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[Preached at Whitehall 1687, before the Princess Anne.]
MOSES’ CHOICE OF AFFLICTED PIETY, RATHER THAN A KINGDOM.
By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.—Heb. xi. 24, 25.
THE text sets before us a great pattern of self-denial: for our better understanding whereof I will give a brief account of the history of Moses, to which our apostle in this passage doth refer.
When Moses was born, his parents (for fear of the cruel law which Pharaoh had made, that all the male children of the Hebrews, so soon as they were born, should be put to death) after they had hid him three months, did at last expose him in an ark of bulrushes upon the river Nile, and committed him to the providence of God, whom they despaired to conceal any longer by their own care.
Pharaoh’s daughter, coming by the river side, espied him, and had compassion on him; and, guessing him to be one of the Hebrew children, called for an Hebrew nurse to take care of him, who, as the providence of God had ordered it, proved to be the child’s own mother. As he grew up, Pharaoh’s daughter took care of his education in all princely qualities, and adopted him for her son: and Pharaoh 52(as Josephus tells us) being without a son, designed him heir of his kingdom.
Moses refused this great offer. But why did he refuse it, when it seemed to be presented to him by the providence of God, and was brought about in so strange a manner; and when by this means he might probably have had it in his power to have eased the Israelites of their cruel bondage, and perhaps have had the opportunity of reducing that great kingdom from the worship of idols to the true God? Why would he refuse a kingdom which was offered to him with so fair an opportunity of doing so much good?
That which seems to have prevailed with Moses was this, that he could not accept the offer without forsaking God, and renouncing his religion; for, considering how strangely the Egyptians were addicted to idolatry, he could never hope to be accepted for heir of that kingdom, unless he would violate his conscience, either by abandoning or dissembling his religion.
And how unlikely it was, that he should prevail with them to change their religion, he might easily judge by the example of Joseph, who, though he had so much authority and esteem amongst them, by having been so great a benefactor to their nation; yet he could never move them in the least in that matter.
Now seeing he had no hopes of attaining, or enjoying that dignity, without sinning grievously against God, he would not purchase a kingdom at so unconscionable a price. And as for the deliverance of his people, he was content to trust the providence and promise of God for that; and in the mean time was resolved rather to take a part in the 53afflictions of God’s people, “than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.”
From the words, thus explained, I shall take occasion to consider these four things:
I. Moses’ self-denial, in preferring and choosing a state of afflicted piety, before any sinful enjoyments whatsoever, before the greatest earthly happiness and prosperity, when it was not to be attained and enjoyed upon other terms than of sinning against God.
II. I shall consider those circumstances of this self-denial of Moses, which do very much commend and set off the virtue of it.
III. The prudence and reasonableness of this choice, in preferring a state of afflicted piety and virtue, before the greatest prosperity and pleasure of a sinful course.
IV. Supposing this choice to be reasonable, I shall inquire how it comes to pass, that so many make another choice.
I. We will consider Moses’ self-denial, in preferring a state of afflicted piety before the greatest earthly happiness and prosperity, when it is not to be enjoyed upon other terms, than of sinning against God. He was adopted heir of the kingdom of Egypt (one of the greatest and most flourishing kingdoms then in the world); but he could not hope to attain to this dignity, and to secure himself in the possession of it, upon other terms, than of complying with that nation, in their idolatrous religion and worship.
Now being brought up in the belief of the true God, the God of Israel, by his mother, to whom Pharaoh’s daughter had committed him, he could not, without great violence to his conscience, and 54the principles of his education, renounce the true God, and fall off to the idolatry of the Egyptians: and for this reason “he refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction” with the worshippers of the true God, than to have the temporary enjoyment of any thing that was not to be had without sin; for so the word ought to be rendered ἢ πρόσκαιρον ἔχειν ἁμαρτίας ἀπόλαυσιν, “than to have the temporary enjoyment of sin.” So here was Moses’ self-denial, that he chose rather to suffer affliction with the worshippers of the true God, than to gain a kingdom, by the renouncing of God and religion.
II. We will consider those circumstances of his self-denial, which do very much commend and set off the virtue of it.
1. What it was he refused to be called; “the son of Pharaoh’s daughter;” that is, to be heir of one of the greatest and most flourishing kingdoms in the world: a temptation so great, that the devil himself could not find but one much greater, when he set upon the Son of God to tempt him to fall down and worship him.
