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THE PROFITABLENESS OF GODLINESS.
1 TIMOTHY, CHAP. IV.-VERSE 8.
But godliness is profitable for all things.
In discoursing formerly on these words, I did propound divers general considerations, serving to confirm and recommend this assertion of St. Paul. I shall now insist on some others more particular, which yet seem much conducible to the same purpose, declaring the vast utility of religion or piety.
I. We may consider that religion doth prescribe the truest and best rules of action; thence enlightening our mind, and rectifying our practice in all matters, and on all occasions, so that whatever is performed according to it, is done well and wisely, with a comely grace in regard to others, with a cheerful satisfaction in our own mind, with the best assurance that things are here capable of, to find happy success and beneficial fruit.
Of all things in the world there is nothing more generally profitable than light : by it we converse with the world, and have all things set before us; by it we truly and easily discern things in their right magnitude, shape, and color; by it we guide our steps safely in prosecution of what is good, and shunning what is noxious; by it our spirits are comfortably warmed and cheered, our life consequently, our health, our vigor, and activity, are preserved. The like benefits doth religion, which is the light of our soul, yield to it. Pious men are
children of the light;' pious works are works of light shining before men,' • God's word' (or true religion) is a lamp unto
our feet, and a light unto our path ;' enabling us to perceive things, and judge rightly of them; teaching us to walk straightly and surely, without erring or stumbling; qualifying us to embrace what is useful, and to avoid hurtful things; preserving our spiritual life, and disposing us to act well with a vigorous alacrity: without it a man is stark blind, and utterly benighted, gropeth in doubt, wandereth in mistake, trippeth on all occasions, and often falleth into mischief. The path of the just, saith the wise man, is as the shining light.' • The way of the wicked is as darkness, they know not at what they stumble.' • Righteousness keepeth him that is upright in the way; but wickedness overthroweth the sinner.'
Again : it is a fair ornament of a man, and a grand convenience both to himself and to others with whom he converseth or dealeth, to act regularly, uniformly, and consistently ; freeing a man's self from distraction and irresolution in his mind, from change and confusion in his proceedings; securing others from delusion and disappointment in their transactions with him.. Even a bad rule constantly observed is therefore better than pone :* order and perseverance in any way seemeth more convenient than roving and tossing about in uncertainties. But, secluding a regard to the precepts of religion, there can hardly be any sure or settled rule, which firmly can engage a man to, or effectually restrain a man from any thing.
There is scarce in nature any thing so wild, so untractable, so unintelligible, as a man who hath no bridle of conscience to guide or check him. A profane man is like a ship, without anchor to stay him, or rudder to steer him, or compass to guide him; so that he is tossed with any wind, and driven with any wave, none knoweth whither ; whither bodily temper doth sway him, or passion doth hurry him, or interest doth pull him, or example leadeth him, or company inveigleth and haleth him, or humor transporteth him ; whither any such variable and unaccountable causes determine him, or divers of them together distract him : whence he so rambleth and hovereth, that he can seldom himself tell what in any case he should do, nor can
* Via eunti aliquid extremum est; error inmensus est.-Sen. Ep. 16.
another guess it; so that you cannot at any time know where to find him, or how to deal with him : you cannot with reason ever rely on him, so “unstable he is in all his ways.' He is in effect a mere child, all humor and giddiness, somewhat worse than a beast, which, following the instinct of its nature, is constant and regular, and thence tractable; or at least so untractable, that no man will be deceived in meddling with him. Nothing therefore can be more unmanly than such a person, nothing can be more unpleasant than to have to do with him.*
But a pious man, being steadily governed by conscience, and a regard to certain principles, doth both understand himself and is intelligible to others : he presently descrieth what in any case he is to do, and can render an account of his acting: you may know him clearly, and assuredly tell what he will do, and may therefore fully contide in him.
What therefore law and government are to the public, things necessary to preserve the world in order, peace, and safety, (that men may know what to do, and distinguish what is their own,) that is piety to each man's private state and to ordinary conversation : it freeth a man's own life from disorder and distraction; it prompteth men how to behave themselves toward one another with security and confidence.
