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body, politicians for the peace of the state, philosophers for the tranquillity of the mind, &c.
II. We may consider more particularly, that piety yields to him who practises it, internal content, peace, and joy in the highest degree ; that it frees him from all kinds of dissatisfaction, regret, and disquiet; which is an inestimable advantage, since the happiness and misery of men are chiefly seated in the mind : this topic enlarged on.
It is shown that from the practice of religion alone, such inward content and pleasure can arise. For all present enjoyments of this world are transient, and of any that are to come there is no assurance. There is nothing here below large enough to fill our vast capacities, to satiate our boundless desires, or to appease our squeamish delicacy: this topic enlarged on.
Boast of the Epicureans, that by discarding the belief and dread of religion, they laid a foundation for tranquillity of mind, shown to be vain.
But the Epicurean's success in subduing religion being granted, it is shown that he will fail in obtaining his desired tranquillity, unless he can also trample down reason, new mould human nature, and subjugate all natural appetites and passions, &c.
It is farther shown, by a distinct survey of all the grounds and sources of content, that religion only can afford it: this is the case, whether content be expected to result from the well governing and ordering of our passions ; from a hearty approbation of our own conduct, when we recollect that we have acted according to wisdom, justice, and duty; from a sound and healthy constitution of soul ; from good success in our attempts, and from prosperous events befalling us; from security against danger, trouble, want, and all such evils; from sufficiency, real or apprehended.
III. Since happiness, or the summum bonum, the utmost
scope of human desire has been mentioned, it may be added, that piety surely confers it, or that happiness, whatever it be, has an essential coherence with piety. These are reciprocal propositions, both of them infallibly true. He that is pious is happy, and he that is happy is pious: this subject enlarged on.
IV. It is a peculiar advantage of piety, that it furnishes employment fit and worthy of us, grateful and beneficial to us. Man being a busy active creature, whose thoughts are in restless motion, and whose desires are ever stretching at somewhat, will always be working good or evil to himself: very profitable therefore to him must that thing be, which determines him to act well, to spend his care and pains on that which is truly advantageous to him, &c. Religion farther considered as an employment most proper for us as reasonable creatures ; as an employment most beneficial to us; as an employment most constant, occupying all our faculties; as a sweet and grateful business. In fine, the light of nature has discerned that, were it not for such an employment, this would be a lamentable world to live in. Speech of the Emperor M. Antoninus on this point recorded.
V. A considerable benefit of piety is, that it affords the best friendships and sweetest society, for which man is framed, and without which he cannot well live. It makes God our friend, who is infinitely better than all others; and consequently it
engages all creatures in the world to be our friends, or instruments of good to us, according to their several capacities, by the direction and disposal of God: it procures for us the friendship of the good angels, that puissant host of happy spirits : it engages also the blessed saints in glory, the spirits of men perfected, the church of the first-born; and it renders all sorts of people our friends : to good men it unites us in holy communion ; it reconciles enemies; and by it all conversation becomes tolerable, grateful, or useful. In fine, piety renders a man a true friend and a good companion
to himself, satisfied in himself, able to converse freely and pleasantly with his own thoughts : indeed it is only from want of true piety that solitude is to most men irksome and tedious.
So many, and even more great and precious advantages accrue from piety; whence we may well conclude with St. Paul, that godliness is profitable for all things. Final exhortation.
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 none:* 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 immensus est.-Sen.