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SUMMARY OF SERMON I.
PROVERBS, CHAP. III.-VERSE 17.
MEANING of the words of the text: by wisdom is understood an habitual skill or faculty of judging aright about matters of practice, choosing according to that right judgment, and conforming the actions to such good choice. Ways and paths in Scripture dialect are the courses and manners of action by pleasantness may be meant the joy and delight accompanying a course of such actions, and by peace the content and satisfaction which ensue from it. So that the text may be taken simply to represent unto us, that a course of life directed by wisdom and good judgment is delightful in the practice, and brings content after it. This proposition is confirmed by divers reasons, and illustrated by several instances.
I. It is shown that wisdom is of itself delectable and satisfactory, as it implies a revelation of truth, and a detection of error to us; as it satisfies our best desires, not by entertaining us with dry, empty, and fruitless theories on mean and vulgar subjects, but by enriching our minds with excellent and useful knowlege, directed to the noblest objects, and serviceable to the highest ends.
II. Much more in its consequences is wisdom exceedingly
pleasant and peaceable: in general, by disposing us to acquire and to enjoy all the good and happiness we are capable of; and by freeing us from the inconveniences and mischiefs to which our condition is subject, &c.: more particularly,
III. Wisdom assures us that we take the best course, and proceed as we ought: for by the same means we judge aright, and reflecting on that judgment, are assured we do so. Wisdom therefore frees us from the company of anxious doubt in our actions, and the consequence of bitter repentance.
IV. Wisdom begets in us a hope of success in our actions, and is usually attended therewith: but what is more delicious than hope? what more satisfactory than success?
V. Wisdom prevents discouragement from the possibility of ill success; yea, and makes disappointment itself tolerable. However the irresistible power of divine Providence, guided by the unsearchable counsel of his will, may interpose to thwart our endeavors; yet when we act prudently, we have no reason to be disheartened, because, having had good intentions, having used fit means, and having done our best, as no deserved blame, so no considerable damage can arrive to us: and though we find that Almighty God has crossed us, yet we are sure he is not displeased with us. The best and wisest attempts have oftentimes miscarried: instances given from Moses, and the holy prophets, and our Saviour. But farther,
VI. Wisdom makes all the troubles, griefs, and pains incident to life, whether casual adversities or natural afflictions, easy and supportable, by rightly valuing the importance and moderating the influence of them, &c.
VII. Wisdom has always a good conscience attending it, that purest delight and richest cordial of the soul; that impregnable fortress against external assaults and inward commotions; that certain friend, which, as Solomon observes, renders a man's sleep sweet ; &c.
VIII. Wisdom confers on its possessor a facility, expert
readiness, and dexterity in action, which is a very pleasant and commodious quality; removing obstructions, directing the intention to ends possible and attainable; suggesting fit means to work by; and contriving right methods of process, &c.
IX. Wisdom begets a sound, healthful, and harmonious complexion of the soul, disposing us with judgment to distinguish, and with pleasure to relish, wholesome things; but to nauseate and reject such as are noxious.
X. Wisdom acquaints us with ourselves, our own temper and constitution, our propensities and passions, our habitudes and capacities; a thing not only very advantageous to us, but also very satisfactory and delightful. Errors of conduct, into which a fool is apt to fall, described. The contrary course of him, who, by impartial reflexion on his own mind, grows familiar with himself.
XI. Wisdom procures and preserves a constant favor and fair respect of men, purchases a good name, and upholds reputation, which things are naturally desirable, &c.
XII. Wisdom instructs us to examine, compare, and rightly to value the objects that court our affections and challenge our care, merely regulating our passions and moderating our endeavors; whence ensue a pleasant serenity and peaceable tranquillity of mind. Instances given of corporeal pleasures, honor, power, wit, and beauty, in which wisdom exercising severe and impartial judgment, and perceiving that they have in them no intrinsic excellence, produce no solid content or perfection to the mind, no security to the future condition, or any other durable advantages, concludes that they deserve not any high opinion of the mind regarding them, nor any laborious care in the pursuit of them.
XIII. Wisdom distinguishing the circumstances, limiting the measures, determining the modes, appointing the fit seasons of action; preserves order, the parent of peace, and prevents
confusion, the mother of iniquity, strife, and disquiet. Business of human life compared to a building, &c.
XIV. Wisdom discovers our relations, duties, and concernments with respect to men, as well as the natural grounds of them thereby both qualifying and inclining us to the discharge of them; whence exceeding convenience, pleasure, and content ensue: the topic enlarged on: so that wisdom in this point of view is the genuine parent of all moral and political virtue; as Solomon says in her person, I lead in a way of righteousness and in the midst of the paths of judgment.
XV. The principal advantage of wisdom is, that it acquaints us with the nature and reason of true religion, affording the most convincing arguments to persuade us to the practice of it; which is accompanied by the purest of all delights. The manner in which wisdom acquaints us with the nature of religion, that is, wherein it consists, and what it requires, explained. The incentives by which it allures and persuades us noticed.
Lastly, wisdom attracts the favor of God, purchases for us a glorious reward, and secures to us a perpetual felicity. For God loveth none but him that dwelleth with wisdom: Wisd. vii. 28. God loveth wisdom as most agreeable to his own nature, &c. And the paths she leads in are such as directly tend to the promised inheritance of joy and bliss.
Passage of great eloquence, showing how we ought to endeavor to obtain this excellent endowment of soul; with a concluding fervent aspiration after it.
THE PLEASANTNESS OF RELIGION.
PROVERBS CHAP. III.-VERSE 17.
Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.
THE meaning of these words seems plain and obvious, and to need little explication. Her ways,' that is, the ways of Wisdom. What this wisdom is, I shall not undertake accurately to describe. Briefly, I understand by it, an habitual skill or faculty of judging aright about matters of practice, and choosing according to that right judgment, and conforming the actions to such good choice. 'Ways' and 'paths' in Scripture dialect are the courses and manners of action. For doing' there is commonly called 'walking;' and the methods of doing are the ways' in which we walk. By pleasantness may be meant the joy and delight accompanying, and by peace the content and satisfaction ensuing such a course of actions. So that, in short, the sense of these words seems simply to be this; that a course of life directed by wisdom and good judgment is delightful in the practice, and brings content after it. The truth of which proposition it shall be my endeavor at this time to confirm by divers reasons, and illustrate by several instances.
I. Then, wisdom of itself is delectable and satisfactory,* as it implies a revelation of truth, and a detection of error to us. It is like light, pleasant to behold, casting a sprightly lustre, and
• Veritatis luce menti hominis nihil dulcius. Cic. Acad. 2.