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upon himself, as a disciple of Christ, who is not thus far advanced in piety. Yet it is purely for want of this degree of piety, that you see such a mixture of sin and folly in the lives even of the better sort of people. It is for want of this intention, that you see men, that profess religion, yet live in swearing and sensuality; that you see clergymen, given to pride and covetousness, and worldly enjoyments. It is for want of this intention, that you see women, that profess devotion, yet living in all the folly and vanity of dress, wasting their time in idleness and pleasure, and in all such instances of state and equipage, as their estates will reach. For let a woman feel her heart full of this intention, and she will find it as impossible, to patch or paint, as to curse or swear; she will no more desire to shine at balls and assemblies, or make a figure among those, that are finely dressed, than she will desire to dance upon a rope, to please spectators. She will know that the one is as far from the wisdom and excellency of the Christian spirit, as the other. It was this general intention, that made the pri mitive Christians such eminent instances of piety; that made the goodly fellowship of the saints, and all the glorious army of martyrs and confessors. If you will here stop and ask yourself, why you are not as pious as the primitive Christians were; your own heart will tell you, that it is neither through ignorance, nor inability; but purely, because you never thoroughly intended it. You observe the same Sunday-worship, they did; and are strict in it, because it is your full intention, to be so; and, when you as fully intend to be like them in their ordinary life; when you intend to please God in all your actions; you will find it as possible, as to be strictly exact in the service of the church. When you have this intention, to please God in all your actions; you will find in you as great an aversion to every thing, that is vain and impertinent in common life, as you now have to any thing, that is profane. You will be as fearful of living in any foolish way, of spending your time or your fortune, as you are now fearful of neglecting the public worship.
Who, that wants this sincere intention, can be reckoned a Christian? Yet, if it were among Christians, it would change the face of the world; true piety and exemplary holiness would be as common and visible, as buying and selling, or any trade in life.
Let a clergyman be thus pious; and he will converse, as if he had been brought up by an apostle; he will no more talk of noble preferment, than of noble eating or a glorious chariot. He will no more complain of the frowns of the world, or a small cure, or the want of a patron, than of the want of a laced coat, or a running horse. Let him intend to please God in all his actions; and he will know that there is nothing noble in a clergyman, but burning zeal for the salvation of souls; nor any thing poor in his profession, but idleness and a worldly spirit.
Let a tradesman have this intention, and it will make him a saint in his shop; his every day business will be a course of wise and reasonable actions, made holy to God, by being done in obedience to his will. He will buy and sell, labor and travel, because by so doing he can do some good to himself and others. But as nothing can please God, but what is wise, and reasonable, and holy; so he will neither buy, nor sell, nor labor in any other manner, nor to any other end; but such, as may be shown to be wise, and reasonable, and holy. He will therefore consider, not what arts, or methods, or application, will soonest make him richer, than his brethren, or remove him from a shop to a life of state and pleasure; but he will consider, what methods, what application will make worldly business most acceptable to God, and a life of trade a life of holiness, devotion, and piety. This will be the temper and spirit of every tradesman; he cannot stop short of these degrees of piety, whenever it is his intention, to please God in all his actions.
On the other hand, whoever is not of this spirit and temper in his trade and profession, and does not carry it on only so far, as is subservient to a holy and heavenly life; it is certain, that he has not this intention; and yet, with'out it, who can be shown to be a follower of Jesus Christ?
Again, let the gentleman of birth and fortune have this intention; and you will see, how it will carry him from every appearance of evil, to every instance of piety and goodness.
He cannot live, as humor and fancy carry him; because he knows that nothing can please God, but a wise and regular course of life. He cannot live in idleness and indulgence, in sports and gaming, in pleasures and intemperance; because these things cannot be made so many parts of a wise and religious life.
