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considerable to the promoting or hindering of any event, than all things in the world besides; and therefore all policy, which sets aside God and his providence, is vain; because there is no wisdom, nor understanding, nor counsel against the Lord.
So likewise all that wisdom which only considers and regards this short life, and the narrow concernments of it, and makes provision only for our welfare in this world; and therefore can only be tempted with the hopes of temporal advantages, and terrified only with the danger of temporal evils and sufferings; but hath no fense of an immortal spirit within us, no prospect of a life aster death, no consideration of a happy or miserable eternity, of rewards and punishments, infinitely greater than all the temptations and terrors of time and fense; I say, all this is a preposterous and pernicious wisdom, and proceeds upon a false supposition, and a quite contrary scheme of things to what really is; and consequently our whole life, and all the designs and actions of it, do run upon a perpetual mistake, and a false stating of our own case; and whatever we do pursuant to this mistake is foolish and hurtful, and so far from conducing to our true interest, that it is all either beside it, or contrary to it; because we act upon a supposal only of this life, and a being only in this world, and that there is nothing either to be feared or hoped for beyond it; and being thus grofly mistaken, we set our hearts only upon temporal things, and study our present security and satisfaction, and in all our counsels and actions are swayed only by the consideration of temporal good and evil, of the present ease and pleasure, the disturbance and pain ot our fleshly and sensual parts; without any lense of our own immortality, and of that everlasting state which remains for us in another world.
But there is ( my brethren, ) most certainly, there is another life after this; we are not beasts, if we do not make ourselves so; and if we dy, we shall not dy like them, neither shall our last end be like theirs. For whatever we may think or wish, it will not be in our power to extinguish our own beings when we have a mind to be rid of them, and to chuse whether or no we shall live for ever.
And if this be a false scheme of things which we have framed to ourselves, and proceeded upon (as undoubtedly it is) then our whole life is one great error, and A perpetual mistake, and we are quite wrong in all that we design to do. Our wisdom hath begun at the wrong end, and We have made a false calculation and account of things, and have put out case otherwise than it is; and the farther we proceed upon this mistake, our miscarriage will be so much the more fatal in the issue. But if our wisdom begin at the right end, and our case be truly stated, that God hath put into these frail and mortal bodies of ours, immortal spirits that shall live for ever; and hath sent us into this world to sojourn here for a little while, and to be disciplined and trained up for eternity; and that aster a short proof and trial of our obedience, we shall be translated into an everlasting state of unspeakable happiness or misery, according as we have demeaned ourselves in this world; if we believe this to be truly our case, our Interest is then plainly before us, and we fee where our happiness lies, and what remains for us to do, in order to the obtaining of it, and what we are to expect to suffer, if we do it not.
- Now this foundation being laid, it fs evident, that the best thing we can do for ourselves, is to provide for our future state, and to secure the -everlasting happiness of another life. And the best way to do - that, is to live in obedience to those laws which our ttiaker and our sovereign hath prescribed to us; and according t6 which he will one day sentence us to eternal rewards or' punishments.
It is evident likewise, that all our sensual appetites and desIresJa're1to be bounded by the rules or reason atidvirtue?, Which are'the laws of God; and that no present ease and pleasure, trouble and suffering, are to be considered and regarded by us, in competition with the things which are eternal; and that sin is of all Other the greatest evil, and most mischievous to our main interest, and therefore with all possible M 3 <P"^
care to be avo'ded; and that the favour of God is to be sought, and the salvation of our fouls to be provided for, at any pains and expence -whatsoever, and even with the hazard and loss of our dearest interests in this world, yea and of life itself.
And now, if this matter hath been rightly stated, then religion, and the fear of God, is the first principle and foundation of true wisdom, and that which we are to consider, and take along with us in all the designs and actions of our lives; and all wisdom which does not begin here, is preposterous, and will prove folly in the issue.
Secondly, As religion is the beginning of wisdom, so it is the perfection of it, it is the highest point of wisdom in which we can be instructed, The fear os the Lord (fays Solomon, Prov. xv. 33.) is the instruction of wisdom. A good understanding (fays David, Pfal. cxi. 10.) have all they that do kit commandments. The practice of religion is the perfection of wisdom; ana he understands himself best, who lives most according to the laws of God. And this I might shew, by instancing in particular virtues, the practice whereof is much wiser, and every way more for our interest, than the contrary vices; but this is too large an argument to engage in, and therefore I shall content myself at present briefly to shew, that the chief characters and properties of wisdom do all meet in religion, and agree to it.
