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do not allege it for the purpose of opposing the censures you have heard, or of getting rid of our reproofs. By answering in this manner you give us an advantage over you, you lay a foundation which you mean to destroy, you do not furnish yourselves with a shield against your ministers, but you yourselves supply them with arms to wound and destroy you. Why do we declaim against your conduct? What do we mean when we reprove your way of living, except to convince you that it is not answerable to the Christian character which you bear? What do we mean except that you break the vows made for you in your baptism, and which you yourselves have often ratified at the Lord's table? What, in one word, except that you do not obey the laws of the gospel? But what can you advance more proper to strengthen the testimony which we bear against you than that which you advance to weaken it, that is, that you live as the world live?
All the world, say you, conduct themselves as we do, and every body does what you censure us for doing. But all the world conduct themselves badly, all the world violate the spirit of religion, all the world attack the maxims of Jesus Christ, all the world run in the broad road of perdition, all the world are destroying themselves, and the apostle exhorts us not to take the world for an example.
Secondly, I address myself to you who sincerely desire to apply this discourse to its true design. I grant, the road opened to you is difficult. To resist the torrent, to brave the multitude, to see one's self, like Elijah, alone on the Lord's side, and, in this general apostacy, in which a Christian so often finds himself, when he desires to sacrifice all his duty, to recollect motives of attachment to it, this is one of the noblest efforts of Christian heroism.
than for the diminutiveness of his body? Would you not look with disdain on an ant, that had no other ambition than that of taking for a model other insects about him, and preferring their approbation before that of mankind, who hold a rank so high in the scale of the world? My brethren, give what colours you will to this imagination, it is however certain, that you will form unjust ideas of this insect. An emmet has no relation to those beings, which you propose to him for models. Such ideas of happiness as you trace to him have no proportion to his faculties. Is an emmet capable of science to be allured by the company of the learned? Can an ant form plans of sieges and battles to render himself sensible of that glory, which exploits of war acquire, and for which the heroes of the world sacrifice their repose and their lives?
It is you, who have that meanness of soul, which you just now pitied in an ant. You inhabit cities and provinces, which, compared with the rest of the world, resemble the size of molehills; the whole globe itself is nothing, in comparison of the immense spaces, in which other works of the Creator are lodged. You creep on earth with a handful of men much less in comparison with the thousand thousands of other intelligences than an ant hill is in comparison of mankind. You have intimate relations to these intelligences; you, like them, are capable of great and noble functions; like them you are capable of knowledge; like them you are able to know the Supreme Being; you can love like them; you can form tender and delicate connexions as they can; and like them you are destined to eternal duration and felicity.
However, after all, it would argue great puerility to magnify our ideas of the crowd, the many, the multitude; it would be childish to be too much struck with these ideas, every body thinks in this manner, all the world act thus. I affirm, that truth and virtue have more partisans than error and vice, and God has more disciples than Satan. What do you call the crowd, the many, the multitude? What do you mean by all the world? What! You and your companions, your family, your acquaintances, your fellow-citizens, the inhabitants of this globe, to which the Creator has confined you; is this what you call all the world? What littleness of ideas! Cast your eyes on that little molehill, occupied by a few thousand ants, lend them intelligence, propose to one of these insects other maxims than those of his fellows, exhort him to have a little more ambition than to occupy a tiny imperceptible space upon that molehill, animate him to form projects more noble than that of collecting a few grains of corn, and then put into the mouth of this little emmet the same pretext that you make use of to us; I shall be alone, all the world conduct themselves in another manner. Would you not pity this insect? Would not he appear more contemptible to you for his mean and spiritless ideas
Do not say then, I shall be alone, nobody lives as you would have me live. They are the men, who surround you, that are nobody in comparison of the intelligences, whom I propose to you for examples. It ill suits insignificant men to consider themselves alone as in the centre of divine benevolence, and as the only subjects of a monarch, who reigns over all existence. "He sitteth upon the circle of the earth, whence the inhabitants appear to him as grasshoppers. He bringeth princes to nothing, he considereth the judges of the earth as vanity. He shall blow upon them, and they shall wither, and the whirlwind shall take them away like stubble," Isa. xl. 22.
