Abernathy - Houston-Packer Collection BX9178.A33 S4 1748 v.3

SERMONS O N VARIOUS SUBJECTS. Containing, I. Religion and Virtue, confidered under the Notion of Wifdom. II. The Excellency of Wifdom. III. The Ways of Wifdom, Ways of Pleafantneís. IV. Wifdom the Strength of the Mind. V. The Favour of God, obtained by Wifdom. V I. Long -Life, Riches, and Hon- our, the Fruits of Wifdom. VII. The Love of Wifdom, ne- ceffary to the,attaining of it. VIII. Diligence in fecking Wif- dom always fuccefsful. I IX. Self- Government effential to Wifdom. X. The Proud and Scornful inca- pable of attaining to Wifdom. XI. Attending to public Inílrudion, and other Initrumental Duties, recommended. XII. Walking with Wife Men, a Means of attaining to Wifdom. XIII. The Foundation of Confi- dence towards God explained. XIV. On the fame Subject. XV. Walking by Faith and not by Sight, explained and recom- mended. By JOHN ABERNETHY; M. A. VOL. III. LONDON: Printed for D, BR OWN E, without Temple -Bar ; C. DAVIS, in Holborn ; and A. Mx L L A R, oppofite Katherineßreet in the Strand. M. DCC.LI.

CONTENTS. S B R M O N I. Religion and Virtue confidered under the Notion of Wifdom. Prov, i. 1, 2, 3, 4. ,The Proverbs of Solomon the Son of David, king of Ifrael : `Io know wifdom and in- flrulion, to perceive words of underfiand- ing; to receive the inflruÉlion of wifdom, jujiice, and judgment, and equity ; to give fubtilty to the Pimple, to the young man knowledge and diftretion. Page i SERMON II. The EXCELLENCY of WISDOM. Prov. viii. 6, 7. Hear, for I will [peak of excellent things, and the opening of my Lips /h. all be right things ; for my mouth 'hall fpeak truth. P. 30 SE R-

CONTENTS. SERMON III. The Ways of Wifdom, Ways of Pleafantnefs. Prov. iii. i 7. Her ways are ways of pleafantnefs, her paths are peace. SERMON IV. Wifdom the Strength of the Mind. Prov. xxiv. 5. A wife man is flrong, yea a man of knowledge increafeth flrength. p. 86 SERMON V. The Favour of GOD obtained by Wifdom. Prov. viii. 35. Whofo findeth me findeth life, and 'hall obta ìz favour of the Lord. p. r r4 SERMON VI. Long -life, Riches, and Honour, the Fruits of Wifdom. Prov. iii. 16. .Length of days is in her right -hand, and in her left-hand riches and honour, p. 14o SE R-' and all P. 58

CONTENTS. SERMON VII. The Love of Wifdom neceffary to the attaining of it. Prov. viii. 17. I love them that love me, and thole that fek me early 'hall find me. p. 166 SERMON VIII. Diligence in feeking Wifdom always fuccefsful. Prov. viii. 17, Thole that feek me early (hall find me. p. 190 SERMON IX. Self - government effential to Wifdom. Prov. xxv. 28. Se that bath no rule over his own fpirit, is like a city broken down, and without walls. p.214 SERMON X. The Proud and Scornful incapable of attaining to Wifdom. Prov. xiv. 6. a4 fcortier feeketh wifdom and findeth it not. P. 240 SBR-

CONTENTS. SERMON XI. Attending to publick Inf{ ruaion, and other inftrumental Duties, recom- mended. Prov. viii. 34. Pie(fed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates-, waiting at the polls of my doors. p. 267 SERMON XII. Walking with Wife -men, a Means of attaining to Wifdom. PrOV. Xiii. 20. He that walketh with wife men flail be wife. p. 293 I1 111 SERMON XIII. ' The Foundation of Confidence to- ¡;; wards GO D explained. I John iii. 19, 20, 21. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and _hall affure our hearts before him. For if our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts, and knoweth all things; be- loved, if our hearts condemn us not, then have we confidence towards God p. 317 5 $ER-

CONTENTS. SERMON XIV. On the fame Subje &. 344 SERMON XV. Walking by Faith, not by Sight, ex- plained and recommended. 2 Corinth. v. 7. Fore walk by faith, not by fight. p. 37Cr SER-

C=7 SERMON I, RELIGION and VIRTUE., confidered under the Notion of WISDOM. PROVERBS I. I, 2, 3, 4. The proverbs of Solomon the fon of David, king of Ifrael: To know wifdom and in- flru5lion, to perceive words of undemand- ing ; tò receive the iniruhlion of wifdom, juke, and judgment, and equity ; to give fubtilty to the Jimple, to the young man knowledge and d fcretiofz. AN Y one who readeth the proverbs S E R M; of Solomon attentively, will fee that I. the principal fcope of them is to `'-^° teach men wifdom. His manner of writing is, indeed, fuch, that no one fubje& is me- thodically treated by him, the whole book being no more than a colle&ion of wife moral fayings, without any coherence, force probably wrote down by himfelf, and force extra&ed afterwards out of other writings which are not now extant; of the former Vol III. B fort

