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than to break them; the life of a good man, in all considerable respects, is highly to be preferred above the life of a bad man: for what is virtue, but a way of living that advanceth our nature into a similitude with God's most excellent and happy nature; that promoteth our true benefit and interest ; that procureth and preserveth health, ease, safety, liberty, peace, comfortable subsistence, fair repute, tranquillity of mind, all kinds of convenience to us? To what ends did our most benign and most wise Maker design and suit his law, but to the furthering our good, and securing us from mischief, as not only himself hath declared, but reason showeth, and experience doth attest? What is vice, but a sort of practice which debaseth and disparageth us, which plungeth us into grievous evils, which bringeth distemper of body and soul, distress of fortune, danger, trouble, reproach, regret, and numberless inconveniences on us; which, for no other reason than because it so hurteth and grieveth us, was by our loving Creator interdicted to us? Virtue is most noble and worthy, most lovely, most profitable, most pleasant, most creditable; vice is most sordid and base, ugly, hurtful, bitter, disgraceful in itself and in its consequences. If we compare them together, we shall find that virtue doth always preserve our health, but vice commonly doth impair it; that virtue improveth our estate, vice wasteth it; that virtue adorneth our reputation, vice blemisheth it; that virtue strengtheneth our parts, vice weakeneth them ; that virtue maintaineth our freedom, vice enslaveth us; that virtue keepeth our mind in orderand peace, vice discomposeth and disquieteth it; virtue breedeth satisfaction and joy, vice spawneth displeasure and anguish of conscience: to enter therefore into a virtuous course of life, what is it but to embrace happiness ? to continue in vicious practice, what is it but to stick in misery?
By entering into good life, we enter into the favor and friendship of God, engaging his infinite power and wisdom for our protection, our succor, our direction, and guidance; enjoying the sweet effluxes of his mercy and bounty; we therewith become friends to the holy angels and blessed saints ; to all good men, being united in a holy and happy consortship of judgment, of charity, of hope, of devotion with them : we become friends to all the world, which we oblige by good wishes, and
good deeds, and by the influence of good example: we become friends to ourselves, whom we thereby enrich and adorn with the best goods; whom we gratify and please with the choicest delights: but persisting in sin, we continue to affront, wrong, and displease our Maker, to be disloyal toward our sovereign Lord, to be ingrateful toward our chief benefactor, to disoblige the best friend we have, to provoke a most just and severe judge, to cope with omnipotency, to contradict infallibility, to enrage the greatest patience, to abuse immense goodness : we thereby become enemies to all the world; to God, whom we injure and dishonor; to the friends of God, whom we desert and oppose; to the creatures, which we abuse to our pride, lust, and vanity; to our neighbors, whom we corrupt or seduce; to ourselves, whom we bereave of the best goods, and betray to the worst evils.
Beginning to live soberly, we begin to live like men, following the conduct of reason ; beginning to live in charity, we commence the life of angels, enjoying in ourselves most sweet content, and procuring great benefit to others; but going on in sinful voluptuousness, we proceed to live like beasts, wholly guided by sense, and swayed by appetite; being pertinacious in malice, we continue to be like fiends, working torment in ourselves, and mischief to our neighbors.
Embracing virtue, we become wise and sober men, worthy and honorable, beneficial and useful to the world; but continuing in vice, we continue to be foolish and vain, to be vile and despicable, to be worthless and useless.
By our delay to amend, what do we gain? what, but a little flashy and transient pleasure, instead of a solid and durable peace; but a little counterfeit profit, instead of real wealth; but a little smoke of deceitful opinion, instead of unquestionably sound honor ; shadows of imaginary goods, instead of those which are most substantial and true, a good mind, the love of God, the assured welfare of our souls. But this field of discourse is too spacious; I shall only therefore for conclusion say, that speedily applying ourselves to obedience, and breaking off our sins by repentance, is in effect nothing else but, from a present hell in trouble, and the danger of a final bell in
a torment, to be translated into a double heaven; one of joyful tranquillity here, another of blissful rest hereafter; unto the which Almighty God in his mercy bring us all, through Jesus Christ our Lord; to whom for ever be all glory and praise. Amen.
• The very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body, be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
SUMMARY OF SERMON L.
ECCLESIASTES, CHAP. IX.-VERSE 10.
GENERAL observations on the virtue of industry. By industry is understood a steady application of mind, with a vigorous exercise of our active faculties, in prosecution of some honest design, and for the accomplishment of some considerable good. Industry does not consist in action only, for that is incessant in all persons, our mind being a restless thing; but in the direction of our mind to some good end, in a strait and steady course, drawing after it our active powers: this point enlarged on.
To the practice of this virtue the following considerations may conduce:
1. We may consider that industry befits the constitution and frame of our nature ; all the faculties of our soul, and all the organs of our body being adapted thereto : our hands are suited for work, or feet for travel, &c.
2. In consequence hereto industry preserves and perfects our nature, keeping it in good tune and temper, improving and advancing it towards its best state : this explained both in the labor of the mind, and that of the body.
3. As we naturally were composed, so by divine appointment we were designed for industry. God did not intend that man should live idly in Paradise, but provided work for him even there.
4. By our transgression and fall, the necessity of industry, together with a difficulty of obtaining good and avoiding evil, was increased to us, as a punishment for our offences, and a remedy of our needs.
5. Accordingly our condition and circumstances in the world are so ordered, as to require industry ; so that without it we cannot support our life in any comfort or convenience : this topic enlarged on.
6. Let us consider that to industry is annexed, by divine appointment and promise, the fairest fruits and the richest rewards. All good things are the gifts of God; but he does not give them absolutely without conditions ; nor miraculously without the concurrence of ordinary means : nor could he well proceed otherwise in dispensing his favors to us, that is, without subverting the method of things which he himself has established: hence it is that what in parts of holy Scripture is called the gift of God, is in other places affirmed to be the effect of industry : hence also whatever we are directed to pray for, we are also exborted to work for.
Hence, although we should cast our care on God, and rely on his providence, yet we must not tempt him by neglecting the means which he offers of relieving ourselves, &c. In fine, it is plain from experience and from Scripture, that the Almighty holds forth all good things as the prizes and recompenses of our vigilant care and painful endeavors; which we may discern in particulars.
Nothing, for example, is more grateful to men than prosperous success in their undertakings, whereby they attain their ends, and satisfy their desires, &c. : and this commonly is the effect of industry, indeed is scarcely ever known without it: an industrious person can hardly fail of compassing his designs, because he will apply all means requisite, and bend all his forces thereto, striving to break through all difficulties and to subdue all opposition that thwarts his purposes : so the wise man says, the soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing ; but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat.