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in their steps: and the names of the Scribes and Pharisees of old are odious to us, whilst we pay respect to those who sustain the same character amongst ourselves. All this clearly shews, that whatever our outward behaviour may be towards the two different parties, both of them have an inward witness in our own bosoms; “ the wise inheriting the glory” that is due to them, whilst “shame is the only promotion of fools."]
But still more effect will wisdom have, II. On our condition in the eternal worldThere the conduct of all will be rightly appreciated
[In this world there are many things which obscure the wisdom of the wise, and which serve to palliate the folly of fools. The weaknesses of many good men excite a prejudice against their sentiments and conduct, and do really cast an air of folly over their very profession. This is deeply to be lamented: but, whilst there is so much folly bound up in the heart of man, and in many the seed of Divine Grace is but as a grain of mustard-seed, it is not to be wondered at that such stumbling-blocks should occur: indeed, unless a miracle were wrought to turn babes at once into young men and fathers, it is scarcely possible that offences of some kind should not arise from the injudicious deportment of weaker brethren. On the other hand, amongst those who are not devoted to the Saviour, there are many eminent for their attainments in science, and abounding in every species of worldly wisdom; and amidst so much that is amiable and good, it is difficult to mark with becoming severity the folly of which they are guilty. But God will judge righteous judgment: he will distinguish infallibly between the errors of the judgment and the bias of the heart : and to those who sought him, though in much weakness, he will give a testimony of applause; but on those who sought hiin not he will denounce his sentence of eternal condemnation.]
Then will wisdom and folly appear in their true light-
[Behold the saint approved of his God, and seated on a throne of glory! Will any one think he sacrificed too much for this, or laboured too hard for this? Will there be any difference of opinion respecting him, amongst the hosts of heaven, or even in the regions of hell ? No; there will be but one testimony respecting him. Every creature in the universe will pronounce him wise. See, on the other hand, the most successful and distinguished of the human race banished from the presence of that Saviour whom he would not seek, and of that God whom he refused to serve! Will there be any difference of opinion respecting his folly? Nay, will not he himself be the very first to accuse himself, and to curse the folly which once he so fondly cherished? Yes: we are told that, in hell, men will “weep, and wail, and gnash their teeth” with anguish: and I cannot doubt but that their self-reproach will be one of the bitterest ingredients in the cup which will there be given them to drink. When they see in what their love of “ promotion” has issued, and that it has brought nothing but a pre-eminence in “shame” and sorrow, they will set their seal to that once-despised truth, that “wisdom excelleth folly, as much as light excelleth darkness."] Permit me now to RECOMMEND to every one amongst
you, 1. A retrospect of your past lives—
[What is your estimate now of your past life? Is there one amongst you who would not rather that it should have been under the influence of wisdom, than that it should have been so devoted to folly, as in the great majority of cases it has been? I suppose there is scarcely any one that has not, at some season or other, had moments of reflection, and formed some faint purposes of amendment. Let the humiliation then experienced have been ever so transient, do you not at this time look back upon it as the best hour of your lives? and do you not regret that it so speedily passed away? And, however deeply you may have drunk of the cup of pleasure, do you not now feel that it is all vanity, and that nothing of it remains but the dregs, which have a bitter taste? Where is there one amongst you, who, if he should hear a dying man glorying in having lived altogether to the flesh and to the world, would not be shocked at it as an excess of impiety and folly? who, if he were himself in dying circumstances, would not wish for a far different frame of mind to prepare him for his great account? I make this appeal with confidence, and am content to rest the whole of what I have said on the testimony of your own consciences. Yes, beloved Brethren, you shall be constituted judges in your own case ; and I will abide by the decision which you yourselves shall give. Let your convictions, then, be now realized; and let the Lord Jesus Christ be now sought by you without delay.] 2. A prospective view of futurity
[Soon you will be convinced, at all events, whether you will listen to good instruction now, or not. Soon you will “ see whose word shall stand—the world's, or God's.” Depend upon it, God's word will not change. What he has designated as wisdom by the mouth of Prophets and Apostles, he will pronounce to have been so, when he shall sit on his throne of judgment. Why will ye not then anticipate that sentence? And why will ye not consider what your reflections
will be, when all your present opportunities of turning unto God shall have passed away? This only do I ask of you: • Act now, as you will then wish you had acted.' Methinks this is a reasonable request : it is a request which every one acknowledges to be good in reference to the things of time; and surely it cannot be less good in reference to eternity. May God enable all of you, then, to comply with it! and may you all not only become wise, but be made wise unto salvation through faith in Christ Jesus!]
