or quality socver, think it beneath him to ferve God, and to be useful to the benefit and advantage of men ; let us remember the Son of God, a person of the highest quality and extraction that ever was, who spent himself wholly in this blessed work of doing good, toiled and laboured in it as it had been for his life, submitted to all the circumstances of meannefs, to all the degrees of contempt, to all kind of hardfhip and fufferings, for the benefit and salvation of men, sweat drops of blood, and at Jast poured it all forth in full streams, to save us from eternal misery and ruin; and is any of us better than the Son of God, the hair of all things, and the elder brother of us all? thall any of us, after this, think ourfelves too good to be employed in that work which God himself disdained not to do, when he appeared in the likeness and nature of man?
If we would esteem things rightly, and according to reason, the true privilege and advantage of greatness is, to be able to do good more than others ; ard in this the majesty and felicity of God himself doth chiefly consist, in his ready and forward inclination, and in his infinite power and ability to do good. The creation of the world was a great and glorious design, but this God onJy calls his work ; but to preserve and support the creatures which he hath made, to bless them and to do them good, to govern them by wise laws, and to conduct them to that happiness which he designed for them, this is his rest, his perpetual sabbath, his great delight and satisfaction to all eternity; to do good is our duty and our business, but it is likewise the greatest pleasure and recreation, that which refresheth the heart of God and man. . . I have insisted the longer upon this, that those who are thought to be above any calling, and to have no obligation upon them, but to please themselves, may be made sensible, that according to their ability and opportunity, they have a great work upon their hands, and more business to do than other men; which if they would but seriously mind, they would not only please God, but, I dare say, satisfy and please themselves, much better than they do in any other course. I know it is a duty particularly incumbent upon the lower part of mankind, to be diligent in their particular calling, that so they may provide for themselves and their families; but this is not so proper for this place, and if it were, the necessity of human life will probably prompt and urge men more powerfully to this, than any argument and persuasion that I can use. I proceed therefore, in the • Second place, to offer some considerations to excite our care and diligence in this great work, which God hath given us to do in this world, I mean chiefly the business of religion, in order to the eternal happiness and falvation of our souls. And to this purpose, I shall offer five or six arguments, reserving the great motive and consideration in the text to the last, Because there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave, whither thou goest. .
I. Let us consider the nature of our work, which is such, as may both excite and encourage our diligence and care about it. It is indeed a service, but such as is our perfect freedom ; it is the service of God, whom to serve is the greatest honour that man or any other creature is capable of; it is obedience, but even obedience, considering our ignorance and frailty, is much wiser and safer for us, than a total exemption from all law and rule ; for the laws which God hath given us, are not imposed upon us merely for his will and pleasure, but chiefly for our benefit and advantage. So that to obey and please God, is iņ truth nothing else but to do those things which are really best for ourselves.
Besides that this work of religion will abundantly recompense all the labour and pains it can cost, if we consider the fruit and end of it, which is the salvation of our souls; fo St. Paul assures us, Rom. vi. 22. that if we have our fruit unto holiness, our end shall be ever, lasting life. Nay, this work doth not want its present encouragement and reward, if we consider the peace and pleasure which attend it; Great peace, faith David, have they which love thy law, and nothing shall offen! them. Religion doth not design to rob men of the true delights of life, of any lawful pleasure and enjoyment; it only appoints them their due place, and season, and measure, without which they cannot be truly tasteful and pleasant : if we make pleasure and recreation our business, it will become a burden, and leave a sting be. hind it; but if we make it our great business to be good, and to do good, we shall then take true pleasure in our recreations and refreshments, we shall eat our bread with joy, and drink our wine with a merry heart, as Solomon expresseth it a little before the text. Religion doth not ordinarily debar men of any contentment, which they can wisely and safely take, in any of the enjoyments of this life, but directs us to do those things which will yield the truelt and most refined pleasure, and so governs us in the use and enjoyment of worldly comforts, that there shall be no bitterness in them, or after them : and in truth, after all our search and enquiry after pleasure and happiness, we shall find that there is no solid and lasting pleasure, but in living righteously and
religiously; and the pleasure of this is so great, that a Heathen philosopher, speaking of a virtuous life, according to the true precepts of philosophy, breaks out in this rapture and transport concerning the wonderful pleasure of it, Vel' unus' dies dere et ex præceptis tuis aétus peccandi immortalitati eft anteferendus, “ Even one 4 day' truly spent according to thy precepts is to be * valued above an immortality of finning." There is no life fo pleafant as that of the pious and good man, who being contented with himself, every thing about Him contributes to his clearfulness; Gratior it dies, , et foles melius nitent ; " The day passeth more pleasant. “ ly, and the fun shines brighter to him ;” and every object which he beholds is more delightful, because the man is at peace and cafe within himself.
II. Let us consider how great our work is, and then we shall easily be convinced what care it requires, what diligence it calls for from us. Very few persons, I doubt, are fufficiently sensible, how much thought and consideration, how niúch care and vigilancy, how firma refolution, and earnest attention of mind is necessary to the business of religion, to the due cultivating and improving of our minds, to the mortifying and fubduing of our lusts, to the mastering and governing of our paffions, to the reforming of our tempers, to the correeting of all the irregularities of our appetites and af. fections, and toʻthe reducing of our crooked wills, which have been long obstinately bent the wrong way, to the ftreightness of that rule which God hath given us to walk by. · Few, I fear, consider how much pains is neceffary to the storing of our ininds with good principles, and to the fixing and riveting in our souls all the proper motives and confiderations to engage us to virtue, that in all the occasions of our lives they may have their due force and influence upon us. Few of us take pains to understand the just bounds and limits of our duty, and fo to attend thereto, as to be always upon our guard against the infinite temptations of human life, and the many malicious enemies of our fouls, that we may not be circumvented by the wiles of the devil, nor caught in those snares which he lays before us in our ways,
that we may not be wrought upon by the insinuations, nor over-reached by the deceitfulness of sin.
How few consider what care and watchfulness of ourselves, what constancy and fervency of prayer to God, is necessary to the due discharge of every part of our duty; or to the right exercise of every grace and virtue! Besides an earnest imploring of the divine assistance, there is required likewise a particular care and application of mind, that we may fail in no point; and that, as St. James expresseth it, we may be entire, wanting thing; that our faith and our hope, our devotion and our charity, our humility and our patience, and every other grace may be exercised in the belt manner, and have its proper work.
III. Confider, what incredible pains men will take, what diligence they will use for bad purposes, and for ends infinitely less considerable ; ut jugulent homines, furgunt de noéte latrones, ut teipfum serves, non exper. giscere? “ Thieves will rise and travel by night to rob " and kill, and shall we use no care, no vigilance to “ save ourselves ?” What drudges and Naves are many men to their sensual pleasures and lusts? how hot and fierce upon revenge ? and what hazards will they run to satisfy this unreasonable and devilish passion ; and thereby to make way for a speedy and bilter repentance, which always treads upon the heels of revenge ? For no sooner hath any man executed his rage upon another, but his conícience presently turns it upon himself.
* How industrious do we see men at their recreations and sports, taking really more pains for the sake of pleasure, than the poor man does that works for his living?
What a violent thirst, and insatiable covetousness possesseth some men after learning and knowledge ? how will they toil and watch, wear out their eyes, and walte their spirits, and pursue their studies, not only with the neglect of fitting diversion, but even of the necessary support and reparation of nature, by meat and sleep? nay, many times to increase their learning, they weaken their understandings; and for the gaining