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luke-warm christians as practise the duties of religion in substance, but do so with a coldness, that sinks the value of the service. They can hear the afflictions of the church narrated without emotions and see a confused heap of stones, sad remains of houses consecrated to our God, without favoring the dust thereof, according to the expression of the scripture. They can see the dimensions of the love of God measured, the breadth, and length, and depth, and height, without feel. ing the last warmth from the ardor and flame of so vehement a love. They can be present at the offering of one of those lively, tender, fervent prayers, which God Almighty himself condescends to hear and answer, and for the sake of which he forgives crimes and averts judgment, without entering at all into the spirit of these subjects. Such men as these require persuasion, compulsion and power to force them.
A man, who truly loves God, hath sentiments of zeal and fervor. Observe David, see his joy before the ark: neither the royal grandeur, nor the prophetical gravity, nor the gazing of the populace, nor the reproaches of an interested wife, could cool his zeal. Observe Elijah, I have been, said he, very jealous for the Lord God of hosts : for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine alters, and slain thy prophets with the sword, and I even I only am left, and they seek my life to take it away, 1. Kings xix. 10. Behold good Eli, the frost of fourscore could not chill the ardor that inflamed him. What is there done, my son ? said he to the unwelcome messenger, who came to inform him of the defeat of his army, the messenger replied, Israel is fed before the Philistines, and there hath also been a great slaughter among the people, and thy two sons also,
Hophni and Phinehas are dead: Thus far he supported himself: But when the man went on to say, The ark of God is taken, instantly, on hearing that the ark was gone, he fell backward, he could not survive the loss of that august symbol of the divine presence, but died with grief. Observe Nehemiah, to whom his royal master put the question, Why is thy countenance sad? said he, Why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my father's sepulchres lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire ? chap. i. 2, &c. Consider St. Paul, We glory in tribulations, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us, Rom. v. 3, 5.
Do you imagine you truly love God, while you have only languid emotions toward him, and while you reserve all your activity and fire for the world. There is between God and a believer a tender and affectionate intercourse. Godliness hath its festivals and exuberances. Flesh and blood ! Ye, that cannot inherit the kingdom of God, 1 Cor. xv. 50. ye impure ideas of concupiscence, depart, be gone far away from our imaginations ! There is a time, in which the mystical spouse faints, and utters such exclamations as these, I sleep, but my heart waketh. Set me as a seal upon thy heart, as a a seal upon thine arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is cruel as the grave, the coals thereof. are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it, Cant. v. 2.
These are some characters of piety. Let us go on to examine the advantages of it.
II. Our apostle says godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.
There is an enormous difference between these two sorts of blessings. The blessings of the life to come are so far superior to the blessing of the present life, that when we can assure ourselves of the first, we ought to give ourselves very little concern about the last.
To add one little drop of water to the boundless ocean, and to add a temporal blessing to the immense felicities, which happy spirits enjoy in the other life, is almost the same thing. St. Paul tells us, that the idea of the life to come so absorbs the idea of the present life, that to consider these two objects in this point of view, his eyes could hardly get sight of the one, it was so very diminutive, and his mind reckoned the whole as nothing: Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we look not at the things which are seen, which are temporal, but at the things which are not seen, which are eternal, 2 Cor. iv. 17. 18.
Few imitate this apostle. The present, because it is present, and in spite of its rapidity, fixes our eyes, becomes a wall between us and eternity, and prevents our perceiving it. We should make many more converts to virtue, could we prove that it would render mankind happy here below, but we cannot change the order of things. Jesus Christ and his apostles have told us, that in the world we shall have tribulation and that all, that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution, John xvi. 33. 2 Tim. jii. 12. However it is true, that even here piety procures pleasures, which usually surpass all those of worldly people: at least, which are sufficient to support us in a road leading to eternal happiness.
1. Consider first how piety influences our health. Our bodies decay, I allow, by numberless means.
Death enters them by the air we breathe, and by the elements that support them, and whatever contributes to make them live contributes at the same time to make them die. Let us allow, my brethren, that most maladies take their rise in such excesses as the law of God condemns. How can a man devoured with ambition, avarice and vengeance, a man whose passions keep him in perpetual agitations, depriving him of peace, and robbing him of sleep: how can he, who passes whole nights and days in gaming, animated with the desire of gaining the money of his neighbor, tortur-' ed by turns with the hope of a fortune, and the fear of a bankruptcy: how can he, who drowns himself in wine, or overcharges himself with gluttony : how can he, who abandons himself without a curb to excessive lewdness, and who makes every thing serve his voluptuousness: how is it possible for people of these kinds to expect a firm and lasting health. , Godliness is a bar to all these disorders, the fear of the Lord prolongeth days: it is a fountain of life to guard us from the snares of death, Prov. x. 27. and xii. 27. If then it be true that health is an invaluable treasure, if it be that, which ought to hold the first rank among the blessings of life, if without it all others are of no value, it is as certain that without love to the law of God we cannot enjoy much pleasure in life.
The force of this reflection is certainly very little felt in the days of youth and vigor, for then we usually consider these as eternal advantages, which nothing can alter : but when old age comes, when by continual languors, and by exquisite pains, men expiate the disorders of an irregular life, then that fear of God is respected, which teaches us to prevent them. Ye martyrs of concupiscence, ye victims of voluptuousness, you, who formerly tast
ed the pleasures of sin, and are now thoroughly feeling the horrors of it, and who in consequence of your excesses are already given up to an anticipated hell, do you serve us for demonstration, and example. You are become knowing by experience, now teach our youth how beneficial it is to lead a regular life in their first years, and as your intemperance has offended the church, let the pains you endure serve to restrain such as are weak enough to imitate your bad examples. Those trembling hands, that shaking head, those disjointed knees, that extinguished resolution, that feeble memory, that worn out brain, that body all infection and putrefaction, these are the dreadful rewards, which the devil bestows on those, on whom he is preparing himself shortly to exercise all his fury and rage. On this article then, instead of saying with the profane, what profit is it to keep the ordinances of God, and to walk mournfully before the Lord of hosts? Mal. ii. 14. We ought to say with St. Paul, What fruit had ye then in those things, whereof ye are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death, Rom. vi. 21.
2. Consider next how piety influences our reputation. I am aware, that worldly men by decrying piety endeavor to avenge themselves for the want of courage to practise it. I am aware, too, that practise wickedness as much, as often, and as far as ever we can, we shall always find ourselves in a circle of companions like ourselves. But after all, it is however indisputable, that good people usually acquire the respect of such as have not the landable ambition of imitating them. I appeal only. to your own conscience. Is it not true, that, even while you are gratifying your own passions, you cannot help admiring such as subdue theirs ? Is it not true, that, except on some occasions, in which