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SERMON IL ■'}
On the Thirtieth of Januaryy 1675.
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1 Tim. iv. 8.
Godliness is profitable unto all Things, having a 'Promise of the Life that nono is, and of that which is to come. ■ f
HE SE Words are the Enforcement of an Exhortation which St. Taul had made to Timothy, in the Verse beforegoing, which was, that he mould avoid prophane and old Wives Fables j meaning those impious and superstitious Doffrines, and the carnal and unchristian OBfervances, that were grounded upon them (some of which he had mentioned in the Beginning of this Chapter) which some at that Time did endeavour to introduce into Christianity: And instead of applying his Mind to these, that he should rather exercise himself unto true Godliness.
This was the Exhortation. The Arguments wherewith he enforceth it are Two:
First, the Unprofitableness of these Carnal and Superstitious Doctrines and 'Practices, bodily Exercise (faith he) profiteth little. Secondly, The real Usefulness of solid Virtue and Godliness, to all the Purposes of Life. Godliness is profitable to all things, having a Promise of this Life, as well, as of that which is to come.
I shall not here meddle at all with the former Part of the Apostle's Exhortation, or the Argument that hath relation to it; but shall apply myself wholly to the latter, craving leave most plainly and affectionately to press upon you "the Exercise of Godliness, upon those Grounds and .Considerations on which the Apostle here recommended it.
Indeed, to a Man that considers well, it will appear the most unaccountable thing in the World, that among all those several Exercises that Mankind busie themselves about, this of Godliness should be in so great a measure neglected j that Men should be so diligent, Ib industrious, so unwearied, lome in getting Estates, others in purveying fox'Pleasure, others in learning Arts, and Trades, all in some thing or other relating to thisjfen/ibk World j and so few should study to acquaint themselves with God, and the Concernments of their Souls, to learn the Arts of Virtue and Religious Conversation.
Certain it is, this "Piece of Skill is not more above our Reach than many of those other Things we lb industriously pursue; nay, I am apt to think it is more within our Power than most of them; for in our other Labours we cannot always promise to ourselves, certain Suc/ cess: cess: a Thousand Things may intervene which we know not of, that may defeat all our Plots and Designs, though never so carefully laid; but no Man ever seriously undertook the Business of Religion, but he accomplished it.
Nay, farther, As we can with greater Certainty, so can we with less Pains and Difficulty promise to ourselves Success in this Affair, than we can hope to compass most of our Worldly Designs, which so much take up our Thoughts. I doubt not in the least, but that less Labour, less Trouble, less Solicitude will serve to make a Man a good Christian, than to get an Estate, or to attain a competent Skill in Human Arts and Sciences.
And then for other Motives, to oblige us to the Study of Religion, we have incomparably more and greater than we can have for the Pursuit of any other thing. It is certainly the greatest Concernment we have in the World. It.is the very Thing God sent us into the World about. In it is the very Thing that his Son came down from Heaven to instruct us in. It is the very Thing by which we shall he concluded everlastingly Happy, or everlastingly Miserable, after this Life is ended.
These Things well considered, we may justly (I fay) stand amazed, that Men should be so prodigeoufly supine and negligent in an Affair of this Nature and Importance, as we fee they generally arc.
If there can any Account be given of this
Matter, I suppose it must be some such as
this, that the 'Things of this World, upon
which we bestow our Care, our Time,' our Courtship, are present to us. We fee them every Day before our .Eyes; we tastt% We feel the Sweetness of them; we arc sensible that their Enjoyment is absolutely necessary to our preient Well-being. But as for Spiritual Matters) they lie under a great Disadvantage: They appear to us as at a great Distance: We do not apprehend any present need we have of them: Nor do we fansy any Sweetness or Relish in.them: nay, on the . contrary, we form the most frightful and dismal Irruiges of them that can be. We look upon them not only zsjiat, and unsavoury; but as Things which if we trouble our Heads too much about, will certainly ruin all our Designs in this World. We think Religion good for nothing but to spoil good Company; to make us Melancholy and . Mopish; to distract us in our Business and Employments; and to put so many Restraints upon us, that we can neither with that Freedom nor Success, pursue our temporal Concernments, which we think necessary to our Happiness in this World.
But let us suppose Things to be thus with Religion as we have fansied, yet cannot this be any reasonable Excuse for our Garelesness about it. What though there were no visible Benefit by a Religious Life in this World? What though the Rewards of our Pains about it were only in Reversion? Yet since a Time will come when it will be our greatest Interest to have been heartily Religious, is it not a Madness now to neglect it? What tho'- ReI t ligion ligiori, be a;Coi,U[sq:i.of *Life difficult and unpleasant; ;a, ^Wty;'stowed with Briars and Thorns j a iWay. ^which if w;e follow we are certainly lost,:as. to.our Hopes. of any thing' here? Yet fislceha Time. wiyL:certainly come when we shall*.wish, that; We. had been good ChriJlianS, 'though we had lost our right Eyes and our right Hajjds upon the Condition; when we shall wish, that we had purchased Virtue, tho'at the rate of the Loss of the whole World: for God's s^kf?;: why .should we not be of the fame Mind, now? Who but Fools and Children, but will look upon that* which shall certainly and unavoidably be, with the lame regard, as if it was now present ? '•,-•,.
But) indefjdj, this is not the Cafe of Religion ;. This/.Business, of Piety is not so formidable, as we oftea Represent it. It is no such Enemy tojo,^ Temporal Designs. •. It is a very innocent Thing; and will do us no harm; tho* We look no .farther than this, present World. It will hinder mone of our Delights or Pleasures; but will allow. us. to.gratify every As fethe that God and Nature hath put into us. And if any Man doubt this, let, him name that natural.Desir^ ^which the Christian Religion doth ibrbid, or any way hinder the innocent Satisfaction. of: I am, confident he ihall be able to name none., Since this is the Cafe then, how much, more Childish than Chil-. drtn, shall we appear, if we make so little reckoning of it? How inexcusably Foolish shall we be, if; we will not be at some Pains to possess ourselves of that which will be no > . D manner