2 Religion and Virtue; S E R"M, fort feem to be the firft twenty-four chap I. ters, and of the latter, the remaining part of the book, under this title, chap. xxv. r. Th fe are alfo proverbs of Solomon, which the men of Hezekiah copied out. But though the writing is of this unconneaed kind, yet one may plainly fee a general defign in it,. which the author keepeth always in his view ; that is, to reclaim the fimple from their folly, by giving them a juft notion, and a true tate of real wifdom ; and to. furnifh men in general with fuch inftruc- tions, fuch excellent rules of life, as might be profitable to direst their whole behaviour. Thus he beginneth, fetting forth the wri- ter's chief aim, and by its excellence be- fpeaking the attention of the reader. The proverbs of Solomon the fon of David king of Ifrael; to know wifdom and inffrution ; to perceive words of underflanding ; to receive the infirubtions of wifdom, juflice, and judg- ment, and equity ; to give fubtilty to the Fmple to the young man knowledge and dif- cretion. Befides a great many fcattered hints, in almoft every chapter, which fet the counfels of the excellent moralift in the amiable light of wifdom, underftanding, and difcretion, he fometimes, as in the 3d, 4 the

eiinfidered under the Notion of Wifdom. 3 the 8th, and 9th chapters, doth defignedly, SE R M. and even out of his profeffed method, that I. is more largely than in the way of pro - `---s"""t verbs, infift on the beauty and excellence of wifdom, inviting men ferioufly and Readily to contemplate her charms, that they may admire her inftruEtions, and give themfelves up to her conduit. Wifdom is introduced in the dramatick way (which is an antient, and, when well managed, a very ufeful way of writing) as a divine perfon appearing in a very lovely form, difplaying her native worth and beauty; and by the molt powerful perfua- fives, and the molt affectionate manner of addrefs, foliciting the degenerate fons of men to hearken to her counfels for their good. The reafonablenefs and happy ef- feEts of our complying with her propofals are reprefented, and the vanity of all thofe things which rival wifdom for our afieEtions, is fully (hewn. The means, and the neeef- fary difpofitions on our part, in order to our attaining the true difcretion here jufily cele- brated, are particularly mentioned, and thofe prejudices laid open, with the folly and un- reafonablenefs of them, which íhut mens minds, and harden their hearts againf it. 13 2 With

4 Religion arid Virtue, SERM. With thefe things in our view as its maim I. defign, let us carefully read the Book of Proverbs. Some pérhaps neglect and did regard it as dry morality ; but certainly it containeth pure religion, and undefiled befóre God the Father, excellent rules for the con- duff of life ; and it marketh out the way in which alone we can hope for the divine acceptance, and the folyd peace which ari- feth from the teftimony of an approving confcience. That you may read it with the greater advantage, I will endeavour, in this difcourfe, to explain the nature, chara ±ers, and ufes of the wifdom of which it treateth; and making that the ftandard, we may try tome things which have the appearance of wifdom, and, perhaps, correa fome wrong notions we have entertained in a matter of fo great importance : and by that amiable charater, which mutt be high in the efteem of every' confederate perfon, if it appeareth to be juftly applied, we may be induced to confent to, and pra &ife the rules Solomon prefcribeth. In general, it is very plain that what this author meaneth by wifdom, is true religion and virtue ; whether it be worthy of that name, efpecially in the peculiar and diftin- 2 guithin g

confdered under the Notion of Wifelom. guifhing manner he giveth it, in oppofition S E R M. to every thing elfe that pretends to it, I I Ihall afterwards confider ; at prefent, I ob- ferve, that what he meaneth by wifdom, is religion and virtue; and you will fee it to be fo, if you look into the following paf- fages in the 7th verfe of this chapter ; The fear of the Lord is the beginning of know- ledge ; which was a principle Solomon learn- ed from his pious father, to whofe inftruc- tions he often refers in this bbbk, and ac- knowledgeth his great obligations to them. This was David's doétrine, Pfal. cxi. i o. and indeed it was a maxim received by wife men in ages long before theirs, as you may fee in ,7ob xxviii. 28. where it is reprefented to be the firm of what God taught men, as the fubftance of their duty, and their molt important concern. The fear of the Lord, in the Rile of the facred writers, fgnifieth univerfal religions becaufe it is an eminent part of it, proper enough therefore, by an ufual way of fpcaking, to defcribe the whole; and becaufe it is a principle which, when the mind is duly poffeffed with, and brought thoroughly under its power, cannot fail of producing obedience to all the commands RIeitts of God. As every branch of virtue B3 is 1

6 Religion and Virtue, S is R m. is enjoined by the divine precepts, which I. thew us all that is morally good with re- ) fpeel to ourfelves and our fellow - creatures, as well as to God, fo true religion is nothing elfe but the practice of virtue, from a regard to the Deity, The fear of the Lord, if we underftand it in the ftriéteft fenfe, of a pi- ous reverence for the fupreme Being, with a difpofition to do his will, is called the be4 ginning of wifdom, as being a very eminent part of our duty, or rather a principle na- turally productive of that righteoufnefs and goodnefs in which true wifdom confifteth ; If we take it in a greater latitude, as inclu- ding with the principle all its genuine fruits, in an univerfal conformity to the will of God, then it is the whole duty of man, as Solomon fays, Ecclef: xii. 13. and compre- hendeth all which the facred writers call wifdom. So yob delivereth the dottrine in the place already referr'd to, Unto man he laid, The fear of the Lord, that is wifdom and to depart from evil, is underflanding. Again ; the wifdom which Solomon re- commendeth is called the knowledge of the Holy, chap, ix. 1o. where the princi- ple already mentioned, is repeated in the fame words, The fear of the Lord is the be- ginninl

confidered under the Notion of Wîfdom. 7 sinning of wifdom ; and it is explained thus, S E x M: the knowledge of the Holy is underflanding. L They are religious things about which it is° converfant ; the deepeft penetration in other matters, the higheft attainments in human fciences and arts, and the exacteft judgment in the affairs of this world, will not intitle any one to the character of wife, according to the doctrine of this excellent author; but an acquaintance with divine objects, and with the duty we owe to God, is, accord- ing to him, the trueft underftanding. Nei- ther is it meer fpeculative knowledge even of religion he .meaneth ; the infrudions of wifdom do all tend to practice ; and the conformity of our lives to its rules is that only which will denominate us wife men in Solomon's account, Prov. xxviii, 7. Whofo keepeth the law, is a wife fon. Befides thefe general declarations, which are very cocnprel,enfive, taking in every part of our duty, and which plainly Phew the defign of the Proverbs is to reprefent the wifdom of univerfal righteoufnefs ; the cha- racter of wifdom is applied to particular vir- tues, and it is Paid to confift in them, as in the text, ver 3. To receive the inflruc` ions of vdona, juflice, and judgment, and equity. B 4 Juftice

