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rience, and the unanimous consent of all wise men sufficiently declare. But farther,
XV. The principal advantage of wisdom is, its acquainting us with the nature and reason of true religion, and affording convictive arguments to persuade to the practice of it; which is accompanied with the purest delight, and attended with the most solid content imaginable. I say, the nature of religion, wherein it consists, and what it requires; the mistake of which produceth daily so many mischiefs and inconveniences in the world, and exposes so good a name to so much reproach. It showeth it consisteth not in fair professions and glorious pretences, but in real practice; not in a pertinacious adherence to any sect or party, but in a sincere love of goodness, and dislike of naughtiness, wherever discovering itself; not in vain ostentations and florishes of outward performance, but in an inward good complexion of mind, exerting itself in works of true devotion and charity; not in a nice orthodoxy, or politic subjection of our judgments to the peremptory dictates of men, but in a sincere love of truth, in a hearty approbation of, and compliance with, the doctrines fundamentally good, and necessary to be believed; not in harsh censuring and virulently inveighing against others, but in careful amending our own ways; not in a peevish crossness and obstinate repugnancy to received laws and customs, but in a quiet and peaceable submission to the express laws of God, and lawful commands of man; not in a furious zeal for or against trivial circumstances, but in a conscionable practising the substantial parts of religion ; not in a frequent talking or contentious disputing about it, but in a ready observance of the unquestionable rules and prescripts of it: in a word, that religion consists in nothing else but doing what becomes our relation to God, in a conformity or similitude to his nature, and in a willing obedience to his holy will : to which by potent incentives it allures and persuades us; by representing to us his transcendently glorious attributes, conspicuoulsy displayed in the frame, order, and government of the world: that wonderful Power, which erected this great and goodly fabric; that incomprehensible Wisdom, which preserves it in a constant harmony; that immense Goodness, which hath so carefully provided for the various necessities, delights, and
comforts of its innumerable inhabitants. I say, by representing those infinitely glorious perfections, it engages us with highest respect to esteem, reverence, and honor bim. Also, by minding us of our manifold obligations to him, our receiving being, life, reason, sense, all the faculties, powers, excellencies, privileges, and commodities of our natures from him ; of his tender care and loving providence continually supporting and protecting us; of his liberal beneficence, patient indulgence, and earnest desire of our good and happiness, by manifold expressions evidently manifested towards us; it inflames us with ardent love, and obliges us to officious gratitude toward him. Also, by declaring the necessary and irreconcilable contrariety of his nature to all impurity and perverseness, his peerless majesty, his irresistible power, and his all-seeing knowlege, it begets an awful dread and a devout fear of him. By discovering him from his infinite benignity willing, and from his unlimited power only able to supply our needs, relieve us in distresses, protect us from dangers, and confer any valuable benefit on us, it engenders faith, and encourages us to rely on him. By revealing to us his supereminent sovereignty, uncontrollable dominion, and unquestionable authority over us; together with the admirable excellency, wisdom, and equity of his laws, so just and reasonable in themselves, so suitable to our nature, so conducible to our good, so easy and practicable, so sweet and comfortable: it powerfully inclines, and by a gentle force as it were constrains us to obedience. By such efficacious inducements wisdom urges us to all duties of religion, and withal surely directs us (as I before said) wherein it consists; teaching us to have right and worthy apprehensions of the divine nature, to which our devotion, if true and good, must be suited and conformed : and so it frees us, as from irreligion and profane neglect of God, so from fond superstitions, the sources of so much evil to mankind. For he that wisely hath considered the wisdom, goodness, and power of God, cannot imagine God can with a regardless eye overlook his presumptuous contempts of his laws, or endure him to proceed in an outrageous defiance of heaven, to continue hurting himself, or injuring his neighbor; nor can admit unreasonable terrors, or entertain suspicious conceits of God, as of an imperious master, or implacable
tyrant over him, exacting impossible performances from, or delighting in the fatal miseries of his creatures; nor can suppose him pleased with hypocritical shows, and greatly taken with superficial courtships of ceremonious address; or that he can in any wise favor our fiery zeals, fierce passions, or unjust partialities about matter of opinion and ceremony; or can do otherwise than detest all factious, harsh, uncharitable, and revengeful proceedings, of what nature, or on what ground soever; or that he can be so inconsistent with himself as to approve any thing but what is like himself, that is, righteousness, sincerity, and beneficence.
Lastly, wisdom attracts the favor of God, purchaseth a glorious reward, and secureth perpetual felicity to us. For God loveth none but him that dwelleth with wisdom :' Wisd. vii. 28. And, *glorious is the fruit of good labors, and the root of wisdom shall never fall
away :' Id. iii. 15. And, happy is the man that findeth wisdom :' and “whoso findeth her, findeth life, and shall obtain favor of the Lord :' Prov. iii. 13. viii. 35. These are the words of wise Solomon in the book of Wisdom and in the Proverbs. God loveth her as most agreeable to his nature; as resembling him; as an offspring, beam, and efflux of that wisdom which founded the earth, and established the heavens ; as that which begetteth honor, love, and obedience to his commands, and truly glorifies him; and as that which promotes the good of his creatures, which he earnestly desires. And the paths she leads in are such as directly tend to the promised inheritance of joy and bliss.
Thus have I simply and plainly presented you with part of what my meditation suggested on this subject : it remains that we endeavor to obtain this excellent endowment of soul, by the faithful exercise of our reason, careful observation of things, diligent study of the divine law, watchful reflexion on ourselves, virtuous and religious practice ; but especially by imploring the divine influence, the original spring of light and fountain of all true knowlege, following St. James's advice ; . If any man lack wisdom, let him ask it of God, who giveth freely.' Therefore, O everlasting Wisdom, the Maker, Redeemer, and Governor of all things, let some comfortable beams from thy great body of heavenly light descend on us, to illuminate our dark minds,
and quicken our dead hearts; to inflame us with ardent love unto thee, and to direct our steps in obedience to thy laws, through the gloomy shades of this world, into that region of eternal light and bliss where thou reignest in perfect glory and majesty, one God ever blessed, world without end. Amen.
SUMMARY OF SERMON II.
1 TIMOTHY, CHAP. IV.-VERSE 8.
GENERAL observations on the devotedness to profit exhibited by men, in the immediate scope of their designs and aim of their actions. The practice being so universal, and men being reasonable creatures, it cannot proceed from mere brutal dotage ; but there must be some fair color or semblance of reason which carries them on this way. The reason is obvious enough; the very name of profit implies it, signifying that which is useful, or conducive to purposes really or seemingly good. The gain of money, or of something equivalent to it, why this is specially termed profit explained.
If therefore a project should be proposed to us very feasible and probable to succeed, in the pursuit of which we might assuredly obtain great profit, we should only act consistently with ourselves and our usual manner of acting, if we readily embraced it. Such a project is proposed by a very skilful judge of such things in the text; one which will bring to us gains unspeakably great, in comparison of which all other designs of men are unprofitable, or even detrimental.
This project briefly stated is to be religious or pious; that is, in our minds stedfastly to believe on God, in our hearts earnestly to love and reverence him, and throughout our practice diligently to observe his laws : this is recommended by St. Paul, as profitable for all things; and this it will be shown is really so.
A main obstruction to the practice of piety is, that it has been taken not for a friend, but rather for an enemy to profit ;