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opprobrious to Christianity in General. And 4. and Lastly, Very dangerous to the Protestant Religion, as giving too many Advantages, and too much Encouragement to the Factors of the Papacy.
But I have, I fear, already exceeded the Limits of a Sermon, and therefore shall add po more.
open our Eyes, that we may, in this Our Day, understand the Things that belong to Peace, before they be hid from oør Eyes.
On the zoth of JANUAR Y, 1675.
I Tim. iv. 8. Godliness is profitable unto all things,
having a Promise of the Life that now is, and of that which is to come.
HESE Words are the Enforce.
ment of an Exhortation which T St. Paul had made to Timothy, in
the Verse before-going, which was, That he should avoid
prophane and old Wives Fables; meaning those impious and superstitious Doctrines, and the carnal and unchriftian Observances, that were grounded upon them (some of which he had mentioned in the beginning of this Chapter) which some at that Time did endeavour to introduce into Christianity: And instead of applying his Mind to these, that he should rather Exercise himself unto true Godliness.
This was the Exhortation. The Arguments wherewith he enforcech it, are Two:
First, the Unprofitableness of these Carnal and Superftitious Doctrines and Practices. Bodily Exercise (faith he) profiteth little. Secondly, The real Usefulness of solid Vertue and Godliness, to all the purposes of Life. Godliness is profitable to all Things, having a Promise of this Life, as well as of that which is to come.
I shall not here meddle at all with the for: mer Part of the Apostle's Exhortation, or the Argument that hath relation to it; but shall apply myself wholly to the latter, craving leave most plainly and affectionately to press upon you the Escercise of Godliness, upon those Grounds and Considerations on which the Apostle here recommended it.
Indeed, to a Manthat considers well, it will appear the most unaccountable thing in the World, that among all those several Exercises that Mankind busie themselves about, this of Godliness should be in so great a measure neglected; that Men should be so diligent, so indu. strious, so unwearied, some in getting Estates, others in purveying for Pleasure, others in learning Arts, and Trades, All in something or other relating to this sensible World;and so few should study to acquaint themselves with God, and the Concernments of their Souls, to learn the Arts of Vertue and Religious Conversation.
Certain it is, this Piece of Skill is not more above our reach, than many of those other Things we so industriously pursue; nay, I am a pt to think, it is more within our Power than most of them. For, in our other Labours, we cannot always promise toourselves certain Suc
cess. A thousand Things may intervene which we know not of, that may defeat all our Plots and Designs, though never so carefully laid; but no Man ever seriously undertook the Business of Religion, but he accomplished it.
Nay, farther, As we can with greater Certainty, so can we with less Pains and Difficulty, promise to ourselves Success in this Affair, than we can hope to compass most of our Worldly Designs, which so much take up our Thoughts. I doubt not in the least, but that less Labour, less Trouble, less Sollicitude, will serve to make a Man a good Christian, than to get an Estate, or to attain a competent Skill in Human Arts and Sciences.
And then for other Motives, to oblige us to the Study of Religion, we have incomparably more and greater, than we can have for the Pursuit of any other thing. It is certainly the greatest Concernment we have in the World. It is the very thing God sent us into the World about. It is the very thing that his Son came down from Heaven to instruct us in. It is the very thing by which we shall be concluded everlastingly Happy, .or everlastingly Miserable, after this Life is ended.
These Things well considered, we may justly (I say) stand amazed, that Men Thould be lo prodigiously supine and negligent in an Affair of this Nature and Importance, as we see they generally are.
If there can any account be given of this Matter, I suppose it must be lome such as this, That the Things of this Worid, upon
which we bestow our Care, our Time, our
Sweetness or Relish in theni. Nay, on the contrary, we form the most frightful and dismal Images of them that can be. We look upon them not only as flat, and unsavory; but as - Things which if we trouble our Heads too much about, will certainly ruin all our Designs in this World. We think Religion good for nothing but to spoil good Company; to make us melancholy and mopish; to distract us in our Business and Employments; and to put fo many Restraints upon us, that we can neither with that Freedom nor Success, purfue our Temporal Concernments, which we think necessary to our Happiness in this world.
But let us suppose Things to be thus with Religion as we have fansied, yet cannot this be any reasonable Excuse for our Carelesness about it. What though there were no visible Benefit by a Religious Life in this World What though the Rewards of our Pains about it were only in Reversion; Yer since a Time will come when it will be our greatest Interest to have been heartily Religious, is it not a Madness now to neglect it? What tho? Res