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importunity of counsel and perfuafion, as namely, to the practice of any virtue, and the quitting and abandoning of any vice, a prince and a great man that is good himself, may easily gain them to, without ever fpeaking a word to them, by the filent authority and powerful allurement of his example. So that though every man have not a particular profeffion, yet the higheft among men have fome employment alloted to them by God, fuitable to their condition, a province which he expects they fhould adminifter and adorn with great
The great bufinefs of the lower part of mankind is to provide for themfelves the neceffaries of life, and it is well if they can do it with all their care and diligence; but those who are of a higher rank, their proper bufinefs and employment is to difpenfe good to others; which furely is a much happier condition and employment, according to that admirable faying of our Saviour, mentioned by St. Paul, It is a more bleffed thing to give, than to receive. Thofe of meaner condition can only be men to one another, and it were well if they would be fo; but he, that is highly raised and advanced above others, hath the happy opportunity in his hands, if he have but the heart to make use of it, to be a kind of God to men.
Let no man then, of what birth, or rank, or quality foever, think it beneath him to ferve God, and to be useful to the benefit and advantage of men; let us remember the Son of God, a perfon of the highest quality and extraction that ever was, who spent himself wholly in this bleffed work of doing good, toiled and laboured in it as it had been for his life, fubmitted to all the circumstances of meannefs, to all the degrees of contempt, to all kind of hardfhip and fufferings, for the benefit and falvation of men, fweat drops of blood, and at last poured it all forth in full ftreams, to fave us from eternal mifery and ruin, and is any of us better than the Son of God, the hair of all things, and the elder brother of us all? fall any of us, after this, think ourfelves too good to be employed in that work which God himself difdained not to do, when he appeared in the likeness and nature of man?
If we would esteem things rightly, and according to reason, the true privilege and advantage of greatness is, to be able to do good more than others; and in this the majefty and felicity of God himself doth chiefly confift, in his ready and forward inclination, and in his infinite power and ability to do good. The creation of the world was a great and glorious defign, but this God only calls his work; but to preferve and fupport the creatures which he hath made, to bless them and to do them good, to govern them by wife laws, and to conduct them to that happinefs which he defigned for them, this is his reft, his perpetual fabbath, his great delight and fatisfaction to all eternity; to do good is our duty and our business, but it is likewife the greatest pleasure and recreation, that which refrefheth the heart of God and
I have infifted the longer upon this, that those who are thought to be above any calling, and to have no obligation upon them, but to please themselves, may be made fenfible, that according to their ability and opportunity, they have a great work upon their hands, and more bufinefs to do than other men; which if they would but feriously mind, they would not only please God, but, I dare fay, fatisfy and please themselves, much better than they do in any other courfe. I know it is a duty particularly incumbent upon the lower part of mankind, to be diligent in their particular calling, that fo they may provide for themselves and their families; but this is not fo proper for this place, and if it were, the neceffity of human life will probably prompt and urge men more powerfully to this, than any argument and perfuafion that I can ufe. I proceed therefore, in the
Second Place, to offer fome confiderations to excite our care and diligence in this great work, which God hath given us to do in this world, I mean chiefly the bufinefs of religion, in order to the eternal happiness and falvation of our fouls. And to this purpose, I fhall offer five or fix arguments, referving the great motive and confideration in the text to the laft, Because there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave, whither thou goest..
I. Let us confider the nature of our work, which is fuch, as may both excite and encourage our diligence and care about it. It is indeed a fervice, but fuch as is our perfect freedom; it is the fervice of God, whom to ferve is the greatest honour that man or any other creature is capable of; it is obedience, but even obedience, confidering our ignorance and frailty, is much wifer and fafer for us, than a total exemption from all law and rule; for the laws which God hath given us, are not impofed upon us merely for his will and pleasure, but chiefly for our benefit and advantage. So that to obey and please God, is in truth nothing elfe but to do thofe things which are really best for ourselves.
