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THE TEMPORAL AND ETERNAL ADVANTAGES
1 Timothy iv. 8.
Godliness is profitable unto all things; bav
ing the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.
It is very unaccountable how it ever came SERM to be imagined that religion was an unprofitable and ill-natured thing, and that if a man was determined earnestly to follow it, he must give up all the pleasures of this world, and quit every hope of advancing himself in it. This persuasion, I say, is very unaccountable,—since the contrary is evidently the case; the religious man is of all others by far the most likely to ob- 1 U 3
SER M, tain and to relish worldly happiness, and
XX. u to arrive at that degree of worldly honour
and wealth which his birth and education will admit.
Two things are affirmed in the text, one, that godliness has the promise of the life to come, i. e. that religion will procure for its followers everlasting joys in heaven; another, that it has the promise of this life, that it will obtain for them, an abụndant share of earthly good things.. ...
As to the truth of the first, there is no dispute; almost all are agreed, that if a man is devout towards God, fearing, loving, and serving him as he ought, and if he behaves to his fellow-creatures as the scripture, God's word, enjoins (acting by them as he would expect they should act by him) and if he be temperate, sober, and chaste in his own personal behaviour, almost all are agreed, that if he conducts himself thus, when this life shall be ended, he will be rewarded in a state which is to follow.
How, indeed, is it possible that a rea- SERM. sonable being should believe otherwise ? w That we did not come into the world with out a maker, is very evident ; that that maker is infinitely good, wise, and powerful, may easily be proved; whence it will follow, as he is good, that he delights in goodness, -as he is wise, that he knows fully when it is practised and when neglected and as he is powerful, that he is able to confér rewards on the obedient, and inflict punishment on the rebellious..."
In the scriptures also, are contained, to the same effect, the words of this our Maker; in them, by means of holy and good men, and by his beloved Sonhe speaks to us, and tells us of the happiness which he has prepared for the righteous, and the misery which is laid up for the wicked. God, who cannot lie, tens u's this; let us, therefore, be sure that it will happen according to his word. These proU 4
SER M. mises and threats are addressed, without XX.
exception, to all men, and, whether we choose it or not, we are all equally concerned in them; we can neither obtain the former, nor escape the latter; if we refuse to act as God has commanded. It is necessary, perhaps, to mention this, because the opinion is not very unusual, that religion was only meant for particular sets of men; for the clergy for instance, for the rich, for the old, for the sickly, in short, for any but ourselves. The rich are frequently for shifting it off to the poor, and the poor again to the rich; the healthy would leave it to the sick, and the sick to the healthy; and some of all descriptions would gladly persuade themselves, that it was intended for others, but not for them. But yet no exception is found in the scriptures in favour of any; all are commanded to be devout towards God, and just and benevolent towards men.