But ye, celestial intelligences, ye seraphim burning with love, ye angels mighty in strength, messengers of the divine will, spirits rapid as the wind, and penetrating as fire, ye "redeemed of all nations, all kindred, all people, all tongues," Rev. v. 9; ye make the crowd, ye fill the court of the sovereign of the world; and, when we refuse to conform ourselves to this world, we imitate you; and when the slaves of the world shall be loaded with chains of darkness, we shall share with you the "river of pleasures" at the right hand of that God whom you serve, and to whose service, we, like you, devote ourselves. God grant us this grace! To him be honour and glory for ever. Amen.
THE ADVANTAGES OF PIETY.
1 TIMOTHY iv. 8.
Godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that
which is to come.
THERE never was a disposition more odious, or more unjust than that of the profane Jews, of whom Jeremiah speaks in the fortyfourth chapter of his prophecies, He had addressed to them the most pressing and pathetical exhortations to dissuade them from worshipping the goddess Isis, and to divert them from the infamous debaucheries, with which the Egyptians accompanied it. Their reply was in these words, " As for the word that thou hast spoken unto us in the name of the Lord, we will not hearken unto thee: but we will certainly do whatsoever thing goeth forth out of our own mouth, to burn incense unto the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink-offerings unto her, as we have done, we and our fathers, our kings and our princes, in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem, for then had we plenty of victuals, and were well and saw no evil: but since we left off to burn incense to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink-offerings unto her, we have wanted all things, and have been consumed by the sword, and by the famine," ver. 16-18. Nothing can equal the sacrifices which religion requires of us; therefore nothing ought to equal the recompense which it sets before us. Sometimes it requires us, like the father of the faithful, to quit our country and our relations, and to go out, not knowing whither we go, according to the expression of St. Paul, Heb. xi. s. Sometimes it requires us to tread in the bloody steps of those who "had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, of bonds and imprisonment. Some were stoned, others were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword, wandered about in sheep skins, and goat skins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented," ver. 36, 37. Always it calls us to triumph over our passions, to renounce our own senses, to mortify the flesh with its desires, and to bring all the thoughts of our minds, and all the emotions of our hearts into obedience to Jesus Christ. To animate us to sacrifices so great, it is necessary we should find in religion a superiority of happiness and reward, and it would be to rob it of all its disciples, to represent it as fatal to the interests of such as pursue it.
As this disposition is odious, so it is unjust. The miserable Jews, of whom the prophet Jeremiah speaks, did indeed consult the prophets of God, but they would not obey their voice; they would sometimes suspend their idolatrous rites, but they would never entirely renounce them: they discovered some zeal for the exterior of religion, but they paid no attention to the spirit and substance of it, and as God refused to grant to this outside of piety such advantages as he had promised to the
truly godly, they complained that the true religion had been to them a source of misery.
Were they the Jews of the prophet's time? Are they only Jews who make such a criminal complaint? Are they the only persons, who, placing religion in certain exterior perform ances, and mutilated virtues, complain that they do not feel that peace of conscience, those ineffable transports, that anticipated heaven, which are foretastes and earnests of eternal joy? We are going to-day, my brethren, to set before you the treasures, which God opens to us in communion with him: but we are going at the same time to trace out the character of those, on whom they are bestowed. This is the design of this discourse, and for this purpose we will divide it into two parts: First, we will examine what the apostle means by "godliness," in the words of the text: and secondly, Point out the advantages affixed to it. "Godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come."
I. What is godliness or piety? It is diffi cult to include an idea of it in the bounds of what is called a definition. Piety is a habit of knowledge in the mind-rectitude in the conscience-sacrifice in the life-and zeal in the heart. By the knowledge, that guides it, it is distinguished from the visions of the superstitious: by the rectitude, from whence it proceeds, it is distinguished from hypocrisy; by the sacrifice, which justifies it, it is distinguished from the unmeaning obedience of him, who goes as a happy constitution leads him; in fine, by the fervour that animates it, it is distinguished from the languishing emotions of the lukewarm.