Religion and Virtue; S E R nz. Juftice is a very important branch of our I. duty, a virtue which we have frequent oc- cation for the exercife of in life ; it direfteth a great part of our behaviour towards man- kind, injoineth us to preferve the rights of men inviolàble, and to render to all their due, to do as we would be done by, with- out being warped by a regard to any felfith or private intereft. Perhaps there is not any thing in religion itfelf more difagree- able to the wifdom of the world for, gene- rally, men make their own intereft the chief end of their policy, and form their fchemes for private advantage, without caring to dif tinguifli nicely between right and wrong; and however they may efteem inflexible righteoufnefs, as virtue and religion, yet it is far from being accounted wifdom. But not to enter upon an inquiry into the truth of the cafe, whether juílice be only a kind of religious fimplicity, or real wifdom, founded on the belt maxims, and worthieft of an intelligent nature, and conducive to all the ends it ought to purfue ; or if that cunning which deviateth from integrity, ufeth fraud and indireec arts to promote fel- fifh ends, be true difcretion, and becoming the underílanding of a man ; without inqui- rind

confidered under the Notion of Xifdom. 9 ring into this, I fay, it is fufficient to my SE x m. prefent purpofe, that juftice, judgment, and I. equity, are the wifdom which Solomon in- culcateth. Another virtue, which he recommendeth under the fame charafter, is chaftity. This he very often infifteth upon, particularly in the 2d, the 5th, and 7th chapters, proving at large the fimplicity and thoughtlefnefs of the adulterer, who, with the infenfibility of a beaft, is caught in the toil, and ftupidly falls into the fnare which is laid for him. The men who abandon themfelves to the purfuit of difhonourable and irregular plea - fures, fondly imagine there is a great deal of art and contrivance in their management; they are the men, in their own conceit, of deep intrigue, and refined underftanding, valuing themfelves upon the, little artifices, whereby they feduce the unhappy partners of their crimes, and impofe upon thofe whom they injure. But all this, in the judg- ment of Solomon, is extreme folly ; and the fenfelefs wretch, deprived of all reafon, is only hafting to his ruin, as an ox goeth to the laughter, or, as a fool to the correaion of the flocks. The intemperate will not, perhaps, pretend to the character of wife ; ' they

o Religion and Virtue, SE R M. they fatisfy themfelves with their fenfual I. gratifications as the belt enjoyments, having endeavoured to drown all fenfe of fuperior excellence ; they decry wifdom, and treat it with contempt, as too rigid and folemn for that gaiety in which they chufe to fpend their days. But if we will take our notions of things from this writer, voluptuoufnefs and exceffes in eating and drinking are di- redly contrary to wifdom, which guardeth her votaries againft them as molt pernicious, Prov. xxiii. 19. Hear thou, my fon, and be wife, and guide thine heart in the way. Be not among/I wine- bibbers, among/l riotous eaters of flefh ; for the drunkard and the glutton flail come to poverty ; and .drowfinefs fhall cloath a man with rags. Slothfulnefs, a lazy ftupid inaEtivity and indolence, is a vice very incident to human Nature ; and they who give themfelves up to it vainly fanc, they take the wifeft courfe, avoiding many dangers, and a great deal of painful toil and labour ; the ,jluggard is wifer in his own conceit than feven men that can ren- der a reafon : But in this book he is charged with brutifh folly, and even fent to the beafts, as wifer than he, to be inftruded by them, Prov. vi. 6. Go to the ant, thou Jug - gard,,

confadered under the Notion of Wifdom. i r Bard, confider her ways, and be wife. And, S E R M, on the contrary, diligence is preffed as true I. wifdom. It is plain too, that the wifdom Solomon teacheth comprehends the right go- vernment of the tongue, which other infpi. red writers reprefent as an eminent branch of religion, directing us when to be filent, and when to fpeak ; but efpecially he di- re&eth us to keep the heart, refiraining fu- rious paffions, preferving equanimity and compofure of fpirit, and exercifing humility and meeknefs. But I need not infift on particulars ; every one muft be convinced that folly is, accord- ing to the judgment of Solomon, the cha- rafter of every vice ; and vvifdom, of every virtue ; and that his intention is to fet moral good and evil in that light, that we may chufe the one, and refufe the other. If any are inclined to become his difciples, and to form their lives by his inftrutions, there is nothing they muft be fo careful to preferve as their integrity, and with the utmoft cau- tion they muft avoid every fin ; to accom- plifh which ends is the invaluable benefit he propofeth by the wifdom he bath taught. When vice, of any fort, hath the greateft outward advantages on its fade, when mul- titudes

12 Religion and Virtue, S E R M, titudes are combined to enrich themfelves I. by its unlawful gains; by their united coun- ""' fels projects are form'd, and by their united force to be executed, fo that there is the greateft probability of fuccefs ; and honours, profit, and pleafure, are in profpeht to be attained by unrighteous methods, it is the province of wifdom to preferve us from the fnare, and to deliver us from all crooked and forbidden paths ; chap. i. i o. My fon, when 'inners entice thee, cofint thou not. And, chap. ii. i i, 12. Difcretion fall pre - ferve thee, underflanding fhall keep thee, to deliver thee from the way of the evil man. And whereas in all the affairs and circum- fiances of life we are fin-rounded with temp- tations, and our own frailty is apt to betray us into fnares of one kind or other, the wifdom Solomon recommendeth is propofed as an univerfal defence and antidote againft all evil, and that which will effedlually pre ferve us from every defiruEtive way. Chap. M. 2 t. My fon, keep found wifdom and diif- cretion, fo fall they be life unto thy foul, and grace to thy neck ; then (halt thou walk in thy way fa,fely, and thy foot 'hall not Humble, This

