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we might forget ourselves, or forget God; if we might disregard our reason, and live by humor and fancy in any thing, or at any time, or in any place ; it would be as lawful to do the same in every thing, at every time, and every place.
If, therefore, some people fancy that they must be grave and solemn at church, but may be silly and frantic at home; that they must live by some rule on the Sunday, but may spend other days by chance ; that they must have some times of prayer, but may waste the rest of their time, as they please ; that they must give some money in charity, but may squander away the rest, as they have a mind; such people have not enough considered the nature of religion, or the true reasons of piety.
For he, that upon principles of reason), can tell why it is good to be wise and heavenly minded at church; can tell that it's always desirable, to have the same tempers in all other places. He, that truly knows, why he should spend any time well; knows that it is never allowable to throw any time away. He, that rightly understands the reasonableness and excellency of charity ; will know, that it can never be excusable, to waste any of our money in pride and folly, or in any needless expense.
For every argument, that shows the wisdom and excellency of charity, proves the wisdom of spending all our fortune well. Every argument, that proves the wisdom and reasonableness of having times of prayer; shows the wisdom and reasonableness of losing none of our time.
If any one could show, that we need not always act, as in the divine presence ; that we need not consider and use every thing, as the gift of God; that we need not always live by reason, and make religion the rule of all our actions; the same arguments would show, that we need never act, as in the presence of God; nor make religion and reason the measure of any of our actions.
If, therefore, we are to live unto God at any time, or in any place ; we are to live unto him at all times, and all places. If we are to use any thing, as the gift of God ; we are to use every thing, as his gift. If we are to do any thing by strict rules of reason and piety; we ought
to do every thing in the same manner.
Because reason, and wisdom, and piety are as much the best things at all times, and in all places, as at any time, or in any place.
If it is our glory and happiness, to have a rational nature, that is capable of imitating the divine nature; then it must be our glory and happiness, to improve our reason and wisdom; to act up to the excellency of our rational nature, and to imitate God in all our actions, to the utmost of our power. They therefore, who confine religion to times and places, and some little rules of retirement; who think that it is being too strict and rigid to introduce religion into common life, and make it give law to all their actions ; they, who think thus, mistake the whole nature of religion. For surely they mistake the whole nature of religion, who can think any part of their life is made more easy, for being free from it.
They may well be said to mistake the whole nature of wisdom, who don't think it desirable to be always wise. He has not learnt the nature of piety, who thinks it too much to be pious in all his actions. He does not sufficiently understand, what reason is, who does not earnestly desire to live in every thing according to it.
If we had a religion, that consisted in absurd superstitions ; that had no regard to the perfection of our pature ; people might well be glad to have some part of their life excused from it. But, as the religion of the Gospel, is the refinement and exaltation of our best faculties; as it only requires a life of the highest reason; as it only requires us to use this world, as in reason it ought to be used ; to live in such tempers, as are the glory of intelligent beings; to walk in such wisdom, as exalts our nature; and to practise such piety, as will raise us to God; who can think it grievous, to live always in the spirit of such a religion ; to have every part of his life full of it; but he, that would think it much more grievous to be, as the angels of God in heaven?
Farther, as God is one and the same Being, always acting suitably to his own nature ; so it is the duty of every being, that he has created, to live according to the nature, he has given it,
It is therefore an immutable law of God, that all rational beings act reasonably in all their actions ; not at this time, or in that place, or upon this occasion, or in the use of some particular thing ; but at all times, in all places, on all occasions, and in the use of all things. This law is as unchangeable, as God; and can no more cease to be, than God can cease to be.
When, therefore, any being, that is endued with reason, does an unreasonable thing ; it sins against the great law of its nature, and against God the author of that nature.
They, therefore, who plead for indulgences and vanities; for any foolish fashions, customs, and humors of the world; for the inisuse of time or money ; plead for rebellion against our nature, for a rebellion against God, who has given us reason for no other end, than to make it the rule and measure of all our ways of life.
When, therefore, you are guilty of any folly or extravagance, or indulge any vain temper ; don't consider it, as a small matter, because it may seem so, if compared to some other sins; but consider it, as it is, acting contrary to your nature, and then you will see that there is nothing small, that is unreasonable. Because all unreasonable ways are contrary to the nature of all rational beings, whether men or angels. Neither of which can be any longer agreeable to God, than so far as they act according to the reason and excellence of their nature.
The infirmities of human life make such food and raiment necessary for us, as angels do not want; but then it is no more allowable for us, to turn these necessities into follies, and indulge ourselves in the luxury of food, or the vanities of dress, than it is allowable for angels, to act below the dignity of their proper state.-For a reasonable life, and a wise use of our proper condition, is as much the duty of all men, as it is the duty of all angels and intelligent beings. These are not speculative flights, or imaginary notions, but plain and undeniable laws, founde the nature of rational beings, who, as such, are obliged to live by reason, and glorify God by
a continual right use of their several faculties. So that, though men are not angels ; yet they may know for what ends, and by what rules men are to live and act, by considering the state and perfection of angels. Our blessed Saviour has plainly turned our thoughts this way, by making this petition a constant part of all our prayers, Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.
A plain proof, that the obedience of men, is to imitate the obedience of angels ; and that rational beings on earth, are to live unto God, as rational beings in heaven live unto him.
When, therefore, you would represent to your mind, how Christians ought to live unto God, and in what degrees of wisdom and holiness they ought to use the things of this life; you must not look at the world, but you must look up to God and the society of angels, and think, what wisdom and holiness is fit to prepare you for such a state of glory; you must look to the highest precepts of the gospel; you must examine yourself by the spirit of Christ; you must think, how the wisest men in the world have lived; you must think, how departed souls would live, if they were again to act the short part of human life ; you must think, what degrees of wisdom and holiness you will wish for, when you are leaving the world.
Now this is not overstraining the matter, or proposing to ourselves any needless perfection. It is but barely complying with the apostle's advice, where he says, Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true; whatsoever things are just ; whatsoever things are pure ; whatsoever things are of good report ; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise ; think on these things. one can come near the doctrine of this passage, but he, that proposes to himself to do every thing in this life, as a servant of God; to live by reason in every thing, he does; and to make the wisdom and holiness of the Gospel, the rule and measure of his desiring and using every gift of God.
Containing the great obligations, and advantages of making
a wise and religious use of our estates.
As Christianity consecrates all states and employments of life unto God; as it requires us to aspire after universal obedience, doing and using every thing, as servants of God; so are we more especially obliged to observe this religious exactness in the use of our estates.
The reason of this would appear very plain, if we were only to consider, that our estate is as much the gift of God, as our eyes, or hands; and is no more to be thrown away at pleasure, than we are to put out our eyes, as we please.
But beside this consideration, there are several other important reasons, why we should be religiously exact in the use of our estates.
First, Because the manner of using our money, or spending our estate, enters so far into the business of every day, and makes so great a part of our common life, that our common life must be much of the same nature, as our common way of spending our estate. If reason and religion govern us in this ; then reason and religion hath got great hold of us ; but, if humor, pride, and fancy, are the measures of spending our estates; then humour, pride, and fancy, will have the direction of the greatest part of our life.
Secondly, Another reason for devoting all our estate to right uses, is this, it is capable of being used to the most excellent purposes, and is so great a mean of doing good. If we waste it, we don't waste a trifle but waste that, which might be made, as eyes to the blind, as a husband to the widow, as a father to the orphan; we waste that, which not only enables us to minister worldly comforts to those, who are in distress; but that,