THE NATURE AND EXCELLENCE OF TRUE WISDOM. Prov. iv. 7. Wisdom is the principal thing: therefore get
wisdom ; and with all thy getting, get understanding. THE inspired volume is no less useful in rectifying the prejudices of education, than it is in restraining the indulgence of forbidden appetites. As far as relates to the grosser violations of moral duty, the advice of parents and teachers is in unison with the Holy Scriptures; but we are very rarely exhorted to follow that which is the main end and purpose of life. Get wealth, get honour, are the lessons inculcated on all the rising generation. David however sets us a better example: he earnestly entreated his son above all things to cultivate true religion. And Solomon, having reaped much advantage from those instructions, has left them on record for our benefits. We shall endeavour, I. To shew the nature and excellence of true wisdom
That which is usually termed wisdom is far from being the object so extolled in the text
[We mean not to depreciate the attainments of art or science. They are valuable in themselves, and, if duly im. proved, may, like the Egyptian gold, enrich and beautify the sanctuary of God. But the wisdom spoken of in the text, has respect entirely to spiritual things.]
True wisdom is the proposing of the best ends and prosecuting of them by the fittest means
[There is no end so worthy to be pursued by a rational creature, as the sanctification and salvation of his own soul.
Nor are there any means of attaining it so proper, as those prescribed in the Holy Scriptures. To repent of all our sins, to flee to Christ for the pardon of them, and to seek the renovation of our hearts by the Holy Spirit, are represented as the only effectual means of salvation. These things, it must be confessed, are often called folly; but they are called so only by those, who have never known them by experience. Not one among the holy angels would account it folly to love and serve God. None of the redeemed in heaven regret
that they were once so strenuous in the exercises of religion. The saints on earth are precisely of the same mind with those in heaven. Hence conversion to a holy life is called " a turning of the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just b." Even devils and damned spirits would confess that devotedness of heart to God is the truest wisdom. Careless sinners are the only beings who dissent from this truth; and they in a little time will assuredly alter their opinion.] Such wisdom is justly termed“ the principal thing” —
[There are many other things which are important in their place; but this is far superior to them all. Riches cannot be put in competition with itd. Pleasure, honour, or even life itself, are not worthy to be compared with it. It excels every thing else as much as light excelleth darkness!. This exclusively deserves the name of wisdom, God himself being witness. It is “ the good part;h” and he alone can be called truly wise, who, like Paul, accounts every thing but loss for that unspeakably excellent attainment'.]
Its excellency being thus established, we may proceed, II. To urge upon you the diligent pursuit of it
In the text, with the preceding context, we may see the utmost fervour that language can express. May we be animated with the same, while we labour to impress the subject on your minds by the following considerations! Consider then,
1. This wisdom is both more easily, and more certainly, to be attained than any thing else
[With respect to other things, every one has not a capa city for making great attainments; nor have all, who possess
b Luke i. 17.
c Wisdom v. 4. What do those rich men, Luke xii. 19, 20. and xvi. 19, 23. now think of their once envied state ?
d Job xxviii. 12-19. e Prov. iii. 13-18. f Eccl. ii. 13. 8 Job xxviii. 28. h Luke x. 42.
i Phil. ij. 7, 8.
good abilities, an opportunity of cultivating them to advantage. Nor can great industry united with great talents, always ensure successk; but no man ever sought this in vain. The poor fishermen of Galilee were as capable of comprehending it, as the philosophers of Greece and Rome. We attain it, not by the mere exertion of our own powers, but by the teachings of God's Spirit?. Nor will he ever refuse that heavenly gift to any who seek it with a teachable and childlike disposition m. This thought may well encourage all. May we be stirred up by it to seek the unction that shall teach us all things"! T'hen will God bestow upon us his promised blessingo; and make us wise unto salvation through faith in Christp.]
2. There is nothing else which will so conduce to our present happiness
[The creature is justly represented as a cistern that will hold no watery. All who seek happiness in it are disappointed. Even science itself, which is the most rational of all earthly pleasures, is often a source of sorrow and vexation"; but true wisdom is an overflowing fountain of joy. In prosperity, it adds a zest to all our comforts; and in adversity, a balm to all our sorrows. In a time of pain and trouble more especially its excellency appears. What can earthly things do to assuage our anguish or compose our minds? But religion enables us to see the rod in our Father's hand, and to know that all is working for our good. St. Paul found it to be wealth in poverty, joy in sorrow, life in death u. And such will every Christian
experience it to be in the hour of trialx. Shall not this consideration then quicken our diligence in the pursuit of it?]
3. There is nothing besides this that can in the least promote our eternal welfare
[Our duties, when performed with an eye to God, are a part of religion itself; but, independent of the respect which we have to him in the performance of them, they are of no value in his sight. A person may do many things that are beneficial to society, and yet be dead in trespasses and sins. But Solomon, specifying the supreme excellency of wisdom, affirms, that it giveth life to them that have ity. No man can perish that possesses wisdom; nor can any man be saved who is destitute of it?. Shall we not then be prevailed upon to seek it? Shall we disregard the commendations that David and Solomon have given of it? And shall their importunity be treated
k Eccl. ix. 11. 1 Johni. 13. and vi. 45. m Jam. i. 5. n 1 John ii. 20. o Prov. ii. 1–6.
p 2 Tim. iii. 15. q Jer. ii. 13. r Eccl. i. 17, 18.
& Eccl. v. 17. t Rom. viii. 28. u 2 Cor. vi. 9, 10. x Prov. iii. 21-26. y Eccl. vii. 12. z Rom. viii. 6, 13.