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you want, and therefore seek accomplices in sin, you would rather choose to form connections, to make bargains, and to deal with such as obey the laws of God, than with those that violate them? And amidst all the hatred and envy, which your irregularities excite against good people, is it not true, that your heart feels more veneration for wise, upright and pious people than for others, who have opposite qualities? As these are your dispositions toward others, know of a truth, they are also dispositions of others toward you. Here it is, that most men are objects of great pity. The irregularities, which seem to conduct us to the end we propose, are often the very causes of our disappointment. May I not address one of you thus ? You trample upon all laws human and divine ; you build up a fortunate house with the substance of widows and orphans, and oppressed people, and you cement it with their blood; you sell your votes; you defraud the state ; you deceive your friends ; you betray your correspondents, and after you have enriched yourself by such ways you set forth in a most pompous manner your riches, your, elegant furniture, your magnificent palaces, your superb equipages, and you think the public take you for a person of great consideration, and that every one is erecting in his heart an altar to your fortune. No such thing. You deceive yourself. Every one says in private, and some blunt people say to your face, you are a knave, you are a public blood sucker, and all your magnificence displays nothing but your crimes. May I not say to another, You affect to mount above your station by arrogant language, and mighty assumptions. You deck yourself with titles, and adorn yourself with names unknown to your ancestors. You put on a supercilious deportment, that ill assorts with the
dust which covered you the other day, and you think by these means to efface the remembrance of your origin. No such thing. You deceive yourself. Every one takes pleasure in shewing you some of your former rags to mortify your pride, and they say to one another, he is a mean genius, he is a fool, he resembles distracted men, who having persuaded themselves that they are princes, kings, emperors, call their cottage a palace, their stick a sceptre, and their domestics courtiers. May I not speak thus to a third, You are intoxicated with your own splendor, and fascinated with your own charms, you aspire at nothing less than to make all mankind your worshippers, offering incense to the idol you yourself adore, with this view you break through the bounds of law, and the decency of your sex ; your dress is vain and immodest, your conversation is loose, your deportment is indecent, and you think the world take you for a sort of goddess. No such thing. You deceive yourself. People say you have put off christian modesty, and laid aside even worldly decency, and as they judge of your private life by your public deportment, how can they think otherwise ? Fathers forbid their sons to keep your company, and mothers exhort their daughters to avoid your bad example.
3. Observe how godliness influences our fortune, by procuring us the confidence of other men, and above all by acquiring the blessing of God on our designs and undertakings. You are sometimes astonished at the alarming changes that happen in society, you are surprized to see some families decay, and others fall into absolute ruin. You cannot comprehend why some people, who held the other day the highest places in society, are now falling from that pinnacle of grandeur, and involved
in the deepest distress. Why this astonishment ? There is a providence, and though God often hides himself, though the ways of his providence are usually impenetrable, though it would be an unjust way of reasoning to say such a person is wealthy therefore he is holy, such a one is indigent therefore he is wicked, yet the Lord sometimes comes out of that darkness, in which he usually conceals himself, and raises a saint out of obscu. rity into a state of wealth and honor.
4. Consider what an influence godliness hath in our happiness by calming our passions, and by setting bounds to our desires. Our faculties are finite : but our desires are boundless. From this dispro. portion between our desires and our faculties a thousand conflicts arise, which distress and destroy the soul. Observe the labor of an ambitious man, he is obliged to sacrifice to his prince his ease, his liberty and his life; he must appear to applaud what he inwardly condemns; and he must adjust all his opinions and sentiments by the ideas of his master. See what toils worldly honor imposes on its votaries, a worldling must revenge an affront after he hath pardoned it, and to that he must expose his establishment and his fortune, he must run the risk of being obliged either to quit his coun. try, or to suffer such punishment as the law inflicts on those, who take that sword into their own hands, which God hath put into the hand of the magistrate, he must stab the person he loves, the person who loves him, and who offended him more through inadvertance than animosity: he must stifle all the suggestions, which conscience urges against a man, who ventures his salvation on the precarious success of a duel, and who by so doing braves all the horrors of hell. Above all, what is the condition of a heart, with what cruel alternatives is it racked
and torn, when it is occupied by two passions, which oppose and counteract each other. Take ambition and avarice for an example; for, my brethren, the heart of man is sometimes the seat of two opposite tyrants, each of whom hath views and interests different from the other. Avarice says keep, ambition says give, avarice says hold fast, ambition says give up. Avarice says retire, ambition says go abroad., Ambition combats avarice, avarice combats ambition, each by turns distresses the heart, and if it groans under tyranny, whether avarice or ambition be the tyrant is indifferent. The pleasure of seeing one passion reign is always poisoned by the pain of seeing the other subdued. They resemble that woman, whose twin children struggled together within her, and who said during the painful sensations, if it must be so, why was 1 a mother?
Piety prevents these fatal effects, it maketh us content with the condition, in which providence hath placed us: it doth more, it teacheth us to be happy in any condition, how mean soever it may be. I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content :- I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Every where and in all things I am instructed, both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need, Phil. iv. 11, 12
5. Consider the peace, which piety diffuseth in the conscience. The prosperity of those, who desire to free themselves from conscience, is such as to make them miserable in the midst of their greatest success. What pleasure can a man enjoy, who cannot bear to be one moment alone; a man, who needs perpetual dissipation to hide from himself his real condition; a man, who cannot reflect upon the past without remorse, think of the present
without confusion, or the future without despair; a man who carries within himself that obstinate reprover, on whom he cannot impose silence ; a man, who already feels the worm that dieth not gnawing him; a man, who sees in the midst of his most jovial festivals the writing of a mans' hand, which he cannot read, but which his conscience most faithfully and terribly interprets; I ask what pleasure can such a man enjoy ?
Godliness not only frees us from these torments, but it communicates joy into every part of the pious man's life. If the believer be in prosperity, he considers it as an effect of the goodness of God, the governor of this universe, and as a pledge of blessings reserved for him in another world. If he be in adversity, indeed he considers it as a chastisement coming from the hand of a wise and tender parent : and the same may be said of every other condition.
6. In fine consider how piety influences the happiness of life, by the assurance it gives us of a safe, if not a comfortable death. There is not a single moment in life, in which it is not possible we should die, consequently there is not one instant, that may not be unhappy, if we be not in a condition to die well. While we are destitute of this assurance, we live in perpetual trouble and agitation, we see the sick, we meet funeral processions, we attend the dying, and all these different objects become motives of horror and pain. It is only when we are prepared to die well, that we bid defiance to winds and waves, fires and shipwrecks, and that, by opposing to all these perilous casualties the hope of a happy death, we every where experience the joy, with which it inspires such as wait for it.
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