« السابقةمتابعة »
and there are many semblances which countenance such an opinion: this instanced in religion seeming to smother or to slacken the industry and alacrity of men with regard to worldly profit, by charging them to be content with a little, and careful for nothing, by diverting their affections from worldly affairs, &c.
Also in our observing that bad men often thrive by impious courses, while good men seem to suffer for their very goodness. This also furthers the prejudice, that some persons, void of true piety, mere dabblers in religion, do not from their slight and superficial performances feel such returns as they expected.
To these considerations, thus disadvantageous to piety, may be added, that the constant certain profits which proceed from it, are not so gross and palpable that men, vitiated in their tastes, and blinded by error, can discern their worth, or relish their sweetness.
For destroying which prejudices, and recommending St. Paul's project, some of the innumerable advantages are considered, by which the great profitableness of piety will appear : and first those which are more universal in their nature ; next those which seem to be more particular, though their influence is very extensive. .
I. First then, piety is exceedingly useful for all sorts of men, in all capacities, states, and relations, fitting them to discharge all their duties in a proper, just, and decent manner. This shown in the peculiar duties of superiors, inferiors, princes, subjects, parents, children, husbands, wives, and friends. It renders all men faithful to their trusts, just and punctual in their dealings, orderly and courteous in their behavior. It ties all relations more fastly, augments all endearments, and enforces all obligations by the firm bonds of conscience, &c.
In consequence of those practices which spring from it, piety removes oppression, violence, faction, murmurings, out of the state; schisms and scandal out of the church; pride,
luxury, and sycophancy out of the court; corruption out of judicatures ; tumults out of the street; brawlings and jealousies out of families ; extortion out of trade; strife, emulation, and foul language out of conversation, &c. It is the best prop
and guard of government; for it settles the body politic in a sound constitution of health, and firmly cements all the parts thereof: it is therefore the interest of all men, who desire to live well, and would fain see good days, especially of the great and those in authority, to promote piety as the best instrument of their security: this topic enlarged on.
II. Secondly, piety fits a man for all conditions, qualifying him to pass through them with the best advantage, wisely, cheerfully, and safely. Is a man prosperous, high, or wealthy ? Piety guards him from all the mischiefs incident to that condition, and disposes him to enjoy its best advantages: this point enlarged on. Is he poor and low in the world ? Piety improves and sweetens even that state, keeping his spirits above dejection, and freeing him from all grievous anxiety ; showing him that although he may seem to have but little, yet he has a certain succor and never failing supply in God's good providence, &c.
Difference between a pious and an impious man, under similar circumstances of adversity, pointed out. Example of our Lord's Apostles under their ministry proposed to us.
III. Thirdly, piety virtually comprises within itself all other profits, serving the designs of them all : whatever kind of desirable good we can hope to find from any other profit, we may
be assured to find from it. He that hath it, shown to be ipso facto rich, intitled to iminense treasures of the most precious wealth; also to be in truth most honorable. The pious man shown to be most powerful. Shown also to enjoy the only true pleasures, hearty, pure, solid, and durable. As fo safety, the pious man hath it most absolute and sure, resting under the shadow of God's wings. As for liberty, he most
intirely and truly enjoys it, for he alone is free from captivity to sin and Satan : with respect to ease, he alone knows it, having his mind exempt from the distraction of care, the disorder of passion, the anguish of conscience, &c. As for knowlege, he alone attains it to any purpose. Evil men, says the wise man himself, understand not judgment : but they that seek the Lord understand all things. Farther, the pious man is enabled and disposed most to benefit and oblige others : this point enlarged on. Thus all the fruits and consequences of profit, which engage men so eagerly to pursue it, do in the best kind and highest degree result from piety.
As for all other profits unconnected with it, they are but imaginary and counterfeit, yielding only painted shows instead of substantial fruit. This instanced in the seeking of profit from bare worldly wealth—from worldly power—from the enjoyment of pleasure. If the mere worldly man fancies safety, he deludes himself; if he thirst for liberty, he will be frustrated : ease he cannot obtain under the burthen of sin, of care and trouble : if he means to acquire wisdom, he will find that wisdom and impiety are incompatible things : in fine, he will be mistaken and disappointed in all his projects, whosoever fancies any true profit without piety : this point enlarged on.
IV. Fourthly, that commendation is not to be omitted which is nearest at hand, and suggested by St. Paul himself, to back his assertion concerning the universal profitableness of piety; for, says he, it hath the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.
As for the blessings of this life, though God has not promised to load the godly man with affluence of worldly things, to pamper the flesh and gratify the wanton fancy, &c.; yet there is no good thing which a man naturally desires, or reasonably can wish for, which is not in express terms proposed as a reward, or as a result of piety. Extracts from holy writ. This stated to be a liberal dispensation even of temporal good
things : it is indeed more frequently, abundantly, and explictly promised to God's ancient people, as an ingredient in the covenant made with him, and a recompense for an external performance of their law. The gospel does not so clearly propound it, nor so much insist on it, as it does not principally belong to the evangelical covenant; yet as the celestial blessings, though not openly tendered in the Jewish law, were mystically couched therein, and closely designed for the spiritual and hearty practisers of religion ; so is the collation of temporal accommodations to be understood as belonging to all pious Christians. There is a codicil, as it were, annexed to the New Testament, in which God signifies his intention to furnish his children with all that is needful and convenient for them: his bounty does not fail us even here. This shown from various texts of Scripture. Thus is piety profitable as having the promises of this life; but infinitely more so is it as having the promises of the life to come, or as procuring a title to those incomparably more excellent blessings of the other world, that incorruptible, undefiled, and never fading inheritance, reserved for us in heaven : this topic enlarged .on. Infinitely profitable then must that be which procureth those things for us; and in these respects great reason had St. Paul to say, that godliness is profitable for all things.
THE PROFITABLENESS OF GODLINESS.
I TIMOTHY, CHAP. IV.-VERSE 8.
But godliness is profitable for all things.
How generally men, with most unanimous consent, are devoted to profit, as to the immediate scope of their designs and aim of their doings, if with the slightest attention we view what is acted on this theatre of human affairs, we cannot but discern. All that we see men so very serious and industrious about, which we call business; that which they trudge for in the streets, which they work or wait for in the shops, which they meet and crowd for at the exchange, which they sue for in the hall, and solicit for at the court, which they plough and dig for, which they march and fight for in the field, which they travel for at land, and sail for (among rocks and storms) on the sea, which they plod for in the closet, and dispute for in the schools, (yea, may we not add, which they frequently pray for and preach for in the church ?) what is it but profit?* Is it not this apparently, for which men so eagerly contest and quarrel, so bitterly envy and emulate, so fiercely clamor and inveigh, so cunningly supplant and undermine one another ; which stuffeth their hearts with mutual hatred and spite, which tippeth their tongues with slander and reproach, which often embrueth their hands with blood and slaughter; for which they expose their lives and limbs to danger, for which they undergo grievous toils and drudgeries, for which they distract
* pell, Sű ófonds dis péya dúvao Boy tartaxoû. Aristoph. Plut.