As he thus removes from all appearance of evil, so he aspires after every instance of goodness. He does not ask, what is allowable and pardonable; but what is commendable and praise-worthy. He does not ask, whether God will forgive the folly of our lives, the madness of our pleasures, the vanity of our expenses, the richness of our equipage, and the careless consumption of our time; but whether God is pleased with these things. He does not inquire, whether it be pardonable, to hoard up money to adorn ourselves, and gild our chariots, while the widow and the orphan, the sick and the prisoner, want to be relieved; but he asks, whether God has required these things at our hands; whether we shall be called to account at the last day for the neglect of them; because it is not his intent, to live in such ways, as God may perhaps pardon; but to be diligent in such ways, as we know God will reward.
He will not therefore look at the lives of Christians, to learn, how he ought to spend his estate; but he will look into the Scriptures, and make every doctrine, parable, precept, or instruction, that relates to rich men, a law to himself in the use of his estate.
He will have nothing to do with costly apparel; because the rich man in the Gospel was clothed with purple and fine linen. He denies himself the pleasures and indulgences, which his estate could procure; because our blessed Saviour saith, Wo unto you, that are rich; for have received your consolation. He will have but one rule for charity; and that will be, to spend all, that he can, that way; because the judge of quick and dead hath said, that all so given, is given to him.
He will have no hospitable table for the rich, to come and feast with him; because our blessed Lord saith, When thou makest a dinner; call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompense be made thee.
But, when thou makest a feast; call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind; and thou shalt be blessed. For they cannot recompense thee, for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.
He will waste no money in gilded roofs or costly furniture. He will not be carried from pleasure to pleasure in expensive state; because an inspired apostle hath said, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
Let not any one look on this, as an imaginary description of charity, that cannot be put in practice. For it is so far from being an imaginary, impracticable form of life, that it has been practised by great numbers of Christians in former ages, who were glad to turn their whole estates into a constant course of charity. It is so far from being impossible now, that, if we can find any Christians, that sincerely intend to please God in all their actions; it will be impossible for them to do otherwise. This one principle will infallibly carry them to this height of charity, and they will find themselves unable to stop short of it.
For how is it possible for a man, that intends to please God in the use of his money, in such a state of mind, to waste his money in impertinent finery, in covering himself or his horses with gold, while there are any works of piety and charity to be done, or any way of spending it well?
This is as strictly impossible, as for a man that intends to please God in his words, to go into company on purpose to swear and lie. For as all unreasonable expense is done with deliberation; so no one can be guilty of it, whose constant intention is, to please God in the use of his money.
I have chosen to explain this matter by appealing to this intention; because it makes the case plain, and be
cause every one may see it in the clearest light, and feel it in the strongest manner, only by looking into his own heart. For it is as easy for every person to know, whether he intends to please God in all his actions, as for a servant to know, whether this be his intention toward his master. Every one also can as easily tell, how he lays out his money, and whether he considers, how to please God in it; as he can tell, where his estate is, and whether it be in money or land. So that here is no plea left for ignorance or frailty, as to this matter; every body is in the light, and every body has power. No one can fall, but he, that is not so much a Christian, as to intend to please God in the use of his estate.
You see two persons, one is regular in public and pri vate prayer, the other is not. Now the reason of this difference is not this, that one has strength and power to observe prayer, and the other has not; but the reason is this, that one intends to please God in the duties of devotion, and the other has no intention about it. Now the case is the same in the right or wrong use of our time and money. You see one person, throwing away his time in sleep and idleness, in visiting and diversions, and his money in vain and unreasonable expenses. You see another, careful of every day, dividing his hours by rules of reason and religion, and spending all his money in works of charity; now the difference is not owing to this, that one has strength and power to do thus, and the other has not; but it is owing to this, that one intends to please God in the right use of all his time and all his money, and the other has no intention about it.
Here therefore let us judge ourselves sincerely; let us not vainly content ourselves with the common disorders of our lives, the vanity of our expenses, the folly of our diversions, the pride of our habits, the idleness of our lives, and the wasting of our time; fancying that these are such imperfections, as we fall into through the unavoidable weakness and frailty of our natures; but let us be assured, that these disorders of our common life are owing to this, that we have not so much christianity, as to intend to please God in all the actions of our life. So