confidered under the Notion of Wifdom. 13 This, I think, is fufficient to anfwer the S E R M. defign I at firft propofed, that is, to (hew I the nature, characters, and ufes of the wif- `'Yv0 dom Solomon recommendeth in the Prcverbs. tut there are two obfervations farther to he made, which both the nature of the fubject, and the exprefs declarations of the author dire us to. The firft is, that virtue and integrity, to be preferved from the ways of fin and wickednefs, that it may amount to true wifdom, muli be the refult of delibe- ration and choice. Wifdom is the quality of a free felf- determining agent, whofe fprings of anion are under the guidance of his own underflanding ; chance, or necef- fity, or outward impulfe, have no part in it. If you fuppofe a perfon reftrained from any vicious courfe by force, or that he efca- peth it by a natural incapacity, or by acci- dent, without any defign of his own, with- out any exercife of underftanding, or confe- deration of the grounds he goeth upon ; the innocence of his life, if it may be called fo, hath nothing in it of wifdom, and therefore nothing of virtue. Difcretion confifteth in weighing maturely the motives of anion, in comparing them together, and being de- termined freely by that which, upon the whole,

r¢ lZeligion and llirlue, S R R M. whole, appeareth to be the jufteft and dad I. beat. From which it is a plain confequence, that the more calm and fedate, the more deliberate and free our minds are in aling, our conduft is the wifer and the better. For a man to Rumble into the right road, or be hurried with vehemence, without con fadering whether he goeth, or what he is doing, is not worthy to be called either wife or good. A contrary accident or imó pulfe, for any thing in him to prevent it, might as well have driven him the oppofite way. And in this confifteth the folly of a wicked courfe of life, that the unhappy fanner, as the prophet fpeaketh, Ifaiah xlvi, 8. doth not flew himfelf a man; he doth not aft, according to the privilege of his nature, as the refult of a calm inquiry into the motives of alion, but rather is afted upon by external objefts, driven by his ap- petites and paons, the weight which moves the brutal kind, or as if human na- ture were meerly a piece of mechanifm. Solomon's account is this, chap. xiv. 8. That it is the wifdom of the prudent to underfland his way ; and ver. i ç. The (ample believeth every word, but the prudent man looketh well to his goings. Therefore he giveth this di- re&ion

confidered under the Notion of W fdom. 15 re ±ion, chap. iv. 20. My fon, attend to my S E x m. words ; incline thine ear to my fayings. A I. rafh, inconfiderate, thoughtlefs condu ±, `'t muff come fhort of religion, becaufe it is unworthy of wifdom ; for, it is plain, by all the notions which our reafon fuggefteth to us of the Deity, he will molt approve his reafonáble creatures when they ad the mofi deliberately, and have impartially confidered all things which ought to determine them, . in order to their making the belt choice they can. It followeth then, that the more precipitately we ad, Rill the lefs religiouíly, if religion be indeed wifdom and always when we find ourfelves vehemently prefect to any defigns or meafures, fo as to exclude confideratìon, which is often the unhappi- nefs of men, we have the more reafon to fufpet that our minds are under an undue influence, and in a tempted Rate ; for con federation leadeth to virtue and religion, but the views of 'fin and folly fhun it as a mortal enemy. The fecond obfervation from the account which this book giveth us of religious vir- tue, and the light in which it places it as wifdom, is, that a good man ufeth forefight, . and looketh to the laft iß'ue of things, that fa

16 Religion and Virtue, S E R M. fo he may dire his behaviour. WifdorrÈ I. confifteth in forming defigns fuited to the dignity of our nature, and purfuing them by the belt means in our power. Religion, then, could never juftly be called wifdom, if it had not a view to the future confer quences of our prefent cndu&, fecuring the greateft perfe lion and felicity that can be hoped for. No man can be elteeme wife, who is infenfible to his own true in- tereft ; for it is an inclination infeparable from human nature, and juftified by the ilrideft reafon, to feek after happinefs ; it is a maxim which no one will deny, yob xxii. 2. He that is wife, is profitable to himfelf; which Solomon applies to his wife man, that is, the virtuous, who in the belt manner provideth for his own fafety and happinefs ; Prov. ix. 12. If thou be wife, thou 'halt be wife for thyfelf; but if thou fcorneJl, thou alone (halt bear it. Though virtue doth hand on another foot, and there is really fuch a thing as moral excellence, neceßârily acknowledged and approved by our minds, abftra& ing from all confideration of intereft, yet is it very much ftrengthened, and intel- ligent creatures reafonably eftabliiìed in their choice of it, and their refolution to adhere to '''''''''

¿on adered under the Notion of Wifdom. 17 to it againft all temptations, by this aííä- S E x M. rance, that it fhall not hurt, but rather fe- I. cure their happinefs, which at been ac- knowledged to be the tendency of virtue, wherever any juif notions of it have ob- tained in the world. If men believe there is a God, wife, juft, and good, they mutt conclude that righteoufnefs is pleafing to him ; and if the foul is immortali and (hall fubfift in another {fate, they who have done good in this life, have the belt hope of be ing diftinguifhed by the favour of the Deity in the next. Thefe are matters about which the facred rule of our religion bath not left us in the dark, as the heathens were ; but taught us, with the greateft clearnefs and certainty, the wifdom of obedience to God's laws, and the folly of difobedience ; becaufe he bath appointed a day in which he will judge men by fetus Chr, according to their works. And thus purfuing his main fcope, and delivering his inftruLions agreeably to his grand principle, that virtue is wifdom, and that vice and wickednefs is extreme folly : Solomon fays, chap. xxii. 3.A prudent man forefeeth the evil, and hideth himfelf; but the fimple pats on, and are punif ed. Again ; the religious govern themf Ives by Vo L. III. C