And when we consider for what inconsiderable things some men sell their religion and their consciences, we shall think it no small temptation which Moses here resisted. Si violandum est jus, regnandi causa violandum est; “If a man would do any unjust thing, and violate his religion and conscience, he would not do it for less than a kingdom;” and it would be a very hard bargain, even upon those terms.
2. Consider not only what he refused, but what he chose in the place of it—a state of great affliction and suffering. Had he refused a kingdom, and 55chosen the quiet condition of a subject of middle rank, (beneath envy and above contempt) his self-denial had not been so great; nay, perhaps he had made a wise choice, in the account of the wisest men, in preferring a plentiful and quiet retirement, before the cares of a crown, and the burden of public government.
But it is very rare to find a man that would choose rather to be oppressed and persecuted, than to be a prince, and to have the sweet power to use others as he pleased.
3. Consider how fair a prospect he had of enjoying this kingdom, if he could but have come up to the terms of it. He did not reject it, because he despaired of attaining it: for he had all the right that a good title could give him, being adopted heir to it; and yet he refused it.
To which I may add, that his breeding was such as might easily kindle ambitious thoughts in him. He was brought up in Pharaoh’s court, and was the darling and favourite of it; exceeding beautiful (as Josephus tells us) and “learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians;” than which no two qualities are more apt to puff up and swell a man with big thoughts of himself.
They that are bred in a low condition, never think of a kingdom; men not being apt to aspire to things which are remote, and at a great distance from them.
But nothing is more rare in persons of great and generous minds, than such a self-denial as this.
4. Let it be considered, in the last place, that this was a deliberate choice, not any rash and sudden, determination made by him when he was of incompetent age to make a true judgment of things. And this the apostle takes notice of in the text, as a 56very memorable circumstance, that “when he was come to years, he refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.” And St. Stephen tells us, that he was “full forty years old” when he made this choice. (Acts vii. 23.) “When he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren, the children of Israel.” When he was of ripest judgment, and in the height of his prosperity and reputation, he made this choice; for it is said in the verse before, that “Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and mighty in word and deed;” that is, he was in great reputation for his wisdom and valour.
This seems to refer to other passages of his life, which are not recorded in Scripture history, but related at large by Josephus, out of historians extant in his time. For he tells, that when the Ethiopians had invaded Egypt, and almost over-run it, Pharaoh was directed by the oracle at Memphis to make Moses his general, who by his extraordinary conduct and courage overthrew the Ethiopians, and drave them out of Egypt.
This Moses did not think fit to relate of himself; but St. Stephen seems to allude to it, when he says, that “he was mighty in word and deed:” and then it follows; “and when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren, the children of Israel;” that is, when he was at full maturity of judgment, and in the height of his prosperity and reputation, he quitted the court of Egypt, and went to visit his afflicted brethren, and chose rather to take part with them in their sufferings, than to accept those great offers that were made to him.
There is likewise another passage in Josephus concerning Moses, which seems to be a forerunner 57of the contempt which he shewed afterwards of the crown of Egypt; that when Moses was about three years old, Thermuthis, the daughter of Pharaoh, brought the child to him, who took him in his arms, and put his diadem upon his head; but Moses took it off, and cast it to the ground, and trampled it under his feet. This was but a childish act, and they who saw it would easily believe, that, for all his childish contempt of it then, if it were put upon his head in good earnest, when he came to be a man, he would hold it on faster, and use it with more respect.
And it is not improbable, but that the apostle might have some regard to this, when he says, that “Moses when he came to years;” intimating, that he did not only trample upon the diadem of Pharaoh, when he was a child; but when he was come to years, and was capable of judging better of those things, “he refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.”
But before I proceed any farther, I cannot but take notice of an objection, which may seem to reflect greatly upon the integrity of Moses. Can we think him so very conscientious a man, who persuaded the people of Israel, and pretended God’s direction in the case, to cheat the Egyptians of their jewels, under a fraudulent pretence of borrowing them? There is some difficulty in the thing, as at first sight it appears: and yet I doubt not, with your favourable attention, and free from prejudice, to vindicate Moses clearly in this matter.
And I shall not insist upon that which is commonly and truly said in this case; that God, who is the supreme Lord of all things, may transfer the rights of men from one to another; because the objection 58doth not lie against God’s right to take away from any man what he hath given him; but against the fraudulent manner of doing it, which seems unworthy of God to command or encourage.
Now this matter, I think, is capable of another and much clearer answer; which, in short, is this, and grounded upon the history, as we find it related, Exod. xii. The providence of God did, it seems, design by this way to make some reparation to the Israelites, for the tyrannical usage which they had received from the Egyptians; and that first (as the text expressly tells us) “in giving them favour with the Egyptians;” who, in truth, for their own ends, and to get rid of such troublesome guests, were disposed to lend them any thing they had.