This it doth by confining our practice within settled bounds : but this advantage appeareth greater, considering that the rules which it prescribeth are the best that can be. Such they must needs be, as proceeding from infallible wisdom and immense goodness; being indeed no other than laws, which the all-wise and most gracious Lord and Maker of the world, out of tender kindness to his subjects and creatures, with especial regard to our welfare, hath been pleased to enact and declare. of old he said to the Israelites concerning their laws, may with greater advantage be applied to those which should regulate our lives : ' And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God
Nihil est tam occupatum, tam multiforme, tot ac tam variis affectibus concisum atque laceratum, quam mala mens.
5.—Quint. xii. 1.
+ Οι επιεικείς εαυτούς ομονοούσι και αλλήλοις, επί των αυτών όντες, ως ειπείν των τοιούτων μένει γάρ τα βουλήματα, και ου μεταρρεί, ώσπερ εύριπος.Arist. Eth. ix. 6.
require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul; to keep the commandments of the Lord, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good ? (For thy good ; that was the design of their being commanded; thereto the observance of them did tend.) And that commendation, which by the Levites in Nehemiah is given to that, doth more clearly and fully agree to the Christian (general and perfect) institution : • Thou camest down from mount Sinai, and spakest with them from heaven, and gavest them right judgments, and true laws, good statutes and commandments. And, the law,' saith the Apostle Paul, “is holy; the commandment is holy, just, and good : as such it is recommended to us by its Author, so we Christians are by many great arguments assured that it is, and that it is such even our natural reason dictateth ; so (as to the chief instances thereof) the most wise and sober men always have acknowleged, so the general consent doth avow, and so even common experience doth attest. For, heartily to love and reverence the Maker of all things, who by every thing apparent before us demonstrateth himself incomprehensibly powerful, wise, and good, to be kind and charitable to our neighbors, to be just and faithful in our dealings, to be sober and modest in our minds, to be meek and gentle in our demeanors, to be staunch and temperate in our enjoyments, and the like principal rules of duty, are such, that the common reason of men and continual experience do approve them as hugely conducible to the public good of men, and to each man's private welfare. So notoriously beneficial they appear, that for the justification of them we might appeal even to the judgment and conscience of those persons, who are most concerned to derogate from them. For hardly can any man be so senseless, or so lewd, as seriously to disapprove or condemn them, as inwardly to blame or slight those who truly act according to them. The will of men sometimes may be so depraved, that dissolute persons wantonly and heedlessly may scoff at and seem to disparage goodness; that good men by very bad men for doing well may be envied and hated : (their being so treated is commonly an argument of the goodness of their persons and of their ways :) but the understanding
of men can bardly be so corrupted, that piety, charity, justice, temperance, meekness, can in good earnest considerately by any man be disallowed, or that persons apparently practising them can be despised ; but rather, in spite of all contrary prejudice and disaffection, such things and such persons cannot but in judgment and heart be esteemed by all men. The lustre of them by a natural and necessary efficacy (like that of heaven's glorious light) dazzleth the sight and charmeth the spirits of all men living ; the beauty of them irresistibly conquereth and commandeth in the apprehensions of men: the more they are observed, the more useful and needful they appear for the good of men; all the fruits which grow from the observance of them being to all men's taste very pleasant, to all men's experience
very wholesome. Indeed, all the good, whereby common life ' is adorned, is sweetened, is rendered pleasant and desirable,
doth spring thence; all the mischiefs which infest particular men, and which disturb the world, palpably do arise from the transgression or neglect thereof.
If we look on a person sticking to those rules, we shall perceive him to have a cheerful mind and composed passions, to be at peace within, and satisfied with bimself; to live in comely order, in good repute, in fair correspondence, and firm concord with his neighbors. If we mark what preserveth the body sound and lusty, what keepeth the mind vigorous and brisk, what saveth and improveth the estate, what upholdeth the good name, what guardeth and graceth a man's whole life; it is nothing else but proceeding in our demeanor and dealings according to the honest and wise rules of piety. If we view a place where these commonly in good measure are observed, we shall discern that peace and prosperity do florish there ; that all things proceed on sweetly and fairly; that men generally drive on conversation and commerce together contentedly, delightfully, advantageously, yielding friendly advice and aid mutually, striving to render one another happy; that few clamors or complaints are heard there, few contentions or stirs do appear, few disasters or tragedies do occur; that such a place hath indeed much of the face, much of the substance of Paradise.
But if you mind a person who neglecteth them, you will find