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as mine; and therefore, by the rules of right reason, I am in no sort preferable to him.
Secondly, It is very manifest from what has been said that no man ought to look upon the advantages of life, such as riches, honor, power, and the like, as his property, but merely as a trust which God hath deposited with him to be employed for the use of his brethren ; and God will certainly punish the breach of that truet, though the laws of man will not, or rather, indeed, cannot, because the trust was conferred only by God, who has not left it to any power on earth to decide infallibly whether a man makes a good use of his talents or no, or to punish him where he fails. And therefore God seems to have more particularly taken this matter into his own hands, and will most certainly reward or punish us, in proportion to our good or ill performance in it. Now, although the advantages which one possesseth more than another may, in some sense, be called his property with respect to other men, yet, with respect to God, they are, as I said, only a trust, which will plainly appear from hence: if a man does not use those advantages to the good of the public, or the benefit of his neighbor, it is certain he doth not deserve them, and, consequently, that God never intended them for a blessing to him; and, on the other side, whoever does employ his talents as he ought, will find, by his own experience, that they were chiefly lent him for the service of others; for to the service of others he will certainly employ them.
Thirdly, If we could all be brought to practise this duty of subjecting ourselves to each other, it would very much contribute to the general happiness of mankind; for this would root out envy and malice from the heart of man; because you cannot envy your neighbor's strength, if he make use of it to defend your life, or carry your burden; you cannot envy his wisdom, if he give you good counsel; nor his riches, if he supply you in your wants; nor his greatness, if he employ it to your protection. The miseries of life are not properly owing to the unequal distribution of things; but God Almighty, the great King of Heaven, is treated like the kings of the earth, who, although perhaps intending well themselves, have often most abominable ministers and stewards; and those generally the vilest, to whom they entrust the most talents. But here is the difference, that the princes of this world see by other men's eyes but God sees all things; and, therefore, whenever he permits his blessings to be dealt among those who are unworthy, wê may certainly conclude that he intends them only as a punishment to an
evil world, as well as to the owners. It were well if those would consider this whose riches serve them only as a spur to avarice, or as an instrument to their lusts; whose wisdom is only of this world, to put false colors upon things, to call good evil and evil good, against the conviction of their own consciences; and, lastly, who employ their power and favor in acts of oppression or injustice, in misrepresenting persons and things, or in countenancing the wicked to the ruin of the innocent.
Fourthly, The practice of this duty of being subject to one another, would make us rest contented in the several stations of life wherein God hath thought fit to place us; because it would, in the best and easiest manner, bring us back as it were to that early state of the Gospel when Christians had all things in common. For if the poor found the rich disposed to supply their wants; if the ignorant found the wise ready to instruct and direct them; or if the weak might always find protection from the mighty; they could none of them, with the least pretence of justice, lament their own condition. From all that hath been hitherto said, it
appears that great abilities of any sort, when they are employed as God directs, do but make the owners of them greater and more painful servants to their neighbor and the public: however, we are by no means to conclude from hence that they are not really blessings, when they are in the hands of good men. For, first, what can be a greater honor than to be chosen one of the stewards and dispensers of God's bounty to mankind? What is there that can give a generous spirit more pleasure and complacency of mind, than to consider that he is an instrument of doing much good ? that great nuinbers owe to him, under God, their subsistence, their safety, their health, and the good conduct of their lives? The wickedest man upon earth takes a pleasure in doing good to those he loves; and therefore, surely, a good Christian, who obeys our Savior's command of loving all men, cannot but take delight in doing good even to his enemies. God, who gives all things to all men, can receive nothing from any; and those among men who do the most good, and receive the fewest returns, do most resemble their Creator: for whieh reason St. Paul delivers it as a saying of our Savior, that “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” By this rule, what must become of those things which the world values as the greatest blessings— riches, power, and the like—when our Savior plainly determines that the best way to make them blessings is to part with them? Therefore, although the advantages which one man hath over another may be called blessings, yet they are by no means so in the sense the world usually understands. Thus, for example, great riches are no blessing in themselves; because the poor man with the common nècessaries of life enjoys more health, and has fewer cares, without them. How, then, do they become blessings? No otherwise than by being employed in feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, rewarding worthy men, and, in short, doing acts of charity and generosity. Thus, likewise, power is no blessing in itself, because private men bear less envy, and trouble, and anguish without it. But when it is employed to protect the innocent, to relieve the oppressed, and to punish the oppressor, then it becomes a great blessing.
And so, lastly, even great wisdom is, in the opinion of Solomon, not a blessing in itself; for “in much wisdom is much sorrow;" and men of common understanding, if they serve God and mind their callings, make fewer mistakes in the conduct of life than those who have better heads. And yet wisdom is a mighty blessing when it is applied to good purposes, to instruct the ignorant, to be a faithful counsellor either in public or private, to be a director to youth, and to many other ends needless here to mention.
