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And I do not know what can be more proper and seasonable to be recommeded and insisted on to you at this Time, and on this Occasion, than these Two Things; for the putting them in Practice, makes up the whole Design of this Meeting.
We are here so many Brethren met together to Rejoyce, and to do Good: To Rejoyce together in the Sense and Acknowledgement of God's Mercies and Blessings to us, and in the Enjoyment of Society one with another: And to do Good, not only by increasing our Friendship and mutual Correspondence, but by joining together in a chearful Contribution to those our Country-men that need our Charity. To entertain you therefore upontheseTwo Points, seems to be my proper Business.
But in treating of them, I (hall make bold to invert the Order in which they are put in the Text, and shall first speak of doing Good, though it be last named; and shall afterwards treat of Rejoycing. The Truth is, doing Good, in the Order of Nature, goes before Rejoycing; for it is the Foundation of it. There can be no true Joy in the Possession or Use of any Worldly Blessings, unless we can satisfie ourselves we have done some Good with them. It is the doing Good that sanctifies our other Enjoyments, and makes them Matter of Rejoicing.
Now in treating of this Argument, I shall briefly endeavour these Three Things. first, I shall earnestly recommend to you
the Practice ot doing Good, upon several
Secondly, I shall represent the Practicableness of it, by shewing the several Ways which every Person (though in the meanest Circumstances) is capable of doing Good.
Thirdly, I shall make Two or Three Inferences, by way of. Application.
I begin with the first Thing, seriously to recommend the Practice oPdoing Good.
But where shall I begin to speak, either of the Obligations that lie upon us, or of the Benefits and Advantages that do accrue to us by doing Good in our Lives? Or having begun, where shall I make an end? The Subject is so copious, that the Study of a whole Life cannot exhaust it. The more we consider it, still the more and the weightier Arguments will present themselves to us, to engage us in the Practice of it; and the more we practise it, still the more shall we desire so to do, and the more happy and blessed mail we find ourselves to be.
For, to do Good, is nothing else but to act according to the Frame and Make of our Beings. It is to gratifie those Inclinations and Appetites that are most strongly rooted in our Natures; such as Love and natural Affection, Pity and Compassion^ a Desire of Friends, and a Propensity to knot ourselves into Companies and Societies. What are all these but so many Stimuli, so many powerful Incitements of Nature to put us upon doing good Offices one to another?
To do Good is the End of all those Acquisitions, of all those Talents, of all those Favours and Advantages that God hath blefs'd us with; it is the proper Use we are to put them to. If we do not employ them this way, we are so far from being better for them, that we are much worse. What will signify our Wit and good Humour, our Strength of Reason and Memory, our Wisdom and Knowledge, our Skill in Arts, and Dexterity in managing Business, our Wealth and Greatness, our Reputation and Interest in the World; I fay, what will all these signify, if they do not render us more useful and beneficial to others? That which sets the Price and Value upon, every worldly Blessing, is the Opportunity it affords us of doing Good.
To do Good, seems to be the Foundation of all the Laws of Nature, the supreme universal Law; it is that by which the World is supported; and take that away, all would presently fall into Confusion. And perhaps, if it were particularly examin'd, it would be found, that all the other natural Laws maybe reduced to this, and are ultimately to be refolv'd into it. It it a Question, whether there be any natural Standard, whereby we can measure the Vertue or the Viciousness of any Action, but the Influence that it hath to promote or hinder the doing of Good? This is That, that seems to stamp Vertue and Vice.
To do Good, is the great Work, for the Sake of which we were sent into the World, and no Man lives farther to any purpose, than as
he is an Instrument of doing Good. Be our Lives otherwise never so busie and full of Action, yet if others receive no Benefit by them, we cannot give ourselves any tolerable Account of our Time, we have in effect liv'd idly, and done nothing.
To do Goody is that, which of all other Services is most acceptable to God: It is that which he hath laid the greatest Stress upon in the Scriptures; it is that which he hath, with the most earnest and affectionate Persuasives, with the strongest Arguments, with the greatest Promises, and with the most dreadful Threatnings, enforced upou us; it is that which he hath chosen before all Sacrifices and all Religious Worship, strictly so called, to be serv'd with; it is that which he hath appointed for the great Expression both of our Thankfulness for his Benefits, and of our Love and Devotion to him: Lastly, it is that • which Moses and the Prophets make the Sum of the Old Law, and Christ and his Apostles the Sum of the New.
And very great Reason there is for it; for to do. Good, is to become most like to God. It is that which of all other Qualities gives us the Resemblance of his Nature and Peri.Joh.4.8. sections; for perfect Love and Goodness is the very Nature of God, and the Root of all his other Attributes; and there was never any Action done, any Work wrought by him, throughout the vast Tracks of infinite Space, from the Beginning of Time to this Moment, but was an Expression of his Love, and an Instance
fiance oldoing Good, (nay, I doubt not to fay, the most severe Acts of his Justice and Vengeance have all been such.) And therefore with great Reason hath our Blessed Lord told us, that the Way to become the Chil-Mrt- Tdren of our Heavenly Father, is to do Good44, 4s* to all, with the fame Freedom and Unrescrvedness that God makes his Sun to shine upon the World. .
And of this our Blessed Saviour himself was the most illustrious Example that ever appeared in the World; so that to do Good, is that which doth most truly and perfectly render us the Disciples and Followers of Jesus, makes us really be what we pretend we are. His whole Life (as the Gospel tells us) was but a continual going about doing Good. The great Design of his Coming from Heaven, and of all that he spoke, and of all that he did, and of all that he suffer'd upon Earth, was the benefiting of others. And he hath left it as the great distinguishing Badge and Character whereby his Disciples should be known From other Men, that they should j^,,,, love one another, even as he had loved them, that 34, 35-. is (as his Apostle expounds them) they * J.ohn *' fliould love and do Good to that Degree, as M to lay down their Lives for their Brethren.
But to do Good, is not only our greatest Duty, but our greatest Interest and Advantage, which is that that Solomon chiefly refers to in the Text. It is certain that.no Man can take a more effectual way to render his Being in the World happy and comfortable to him