Thus far all is right; here is nothing but fair borrowing and lending: and if the Israelites acquired a right to those things afterwards, there was then no obligation to restitution.
Let us see then how the providence of God brought this about: namely, by permitting the Egyptians afterwards, without cause, and after leave given them to depart, to pursue them, with a design to have destroyed them; by which hostility and perfidiousness they plainly forfeited their right to what they had only lent before. For this hostile attempt, which would have warranted the Israelites to have spoiled them of their jewels, if they had been in the possession of the Egyptians, did certainly warrant them to keep them when they had them; and by this means they became rightful possessors of what they had only by loan before, and could not have detained without fraud and injustice, if this hostility of the Egyptians had not given them a new title and clear right to them.59
But I proceed to the third thing I proposed, which was, to vindicate the prudence and reasonableness of this choice. And in speaking to this, I shall abstract from the particular case of Moses, and shew in general, that it is a prudent and reasonable thing, to prefer even an afflicted state of piety and virtue, before the greatest pleasures and prosperity of a sinful course; and this will appear, if we consider these two things:
I. The sufferings of good men upon account of religion, together with the reward of them.
II. The temporary enjoyment of sin, with the mischiefs and inconveniences consequent upon them.
I. The sufferings of good men upon the account of religion, together with the reward of them. This Moses had in his eye, when he made this choice; for therefore “he chose to suffer affliction with the people of God, rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin, which are but for a season,” because “he had respect to the recompense of reward.” And though he had but a very imperfect discovery in comparison of the future state; yet, it seems, he had so much assurance of the goodness of God, as firmly to believe, that he should be no loser at the last, by any thing that he suffered for God and religion.
Indeed, if there were no life after this, and we had no expectation beyond this world, the wisest thing we could do would be, to enjoy as much of the present contentment of this world as we could make ourselves masters of. But if we be designed for immortality, and shall be unspeakably happy or intolerably miserable in another world, according as we have demeaned ourselves in this life; then 60certainly it is reasonable, that we should take the greatest care of the longest duration, and be content to dispense with some present inconveniences for an eternal felicity; and be willing to labour and take pains for a little while, that we may be happy for ever. And this is accounted prudence in the account of the wisest men, to part with a little in present, for a far greater future advantage.
But the disproportion betwixt time and eternity is so vast, that, did we but firmly believe, that we shall live for ever, nothing in this world could reasonably be thought too good to part withal, or too grievous to suffer, for the obtaining of a blessed immortality. And upon this belief and persuasion of a mighty reward, beyond all their present sufferings, and that they should be infinite gainers at the last, the primitive Christians were kept from sinking tinder their present sufferings, and fortified against all that the malice and cruelty of the world could do unto them. And if we would consider all things together, and mind the invisible things of another world, as well as the things which are seen, we should easily discern, that he who suffers for God and religion does not renounce his happiness, but put it out to interest upon terms of greatest advantage, and does wisely consider his own best and most lasting interest. This is the first.
II. This will yet more evidently appear, if we consider the temporary enjoyments of sin, together with the mischiefs and inconveniences attending, and consequent upon them; that, as to the nature of them, they are mixed and imperfect; as to the duration of them, they are short, and but for a season; and as to the final issue and consequence of them, that they end in misery and sorrow.61
1. As to the nature of them, all the pleasures and enjoyments of sin are mixed and imperfect. A wicked man may make a shew of mirth and pleasure, “but even in laughter his heart is sorrowful, and the end of that mirth is heaviness.” There can be no true and sincere pleasure in any sinful and vicious course, though it be attended with all the pomp and splendour of outward happiness and prosperity; for wherever sin and vice is, there must be guilt; and wherever guilt is, the mind will be restless and unquiet.
For there are two very troublesome and tormenting passions, which are naturally consequent upon guilt—shame and fear: shame, arising from the apprehension of the danger of being discovered; and fear, from the apprehension of the danger of being punished: and these do continually haunt the sinner, and fill him with inward horror and confusion in his most secret retirements. And if sin were attended with no other trouble but the guilt of it, a wise man would not commit it, if it were for no other reason, but merely for the peace and quiet of his own mind.
2. The enjoyments of sin, as to the duration of them, are but short. Upon this consideration, Moses set no price and value upon them, but preferred affliction and suffering in good company, and in a good cause, before “the temporary enjoyments of sin.”