To conclude: God sent us into the world to obey his commands, by doing as much good as our abilities will reach, and as little evil as our many infirmities will permit. Some he hath only trusted with one talent, some with five, and some with ten. No man is without his talent; and he that is faithful or negligent in a little shall be rewarded or punished, as well as he that hath been so in a
Consider what has been said : and the Lord give you a right understanding in all things. To whom, with the Son and the Holy Ghost, be all honor and glory, now and for ever.
SERMON THE FOURTH.
ON THE TESTIMONY OF CONSCIENCE.
2 CORINTHIANS i. 12.
For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience. THERE is no word more frequently in the mouths of men than that of conscience, and the meaning of it is, in some measure, generally understood : however, because it is likewise a word extremely abused by many people, who apply other meanings to it which God Almighty never intended, I shall explain it to you in the clearest manner I am able. The word conscience properly signifies that knowledge which a man hath within himself of his own thoughts and actions. And because if a man judgeth fairly of his own actions, by comparing them with the law of God, his mind will either approve or condemn him, according as he has done good or evil; therefore this knowledge, or conscience, may properly be called both an accuser and a judge. So that, whenever our conscience accuseth us, we are certainly guilty; but we are not always innocent when it doth not accuse us : for very often, through the hardness of our hearts, or the fondness and favor we bear to ourselves, or through ignorance or neglect, we do not suffer our conscience to take any cognizance of several sins we commit. There is another office likewise belonging to conscience, which is that of being our director and guide; and the wrong use of this hath been the occasion of more evils under the sun than almost all other causes put together. For, as conscience is nothing else but the knowledge we have of what we are thinking and doing, so it can guide us no further than that knowledge reacheth: and, therefore, God hath placed conscience in us to be our director only in those actions which Scripture and reason plainly tell us to be good or evil. But in cases too difficult or doubtful for us to comprehend or determine, there conscience is not concerned; because it cannot advise in what it doth not understand, nor decide where it is itself in doubt: but, by God's great mercy, those difficult points are never of absolute necessity to our salvation. There is likewise another evil, that men often say a thing is against their conscience when really it is not. For instance : ask any of those who differ from the worship established, why they do not come to church? they will say they dislike the ceremonies, the prayers, the habits, and the like; and therefore it goes against their conscience. But they are mistaken, their teacher hath put those words into their mouths; for a man's conscience can go no higher than his knowledge; and therefore, till he has thoroughly examined by Scripture, and the practice of the ancient church, whether those points are blamable or no, his conscience cannot possibly direct him to condemn them. Hence have likewise arisen those mistakes about what is usually called liberty of conscience; which, properly speaking, is no more than a liberty of knowing our own thoughts, which liberty no one can take from us. But those words have obtained quite different meanings : liberty
of conscience is now-a-days not only understood to be the liberty of believing what men please, but also of endeavoring to propagate that belief as much as they can, and to overthrow the faith which the laws have already established, and to be rewarded by the public for those wicked endeavors : and this is the liberty of conscience which the fanatics are now openly, in the face of the world, endeavoring at with their utmost application. At the same time, it cannot but be observed, that those very persons, who, under pretence of a public spirit and tenderness toward their Christian brethren, are so zealous for such a liberty of conscience as this, are, of all others, the least tender to those who differ from them in the smallest point relating to government; and I wish I could not say that the majesty of the living God may be offended with more security than the memory of a dead prince. But the wisdom of the world, at present, seems to agree with that of the heathen emperor, who said, if the gods were offended, it was their own concern, and they were able to vindicate themselves. But although conscience hath been abused to those wicked
purposes which I have already related, yet a due regard to the directions it plainly gives us, as well as to its accusations, reproaches, and advices, would be of the greatest use to mankind, both for their present welfare and future happiness. Therefore
discourse at this time shall be directed to prove to you, that there is no solid, firm foundation for virtue but on a conscience which is guided by religion.
In order to this, I shall first show you the weakness and uncertainty of two false principles, which many people set up in the place of conscience for a guide to their actions.
The first of these principles is, what the world usually calls moral honesty. There are some people who appear very indifferent as to religion, and yet have the repute of being just and fair in their dealings; and these are generally known by the character of good moral
you look into the grounds and the motives of such a man's actions, you shall find them to be no other than his own ease and interest. For example: you trust a moral man with your money in the way of trade, you trust another with the defence of your cause at law, and perhaps they both deal justly with you. Why? not from any regard they have for justice, but because their fortune depends upon their credit, and a stain of open public dishonesty must be their disadvantage. But let it consist with such a man's interest and safety to wrong you, and then it will be impossible