18 Religion and Virtue, S ER M. a cautious forefight of the unhappy confe- I quences of a finful courfe, and by views truly fublime, and far above this world, Chap. xv. 24. The way of life is above to the wife, that he may depart from hell be- neath. Having proceeded fo far, and endeavoured to fhew you what the wifdom is which So- lomon fo much celebrateth in this book, per - fuading us to Rudy it, and conform our - felves to its rules, it would be, in the next place, very proper to confider the truth of his doctrine ; to inquire whether religion, univerfal righteoufnefs, goodnefs, tempe- rance, meeknefs, chaflity, and all the other virtues in which he placeth wifdom, be re- ally worthy of that character. If it be fo, then certainly the fear of the Lord, with the whole fyflem of virtues which it indu-. deth, or which depend upon it, muft be high in our efleem ; for we cannot help va- luing wifdom as the proper improvement of our reafon ; to think meanly and contemp- tuoufly of it, would be to forget ourfelves, and to difparage what mull be acknow- ledged to be the excellence of our nature. But the pretences to wifdom, it is fuppo- fed, every man muft have leave to examine, 2 and

confdered under the Notion of Wifdon. 19 and to judge for himfelf ; obedience may S E R m. be demanded by mere authority ; the fub- I. jet is not at liberty to enquire into the rea- fons of what is enjoined by his fuperior ; but counfel is addreffed to the underftanding ; and whatever is propofed under the charac- ter of wifdom muff nece_farily be fubmit -= ted to our own confederation, that we may receive it fo far as there appeareth fufficient caufe to our own reafon and judgment. Now, certainly this is a doctrine which will abide the ftridteft and moil impartial trial, that true religion, and every branch of it, is wifdom, and the knowledge of the Holy is underflanding. Perhaps the bell: and molt fatisfying way for illuftrating this, would be to enter into particulars, to confider the duties of piety, of juftice, of meeknefs, of charity, and the refs ; and to thew that every one of them is indeed wifdom, molt becoming men, exaftly fuited to the Rate and relations of the human nature, and con- ducive to the higheft and molt important ends which fuch a Being ought to purfue but that would be too large for the prefent defign. If we take the whole fyftem toge- ther, it will not be difficult to judge whe. ther it deferveth to be called wifdom, and C 2 whether

20 Religion and Virtue, S E it M. whether they are not the wifeft men, who I. form the difpofitions of their minds and `' " ' their praaice by its rules. One notion of wifdom is, that it confift- eth in a right judgment of things, of their nature, fo far as that falls within our know- ledge, of their properties, relations, differ- ences, and of their ends and ufes. The difference between the wifeft man, and the weakeft, in underftanding, doth not lie in the materials of their knowledge, if I may fpeak fo ; they have the fame ideas, the fame reprefentations of objets in their mind conveyed by their fenfes : But whe- ther it be for want of equal capacity, op- portunity, or diligence, the one bath not fo thoroughly examined, and Both not fo well difcern their agreement or difagreement, their relations, diftinaions, and ufes, as the other. A defect here muft have a very un- happy influence on our condu t, which muft be formed according to our fentiments and opinions of things. A man who is not able to diftinguifh, cannot know how to determine his choice, what to do, or for- bear ; what to chufe, or refufe ; like a blind man placed among a great variety of things, .fome good and fome bad, who hath nothing to

con idered under the Notion of Wifdor. a t to diredi his choice, becaufe he cannnot dif- S ER M: cern the difference, and may be as ready to L catch at a pebble as a jewel, nay, as ready to lay hold on what is deftruftive, as on what may be good and profitable to him; fo in the proper fphere of the rational powers, as there is an effential difference between objects, it is abfolutely neceffary we Mould difcern it, in order to our being rightly de- termined. If this be a juft notion of wif- dom, let us apply it to the fubjea before us, and any one may eafily judge, whether uni- verfal religion, the fear of God, juftice, pa- tience, temperance, goodnefs, be not more agreeable to the true nature and effential differences of things, and fheweth an exaäter judgment concerning them than the con- trary. Let any man who hath even the flendereft acquaintance with the fyftem of thefe virtues, determine, whether he who heartily embraceth and afteth according to it, appeareth to have a truer difcernment, than he who maketh the oppofite choice. I do not doubt but every one, who refieEt- eth ferioufly, will be convinced, that to fear God, to be juft, and charitable to men, and to moderate our own appetites and paffions, is to judge rightly, to treat things as they C 3 are,

22 Religion and Virtue, s E R M. are, according to truth, and to their real I. nature and importance ; in other words, that it is wifdom ; and that to abandon our felves to impiety, unrighteoufnefs, and fen - fual pleafures, is to confound things, to neg- lea their differences, to treat them quite otherwife than, at leaft if we confidered, we fhould judge them to be ; or that it is folly. Another notion of wifdom is, an ability to improve our reafon to the beft purpofes. All men boaft alike of this high prerogative of their nature, that they are rational ; but they have not all the fame dexterity in the ufe of reafon, nor an equal capacity to em- ploy it for the fame valuable ends. The conftitution of the human nature kerns to be uniform ; we have the fame original de- terminations, the fame fenfes, er ways of perceiving things, and the fame propenfities or affections which conflitute the ends we purfue ; but they are various and unequal in their excellency and importance, according to the different parts of our nature to which they relate, and the ufes which the wife author of our being defigned them for. There is, for example, in man, a delire to meat and drink, and other gratifications of the

confidered under the Notion of Wifdom. 23 the external fenfes ; there is alfo a defire of S E R M moral excellence, an affeétion to beings of I. the moft perfect characters. Every one muff fee there is a great difference in point of excellency and importance, between thefe affedtions or defires, and the purfuits to which they determine us. It is the pro- vince of wifdom to judge concerning the worth and dignity of our ends, that we may purfue them with fuitable zeal and applica- tion, as well as to find out the belt and pro - pereft means for obtaining them. Now, among all the ends which we are determined to purfue by any inffind, appetite, or incli- nation of nature, it will be no difficulty to judge which are the worthieft, the molt ex- cellent in themfelves, and the molt becom- ing fuck creatures as we are to purfue, and confequently, which ends true wifdom di- oeEteth us to chufe, as the chief and con - ftantly to be aimed at, in preference to all others ; whether that moral perfeEtion, which is the glory of intelligent beings, or the enjoyments of the animal life, which are common to us with the brutal kinds. One neceffary determination in our na- ture is, to feek our own happinefs ; and it will be acknowledged true wifdom which C 4 direCteth

