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while he keeps his Affections and Appetites in subjection to his Will, and his Will to his Reason, he is calm and quiet, and enjoys within himself perpetual Ease and Tranquillity; But when once he breaks this order, and suffers his Passions or his Appetites to usurp the Place of his Reason ; to impose contrary Ends to it, or prescribe contrary Means ; his Faculties, like disjoynted Members, are in perpetual Anguish and Anxiety. And hence it is that in the Course of a wicked Life, we feel fuch restless Contentions between our Spirit and Flesh, between the Law in our Minds, and the Law in our Members; because our Nature is out of Tune, and its Faculties are displaced and disordered, and that sovereign Principle of Reason which should sway and govern us, is deposed, and made a Vassal to our Appetites and Passions. For in all our evil Courses we chufe and refuse, refolve and alt, not as Reafon directs us, but as Sense and Paffian biastes us; and our Reason having nothing to do in all this Brutifhe Scene of Action, either sleeps it out, without minding or regarding, or else fits by as an idle Spectator of it, and only censures and condemns it. And it is this that caufes all that Tumult and Contest that is in our Natures; and till, by the Exercise of Prudence, our Faculties are reduced, and set in order again, our Mind will be like our Body, while its Bones are out of Joint, continually reftleßand unquiet. And therefore to remove this great Indisposition of our Nature to Happiness,Prudence is required of us as one of the principal Virtues of the Heavenly Part of the Claristian Life.
For For thus our Saviour injoyns that we should be wise as Serpents as well as harmleß as Doves, Mat. x. 16. which though it be here prescribed in a particular Cafe only, viz. that of Persecution ; yet since the Reason of it extends to all other Cafes, and it is fit we should be Prudent in all our Undertakings as well as in suffering Perfecution, it is upon that account equivalent to an universal Command. So also Eph. v. 15. See that ye walk circumspectly, not as faols, but as wise; iie. In the whole Course of your Actions take heed that ye follow the Guidance of your Reafon, and do not suffer your selves to be feduced by your blind Passions and Appetites, which are meer Ignes Fatui, or the Guides of Fools. And accordingly the ApoItle prays for his Christian Colossians, That they might be filled with the Knowledge of God in all Wifi dom and spiritual Understanding, Coli.9. i.e. That they might have such a knowledge of God's will as might render them truly prudent, and cause them to pursue the best Ends by the best Means. And though this Virtue feldom occurs in the new Teftament under its own Name, yet, as in the above named places it is expressed by Wisdom, fo it is elsewhere by Knowledge, as particularly, 2 Cor. yi. 6. where he commands the Ministers of the Church to approve themselves fuch by several Virtues, and particularly by Pureneß, i.e. Continence, and by Knowledge, i.e. by Prudence. For, besides that Knowledge as it signifies an Understanding of Divine Things, was not a Virtue in the Apostles, but a Gift of God, and so not proper to be enumerated amongst chefe Virtues; there is hardly any Account to be given why the Apostle
should place Knowledge in the midst of so many Moral Virtues, if he did not thereby mean the Virtue of Prudence, which is, as it were, the Eye and Guide of all the other Virtues. So again, 2 Pet. i. 6. where he bids us add to Faith, Virtue, i. e. Fortitude, or Constancy of Mind; and to Virtue Knowledge, and to Knowledge Temperance; By Knowledge it is highly probable he means Prudence, because he places it in ihe midst of those two Virtues which border neareit upon Prudence.
Now that the Practice of this Virtue is a most proper and effectual Means of our Everlasting Happines, is evident from hence; Because the Practice of it is a constant Exercise of Reason, For to act prudently in Religion is to follow the best Reason ; to aim at Heaven, which is the best end, and direct our Actions thither by the best Rules ; 'Tis to consult what is best for our selyes, and how it may be most effectually obtained. In a word, it is to intend the chiefest Good above-All, and to levelour Lives and Actions most directly towards it. This is Religious Prudence in the General ; and as for those Particulars of it, which we are obliged to exercise in the several States, Relations, and Circumstances wherein we are placed, they all consist in doing what is most fit and reasonable with respect to that Great and Blessed End. ; ?
For by living in the continual Practice of Red ligious Prudence, we shall by degrees habituate our selves to a Life of Reason, and shake off that drowfie Charm of Sense and Passion which hangs upon our Minds, and renders our Faculties so, dull and unactive; And having disused our felves a while to obey their blind and imperious Dictates, our Rea
son will re-assume its Throne in us, and direct all our Aims and Endeavours to what is Fittest and most Reasonable. For we being finite and limited Beings, cannot operate diver's ways with equal'vigour at once; and our rational and sensitive propensions are made in such a regular and equilibrious order, that proportionably as the one does increase in activity, the others always decay, and so accordingly as we abate in the strength of our Brutish, , we fall improve in the vigour of our Rational faculties. But to act sutably to their Natures being the End of all our Faculties and Powers of Aëtion, the God of Nature to excite theni thereto, has founded all their Pleasure in the vigorous Exercise of them upon fuit able Objects. Since therefore our , Reason is the best and noblest of all Powers of Ation, to be sure the greatest Pleasure we are capable of, must spring out of the Exercise of our Reason. Wherefore since Prudence consists in the Use of our Reason, the Practice thereof must needs effe&ually contribute to our Pleasure and Happines. For use and Exercise will mightily strengther and improve our Reason, and render it not only more apprebensive of what is fit and reasonable, but also more perswafive and prevalent ; and when once it is improved into a prevailing Principle of Action, and hath acquired not only Skill enough to prescribe what is right to us, but also Power enough to perswade us to comply with its prescriptions; to chufe and refuse, to love and hate, to hope and fear, defire and delight, and regulate all our Actions by its Laws and Pictates, then are we entring upon our Heaven and Happineß.
For that wbich makes us unbapply is, that our sinful and unreasonable Affections do so hamper and int angle us, that we cannot freely exercise our Faculties upon such Objects as are most suitable to them; that our Minds and Wills are so feto tered by our vicious Inclinations, that we cannot exert them upon that which is most worthy to be Known and Chosen, without a great deal of Difficulty and Distraction. But now under the Conduct of our Reason our Faculties will by Degrees recover their Freedom, and disengage themselves from those vicious Encumbrances which do so clog and interrupt them in their Rational Motions. And when this is throughly effected, we are in full Posleflion of the Heavenly State, which, as I have shewed, consists in the free and vigorous Exercise of our Rational Faculties upon the best and Worthiest Objects. For when once our Passions and Appetites are perfectly subdued to our Reafon, all our Rational Faculties will be free, and every one will move towards its proper Object without any Lett or Hindrance; our Understanding will be swallowed up in a fixt Contemplation of the sublimeft Truth; our Wills, entirely resigned to the Choice and Embraces of the truest Good
d; our Affektions, unalterably devoted to the Love and Fruition of the most excellent Beauty and Perfection; and in this consists the Happy State of Heaven; So that to live prudently, or, which is the same, to govern our felves by our Best Reafon, is both a necessary and effe&tual means of attaining to the Heavenly State.
II. Another Virtue which appertains to a Man, considered meerly as a Rational Animal, is