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THE PROFITABLENESS OF GODLINESS.
I Tim. IV. 8.
But godliness is profitable for all things.
sent, are devoted to profit, as to the immediate scope of their designs, and subject of their doings, if with the slightest attention we view what is acted upon this theatre of human affairs, we cannot
but discern. All that we see men so very serious Prov. xiv. and industrious about, which we call business ;
that which they trudge for in the streets, which they work or wait for in the shops, which they meet and crowd for at the exchange", which they sue for in the hall, and solicit for at the court, which they plough and dig for, which they march and fight for in the field, which they travel for at land, and sail for (among rocks and storms) upon the sea, which
, they plod for in the closet, and dispute for in the schools, (yea, may we not add, which they frequently pray for and preach for in the church ?) what is it but profit? Is it not this apparently, for which men so eagerly contest and quarrel
, so bitterly envy and emulate, so fiercely clamour and inveigh, so cunningly supplant and undermine one another; which stuffeth their hearts with mutual
Φεύ, ως μέγα δύνασθον πανταχού των δύο οβολώ.
Aristoph. (Ran. 141.)
hatred and spite, which tippeth their tongues with SERM. slander and reproach, which often embrueth their hands with blood and slaughter; for which they expose their lives and limbs to danger, for which they undergo grievous toils and drudgeries, for which they distract their mind with cares, and pierce their heart with sorrows; to which they sacrifice their present ease and content, yea, to which commonly they prostitute their honour and conscience? This, if you mark it, is the great mistress, which is with so passionate rivality every where wooed and courted; this is the common mark, which all eyes aim, and all endeavours strike at; this the hire which men demand for all their pains, the prize they hope for all their combats, the harvest they seek from all the year's assiduous labour. This is the bait, by which you may inveigle most men any whither; and the most certain sign, by which you may prognosticate what any man will do: for mark where his profit is, there will he be. This some professedly and with open face, others slily and under thin veils of
pretence; (under guise of friendship, of love to public good, of loyalty, of religious zeal;) some directly and in a plain track, others obliquely and by subtle trains; some by sordid and base means, others in ways more cleanly and plausible; some gravely and modestly, others wildly and furiously; all (very few excepted) in one manner or another, do clearly in most of their proceedings level and drive atb.
Prima fere vota, et cunctis notissima templis
Juv. Sat. x. [23.]
This practice then being so general, and seeing that men are reasonable creatures, that it is so cannot surely proceed from mere brutishness or dotage; there must be some fair colour or semblance of reason, which draweth men into, and carrieth them forward in this way. The reason indeed is obvious and evident enough; the very name of profit implieth it, signifying that which is useful, or conducible to purposes really or seemingly good. The gain of money, or of somewhat equivalent thereto, is therefore specially termed profit, because it readily supplieth necessity, furnisheth convenience, feedeth pleasure, satisfieth fancy and curiosity, promoteth ease and liberty, supporteth honour and dignity, procureth power, dependencies, and friendships, rendereth a man somebody considerable in the world ; in fine, enableth to do good, or to perform works of beneficence and charity. Profit is therefore so much affected and pursued, because it is, or doth seem, apt to procure or promote some good desirable to us.
If therefore a project should be proposed to us very feasible, and probable to succeed, in pursuance whereof assuredly we might obtain great profit; methinks, in consistence with ourselves, and conformably to our usual manner of acting, we should be very ready to embrace and execute it. Such a project it is, which in my text, by a very trusty voucher and skilful judge of such things, and one who had himself fully experimented it, is proposed; which in itself is very practicable, so that any of us may, if we have a mind to it and will be at the magisterio atque impulsione ducuntur.—Salv, ad Eccl. Cath. 11. (adv. Avar. 11. p. 253. EJ, Baluz.)
pains, throughly compass and carry it on: which SERM. will exceedingly turn to account, and bring in gains unto us unspeakably vast; in comparison whereto all other designs, which men with so much care and toil do pursue, are very unprofitable or detrimental, yielding but shadows of profit, or bringing real damage to us.
It is briefly this, to be religious or pious; that is, in our minds steadfastly to believe on God, (such as nature in some measure, and revelation more clearly, declareth him,) in our hearts earnestly to love and reverence him, through all our practice sincerely and diligently to observe his laws. This is it which St Paul affirmeth to be profitable for all things, and which it is my intent, by God's help, to recommend unto you as such ; demonstrating it really to be so, by representing some of those numberless benefits and advantages which accrue from it, extending to all conditions and capacities of men, to all states, all seasons, and in effect to all affairs of life.
It hath been ever a main obstruction to the practice of piety, that it hath been taken for no friend, or rather for an enemy, to profit; as both unprofitable and prejudicial to its followers : and many semblances there are countenancing that opinion. For religion seemeth to smother or to slacken the industry and alacrity of men in following profit, many ways: by charging them to be content with a little, and careful for nothing; by diverting their affections and cares from worldly affairs to matters of another nature, place, and time, prescribing in the first place to seek things spiritual, heavenly, and future; by disparaging all
B. S. VOL. I.
SERM. secular wealth, as a thing, in comparison to virtue
and spiritual goods, very mean and inconsiderable; by checking greedy desires and aspiring thoughts after it; by debarring the most ready ways of getting it, (violence, exaction, fraud, and flattery,) yea, straitening the best ways, eager care and diligence; by commending strict justice in all cases, and always taking part with conscience when it clasheth with interest; by paring away the largest uses of wealth, in the prohibition of its free enjoyment to pride or pleasure; by enjoining liberal communication thereof in ways of charity and mercy ; by engaging men to expose their goods sometimes to imminent hazard, sometimes to certain loss; obliging them to forsake all things, and to embrace poverty for its sake.
It favoureth this conceit, to observe, that often bad men by impious courses do appear to thrive and prosper; while good men seem for their good
; ness to suffer, or to be no wise visibly better for it, enduring much hardship and distress.
It furthereth the prejudice, that some persons, void of true piety, or imperfectly good, (some dabblers in religion,) do not from their lame, slight, and superficial performances, feel satisfactory returns, such as they did presume to find ; and
thence, to the defamation of piety, are apt to say, Mal. iii. 14. with those men in the prophet, It is vain to serve
God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the Lord of hosts? Yea, that sometimes very pious men, being out of humour, and somewhat discomposed by the urgent pressures of affliction, the disappointments and crosses incident to all