24 Religion and Virtue, S E R M. direcleth us to the bell and molt effectual L way for fecuring that end. Now, not to enter on any large explication of this point, the queflion concerning the wifdom of reli- gion may be brought to a fhort iffue. Let any man ferioufly confider, and upon ma- ture refleEtion anfwer to himfelf, whether he really thinks it would be better for him, upon the whole, to be religious or wicked ; whether he would find himfelf eafier, and be better fatisfied in his own mind, and have better hope concerning his Rate here- after ; by fearing God, or not fearing him ; by a courfe of regular ftri& virtue, or li- centious immorality? If there be any diffi- culty at all in anfwering the queftion, it arifeth from the vehemence of corrupt in- clinations, and the prefent uneafinefs which accompanieth them; whereby men are ur- ged to comply, without confidering the certain, though at prefent diftant, confe- quences of fuch compliance. But, not to infifl on any other arguments, this is a dif- ficulty unworthy of wifdom, becaufe it ari- feth from the weak part of our conftitu- tion, originally intended to be guided and direded by reafon, which in man ought Hill to hold the reins; and we turn into folly, whenever

eonfidered under the Notion of Wifdom. 25 whenever we decline a fubje Lion to its em- S ER M. pire, or aft otherwife than it direaeth. I. Doth not wifdom require us to a& with a regard to the future, as well as the prefent time ? Is it not true difcretion to have a greater regard to a more important than to a lefs important intereft, and to have a greater regard to an eternal Rate, than to that which is momentary and perifhing ? And if this be taken into the account, the wifdom of religion will fully appear. It is certain that multitudes of mankind conduit themfelves quite otherwife ; they take up with the pleafures of the external fenfes, or the gratification of low defires; and they imagine themfelves wife in doing fo, deviling fubtile methods for obtaining their ends. But this fatal mifiake arifeth from a partial confideration of the human nature, and a narrow view of our exifience. If we deliberately confider the whole of our frame, and with difcretion extend our pro - fpeéts to a future fiate, of which we have the firongefi affurances, we fhall be con- vinced that fenfible objets cannot afford us the trueft felicity ; and that it becometh fuch creatures as we are, to provide for a longer duration than the prefent life ; that the

26 Religion and Virtue, S E R M. the dominion of confcience over the lower I. appetites and paflions is abfolutely neceffary to preferve the harmony of nature ; and that the moft folid and permanent peace and joy, fpring from the love and obfer- vance of God's laws. And as wifdom is profitable to dire& men to the profecution of the molt worthy ends, another part of its province is chuffing the beft means for attaining them ; and this alto appeareth in religion. Its directions principally turn up- on the pra&ice of piety and virtue ; and what better and more natural way can there be for arriving at perfeftion in any thing, than pradifing that wherein we would be perfect ? If we would hope to be finally bleffed in beholding God's face in righte- oufnefs, what better preparation can there be for it, than, when we behold the glory of the Lord, difplayed in his word, to be changed into his image, to become parta- kers of a divine nature, and, cleanfing our- felves from the filthinefs of the flefh and fpirit, to perfect holinefs in his fear ; thus to grow up gradually, by a continual progrefs in every religious virtue, to a meetnefs for the inheritance of the faints in light. True it is, that through the prejudices which are natural

,,.onfadered under the _Notion of Wifdom. 27 natural to us, and felfifh affe tîons, which S E R M. are very firong, the difcipline of religion is I. irkfome to men, efpecially at their firft en-`"^"j trance into it ; fo that true virtue, as prac- tifed in oppofition to the bent and tendency of depraved appetites and paffions, is juftly reprefented under the notion of felf- denial and mortification. This at firft view may, to unattentive minds, have an unnatural ap- pearance, and not feem worthy the name of wifdom ; for that which is to be denied, thwarted, and controuled, being a part of our nature, the difcipline which prefcribeth the denying it, muff neceffarily prefcribe pain, (indeed the rule of our religion ac- knowledgeth this, reprefenting that part of the exercife it enjoineth, under the notion of pulling out the right eye, and cutting off the right hand) and therefore it may feem to be a difcipline not wifely calculated for promoting the felicity of the human nature, which is confeffedly an end of wifdom. Yet upon a more clofe and ferious confide - ration, it will appear, that felf-denial and mortification is a neceffary part of wifdom, as a remedy accommodated to the infirmi- ties of our prefent Bate, and the diforders of our nature, We

28 Religion and Virtue, SE R M. We are divided againft ourfelves, and find oppofite tendencies in our hearts, carnal in- clinations and paffions leading one way, and reafon and confcience ¡propofingl another di- redly contrary. They mull be ftrangers to Pelf -relle Lion, who do not find it fo in fat and experience ; and if it be fo, it is plain that fomething, which muff be called our- felves, and a part of our nature, muff be denied ; either appetite and paflïon on the one hand, or reafon and confcience on the other. But it is certain, and every confide - rate perfon will be convinced of it, that the latter is the fuperior, the more excellent, and, of right, the governing part ; and that conforming ourfelves to its dire Lion will yield the greater, more exalted, and abiding happinefs. Now, is it not wife and reafo- nable to deny an inferior, and worfe felf, for the fake of a better and fuperior ? And thus the law of mortifying the deeds of the body, of crucifying the flefh, with the affec- tions and lufts, is wifely injoined for the Paving of the fpirit, for refcuing it from corruption, and raifing it to a ftate of wif- dom, aEtivity, and true pleafure. Since, then, this do&rive cf Solomon fets religious virtue in fuch an inviting light; and fince, as he elfewhere fpeaketh, there is a