The first point of wisdom is, to understand ourtrue interest, and to be right in our- main end; and in this, religion will best instruct and direct-.us: And if we be right in our ma^n end, and true to the interest of it, we cannot miscarry: But isa man mistake in this, he errs fatally, and his whole life is vanity afid folly. -'
Another property of wisdom is, to-be steady and vigorous in the prosecution of our main endi to oblige us hereto, religion- gives- us the most powerful arguments, the glorious happiness, and the dismal misery of another world. >
The next point os wisdom is, to make all things sloop and become subservient to our main end. A.ud
> I wherever wherever religion bears sway, it will make all other things subordinate to the salvation of our souls, and the interest of our everlasting happiness; as the men of this world make every thing to submit and give way to their covetous, and ambitious, and sensual designs.
Another part of wisdom is, to consider the suture, and to look to the last end and issue of things. It is a common folly among men, to be so intent upon the present, as to have little or no regard to the suture, to what will be hereafter. Men design and labour for this present life, and their fliort continuance here in this world, without taking into serious consideration their main duration, and their eternal abode in another world. But religion gives us a clear pro* fpect of a life aster death, and overlooks time, and makes eternity always present to us, and minds us of making timely provision and preparation for ir. It takes into consideration our whole duration, and inspires us with wisdom, to look to the end of things, and to what will be hereafter, as well as to what is present. . . . .
It is likewise a great property of wisdom, to se» cure the main chance, and to run no hazard in that. And this religion directs us to take care of, because the neglect of it will prove fatal.
Another mark of wisdom is, to lay hold of opportunities, those especially, which, when they are once past, will never return again. There are some seasons wherein great things may be done, which if they be let slip, are never to be retrieved. A wise man will lay hold of these, and improve them* and religion inculcates this principle of wisdom upon us, that this life is the opportunity of doing great thingsfor Ourselves, and of making ourselves for .even; this very day and hour may, for ought we know, be the last and only opportunity of repentance, and making out peace with God: Therefore to day, whilst it it -(ailed to day, let us . set about this necessary work, lest any of us be hardened through the deciltfulness of fin; to-morrow it may be too late to begin it, and the justice of God may cut us off whilst we
are are wilfully delaying it; and the opportunities of saving our immortal souls, may vanish, and be for ever hid from our eyes.
The next property of wisdom is, to foresee dangers, and to take timely care to prevent them. The prudent man (faith Solomon) foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself; that is, shelters and secures himself against it; but the simple pass on, and are punished; that is, the evil overtakes them, and their folly is punished in their fatal ruin. Now the greatest danger is from the greatest power; even from him who is able to save and to destroy. I will tell you (fays the wisdom of God) whom ye shall fear; fear him, -who after he hath killed, can destroy both body and foul in hell.
Again, another main point of wisdom is, to do as little as we can to be repented of, trusting rather to the wisdom of prevention, than to that of remedy. Religion first teacheth men innocency, and not to offend; but in case we do, (as in many things we offend all) it then directs us to repentance, as the only remedy. But this certainly is folly, to sin in hopes of repentance, that is, first to make work for repentance, and then run the hazard of it; for we may certainly sin, but it is not certain that we shall repent. And if it were, yet it is great folly to lay in before-hand, and to make work for trouble; nt. tu stultus homuncio es, qui mails vent am precari> quam non peccare, was a wise saying of old Cato ;f thou art ^(says he) a filly man indeed, who chusest 'rather to ask forgiveness, than not to offend. It a man had the best remedy in the world, he would not make himself sick to .try the virtue of it, and it is a known comparison, and a very fit one, that repentance is tabula post naufragium, a. plank after shipwrack. But I am greatly asraid that thousands of souls, who have trusted to it, have perished before they could get to land, with this- plank in their arms. '-: 1..'
The last character of wisdom 1 shall mention h, in all things to consult the peace and satisfaction of our own minds, without which nothing else cart make us happy; and this obedience to the laws of God does