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ligion be a Course of Life difficult and un. pleasant ; a Way strewed with Briars and Thorns; a Way which if we follow, we are certainly lost, as to our. Hopes of any thing here? Yet fince a Time will certainly come ' when we shall wish, that we had been good Christians, though we had lost our right Eyes and our right Hands upon the Condition; when we fhall wish, that we had purchased Vertue, tho’ at the rate of the Loss of the whole World; for God's sake, why should we not be of the same Mind now? Who but Fools and Children, but will look upon that, which shall certainly and unavoidably be, with the same regard, as if it were now present?
But, indeed, this is not the Case of Religion ; This Business of Piety is not so formidable, as we often represent it. It is no such Enemy to our Temporal Designs. It is a very innocent Thing, and will do us no harm; tho' we look no farther than this present World. It will hinder none of our Delights or Pleasures; but will allow us to gratifie every Appea tite that God and Nature hath put into us. And if any Man doubt this, let him name the natural Desire, which the Christian Religion doth forbid, or any way hinder the innocent Satisfaction of: I am confident he shall be able to name none. Since this is the Case, then, how much more Childish than Children, shall we appear, if we make so little reckoning of it? How inexcusably foolish shall we be, if we will not be at some Pains to possess ourselves of that which will be no Vol.I.
manner of Hindrance to us, in our Affairs in this world, and will infallibly make us everlastingly Happy in that which is to come?
But farther : What if it be certain, that a Life of strict Vertue is not only no Hindrance to our Temporal Designs, but a great Furtherance of them? Whac if it can be proved, that besides the Influence it has on our Happiness in the next Life, it is also the best thing in the World to serve our turns in this? And that nothing can so much contribute to the bringing about our Worldly Aims ; no such ready way to attain to what our very Flesb and Blood most defires, most delights in, as to be sincerely Pious ? What imaginable Pretence can we have then for our Contempt of God and Vertue? If this can be made to appear, sure all our Objections will be fully answered; all our Scruples fatisfied; all our Prejudices against Religion wholly removed, and every one, that is not abandoned of his Fortune and his Senses, as well as his Reason, must think himfelf concerned to become a Vorary to it; since he can have no Tempta: tion or Motive to Vice, which will not more powerfully draw him to Vertue ; and all the Ends that the one can pretend to serve, will much more effe&tually be served by the other ; and he escapes an Eternity of Misery, and gets everlasting Life in to the Bargain.
I think it, therefore, worth the while to spend the Time now allotted me, in making good this Point, and discovering something at least of that universal Profitableness of Godli
ness, to the Purposes of Humane Life, that St. Paul in my Text assurés us of.
But because the Studies of Men are so infinitely various, and the Ends of Life to be served, so many, that it will be impossible to fpeak particularly of them ; it will be needful to pitch upon some General Heads, such as if they do not comprehend all, may yet take in most of those Things, to which the Labours and Endeavours of Men are directed, and in the Acquisition of which they have compassed their Designs"; and to shew the Serviceableness of Religion above all other Means, for the attaining of them. And I think I cannot pitch better than upon these Three noted Idols of the World, Wealth, and Honour, and Pleasure; thefe being the Goods which have always been accounted to divide Mankind among them: and into the Service of fome one or all of which, All that set up for a Happy Life in this World, do lift themselves, how different and disagreeing soever they be from one another as to their particular Employments and Ways of Living. I shall therefore make it appear, that Godliness and Religion, is a very great Furtherance to the Acquisition of all these ; and that no Man can take a more ready way, either to improve bis Fortune, or to purchase a Name and Reputation among Men, or to live comfortably and pleasantly in this World, than heartily to serve God, and to live in the Practice of every Vertue.
And in the First Place, I begin with the Conduciveness of Religion and Godliness, to im.
prove our outward Fortunes; the Advantage of it for the getting or encreasing an Estate; for this is the thing to which our Thoughts are commonly first directed, as looking upon it as the Foundation of a Happy Life in this World.
But here I desire not to be mistaken I would not be thought to deal with you, as one of our ordinary Empiricks, that promises many brave Feats in his Bill, which are, indeed, beyond the Power of his Art: I do not pretend that Wealth and Opulency is necessarily entailed upon Religion ; so that whoever is good, shall presently be enabled to make Purchases, and to leave Lands and Livings to his Children. Riches are one of those Things that are not so perfectly in our Power, that all Men may hope for an equal share of them. The having more or less depends often-times not so much upon ourselves, as upon that Condition and Quality in which we were born, the Way and Course of Life into which our Friends put us; and a Hundred accidental Circumstances to which ourselves contribute nothing. But this. I say, supposing the vertuous Man, in equal Circumstances with others; supposing him to stand upon the same Level, and to enjoy the same fortuitous Hits, and external Concurrences that they do, and he shall by many odds have the Advantage of them for thriving and improving in the World in
any Condition of Life whatsoever. .
So that, so far as the getting of Riches depends upon Humane Endeavours; so far as it is an Art, and falls under Precepts and Di
rections; no Man alive can propose a better Expedient in order thereto, than a serious Practice of Religion.
To make this good, let it be considered, that as to the Means that do in a more direct and immediate manner influence upon the getting or improving an Estate (I speak of General Means, such as are of use in all Conditions of Life ; for to meddle with the Mysteries of any particular Art or Trade, is not my Purpose, as, indeed, it is beyond my Skill :) as to such Means as these, I say, none can prescribe more effectual than these Four:
1. Prudence, in administring our Affairs.
hath placed us. 3. Thrift and good Husbandry. 4. Keeping a good Correspondence with
those in whose Power it is to hinder or
promote our Affairs. If now it do appear, that Godliness doth highly improve a Man in all these Four Respects; if it can be shewed, that all these Fruits naturally grow and thrive better in a Religious Soil than any other, it will evidently follow, that suppoling these above-named Means do indeed contribute to the making of a Fortune, (and if they do not, no Man knows what doth; and we strangely abuse our Friends and our Children, when upon that account we recommend them to them) it tollows, I say, that a Life of Godliness is a mighty Advantage to a Man, for the Purpose I am speaking of.