confidered under the Notion of T'Yifdom. 29 a price put in our hands to attain it, let US SE R M, not be of the fools who have no heart to I. purchafe it. This is the unhappy condition of many to whom divine wifdom crieth, and underflanding lifteth up her voice. The im- petuous clamor of their lufts and paffions prevaileth againft the calm voice of reafon ; their depraved affe &ions, indulged, grow up to fuch confirmed vicious habits, as harden their hearts to an utter infenfibility, and a total negle t of wifdom's molt earneft foli- citations. Solomon, in this chapter, repre- fenteth the fatal confequences of this in a very clear and affecting manner ; and with his words I fhall conclude : Wfdom uttereth her voice in the flreets, and crieth in the chief places of concourfe, in the opening of the gates, and in the city ; that is, in the plaineft and moli intelligible manner : But then he adds, in the name of wifdom, Becaufe I called, and ye refufed ; have fet at naught my counfels, and would none of my reproofs- - they hated knowledge, and did not chufe the fear of the Lord ; therefore, fhall they eat the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices. SER-

SERMON IL The ExcELLE NcY of W I S D O Mm PROVERBS VIII. 6, 7. Hear, for I will fpeak of excellent things, and the opening of my lips 'hall be right things; for my mouth (hall fpeak truth. S E R M. AV I N G endeavoured to explain the II. nature, charaters, ends, and ufes, of '' that wifdom which Solomon recommendeth in this book, íhewing that it comprehend- eth the whole fyftem of religious virtue, the fear of God, all the pious devout affec- tions and regards which are due to the fu- preme Being; juftice and good -will to men; fobriety, or a due government of our infe- rior appetites and paílions, together with the proper effects of thefe qualities and difpofi- tions of mind in our converfations, doing good, and efchewing evil ; and having en- deavoured to juftify the notion he intendeth to give us, that it may have a proper influ- ence on our temper and praftice, that this is true wifdom ; I Mall, next, apply myfelf to

The Excellency of Wifdom. 3 to the confideration of fome arguments S E x M. whereby he inforceth it, and urgeth us to II. fludy, embrace, and conform our lives to ` ,r- - its dire&ion. One argument is contained in the text, which is a part of wifdom's ele- gant fpeech, addreffed to the fons of men, in the mofi open and folernn manner. She is reprefented, in the beginning of this chap- ter, as making a public appearance in a rude, ignorant, and corrupt world, loudly pro- claiming her do &rines and counfels, and calling upon all men, without exception, even of the molt fimpie and flupid, to hearken to them. And what confideration could be more powerful to engage their at- tention than this, that fhe fpeaketh of ex- cellent things; the opening of her lips is of right things, and her mouth fpeaketh truth. That this is the juft chaca&er of the in- ftru &ions and precepts of religious virtue, I will endeavour to fhew you in this difcourfe ; and then I (hall make fome praEtical reflec- tions. You cannot but obferve, that other writers of fcripture, as well as Solomon, at- tribute high excellency to religion ; particu- larly we meet with many declarations of that fort in the books of yob and the Pfalms. It is compared with things which are among men of the greateft price, and preferred to them ; s

3 The Excellency of Wifdo7n. S E R M. them ; which method of comparifon is a II. very natural one in enquiring into and de- 4"v"--j fcribing worth. It muff indeed be fuppofed that we are, in fome meafure, acquainted with the things which wifdom fpeaketh, otherwife it would be a vain attempt to Phew their excellence. But, befides that, I have already mentioned fome of them, in the brief account I gave of the defign and main fubjet of this book ; I hope that is a fuppofition not unfit to be made in fuch an aíl'embly : For though it muff be acknow- ledged, that the compleat fchecne of reli- gion and morality, and every thing belong- ing to it which may be comprehended in the dorine of wifdom, is not without dif- ficulties ; fome of the fmaller lines in the divine draught may not be clearly difcerned, perhaps not all of them, by any even of thofe who have fearched into it with the greateft care ; yet the principal ftrokes are fo clear, that he who runs may read, as the prophet fpeaketh ; fcarcely any Chriftian can be ignorant of them, at leaft fo far ignorant, as not to be able to judge of their excel- lence. My method for illuftrati,ng Solomon's ar- gument in the text, thall be this : Firf,

The Excellency of Lllifdorn. 3 3 Fin i, I will confider the excellence of S E R M. the doftrines and injunctions of wif- II. dom, abfolutely and in themfelves, and under that head explain their reäitude and truth. Secondly, I (hall, after the example of this, and other facred writers, compare them with other things which are moft valued by men, and Phew their fupe- rior worth. Firil, let us confider the excellence of the doctrines and injunéions of wifdom, ab- folutely and in themfelves. And here it would feem reafonable, firft of all, that we íhould fix an idea of excellence, making it the ftandard whereby to try every thing which pretendeth to that character : But, as far as I can fee, the facred writers fatisfy themfelves, with refped to this matter, by appealing to the common fenfe of mankind, and fuppofe a neceffary approbation and efteem which mull be the ftandard, at leaft the charaäeriftic, of excellency to us. Their manner of fpeaking feems to be altogether unintelligible, unlefs there be fome common and plain rule wherein all men are agreed, and which muff have fo deep a foundation VOL. III. D ira