If the enjoyments of this world were perfect in their nature, and had no mixture; of trouble and sorrow in them; yet this would be a great abatement of them, that they are of so short and uncertain a continuance. The pleasure of most sins expires 62with the act of them; and, when that is done, the delight vanisheth.
I cannot deny but that there are several worldly advantages to be purchased by sin, which may perhaps be of a longer continuance; as riches and honours, the common purchase of covetousness and ambition, and of that long train of inferior vices which attend upon them, and minister unto them: but even those enjoyments are, in their own nature, of an uncertain continuance; and much more uncertain for being purchased by indirect and ill means. But if the enjoyment of these things were sure to be of the same date with our lives; yet how short a duration is that compared with eternity? Make the utmost allowance to these things that can be, yet we can but enjoy them whilst we are in this world. When we come into the world of spirits, it will signify nothing to us to have been rich or great in this world. When we shall stand before that highest tribunal, it will not avail us in the least to have been princes, and great men, and judges on the earth; the poorest man that ever lived in this world will then be upon equal terms with the biggest of us all.
For all mankind shall then stand upon a level, and those civil distinctions of rich and poor, of base and honourable, which seem now so considerable, and make such a glaring difference amongst men in this world, shall all then be laid aside, and moral differences shall only take place. All the distinctions which will then be made, will be betwixt the good and the bad, the righteous and the wicked; and the difference betwixt a good and bad man, will be really much greater than ever it seemed to be 63betwixt the highest and meanest persons in this world.
And, if this be so, why should we value the enjoyments of sin at so high a rate, which, at the best, are only considerable (and that only in the imagination of vain men) during our abode in this world; but bear no price at all in that country where we must live for ever: or, if they did, we cannot carry them along with us. The guilt of them, indeed, will follow us with a vengeance; the injustice and all the ill arts we have used for the getting or keeping of them, especially, if at once we have “made ship wreck of faith and a good conscience.”
If we have changed our religion, or, which is much worse, if continuing in the profession of it, we have betrayed it, and the interest of it, for the gaining or securing of any of these things; we shall find, to our sorrow, that though “the enjoyments of sin were but for a season,” the guilt of it will never leave us nor forsake us; but will stick close to us, and make us miserable for ever. But this belongs to the
III. Third thing I proposed to speak to, namely, The final issue and consequence of a sinful course; which is misery and sorrow many times in this world, but most certainly in the next.
1. In this world, the very best issue and consequence of a sinful course that we can imagine, is repentance: and even this hath a great deal of sensible pain and trouble in it; for it is many times (especially after great sins, and a long continuance in them) accompanied with much regret and horror; with deep and piercing sorrow; with dismal and despairing thoughts of God’s mercy; and with fearful apprehensions of his wrath and vengeance. 64So that, if this were the worst consequence of sin, (which indeed is the best) no man that considers and calculates things wisely, would purchase the pleasure of any sin, at the price of so much anguish and sorrow as a true and deep repentance will cost him; especially, since a true repentance does, in many cases, oblige men to the restitution of that which hath been gained by sin, if it hath been got by the injury of another.
And this consideration quite takes away the pleasure and profit of an ill-gotten estate. Better never to have had it, than to be obliged to refund it. A wise man will forbear the most pleasant meats, if he know beforehand that they will make him deadly sick, and that he shall never be at ease till he have brought them up again.
No man that believes the threatenings of God, and the judgments of another world, would ever sin, but that he hopes to retrieve all again by repentance. But it is the greatest folly in the world to commit any sin upon this hope: for that is to please one’s self for the present, in hopes to have more trouble afterwards than the pleasure comes to. But, especially no man would be guilty of an act of injustice and oppression, in hopes to repent of it afterwards; because there can be no repentance for such sins without restitution; and it is perfect madness for a man to run the hazard of his soul to get an estate, in hopes of restoring it again; for so he must do that truly repents of such a sin. But,
2. In the other world, the final issue and consequence of all the pleasures of sin unrepented of, will certainly be misery and sorrow. How quietly soever a sinner may pass through this world, or out of it, misery will certainly overtake him in the next, 65unspeakable and eternal misery, arising from an apprehension of the greatest loss, and a sense of the sharpest pain; and those sadly aggravated by the remembrance of past pleasure, and the despair of future ease.
From a sad apprehension and melancholy reflection upon his inestimable loss. In the other world, the sinner shall be eternally separated from God, who is the fountain of happiness. This is the first part of that miserable sentence which shall be passed upon the wicked—“Depart from me.”