1. Piety supposes knowledge in the mind. When God reveals a doctrine of religion to us, he treats us as reasonable beings, capable of examination and reflection. He does not require us to admit any truth without evidence. If he would have us believe the existence of a first cause, he engraves it on every particle of the universe. If he would have us believe the divinity of revelation, he would make some character of that divinity shine in every part of it. Would he have us believe the immortality of the soul, he attests it in every page of the sacred book. Accordingly, without previous knowledge, piety can neither support us under temptations, nor enable us to render to God such homage as is worthy of him.
It cannot support us in temptation. When Satan endeavours to seduce us he offers us the allurements of present and sensible good, and exposes in our sight the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them. If we have nothing to oppose against him but superficial opinions of a precarious and ignorant system, we shall not find ourselves in a condition to withstand him.
Nor can piety destitute of knowledge enable us to render to God such worship as is worthy of him: for when do we render to God worship suitable to his majesty? Is it when submitting to the church, and saying to a man, in the language of Scripture, Rabbi, Rabbi, we place him on a sovereign throne, and make our reason fall prostrate before his
intelligence? No, certainly; it is when, sub- | ter, and when they had made one, they never mitting ourselves to the decisions of God, we failed to instruct him thoroughly to hate all regard him as the source of truth and know- such as were not of their opinion on particular ledge, and believe, on his testimony, doctrines questions. All this was show, all this prothe most abstruse, and mysteries the most sub-ceeded from a deep hypocrisy: by all this lime. they had no other design than to acquire reputation for holiness, and to make themselves masters of the people, who are more easily taken with exterior appearances than with solid virtue.
Such is the character of hypocrisy, a cha
I have more understanding than all my teach-racter that God detests. How often does Jesus Christ denounce anathemas against people of this character? How often does he cry concerning them, "wo, wo?" Sincerity is one character of true piety, "O Lord, thou hast proved my heart, thou hast visited me in the night, thou hast tried me, and shall find nothing; I am purposed that my mouth shall not transgress. Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee," Ps. xvii. 3; John xxi. 17. This character makes our love to God resemble his to us. When God gives himself to us in religion, it is not in mere appearances and protestations: but it is with real sentiments, emanations of heart.
True piety is wise; it rises out of those profound reflections which the godly man makes on the excellence of religion. "Open thou mine eyes," said the prophet formerly, "that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.
ers, for thy testimonies are my meditation. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. Mine eyes prevent the night watches, that I might meditate in thy word," Ps. cxix. 18. 99. 105. 148.
This is the first character of godliness, and this character distinguishes it from superstition. A superstitious man does not derive his principles from the source of knowledge. A family tradition, a tale, a legend, a monkish fable, the reverie of a confessor, the design of a council, this is his law, this is his light, this is his gospel.
2. Piety must be sincere, and this distinguishes it from hypocrisy. A hypocrite puts on all the appearance of religion, and adorns himself with the most sacred part of it. Observe his deportment, it is an affected gravity, which nothing can alter. Hear his conversation, he talks with a studied industry on the most solemn subjects, he is full of sententious sayings, and pious maxims, and so severe, that he is ready to take offence at the most innocent actions. Mind his dress, it is precise and singular, and a sort of sanctity is affected in all his furniture, and in all his equipage. Follow him to a place of worship, there particularly his hypocrisy erects its tribunal, and there he displays his religion in all its pomp. There he seems more assiduous than the most wise and zealous Christians. There he lifts up his eyes to heaven. There he sighs. There he bedews the earth with his tears. In one word, whatever seems venerable in the church he takes pains to practise, and pleasure to display.