Befides that this work of religion will abundantly recompenfe all the labour and pains it can colt, if we confider the fruit and end of it, which is the falvation of our fouls; fo St. Paul affures us, Rom. vi. 22. that if we have our fruit unto holinefs, our end shall be everlafting life. Nay, this work doth not want its prefent encouragement and reward, if we confider the peace and pleasure which attend it; Great peace, faith David, have they which love thy law, and nothing fhall offen! them. Religion doth not defign to rob men of the true delights of life, of any lawful pleafure and enjoyment; it only appoints them their due place, and feafon, and measure, without which they cannot be truly tasteful and pleafant if we make pleasure and recreation our bufinefs, it will become a burden, and leave a fting behind it; but if we make it our great bufinefs to be good, and to do good, we shall then take true pleasure in our recreations and refreshments, we fhall eat our bread with joy, and drink our wine with a merry heart, as Solomon expreffeth it a little before the text. Religion doth not ordinarily debar men of any contentment, which they can wifely and fafely take, in any of the enjoyments of this life, but directs us to do thofe things which will yield the trueft and most refined pleasure, and fo governs us in the ufe and enjoyment of worldly comforts, that there fhall be no bitterness in them, or after them: and in truth, after all our fearch and enquiry after pleasure and happiness, we fhall find that there is no folid and lafting pleasure, but in living righteously and
religiously; and the pleasure of this is fo great, that a Heathen philofopher, fpeaking of a virtuous life, according to the true precepts of philofophy, breaks out in this rapture and tranfport concerning the wonderful pleasure of it, Vel unus dies vere et ex præceptis tuis actus peccandi immortalitati eft anteferendus, "Even one
day truly spent according to thy precepts is to be valued above an immortality of finning.' 201 There is no life fo pleafant as that of the pious and good man, who being contented with himself, every thing about Him contributes to his chearfulness; Gratior it dies, et foles melius nitent; "The day paffeth more pleafantly, and the fun fhines brighter to him ;" and every object which he beholds is more delightful, because the man is at peace and cafe within himself.
II. Let us confider how great our work is, and then we fhall eafily be convinced what care it requires, what diligence it calls for from us. Very few perfons, I doubt, are fufficiently fenfible, how much thought and confideration, how much care and vigilancy, how firm a refolution, and earnest attention of mind is neceffary to the business of religion, to the due cultivating and improving of our minds, to the mortifying and fubduing of our lufts, to the maftering and governing of our paffions, to the reforming of our tempers, to the correeting of all the irregularities of our appetites and affections, and to the reducing of our crooked wills, which have been long obftinately bent the wrong way, to the freightness of that rule which God hath given us ro walk by.
Few, I fear, confider how much pains is neceffary to the ftoring of our minds with good principles, and to the fixing and riveting in our fouls all the proper motives and confiderations to engage us to virtue, that in all the occafions of our lives they may have their due force and influence upon us. Few of us take pains to understand the juft bounds and limits of our duty, and fo to attend thereto, as to be always upon our guard against the infinite temptations of human life, and the many malicious enemies of our fouls, that we may not be circumvented by the wiles of the devil, nor caught in thofe fnares which he lays before us in our ways,
that we may not be wrought upon by the infinuations, nor over-reached by the deceitfulness of fin.
How few confider what care and watchfulness of ourfelves, what conftancy and fervency of prayer to God, is necessary to the due difcharge of every part of our duty; or to the right exercise of every grace and virtue! Befides an earnest imploring of the divine assi ftance, there is required likewife a particular care and application of mind, that we may fail in no point; and that, as St. James expreffeth it, we may be entire, wanting nothing; that our faith and our hope, our devotion and our charity, our humility and our patience, and every other grace may be exercifed in the best manner, and have its proper work.
III. Confider, what incredible pains men will take, what diligence they will ufe for bad purposes, and for ends infinitely lefs confiderable; ut jugulent homines, furgunt de nocte latrones, ut teipfum ferves, non expergifcere?" Thieves will rife and travel by night to rob
and kill, and fhall we ufe no care, no vigilance to "fave ourselves?" What drudges and flaves are many men to their fenfual pleasures and lufts? how hot and fierce upon revenge? and what hazards will they run to fatisfy this unreasonable and devilish paffion; and thereby to make way for a speedy and bitter repentance, which always treads upon the heels of revenge? For no fooner hath any man executed his rage upon another, but his confcience prefently turns it upon himfelf.
How induftrious do we fee men at their recreations and fports, taking really more pains for the fake of pleasure, than the poor man does that works for his living?
What a violent thirft, and infatiable covetousness poffeffeth fome men after learning and knowledge? how will they toil and watch, wear out their eyes, and walte their fpirits, and purfue their ftudies, not only with the neglect of fitting diverfion, but even of the neceffary fupport and reparation of nature, by meat and fleep? nay, many times to increase their learning, they weaken their understandings; and for the gaining