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SERM. depth of their utmost perfection and use; who had XLVI. all the advantages imaginable of performing it; who flourished in the greatest magnificences of worldly pomp and power; who enjoyed an incredible affluence of all riches; who tasted all varieties of most exquisite pleasure; whose heart was (by God's special gift, and by his own industrious care) enlarged with all kind of knowledge (furnished with notions Kings iv. many as the sand upon the sea-shore) above all that were before him; who had possessed and enjoyed all that fancy could conceive, or heart could wish, and had arrived to the top of secular happiness; yet even he with pathetical reiteration pronounces all to be vanity and vexation of spirit ; altogether unprofitable and unsatisfactory to the mind of man. And so therefore we may justly conclude them to be; so finishing the first grand advantage this present consideration affordeth us in order to that wisdom, to which we should apply our hearts.
I should proceed to gather other good fruits, which it is apt to produce, and contribute to the same purpose; but since my thoughts have taken so large scope upon that former head, so that I have already too much, I fear, exercised your patience, I shall only mention the rest. As this consideration doth, as we have seen, first, dispose us rightly to value these temporal goods, and moderate our affections about them; so it doth, secondly, in like manner, conduce to the right estimation of temporal evils; and thereby to the well tempering our passions in the resentment of them; to the begetting of patience and contentedness in our minds. Also, thirdly, it may help us to value, and excite us to
regard those things, good or evil, which relate to SERM. our future state; being the things only of a permanent nature, and of an everlasting consequence to us. Fourthly, it will engage us to husband carefully and well employ this short time of our present life: not to defer or procrastinate our endeavours to live well; not to be lazy and loitering in the despatch of our only considerable business, relating to eternity; to embrace all opportunities, and improve all means, and follow the best compendiums of good practice leading to eternal bliss. Fifthly, it will be apt to confer much toward the begetting and preserving sincerity in our thoughts, words, and actions; causing us to decline all oblique designs upon present mean interests, or base regards to the opinions or affections of men; bearing single respects to our conscience and duty in our actions; teaching us to speak as we mean, and be what we would seem; to be in our hearts and in our closets, what we appear in our outward expressions and conversations with men. For considering, that within a very short time all the thoughts of our hearts shall be disclosed, and all the actions of our lives exposed to public view, (being strictly to be examined at the great bar of divine judgment before angels and men,) we cannot but perceive it to be the greatest folly in the world, for this short present time to disguise ourselves; to conceal our intentions, or smother our actions. What hath occurred, upon these important subjects, to my meditation, I must at present, in regard to your patience, omit. I shall close all with that good collect of our church.
Almighty God, give us grace, that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the
SERM. armour of light, now in the time of this mortal XLVI. life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit
us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal, through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and ever. Amen.
THE CONSIDERATION OF OUR LATTER
PSALM XC. 12.
So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.
IN discoursing formerly upon these words, (ex- SERM.
pounded according to the most common and able interpretation,) that which I chiefly observed Job xiv. 14. All the days was this: That the serious consideration of the of my apshortness and frailty of our life is a fit mean or ra- time will I pointed tional instrument subservient to the bringing our hearts to wisdom; that is, to the making us dis- come. cern, attend unto, embrace, and prosecute such things, as according to the dictates of right reason are truly best for us.
wait, till my change
1. The truth of which observation I largely declared from hence, that the said consideration disposeth us to judge rightly about those goods, (which ordinarily court and tempt us, viz. worldly glory and honour; riches, pleasure, knowledge; to which I might have added wit, strength, and beauty,) what their just worth and value is; and consequently to moderate our affections, our cares, our endeavours about them; for that if all those goods be uncertain and transitory, there can be no great reason to prize
SERM. them much, or to affect them vehemently, or to XLVII. spend much care and pains about them.
2. I shall next in the same scales weigh our temporal evils; and say, that also the consideration of our lives' brevity and frailty doth avail to the passing a true judgment of, and consequently to the governing our passions, and ordering our behaviour in respect to all those temporal evils, which either according to the law of our nature, or the fortuitous course of things, or the particular dispensation of Providence do befall us. Upon the declaration of which point I need not insist much, since what was before discoursed concerning the opposite goods doth plainly enough infer it; more immediately indeed in regard to the mala damni, or privationis, (the evils which consist only in the want or loss of temporal goods,) but sufficiently also by a manifest parity of reason in respect to the mala sensus, the real pains, crosses, and inconveniences that assail us in this life. For if worldly glory do hence appear to be no more than a transient blaze, a fading show, a hollow sound, a piece of theatrical pageantry, the want thereof cannot be very considerable to us. Obscurity of condition (living in a valley beneath that dangerous height, and deceitful lustre) cannot in reason be deemed a very sad or pitiful thing, which should displease or discompose us: if we may thence learn that abundant wealth is rather a needless clog, or a perilous snare, than any great convenience to us, we cannot well esteem to be poor a great infelicity, or to undergo losses a grievous calamity; but rather a benefit to be free from the distractions that attend it; to have little to keep for others, little to care for ourselves. If these present