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SERM. doth imply, may well persuade us: for that man XVI. was first made and constituted in a happy state;
that he was for his misbehaviour detruded thence; that hence he is become so very prone to vice, and so much subject to pain; that our souls do abide after death; that after this life there shall be a reckoning and judgment, according to which good men (who here are often much afflicted) shall be rewarded with joy, and bad men (who commonly prosper here) shall be requited with pain, the wisest men, upon these grounds, always have surmised; and their rational conjectures our religion with a positive and express assertion doth establish. So great a light doth it afford (which is no small perfection thereof) to the knowledge of ourselves and our chief concernments, the objects, next to God and what concerneth him, best deserving our inquiry and information.
As ye have received of
3. It is a peculiar excellency of our religion, that us how ye it prescribeth an accurate rule of life, most congruous walk and to reason, and suitable to our nature; most conto please ducible to our welfare and our content; most apt to
1 Thess. iv. procure each man's private good, and to promote the public benefit of all; by the strict observance whereof we shall do what is worthy of ourselves and most becoming us; yea, shall advance our nature above itself into a resemblance of the divine nature; we shall do God right, and obtain his favour; we shall oblige and benefit men, acquiring withal good-will and good respect from them; we shall purchase to ourselves all the conveniences of a sober life, and all the comforts of a good conscience. For, if we first examine the precepts directive of our practice in relation to God, what can be more just, or comely, or
pleasant, or beneficial to us, than are those duties of SERM. piety, which our religion doth enjoin? What can be XVI. more fit, than that we should most highly esteem and honour him, who is most excellent? that we should bear most hearty affection to him, who is in himself most good, and most beneficial to us? that we should have a most awful dread of him, who is so infinitely powerful, holy, and just? that we should be very grateful unto him from whom we have received our being, with all the comforts and conveniences thereof? that we should entirely trust and hope in him, who can do what he will, and will do whatever in reason we can expect from his goodness, and can never fail to perform what he hath promised? that we should render all obedience and observance to him, whose children, whose servants, whose subjects we are born; by whose protection and provision we enjoy our life and livelihood? Can there be a higher privilege than liberty of access, with assurance of being favourably received in our needs, to him, who is thoroughly able to supply them? Can we desire upon easier terms to receive benefits, than by acknowledging our wants, and asking for them? Can there be required a more gentle satisfaction from us for our offences, than confession of them, accompanied with repentance and effectual resolution to amend? Is it not, in fine, most equal and fair, that we should be obliged to promote his glory, who hath obliged himself to further our good? The practice of such a piety as it is apparently λογικὴ λατρεία, a reasonable service, so it cannot but produce excellent fruits of advantage to ourselves, a joyful peace of conscience, and a comfortable hope, a freedom from all supersti
SERM. tious terrors and scruples, from all tormenting cares
Consider we next the precepts by which our religion doth regulate our deportment toward our neighbours and brethren; (so it styleth all men, intimating thence the duties it requireth us to perform toward them;) and what directions in that kind can be imagined comparably so good, so useful, as those which the gospel affordeth? An honest pagan hisAm. Marc. torian saith of the Christian profession, that nil nisi justum suadet et lene; the which is a true, though not full character thereof. It enjoineth us, that we should sincerely and tenderly love one another, should earnestly desire and delight in each other's good, should heartily sympathise with all the evils and sorrows of our brethren, should be ready to yield them all the help and comfort we are able, being willing to part with our substance, our ease, our pleasure, for their benefit or succour; not confining this our charity to any sorts of men, particularly related or affected toward us, but, in conformity to our heavenly Father's boundless goodness, extending it to all; that we should mutually bear one another's burdens, and bear with one another's infirmities, mildly resent and freely remit all injuries, all discourtesies done unto us; retaining no grudge in our hearts, executing no revenge, but requiting them with good wishes and good deeds. It chargeth us to be quiet and orderly in our stations, diligent in our callings, veracious in our words, upright
in our dealings, observant of our relations, obedient SERM. and respectful toward our superiors, meek and gentle to our inferiors; modest and lowly, ingenuous and compliant in our conversation, candid and benign in our censures, innocent and inoffensive, yea courteous and obliging, in all our behaviour toward all persons. It commandeth us to root out of our hearts all spite and rancour, all envy and malignity, all pride and haughtiness, all evil suspicion and jealousy; to restrain our tongue from all slander, all detraction, all reviling, all bitter and harsh language; to banish from our practice whatever may injure, may hurt, may needlessly vex or trouble our neighbour. It engageth us to prefer the public good before any private convenience, before our own opinion or humour, our credit or fame, our profit or advantage, our ease or pleasure; rather discarding a less good from ourselves, than depriving others of a greater. Now who can number or estimate the benefits that spring from the practice of these duties, either to the man that observeth them, or to all men in common? O divinest Christian charity, what tongue can worthily describe thy most heavenly beauty, thy incomparable sweetness, thy more than royal clemency and bounty! how nobly dost thou enlarge our minds beyond the narrow sphere of self and private regard into an universal care and complacence, making every man ourself, and all concernments to be ours! how dost thou entitle us unto, how dost thou invest us in, all the goods imaginable; dost enrich us with the wealth, dost prefer
· Τοιαύτη γὰρ ἡ τῆς ἀγάπης δύναμις· τοὺς οὐκ ἀπολαυσάντας τῶν ἀπολαυσάντων ἐξίσης ποιεῖ χαίρειν, κοινὰ τὰ τῶν πλησίον ἀγαθὰ πείθουσα νομίζειν. Chrys. ̓Ανδρ. 19.
SERM, us with the honour, dost adorn us with the wisdom XVI. and the virtue, dost bless us with all prosperity of the world, whilst all our neighbour's good, by our rejoicing therein, becometh our own! how dost thou raise a man above the reach of all mischiefs and disasters, of all troubles and griefs, since nothing can disturb or discompose that soul, wherein thou dost constantly reside and absolutely reign! how easily dost thou, without pain or hazard, without drawing blood or striking stroke, render him that enjoyeth thee an absolute conqueror over all his foes, triumphant over all injuries without, and all passions within; for that he can have no enemy, who will be a friend to all, and nothing is able to cross him, who is disposed to take every thing well! how sociable, how secure, how pleasant a life might we lead under thy kindly governance! what numberless sorrows and troubles, fears and suspicions, cares and distractions of mind at home, what tumults and tragedies abroad, might be prevented, if men would but hearken to thy mild suggestions! what a paradise would this world then become, in comparison to what it now is, where thy good precepts and advices being neglected, uncharitable passions and unjust desires are predominant! how excellent then is that doctrine, which brought thee down from heaven, and, would but men embrace thee, the peace and joy of heaven with thee!
If we further survey the laws and directions which our religion prescribeth concerning the particular management of our souls and bodies in their respective actions and enjoyments, we shall also find, that nothing could be devised more worthy of us, more agreeable to reason, more productive of our