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Exhortation, with which I began this Discourse, That since, as you have seen, Godliness is so exceedingly profitable to all the Purposes of this Life, as well as the other ; since, as you have seen, Length of Days is in her Right-Hand, and in her Left-Hand Riches and Honour; and all her Ways, are Ways of Pleasantness, and all her Paths are Peace; You would also be persuaded seriously to apply yourselves to the Exercise of it.
Which that you may do, God of his, &c.
Preached at BOW-CHURCH,
On the Seventeenth of February, 1680.
ECCLES. iii. 12. I know that there is no Good in them,
but for a Man to rejoyce and to do good in his Life.
HIS Book of Ecclefiaftes gives us an ST Account of the several Experiments To that Solomon had made, in order to
the finding out, wherein the Happiness of Man in this World doth consist : And these Words are one of the Conclusions he drew from those Experiments.
No Man had ever greater Opportunities of Trying all the Ways wherein Men generally seek for Contentment, than he had; and no Man did ever more industriously apply himself to, or took a greater Liberty in enjoying those good Things that are commonly most adınired, than hc did: And yet, after all his
Labours, and all his Enjoyments, he found nothing but Emptiness and Diffatisfaction.
He thought to become happy by Philosophy; giving his Heart, as he tells us, to seek and search out all the Things that come to pass Eccl.1.12. under the Sun: Yet, upon Trial, he found all this to be Vanity, and Vexation of Spirit.
He apply'd his Mind to Political Wisdom, and other Sorts of Knowledge; and his Até tainments in that Kind, were greater than of any that were before him : Yet he experienced at last, that in Wisdom was much Grief; and he Ver. 18. that increaseth Knowledge, increaseth Sorrow. He proved his Heart (as he tells us) with Chap. 2. '
Ver. 1, 3. Mirth and Wine, and all Šorts of sensual Pleasures, to find if those were good for the Sons of Men: and yet so far was he from his defir'd Satisfaction in these Things, that he was forced to say of Laughter, that it was mad; Ver. 2. and of Mirth, what good doth it?
He turned himself to works of Pomp and Magnificence: He built him ftately Houses, and made him Gardens, and Vineyards, and Ver. 4. Orchards, and Fountains. He increased his Poffeffions, and gathered Silver and Gold, and Ver. 8. the precious Treasures of the Kings, and of the Provinces. He got him a vast Retinue, and kept him the most splendid Court that ever any Prince of that Country did : Yet (as he tells us) when he came to look upon all the Works Ver. 11. that his Hands had wrought, and on the Labour that he had laboured to do, behold all was Vanity, and Vexation of Spirit, and there was no Profit ., under the Sun.
But wherein then is there any Profit, if not in these Things? What is that Good that the Sons of Men are to apply themselves to, in order to their living as comfortably as the State of Things here will allow ? This Question (after an Intimation of the Uncertainty and Perplexedness of all Human Events; but withal, of the Exactness of the Providence of God, who hath made every Thing beautiful in its Seafon) he thus resolves in the Words of. the Text, I know (faith he) that there is no Good in them, but for a Man to rejoyce and do good in his Life. That is to say,
I have found by long Experience, that all. the Happiness that is to be had in the good Things of this Life, doth arise from these Two Things, Rejoycing in the Enjoyment of them, and doing Good to others, with them, while we live. Take away these Two Uses, and there is no good in them.
Or, if you plcase, we may interpret the First Part of his Proposition, not of Things but of Men, thus; I know there is no Good in them; i. e. I am convinced that there is nothing so good for the Sons of Men; or, nothing that more contributes to their Happiness in this World, than that every Man should rejoice and do good in his Life. And to this purpose the Words are render'd by several Interpreters: But it is no matter which of the Senses we pitch upon, since in effect they come both to One Thing.
Two Things, then, Solomon here recommiends to every one that would live comfortably in this World; Rejorcing, and doing good:
And And I do not know what can be more proper and seasonable to be recommended and insisted on to you at this Timé, and on this Occasion, than these Two Things; for the putting them in Practice, makes up the whole Design of this Meeting.
We are here so many Brethren met together to Rejoyce, and to do Good: To Rejoyce together in the Sense and Acknowledgement of God's Mercies and Blessings to us, and in the Enjoyment of Society one with another : And to do Good, not only by increasing our Friendship and mutual Correspondence, but by joining together in a' chearful Contribution to thofe our Country-men that need our Charity. To entertain you therefore upon these Two Points, seems to be my proper Business.
But in treating of them, I shall make bold. to invert the Order in which they are put in the Text, and shall first speak of doing Good, though it be last named ; and shall afterwards treat of Rejoycing. The Truth is, doing Good, in the Order of Nature, goes before Rejoycing; for it is the Foundation of it. There can be no true Joy in the Possession or Use of any Worldly Blessings, unless we can satisfy ourselves we have done fome Good with them. It is the doing Good that fanctifies our other Enjoyments, and makes them Matter of Rejoicing. . · Now in treating of this Argument, I shall
briefly endeavour these Three Things. 3. First, I shall earnestly recommend to you
the Practice of doing Good, upon several Considerations. .