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nour God. He also on whom God hath bestowed wit and parts, if he employ them not so much in contriving projects to advance his own petty interests, or in procuring vain applause to himself, as in advantageously setting forth God's praise, handsomely recommending goodness, dexterously engaging men in ways of virtue, he doth thereby remarkably honour God. He likewise that hath honour conferred upon him, if he subordinate it to God's honour, if he use his own credit as an instrument of bringing credit to goodness, thereby adorning and illustrating piety, he by so doing doth eminently practise this duty.
EFFECT OF EXAMPLE.
WHAT extreme advantage great persons have, especially by the influence of their practice, to bring God himself, as it were, into credit! how much it is in their power easily to render piety a thing in fashion and request! for in what they do they never are alone, or are ill attended; whither they go, they carry the world along with them; they lead crowds of people after them, as well when they go in the right way, as when they run astray. The custom of living well, no less than other modes and garbs, will be soon conveyed and propagated from the court; the city and country will readily draw good manners thence, good manners truly so called, not only superficial forms of civility, but real practices of goodness. For the main body of
men goeth not " quâ eundem, sed quâ itur," not according to rules and reasons, but after examples and authorities; especially of great persons, who are like stars, shining in high and conspicuous places, by which men steer their course; their actions are to be reckoned not as single or solitary ones, but are, like their persons, of a public and representative nature, involving the practice of others, who are by them awed, or shamed into compliance. Their good example especially hath this advantage, that men can find no excuse, can have no pretence why they should not follow it. Piety is not only beautified, but fortified by their dignity; it not only shines on them with a clear lustre, but with a mightier force and influence; a word, a look, the least intimation from them will do more good, than others' best eloquence, clearest reason, most earnest endeavours. For it is in them, if they would apply themselves to it, as the wisest prince implies, to "scatter iniquity with their eyes." A smile of theirs were able to enliven virtue, and diffuse it all about; a frown might suffice to mortify and dissipate wickedness. Such apparently is their power of honouring God; and in proportion thereto surely great is their obligation to do it; of them peculiarly God expects it, and all equity exacts it.
Is a man prosperous, high, or wealthy in condition? Piety guardeth him from all the mischiefs incident to that state, and disposeth him to enjoy the best advantages thereof. It keepeth him from being swelled and puffed up with vain conceit, from being transported with fond complaisance or confidence therein; minding him that it is purely the gift of God, that it absolutely dependeth on his disposal, so that it may soon be taken from him, and that he cannot otherwise than by humility, by gratitude, by the good use of it, be secure to retain it; minding him also, that he shall assuredly be forced to render a strict account concerning the good management thereof. It preserveth him from being perverted or corrupted with the temptations to which that condition is most liable; from luxury, from sloth, from stupidity, from forgetfulness of God, and of himself; maintaining among the floods of plenty a sober and steady mind. It fenceth him from insolence, and fastuous contempt of others;
*Serm. xi. p. 12.
In the Profitableness of Goodness, the object of which is to prove that piety,—
1st. It disposes all men properly to discharge their peculiar duties.
2nd. Fits men for all conditions.
3rd. Is the greatest of all blessings.
4th. Is immutable.
The above extract is from art. 2.
rendereth him civil, condescensive, kind and helpful to those who are in a meaner state. It instructeth and inciteth him to apply his wealth and power to the best uses, to the service of God, to the benefit of his neighbour for his own best reputation, and most solid comfort. It is the right ballast of prosperity, the only antidote for all the inconveniences of wealth; that which secureth, sweeteneth and sanctifieth all other goods: without it all apparent goods are very noxious, or extremely dangerous; riches, power, honour, ease, pleasure, are so many poisons or so many snares without it. Again, is a man poor and low in the world? Piety doth improve and sweeten even that state; it keepeth his spirits up above dejection, desperation, and disconsolateness: it freeth him from all grievous solicitude and anxiety: shewing him, that although he seemeth to have little, yet he may be assured to want nothing, he having a certain succour, and never-failing supply from God's good Providence; that notwithstanding the present straitness of his condition, or scantiness of outward things, he hath a title to goods infinitely more precious and more considerable. A pious man cannot but apprehend himself like the child of a most wealthy, kind, and careful father, who although he hath yet nothing in his own possession, or passing under his name, yet is assured that he can never come into any want of what is needful to him: the Lord of all things (who hath all things in heaven and earth at his disposal, who is infinitely tender of his children's good, who doth
incessantly watch over them) being his gracious Father, how can he fear to be left destitute, or not to be competently provided for, as is truly best for him? What if a man seem very poor; if he be abundantly satisfied in his own possessions and enjoyments? what if he tasteth not the pleasures of sense; if he enjoyeth purer and sweeter delights of mind? what if tempests of fortune surround him; if his mind be calm and serene? what if we have few or no friends; if he yet be thoroughly in peace and amity with himself, and can delightfully converse with his own thoughts? what if men slight, censure, or revile him; if he doth value his own state, doth approve his own actions, doth acquit himself of blame in his own conscience? such external contingencies can surely no more prejudice a man's real happiness, than winds blustering abroad can harm or trouble him that abideth in a good room within doors, than storms and fluctuations at sea can molest him who standeth firm upon the shore.*
PLEASURES OF PIETY.
WHAT have we to do but to eat and drink, like horses or like swine; but to sport and play like children or apes; but to bicker and scuffle about trifles and impertinences, like idiots? what, but to