« ElőzőTovább »
beasts, is his reason, and the great pre-eminence that one man hath over another, is WISDOM. Though all men have ordinarily the privilege of reason, yet all men have not the habit of reason. The greatest commendation that we can ordinarily give a man, is, that he is a wise man, and the greatest reproach that can be to a man, and that which is worst resented, is to be called or esteemed a fool ; and yet, as much as the reputation of wisdom is valued, and the reputation of folly is resented, the generality of mankind are in truth very fools, and make it the great part of their business to be so; and many that pretend to seek after wisdom, do either mistake the thing, or mistake the way to attain it; conimonly those that are the greatest pretenders to wisdom, and that search after it, place it in some little narrow concern, but place it not in its true latitude, commensurate to the nature of mankind. And. hence it is, that one esteems it the only wisdom, to be a wise politician or statesman, another to be a wise and knowing naturalist, another to be a wise acquirer of wealth, and the like; and all these are wisdoms in their kind; and the world, perchance, would be much better than it is, if these kind of wisdoms were more in fashion than they are : but yet, these are but partial wisdoms; the wisdom that is most worth the seeking and finding, is that which renders a man a wise man.
The excellent man Job, after a diligent search after wisdom, what it is, and where to be found,
doth at length makethese two conclusions, viz. First, That the true root of wisdom, and that therefore best knew where it was to be found, and how to be attained, is certainly none other but almighty God. Job xxvii. 23, God understandeth the way thereof, and knoweth the place thereof. And, Second, As he alone best knew it, so he best knew how to preseribe unto mankind' the means and method to attain it: To man he said, To fear God, that is wisdom; that is, it is the proper and adequate wisdom, suitable to human nature, and to the condition of mankind; and we need not doubt but it is so, because he that best knew what was the best rule of wisdom, prescribed it to man, his best of visible creatures, whom we have just reason to believe he would not deceive with a false or deficient rule of wisdom ; since, as wisdom is the beauty and glory of man, so wisdom in man : sets forth the glory and excellency and goodness of God. And, consonant to this, David, a wise king, and Solomon, the wisest of men, affirm the same truth: Psalm cxi. 10, The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom ; a good unders standing have they that do his commandments. Prov. i. 7, The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction ; and ix. 10, The fear of the Lord is: the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy is understanding. And when the wise man had run all his long travel of experiments, to attain that which might be that good for the
children of men, in the end of bis tedious chase and pursuit, he closeth up all with this very same conclusion: Eccles. xii. 13, Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter, Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man; and he gives a short, but effectual, reason of it: For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil: and hence it is, that this wise man, who had the greatest measure of wisdom of any meer man since the creation of Adam; that had as great experience and knowledge of all things and persons ; that made it his business to search and to inquire, not only into wisdom, but into madness and folly; that had the greatest opportunity of wealth and power to make the exactest inquiry therein; this wise, and inquisitive, and experienced man, in all his writings, styles the man fearing God, and obeying him, the only wise man; and the person that neglects this duty, the only fool and madman.
Sir MATTHEW HALE.
TAKE a man that is employed as a statesman, or politician, though he have much wisdom and prudence, it commonly degenerates into craft and cunning, and pitiful shifting, without the fear of God: but, mingle the fear of almighty God with that kind of wisdom, it renders it noble, and generous, and staid, and honest, and stable. Again, take a man that is much acquainted with the sub
tiler kind of learning, as philosophy for instance without the fear of God upon his heart, it will carry him over to pride, arrogance, self-conceit, curiosity, presumption; but mingle it with the fear of God, it will ennoble that knowledge, carry it up to the honour and glory of that God that is the author of nature, to the admiration of his power, wisdom, and goodness; it will keep him humble, modest, sober, and yet rather with an advance than detriment to his knowledge. Take a man, industrious in his calling, without the fear of God with it, he becomes à drudge to worldly ends, vexed when disappointed, overjoyed in success: mingle but the fear of God with it, it will not abate his industry, but sweeten it; if he prosper, he is thankful to God that gives him power to get wealth; if he miscarry, he is patient under the will and dispensation of the God he fears; it turns the very employment of his calling into a kind of religious duty and exercise of his religion, without detriment to it.
SIR MATTHEW HALE.
LET us now make a short comparison between the persons that fear not God, and those that truly fear him, and then let any man judge who is the fool, and who is the wise man. A man bath but a very short uncertain time in this life, which, in comparison with eternity, is less than a moment. The great God of heaven, in his word, assures us that there is an estate of immortality after this
life, and that that immortal estate is bụt of two kinds ; an estate of never-dying misery, or an estate of endless glory; and tells them, “ If you fear “me, and obey those easy commands that are con“ tained in the book of the Holy Scriptures, which “I have given you, you shall infallibly attain “ everlasting life and happiness, and even in this “ present life, shall have the influence and pre* sence of my favour, to support, to direct, and “ bless you. On the other side, if ye refuse my s fear, and reject my commands, and prefer the “ unlawful and vain delusions of this present life, “ before the obedience of my will, and persist “ impenitently in it, your portion shall be ever“ lasting misery.”
And now, everlasting life and everlasting death being set before the children of men, there are a sort of men that rather choose to disobey the command of God, reject his fear, and all this, that they may enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season, those pleasures that are fading and dying, that leave behind them a sting, that renders their very enjoynient bitter, and that make even that very little life they enjoy, but a life of discomfort and unhappiness in spite of all their pleasures ; or, be they as sincere as their own hearts can promise them, yet they are but for a season; a season, that in its longest period is but short, but is uncertain also : a little inconsiderable accident, the breach of a vein, an ill air, a little ill-digested portion of that excess wherein they delight, may put a period