Jesus Christ has given us the original of this portrait in the persons of the pharisees of his time; and the only inconvenience we find in describing such characters is, that, speak where we will, it seems as if we intended to depict such individuals of the present age as seem to have taken these ancient hypocrites for their model. Never was the art of counterfeiting piety carried to such perfection by any men as by the old Pharisees. They separated themselves from a commerce with mankind, whom they called in contempt "people of the world." They made long prayers. They fasted every Monday and Friday. They lay on planks and stones. They put thorns on the bottom of their gowns to tear their flesh. They wore strait girdles about their bodies. They paid tithes, not only according to law, but beyond what the law required. Above all, they were great makers of proselytes, and this was in some sort their distinguishing charac
* See Godwin's Moses and Aaron. Book I. Chap. X.
3. Piety supposes sacrifice, and by this we distinguish it from a devotion of humour and constitution, with which it has been too often confounded. There is a devotee of temper and habit, who, really, has a happy disposition, but which may be attended with dangerous consequences. Such a man consults less the law of God to regulate his conduct than his own inclinations, and the nature of his constitution. As, by a singular favour of heaven, he has not received one of those irregular constitutions, which most men have, but a happy natural disposition, improved too by a good education, he finds in himself but little indisposition to the general maxims of Christianity. Being naturally melancholy, he does not break out into unbridled mirth, and excessive pleasures. As he is naturally collected in himself, and not communicative, he does not follow the crowd through the turbulence and tumult of the world. As he is naturally inactive, and soon disgusted with labour and pains-taking, we never see him animated with the madness of gadding about every where, weighing himself down with a multitude of business, not permitting any thing to happen in society without being himself the first mover, and putting to it the last hand. These are all happy incidents; not to run into excessive pleasure, not to follow the crowd in the noise and tumult of the world, not to run mad with hurry, and weary himself with an infinity of business, to give up the mind to recollection, all this is worthy of praise; but what is a devotion of this kind, that owes its birth only to incidents of this sort? I compare it to the faith of the man who believes the truths of the gospel only through a headstrong prejudice, only because, by a lucky chance, he had a father or a tutor who believed them. As such a man cannot have a faith acceptable to God, so neither can he who obeys the laws of God, because, by a sort of chance of this kind, they are conformable to his natural temper, offer to him the sacrifice of true obedience. Had you been naturally inclined to dissipation, you would have
been excessively dissipated, for the very same reason that you are now excessively fond of retirement. Had you been naturally industrious, you would have exceeded in labouring on the very principle which now inclines you to be too fond of ease and stillness. Had you been naturally inclined to mirth, you would have shown excessive levity, on the very principle that now turns your gravity into gloom and melancholy. Would you know yourselves? See, examine yourselves. You say, your piety inclines you to surmount all temptations to dissipation; but does it enable you to resist those of retirement? it makes you firm against temptations to pleasure, but does it free you from sullenness? It enables you to surmount temptations to violent exertions, but does it raise you above littleness? The same may be said of the rest. Happy he, who arranges his actions with a special regard to his own heart, inquiring what he can find there opposite to the law of God, attacking the strong holds of Satan within himself, and directing all his fire and force to that point. "They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh, with the affections and lusts. I beseech you, there-believer a tender and affectionate intercourse. fore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye Godliness has its festivals and exuberances. present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, "Flesh and blood!" Ye that "cannot inherit acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable the kingdom of God," 1 Cor. xv. 50, ye imservice. Sacrifice and offering thou dost not pure ideas of concupiscence, depart, be gone desire, mine ears hast thou opened. Lo, I far away from our imaginations! There is a come. I delight to do thy will, O my God, time, in which the mystical spouse faints, and yea, thy law is within my heart," Gal. v. 24; utters such exclamations as these, "I sleep, Rom. xii. 1; Ps. xl. 7, &c. but my heart waketh. Set me as a seal upon thy heart, as a seal upon thine arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy as cruel as the grave, the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it," Cant. v. 2.
