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lievedst, not only in time and years, but in fitness and disposedness for it.
Prov. iv. 18. The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day: while thou thus addest' to thy faith, virtue ; and to virtue, knowledge; and to knowledge, temperance; and to temperance, patience ; and to patience, godliness ; and to godliness, brotherly-kindness ; and to brotherly-kindness, charity; one grace unto another, and to all thy graces farther measures and degrees of perfection; thou mayst be well assured, while these are in thee and abound, increasing with all the increases of God, that he will add glory to glory for thy reward, and that an abundant entrance shall be administered to thee into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ :
To whom, with the Father, &c.
HER WAYS ARE WAYS OF PLEASANTNESS, AND ALL HER PATHS ARE
WHOSOEVER would effectually plead the cause of piety and religion, must not only recommend the principles of it to the understanding, as most true and certain, but the practice of it to the will and affections, as desirable and delightful. For we find it verified by daily experience, that it is much easier to conquer the arguments of atheism, than the prejudices of profaneness: and, when we have mastered the judgment, to yield to the reasonableness of the Christian Doctrine, and the infinite advantages of its rewards; yet still we must encounter with a strong reserve of prejudices and mistakes, ghastly spectres and hideous apparitions, which fright the will from embracing a religion, that is represented so dismal and unpleasant. Pleasure is so sweet and potent a charm, that neither reason nor rewards can prevail against the insinuations of it.
And therefore nothing would tend more to the advancement of true godliness, than if we could clearly demonstrate, that it hath not only the advantage above sin and vice, in respect of future and eternal joys, but in respect of present pleasure and satisfaction; and thereby convert temptation into motive, the snare of the Devil into a cord of love, and turn the most destructive engine of hell against its own gates. For, whilst men's minds are possessed with a false opinion, that the ways of virtue are all strewed with thorns and galthrops; that piety is a sour, ill-natured, tetrical thing, a sullen matron who entertains her followers only upon sighs and tears, sad reflections and doleful regrets; that to obtain the joys of the next life, we must bid an everlasting adieu to the contents of this, and never more expect a cheerful hour, a clear day, or a bright thought to shine upon us: it will be utterly in vain to bring them tidings of the Heavenly Canaan, that Land which floweth with milk and honey; for the dread of these Anakims and fenced cities, will make them murmur against their guide, and resolve rather to die in Egypt.
I thought, therefore, that the best service I could do for religion would be, to pluck off this deformed visor, and to represent true piety and holiness in its genuine beauty and sweetness: and to convince the voluptuous world, that they woefully mistake in their estimate and pursuit of pleasure; that they seek the living among the dead; that they neglect the fountain of living waters, and seek for refreshment at those cisterns which hold no other but the tainted waters of Marah and Meribah, bitterness and strife.
To this end, I have chosen these words of the Wise Man: Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.
That relative particle, her ways, leads us back to the 13th verse: Happy is the man, that findeth wisdom ; and the man, that getteth understanding. From whence he proceeds to demonstrate the happiness of this man, in the following verses, by the excellency of wisdom: v. 14, 15. She is more precious than rubies : and all the things that thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her : then, by the rewards of it, in three of the choicest blessings, which human nature doth most covet, Long Life, Riches, and Honour: Length of days is in her right-hand; and, in her left-hand, riches and honour : and, lastly, by the pleasantness of it, in the words of my text, Her ways are ways of pleasantness. So that, if life, if riches, if honour, if pleasure, if the confluence of all good, can make a man happy, he might well pronounce, Happy is the man, that findeth wisdom.
Well, but what is this wisdom, which is thus profitable, thus pleasant ? Is it a subtle management of our own concerns, or a politic negotiating of the mighty affairs of states and kingdoms? Alas! the cares, perplexities, and disquiets, which attend these things, do evidently prove, that they are not ways of pleasantness : but, sometimes, unsafe; always, intricate and entangled. In a word, therefore, that wisdom, whose ways are pleasantness
and peace, is nothing else but true religion, solid piety and holiness: The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil, that is understanding : Job xxviii. 28.