Sinners are not now sensible of the joys of heaven, and the happiness of that state, and therefore are not capable of estimating the greatness of such a loss: but this stupidity and insensibleness of sinners, continues only during this present state, which affords men a variety of objects and pleasures to divert and entertain them: but when they are once entered upon the other world, they will then have nothing else to take up their thoughts, but the sad condition, into which by their own wilful negligence and folly they have plunged themselves. They shall then “lift up their eyes,” and, with the rich man in the parable, at once “see the happiness of others, and feel their own misery and torment.”
But this is not all. Besides the apprehension of so great a loss, they shall be sensible of the sorest and sharpest pains; and how grievous those shall be we may conjecture by what the Scripture says of them in general; that they are the effects of a mighty displeasure, of anger and omnipotence met together, far greater than can be described by any pains and sufferings which we are acquainted withal in this world: “for who knows the power of God’s anger,” and the utmost of what omnipotent Justice 66can do to sinners? “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
One would think, this were misery enough, and needed no farther aggravation: but yet it hath two terrible ones—from the remembrance of past pleasures, and the despair of any future ease and remedy.
The remembrance of past pleasure makes present sufferings more sharp and sensible. For as nothing commends pleasure more, and gives a quicker relish to happiness, than precedent pain and suffering (for perhaps there is not a greater pleasure in the world, than in the sudden ease which a man finds after a sharp fit of the stone): so nothing enrageth affliction more, and sets a keener edge upon misery, than to pass into great pain immediately out of a state of ease and pleasure. This was the stinging aggravation of the rich man’s torment, that “in his lifetime he had received his good things, and had fared so deliciously every day.”
But the greatest aggravation of all is, the despair of any future ease and remedy. The duration of this misery is set forth to us in Scripture, by such expressions as do signify the longest and most indeterminable duration. “Depart ye cursed into everlasting fire.” (Matth. xxv. and Mark ix. 43.) “Where the worm dies not, and the fire is not quenched.” And in the Revelation it is said, that “the wicked shall be tormented day and night, for ever and ever,” without intermission, and without end. And this surely is the perfection of misery, for a man to lie under the greatest torments, and to be in despair of ever finding the least ease.
Let us now compare things together: on the one hand, the sufferings of good men, for a good conscience, 67and the reward that follows them; and, on the other hand, the enjoyments of sin, and the mischief and misery that attend them, and will certainly overtake them in this world, or in the next: and then we shall easily discern which of these is to be preferred in a wise man’s choice.
And indeed the choice is so very plain, that a man must be very strangely forsaken of his reason, and blinded by sense, who does not prefer that course of life, which will probably make him happier in this world, but most certainly in the next.
IV. There remains now only the fourth and last particular to be spoken to; viz. supposing this choice to be reasonable, to inquire whence it comes to pass, that so many make a quite contrary choice. How is it, that the greatest part of mankind are so widely mistaken, as to prefer the temporary enjoyments of sin before conscience and religion; especially, if it be attended with great afflictions and sufferings? and of this I shall give you as brief an account as I can, and so conclude this discourse.
This wrong choice generally proceeds from one or both of these two causes; from want of faith, or from want of consideration, or of both.
1. One great reason why men make so imprudent a choice, is unbelief; either the want of faith, or the weakness of it. Either men do not believe the recompenses of another life, or they are not so firmly persuaded of the reality of them. If men do not at all believe these things, there is no foundation for religion; for “he that cometh unto God (that is, he that thinks of being religious) must believe that God is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him,” as the apostle reasons in the beginning of this chapter.68
But I hope, there are but few that are, or can be, infidels, as to these great and fundamental principles of religion. But it is to be feared, that the faith of a great many is but weak and wavering; their faith is rather negative; they do not disbelieve these things, but they are not firmly persuaded of them; their faith is rather an opinion, than a rooted and well-grounded persuasion; and therefore, no wonder, if it be not so strong and vigorous a principle of action, like the faith of Abraham and Moses, and other worthies mentioned in this chapter. For where faith is in its full strength and vigour, it will have proportionable effects upon the resolutions and wills of men: but where it is but weak, it is of little or no efficacy. And this is the true reason, why so many forsake religion, and cleave to this present world; and, when it comes to the push, choose rather to sin than to suffer; and will rather quit the truth, than endure persecution for it.
