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effect, because it is used only as a formal thing, that has its devotions and duties at set times and occasions whereas it should be used and considered as the rule and reason of all our judgments and actions ; as the measure of all our cares and pleasures; as the life of our life, the spirit of our spirit, and the very form and essence of all ourtempers. It is to be in us, like a new reason and judgment of our minds; that is, to reason and judge of every thing that we do, and to preside over, and govern all the motions of our hearts. Is any one merry, saith the apostle, let him sing psalms; is any one afflicted let him pray. This is religion in the apostle's account; it is not only an attendance at the public worship, but it is the ruling habit of our minds, something that constantly devotes us wholly to God, that allows of no mirth in our common life, but a mirth proper for the brethren of Christ, a mirth that can express itself by a rejoicing in God; that allows of no other cure for grief or vexation, than what is to be had from recourse to God. And, indeed, what can be more senseless and absurd, than to see a Christian ever acting in any other consideration than as a Christian? He is senseless to a degree of madness, when he indulges a thought, or a motion of his heart, when he either takes a pleasure, or relieves a grief, where he cannot say, I do this as a Christian, as suitable to that state in which Christianity has placed me.
We reckon a man sufficiently mad that fancies himself a king, and governing his subjects, at the same time that he is tied to a bed of straw : so that madness consists in mistaking our condition, in laving a set of thoughts not suitable to it. Now a Christian repeats every day.--I believe the forgiveness of sin, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting; he thanks God for the redemption of Jesus Christ, for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory. Yet, at the same time, in this state of great
ness, he fancies himself in a thousand wants and misce ries. He cries and labours, and toils for a happiness, that has no existence but in his own imagination; he fancies himself a being, that is to be made happy with sauces and ragouts, with painted clothes, and shining diamonds; he seeks the pleasures of rakes and libertines, is grieved and fretted like a child at the loss of a feather; and must be diverted, as they are, with shows and plays, and imaginary scenes of rant and nonsense.
Now is not such a one mad? Does he not know as little of his state, as the man in straw that fancies himself a king? But for a Christian in times of dulness, or vexation, to seek relief in foolish amusements, in the loose, wild discourses of plays, when he should acquaint himself with God, and be at peace, is a degree of madness that exceeds all others; it is acting as contrary to the nature of things, as if a man that had lost the use of his limbs, should choose to comfort his lameness with painted shoes, when he might have the use of his feet restored. For the consolations of religion relieve uneasinesss and trouble, as a lame man is relieved when his limbs are restored; they conquer grief, not by cheating and deluding the weakness of our minds, but as the resurrection conquers death, by restoring us to a new and glorious life. If you need any farther conviction, that times of grief and uneasiness are highly improper for these diversions ; let me desire you to suppose that you knew a Christian, who in his last hours, sent for buffoons and jugglers to divert his mind from the apprehensions of death. I dare say you have religious arguments enough, to prove such a practice to be stupid and profane in the highest degree. But perhaps you are not aware, that every argument against such a practice as this, concludes as strongly against the same practice at any other time of our life. Try therefore with yourself, if every good argument
against such folly when we are dying, will not be the same argument against the same folly in any other part of our life. For every argument that shows the impiety and folly of applying to foolish diversions when we are under the troubles of death, will show the same impiety and folly of applying to such relief in any troubles of life. For to imagine that we may be ridiculous and vain, and foolish in the troubles of life; but serious, holy, and religious in the troubles of death, is the same folly and absurdity, as to suppose, that we must be devout and penitent on our death-beds, but need not be devout and penitent in the other parts of our life. For as there is no religion or repentance on our death-bed, but what ought to be the religion of our lives; so is there no wisdom, or seriousness, or application to God in the sorrows of death, but what is equally necessary and proper in all the sorrows of life. For we are obliged to live unto God in the same manner that we are to die unto God. For why must I think rightly of death? Why must I then apply to God? Why must I reason and judge rightly at that time? Why may I not then divert my mind with loose and impertinent entertainments? Now give but the true reason of this, and you will give the reason why I am always to live in the same manner. For as the reasons of wisdom and holiness are not founded in death, so do they receive no alteration by the approach of death; there is no wisdom and holiness but what is equally necessary, whether I am twenty years or twenty days from death. Death may bring me into a greater fear of folly, but it does not bring me into a greater necessity of avoiding it than I was in before; because all the reasons of piety, wisdom, and devotion to God, have been equally reasons all my life; for the holiness and wisdom of persons in health, is as necessary, and as much the terms of acceptance with God, as the holiness and wisdom of dying persons. And he that dares to be foolish and vain,
and seeks impertinent entertainments, because he is strong and in health, is governed by the same spirit, and sins against the same reasons of piety, as he that dares to be vain, foolish, and impertinent at the approach of death. When therefore you think fit to amuse yourself with foolish diversions, and drive away what you may call dull hours, with the impertinent and wild imaginations of plays, &c. you must remember, that you are under the same condemnation as they are, who apply to the same relief to ease them of the thoughts of death. For as we always stand in the same relation to God, as he is as much the true happiness of living, as of dying men; so wisdom and holiness, and right dispositions of our minds, are always duties of the same necessity.
If it were ever lawful to forget our happiness in God, and seek for a ridiculous happiness in vain and extravagant diversions ; if it were ever proper to live in this temper, it would be equally proper to die in the same temper. For we are not upon any new terms with God at our death, nor under any
other obligations, but such as are equally necessary to make us live in his favour.
We often wonder at the worldly-mindedness, the hardness, impenitence, and insensibility of dying
But we should do well to remember, that worldly-mindedness, folly, impenitence, vanity, and insensibility, are as much to be wondered at in living, healthful men; and that they are the same odious sins, and as contrary to all sense and reason, and make us as unlike to God at one time as at another. Either therefore you must say, that plays and such like books are proper meditations for dying men; that they keep up a right turn of mind, and do not render the soul unacceptable to God; or else you must own, that they are also improper at all other times. For any thing that indulges a state of mind that is not according to the wisdom and holiness of religion, is equally unlawful at all times. Again;
do but consider your own notions that you have of plays, and you will find, that if you was consistent with yourself, you would never read them. Not only you, but the generality of readers, would think it very improper, and contrary to piety, to read plays on the Sunday. Now I would have you ask yourself, why it would be so irreligious to read these books on the Sunday? Is it because there is such a contrariety betwixt the subjects of such books, and the design of the Sunday ? Is it because they are contrary to such meditations'as we should make on that day? Is it because they are vain, and loose and profane, full of impure thoughts and wanton descriptions? There can be no possible reason given, why we may not read these books on the Sunday, but because they are thus contrary to piety. Need a Christian therefore have any other argument to persuade him to refrain from these books? Is it not a sufficient proof that they are never to be read, because they are not to be read when his mind ought to have a religious turn? Can these books be more thoroughly condemned, than by being thought too bad to be opened on the Sunday? Or need we only stay till Monday, to bevain and foolish; to put on a new temper, and take delight in such thoughts and reflexions, as we durst not touch the day before? If therefore we would be consistent with ourselves, we must either prove, that plays, and such like books, are proper meditations for pious Christians, fit for the piety and devotion of the Sunday; or else acknowledge, that they are equally unfit for their entertainment at any other time: for it is manifestly certain, that we are to indulge no temper of mind on any day, that we may not improve and delight in on the Sunday.
For to suppose that we are to have a new heart and mind on the Sunday, different from that taste and temper which we may indulge all the week, is the same folly as to suppose that we need only be