Í ii 34 The Excellency of Lïfdont, S E R M. in nature, as the neceffary invariable deter - II. mination of our minds. If you fuppofe the charaEfer of excellent and right to be the refult of arbitrary human conftitutions, it would never be uniform, but muff have as much variety as the meafures of the under- ftandings, fancies, cuffoms, affeCffions, pre- judices, or whatever elfe might influence men in making fuch conftitutions. But we will find, by looking into our own minds, that we do not learn our notions of excellent and right that way ; they are before the confideration of all laws, appointments, or- ders, and inffru' ions whatfoever; for we bring all thefe to the teft in our own minds, and try them by a fenfe which we have prior to any of them. This is not acquired (though it may be improved) by ffudy and learning, for then very few would be qua- lified to judge ; but in the text wifdom ap- pealeth to the fimple and to fools, fubmit- ting her inffruEfions to their examination. Nay, this fenfe cannot depend on any pofi- tive declaration even of God's will, nor is the meaning, properly, of excellent and right things, fuch things as he hath com- manded. When St. Paul giveth thefe epi- thets to religious virtue, much of the fame fignification with thofe in the text, whatfo- ever

the E, cellency of Taifdotn. 35 ever things are true, and pure, and jufl, S E R M: and honed, and lovely, I cannot think he II means that thefe things are fo becaufe pre - "-^1a fcribed as duty in the word of God, confi- dered as a divine law ; for then he would have expreffed himfelf more plainly and in- telligibly thus ; whatfoever things are com- manded, think on thefè things ; and though the very fame things are enjoined by the fupreme authority of God; and inforced by the gofpel motives, by which they derive a new obligation upon the mind of man ; yet honefly and turpitude, lovelinefs and de- formity, are charaElers of actions which can have no reference to legiflative authority, but purely to that impreflion of moral excellence which is made deep in the human heart. Befides, the character of excellent is in a peculiar, and indeed the higheft fenfe, ap- plied to God's laws and to himfelf, which thews that it is not to be underflood to be fixed by a pofitive declaration of his will ; for if it were, when it is laid that his laws are excellent, and himfelf an excellent Be- ing, the meaning would be, that his laws are, and himfelf is, jufl what he pleafes ; which is in effect to fay, that his moral perfe Lions are not effential to him. It re- mains then, that the original idea of excel - D 2 lence

36 T'he Excellency of Wifdotn, S E R M. lence is, in this fenfe, effential to our nature; II. that it is one of thofe perceptions to which we are neceffarily determined when the ob- jed fitted to excite it is prefented to us. By our conftitution we are tied down to certain fenfations or ways of perceiving, which feem to be uniform, alike in all men, and fubjea to no alterations, in which we muff finally acquiefce as the foie judges within their proper fphere. yob fays, chap. xii. i r. Doth not the ear try words, and the mouth tafie his meats. The perception of talks is natural, the fame originally in every man, no one learneth it from another, as] we do the fignification of words, arts, and habits of divers kinds ; and every man's tafle is the only judge for himfelf of its proper objeL`t, no one can change it, or conform his man- ner of perception to the will of another; fo that if a proclamation was made, offering meats and drinks to all who fhould be will- ing to receive them, and this argument ufed, not that they are wholfome or medi- cinal, tending to reftore and preferve health, for that might be difficult to judge of, and requireth (kill and experience, but that they are fweet or palatable ; to whom is the ap- peal underftood to be made, but to every one for himfelf ? for the mouth tafteth meats.

The Excellency of Wifdom 37 meats. In like manner, fays Yob, the ear S E x Nz. trieth words ; probably he means, the un- II. derftanding trieth doarines, and the mind '-^"--us trieth the goodnefs of things, and muff pro- nounce the bell judgment on every one that is propofed to it. There is a talle in the mind, or a power of difcerning of excel- lency, of right and truth, as well as in the mouth a talle of meats ; and it is as natural and much more invariable. When certain charaflers, aélions, and principles, are pro - pofed to us, we have as neceffarily a per- ception of excellent and vile, right and wrong, of true and falfe, as we have of Tweet, and bitter, and four, from the ob- je is of the external fenfe. And as this lat- ter is capable of being improved by experi- ence, or vitiated by a diftemper, which Both not hinder its being natural ; fo in the other cafe, there is not in all men an equal degree or extent of knowledge in the things of wifdom, which arifeth from an inequa- lity in their capacities, means of informa- tion, and attention ; but 1E11 there is in all men a fenfe of the difference between moral good and evil, of the excellence of the one, and the turpitude of the other, as foon as it is underflood, I do not fay that this ne- D 3 ceffarily

38 The Excellency of TP fdòm:. S E R M. cellarily determines our practice ; we find by II. experience that it is otherwife, and that `- -n(--) men milled by their felfilh inclinations, vi- cious cuftoms and habits, and ftrong preju- dices, chufe what they know to be evil, and refufe what they know to be good ; but every one who, according to Solomon's ex- hortation, will hear and ferioufly confider, is qualified to difcern that the things which wifdom fpeaketh, are indeed excellent. If the queftion be, What are thofe things, in the inftruEtions of wifdom, or of religion and virtue, which appear to be fo excellent ? I anfwer, every thing. Let any man feri- oufly confider the great branches of religion as they are propoféd to us in the fcripture, let them think on them feverally, and then in conjunétion, as making up one fyftem, and let him calmly pronounce judgment, whether they, or their oppofites, are the more excellent and amiable ? whether the fear and love of God, with a confiant tenor of practice agreeable to thefe great princi- ples, be better than irreligion and profane - nefs ? whether charity, fidelity, gratitude, temperance, chaftity, patience, be better than malice, fraud, violence, perfidioufnefs, drunkennefs, Iewdnefs, and a continued courte

The Excellency of Wifdom. 39 courfe of outrageous infolence againft God SE R M. and man ? and then let him judge whether II. it be not true, which the prophet hath faid, Micah vi. 8. God hath jbewed thee, O man, what is good. But I think the wife man hath very well explained his own meaning in the following words of the text, and leads us into a juft way of conceiving the excellence of religious virtue ; for, faith wifdom, the opening of my lips fhall be of right things, and my mouth (hall fpeak truth. Right and true are cha- raders which we cannot but acknowledge to be excellent wherever we difcern them ; fet them againft their oppofites, in any cafe wherein you are competent judges, and fully able to diftinguifh, that you may fee to which of them your own minds muff neceffarily give the preference. An aItion or a character, in which reeritude and inte- grity eminently fhine forth, or a rule which propofeth them to us, fuch as that of our Saviour, Matt. vii. 52. Whatever ye would that men fhould do to you, do ye even fö to them. This will command our veneration, and truth will always appear lovely, even when our private interefts and affeEtiops land in greateft oppofition to it. When D 4 any