These are they whom our Saviour describes, “who receive the word with joy, and endure for a while; but when tribulation and persecution ariseth be cause of the word, presently they are offended:” not that they did not believe the word; but their faith had taken no deep root, and therefore it withered. The weakness and wavering of men’s faith, makes them unstable and inconstant in their course; because they are not of one mind, but divided betwixt two interests, that of this world and the other; and “the double-minded man (as St. James tells us) is unstable in all his ways.”
It is generally a true rule; so much wavering as we see in the actions and lives of men, so much weakness there is in their faith; and therefore, he that would know what any man firmly believes, let him 69attend to his actions more than to his professions.
If any man live so as no man that heartily believes the Christian religion can live, it is not credible, that such a man doth firmly believe the Christian religion. He says he does; but there is a greater evidence in the case than words; there is testimonium rei, the man’s actions are to the contrary, and they do best declare the inward sense of the man. Did men firmly believe, that there is a God that governs the world, and that “he hath appointed a day wherein he will judge it in righteousness;” and that all mankind shall shortly appear before him, and give an account of themselves, and all their actions, to him; and that those who have “kept the faith and a good conscience,” and have “lived soberly, and righteously, and godly, in this present world,” shall be unspeakably and eternally happy; “but the fearful and unbelieving,” those who, out of fear or interest, have deserted the faith, or lived wicked lives, “shall have their portion in the lake, which burns with fire and brimstone:” I say, were men firmly persuaded of these things, it is hardly credible, that any man should make a wrong choice, and forsake the ways of truth and righteousness, upon any temptation whatsoever.
Faith, even in temporal matters, is a mighty principle of action, and will make men to attempt and undergo strange and difficult things. The faith of the gospel ought to be much more operative and powerful, because the objects of hope and fear, which it presents to us, are far greater, and more considerable, than any thing that this world can tempt or terrify us withal.
Would we but by faith make present to our minds 70the invisible things of another world, the happiness of heaven, and the terrors of hell; and were we as verily persuaded of them, as if they were in our view, how should we despise all the pleasures and terrors of this world; and with what ease should we resist and repel all those temptations, which would seduce us from our duty, or draw us into sin!
A firm and unshaken belief of these things, would effectually remove all those mountains of difficulty and discouragement, which men fancy to themselves in the ways of religion. “To him that believeth all things are possible,” and most things would be easy.
2. Another reason of this wrong choice is want of consideration; for this would strengthen our faith, and make it more vigorous and powerful: and, in deed, a faith which is well rooted and established doth suppose a wise and deep consideration of things; and the want of this is a great cause of the fatal miscarriage of men; that they do not sit down and consider with themselves seriously, how much religion is their interest, and how much it will cost them to be true to it, and to persevere in it, to the end.
We suffer ourselves to be governed by sense, and to be transported with present things; but do not consider our future and lasting interest, and the whole duration of an immortal soul. And this is the reason why so many men are hurried away by the present and sensible delights of this world, because they will not take time to think of what will be hereafter.
For it is not to be imagined, but that the man who hath seriously considered what sin is, the shortness of its pleasure, and the eternity of its punishment, should resolve to forsake sin, and to live a holy and virtuous life.71
To conclude this whole discourse. If men did but seriously believe the great principles of religion; the being and the providence of God; the immortality of their souls; the glorious rewards, and the dreadful punishments of another world; they could not possibly make so imprudent a choice, as we see a great part of mankind to do; they could not be induced to forsake God and religion for any temporal interest and advantage; to renounce the favour of heaven, and all their hopes of happiness in another world, for any thing that this world can afford; nay, not for the whole world, if it were offered to them: for, as our Saviour reasons in this very case, of forsaking our religion for any temporal interest, or consideration; “What is a man profited if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”
Whenever any of us are tempted in this kind, let that solemn declaration of our Saviour and our Judge be continually in our minds; “He that confesseth me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven: but whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in the glory of his Father, with his holy angels.”
And we have great cause to thank God, to see so many in this day of trial, and hour of temptation, to adhere with so much resolution and constancy to their holy religion, and to prefer the keeping of faith, and a good conscience, to all earthly considerations and advantages.
And this very thing, that so many hold their religion so fast, and are so loath to part with it, gives great hopes that they intend to make good use of it, 72and to frame their lives according to the holy rules and precepts of it; which alone can give us peace whilst we live, and comfort when we come to die; and after death secure to us the possession of a happiness, large as our wishes, and lasting as our souls. To which, God of his infinite goodness bring us all, for his mercies sake, in Jesus Christ: to whom, with the Father, and the Holy Ghost, be all honour and glory, world without end. Amen.73
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