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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 shew, 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 they are the best things at any time, or in any place.
If it is our glory and happiness to have a rational nature, that is endued with wisdom and reason, 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 powThey 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 laws to all their actions and ways of living, they who think thus, not only mistake, but they 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 nature, people might well be glad to have some part of their life excused from it. But as the religion of the Gospel is only 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 like himself and suitably to his own nature, so it is the duty of every being that he has created, to live according to the nature that he has given it, and always to act like itself.
It is therefore an immutable law of God, that all rational beings should 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, at all occasions, and in the use of all things. This is a law that is as unchangeable as God, and can no more cease to be, than God can cease to be a God of wisdom and order.
When therefore any being that is endued with reason does an unreasonable thing at any time, or in any place, or in the use of any thing, it sins against the great law of its nature, abuses itself, and sins against God the author of that nature.
They therefore, who plead for indulgencies and vanities, for any foolish fashions, customs and humours of the world, for the misuse of our time or money, plead for a 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 are plain and undeniable laws, that are founded in 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 talents and 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 all 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 all this is not over-straining 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 it
there be any praise, think on these things. Phil. iv. 8. For no 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 that 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 the great advantages of making a wise and religious use of our estates and fortunes.
AS the holiness of Christianity consecrates all states and employments of life unto God, as it requires us to aspire after an universal obedience, doing and using every thing as the servants of God, so are we more especially obliged to observe this religious exactness, in the use of our estates and fortunes.
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 our hands, and is no more to be buried, or thrown away at pleasure, than we are to put out our eyes, or throw away our limbs, as we please.
But besides this consideration, there are several other great and important reasons, why we should be religiously exact in the use of our estates.
First, Because the manner of using our money, 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 humour, pride and fancy, are the measures of our spending our estates, then humour, pride and fancy, will have the direction of the greatest part of our life.
Secondly, Another great reason for devoting all our
estate to right uses, is this, because it is capable of being used to the most excellent purposes, and is so great a means of doing good. If we waste it, we don't waste a trifle, that signifies little, but we 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 which might purchase for ourselves everlasting treasures in heaven. So that if we part with our money in foolish ways, we part with a great power of comforting our fellow-creatures, and of making ourselves forever blessed.
If there be nothing so glorious as doing good, if there is nothing that makes us so like to God, then nothing can be so glorious in the use of our money, as to use it all in works of love and goodness, making ourselves friends, fathers, benefactors, to all our fellow-creatures, imitating the divine love, and turning all our power into acts of generosity, care and kindness, to such as are in need of it.
If a man had eyes, and hands, and feet, that he could give to those who wanted them; if he should either lock them up in a chest, or please himself with some needless or ridiculous use of them, instead of giving them to his brethren who were blind and lame, should we not justly reckon him an inhuman wretch? If he should rather choose to amuse himself with furnishing his house with those things, than to entitle himself to an eternal reward, by giving them to those that wanted eyes and hands, might we not justly reckon him mad?
Now money has very much the nature of eyes and feet; if we either lock it up in chests, or waste it in: needless and ridiculous expenses upon ourselves, whilst the poor and the distressed want it for their necessary uses; if we consume it in the ridiculous ornaments of apparel, whilst others are starving in nakedness, we are not far from the cruelty of him that chooses rather to adorn his house with the hands and eyes, than to give them to those that want them. If we choose to indulge ourselves in such expensive enjoyments, as have no real use in them, such as satisfy no real want, rather than to entitle ourselves to an eternal reward, by disposing of