4. Zeal and fervour are the last characters of piety. By this we know the godly man from such lukewarm Christians as practise the duties of religion in substance, but do so with a coldness, that sinks the value of the service. They can hear the afflictions of the church narrated without emotion, and see a confused heap of stones, sad remains of houses consecrated to our God, without "favouring the dust thereof," according to the expression of Scripture. They can see the dimensions of the "love" of God measured, the "breadth and length, and depth and height," without feeling the least warmth from the ardour and flame of so vehement a love. They can be present at the offering of one of those lively, tender, fervent prayers, which God Almighty himself condescends to hear and answer, and for the sake of which he forgives crimes and averts judgment, without entering at all into the spirit of these subjects. Such men as these require persuasion, compulsion, and power, to force them.
A man, who truly loves God, has sentiments of zeal and fervour. Observe David, see his joy before the ark; neither the royal grandeur, nor the prophetical gravity, nor the gazing of the populace, nor the reproaches of an interested wife, could cool his zeal. Observe Elijah, "I have been," said he, "very jealous for the Lord God of Hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword, and I, even I only am left, and they seek my life to take it away," 1 Kings xix. 10. Behold good Eli, the frost of fourscore could not chill the ardour that inflamed him. "What is there done, my son?" said he to the
unwelcome messenger, who came to inform him of the defeat of his army: the messenger replied, "Israel is fled before the Philistines, and there hath also been a great slaughter among the people, and thy two sons Hophni and Phinehas are dead:" thus far he supported himself; but the man went on to say, "the ark of God is taken;" instantly on hearing that the ark was gone, he "fell backward," he could not survive the loss of that august symbol of the divine presence, but died with grief. Observe Nehemiah, to whom his royal master put the question, "Why is thy countenance sad?" said he, "Why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers' sepulchres lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire?" chap. ii. 2, &c. Consider St. Paul, "We glory in tribulations, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us," Rom. v. 3. 5.
Do you imagine you truly love God, while you have only languid emotions towards him, and while you reserve all your activity and fire for the world? There is between God and a
These are some characters of piety. Let us go on to examine the advantages of it.
II. Our apostle says, "godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come." There is an enormous difference between these two sorts of blessings. The blessings of the life to come are so far superior to the blessings of the present life, that when we can assure ourselves of the first, we ought to give ourselves very little concern about the last. To add a drop of water to the boundless ocean; to add a temporal blessing to the immense felicities, which happy spirits enjoy in the other life, is almost the same thing. St. Paul tells us, that the idea of life to come so absorbs the idea of the present life, that to consider these two objects in this point of view, his eyes could hardly get sight of the one, it was so very diminutive, and his mind reckoned the whole as nothing: "Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we look not at the things which are seen, wch are temporal, but at the things which are not seen, which are eternal," 2 Cor. iv. 17, 18.
Few imitate this apostle. The present, because it is present; and in spite of its rapidity, fixes our eyes, becomes a wall between us and eternity, and prevents our perceiving it. We should make many more converts to virtue, could we prove that it would render mankind
happy here below, but we cannot change the order of things. Jesus Christ and his apostles have told us, that "in the world we shall have tribulation," and that "all that will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution," John xvi. 33; 2 Tim. iii. 12. However, it is true, that even here piety procures pleasures, which usually surpass all those of worldly people: at least, which are sufficient to support us in a road leading to eternal happiness.