And therefore we find, that, thoughout this whole Book of the Proverbs, wherein Solomon doth so often chastise the Fool, he means no other person but the wicked man. Wisdom and folly are synonymous terms with holiness and impiety; and do very well express them, both in their causes and their consequents: for, as folly is the cause of sin, and the consequents of sinning do very evidently prove them fools who commit it; so wisdom is the origin of piety, and the consequents of piety do clearly prove them wise who follow it.
So then you see, that these ways of wisdom, which are recommended to us as pleasant, are the fear of God, holiness, and true pietý.
I know that this will seem a grievous paradox to as many as have not seen the beauty, nor tasted the sweetness of a holy life; but have degraded themselves to a brutish state, and have nothing left to relish pleasures but their senses: and yet even to such, (if their sensuality hath not quite extinguished their reason, and they have but understanding enough to name them men) I doubt not to prove, that the pleasures of a holy life are far more considerable than the pleasures of sin ; and that the rigours and severities of it are less grievous, than the trouble and uneasiness of being wicked.
I. To this end I must first premise, that all PLEASURE ariseth from an attempered suitableness and harmony that there is between the faculty and the object. For, where there is any disagreement, either in contrariety or excess, the result is not pleasure, but torment. Light, when it is just proportioned to the strength of the eye, is the pleasure and beauty of the whole creation: It is a pleasant thing, saith Solomon, to behold the light. And sounds, when they are modelled to the capacity of the ear, cause a sweet melody, and consent. And so it is, likewise, with all other objects: when they are adapted to the powers which are to receive them, pleasure and sweetness are the offspring. Now man is Ogyevov Siropdov, “ A two-stringed instrument:” his soul is one, and his body the other; and, ás he receives smooth touches upon either, according to the various objects that are fitted to them, so spring up suavity and delight Now, here,
i. THE PLEASURES, WHICH RELIGION BRINGS, ARE NOT SUCH AS DO IMMEDIATELY AFFECT THE BODY, the drossy and earthy part of man.
It never spread the glutton's table, nor filled the drunkard's cup, nor was taster to either. These offices are too mean and sordid for it. And, if thou canst relish no other delights, go herd thyself among beasts. The dog and the swine are fit company, as well as comparisons, for thee; and thou wert made a man, a rational and intellectual creature, to no purpose, unless to be eternally punished : since the soul of a brute can as well taste the pleasures of sense, as thy immortal one.
think these such considerable delights, that they cannot easily forego them; let me add,
ii. That RELIGION AND PIETY, as it doth allow, so it ADDS A SWEETNESS AND RELISH TO THE LAWFUL COMFORTS OF THIS PRESENT LIFE, which debauchery and intemperance corrupt and vitiate.
Let me here boldly appeal to your experience, whether sobriety and temperance be not more true pleasure (I had almost said voluptuousness) than excess and riot. And, I dare say, that those, who come to their natural refreshments, and have Moderation both for their carver and their skinker, find a much better guest in their entertainment; than those, whose continued luxury, by seeking to please, only cloys and stupifies their senses. Besides, a constant fear of God and a conscientious obedience unto him, give such a seasoning to all our earthly enjoyments, that they are all received by us as expressions of his love and fatherly care towards us; which is such a pleasure, that excess and epicurism could never afford. A good conscience is a continual feast: and that poor Christian, who hath bis dry morsel made savoury with the Hidden Manna, fares more deliciously every day than Dives himself; whose guilt not only poisons his dainties to his soul, but sours them to his palate. God is the great Householder of the World: we are all entertained as guests at his table, and his bounty provides for us: but, as the Wise Man saith, Prov. xv. 17. Better is a dinner of herbs, where love is ; than a stalled ox, and hatred therewith; so, truly, where the love of God is enjoyed, the slenderest provision is far more sweet and comfortable, than the greatest variety of