1. Consider first, how piety influences our health. Our bodies decay, I allow, by numberless means. Death enters them by the air we breathe, and by the elements that support them, and whatever contributes to make them live, contributes at the same time to make them die. Let us allow, my brethren, that most maladies take their rise in such excesses as the law of God condemns. How can a man, devoured with ambition, avarice and vengeance, a man whose passions keep him in perpetual agitations, depriving him of peace, and robbing him of sleep; how can he, who passes whole nights and days in gaming, animated with the desire of gaining his neighbour's money, tortured by turns with the hope of a fortune, and the fear of a bankruptcy; how can he, who drowns himself in wine, or overcharges himself with gluttony; how can he, who abandons himself without a curb to excessive lewdness, and who makes every thing serve his voluptuousness; how is it possible for people of these kinds to expect a firm and lasting health? Godliness is a bar to all these disorders; "the fear of the Lord prolongeth days: it is a fountain of life to guard us from the snares of death," Prov. x. 27; and xii. 27. If then it be true that health is an invaluable treasure, if it be that, which ought to hold the first rank among the blessings of life, if without it all others are of no value, it is as certain that without love to the law of God we cannot enjoy much pleasure in life. The force of this reflection is certainly very little felt in the days of youth and vigour, for then we usually consider these as eternal advantages, which nothing can alter: but when old age comes, when by continuał languors, and by exquisite pains, men expiate the disorders of an irregular life, then that fear of God is respected, which teaches us to prevent them. Ye martyrs of concupiscence, ye victims of voluptuousness, you, who formerly tasted the pleasures of sin, and are now thoroughly feeling the horrors of it, and who, in consequence of your excesses, are already given up to an anticipated hell, do you serve us for demonstration and example? You are become knowing by experience, now teach our youth how beneficial it is to lead a regular life in their first years, and as your intemperance has offended the church, let the pains you endure serve to restrain such as are weak enough to imitate your bad examples. Those trembling hands, that shaking head, those di ointed knees, that extinguished resolution, that feeble memory, that worn out brain, that body all infection and putrefaction, these are the dreadful rewards which the devil bestows on those on whom he is preparing himself shortly to exercise all his fury and rage. On this article, then, instead of saying with the profane, "what profit is it to keep the ordinances of God, and to walk
mournfully before the Lord of hosts?" Mal. ii. 14. We ought to say with St. Paul, "What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death," Rom. vi. 21.
2. Consider next how piety influences our reputation. I am aware, that worldly men by decrying piety, endeavour to avenge themselves for the want of courage to practise it. I am aware, too, that practise wickedness as much, as often, and as far as ever we can, we shall always find ourselves in a circle of companions like ourselves. But after all, it is however indisputable, that good people usually acquire the respect of such as have not the laudable ambition of imitating them. I appeal only to your own conscience. Is it not true, that, even while you are gratifying your own passions, you cannot help admiring such as subdue theirs? Is it not true, that, except on some occasions, in which you want, and therefore seek, accomplices in sin, you would rather choose to form connexions, to make bargains, and to deal with such as obey the laws of God, than with those who violate them? And amidst all the hatred and envy, which your irregularities excite against good people, is it not true, that your heart feels more veneration for wise, upright, and pious people, than for others, who have opposite qualities? As these are your dispositions towards others, know of a truth, they are also dispositions of others towards you. Here it is, that most men are objects of great pity. The irregularities, which seem to conduct us to the end we propose, are often the very causes of our disappointment. May I not address one of you thus? You trample upon all laws human and divine; you build up a fortunate house with the substance of widows, and orphans, and oppressed people, and you cement it with their blood; you sell your votes; you defraud the state; you deceive your friends; you betray your correspondents, and after you have enriched yourself by such ways, you set forth in a most pompous manner your riches, your elegant furniture, your magnificent palaces, your superb equipages, and you think the public take you for a person of great consideration, and that every one is erecting in his heart an altar to your fortune. No such thing. You deceive yourself. Every one says in private, and some blunt people say to your face, you are a knave, you are a public blood-sucker, and all your magnificence displays nothing but your crimes. May I not say to another, You affect to mount above your station by arrogant language, and mighty assumptions. You deck yourself with titles, and adorn yourself with names unknown to your ancestors. You put on a supercilous deportment, that ill assorts with the dust which covered you the other day, and you think by these means to efface the remembrance of your origin. No such thing. You deceive yourself. Every one takes pleasure in showing you some of your former rags to mortify your pride, and they say to one another, he is a mean genius, he is a fool, he resembles distracted men, who having persuaded themselves that they are princes, kings, emperors, call their cottage a palace, their stick a sceptre, and their domestics courtiers. May I not speak thus to a third, You are intoxicated