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SERMON I. RELIGION and Virtue, considered
under the Notion of WISDOM.
PROVERBS I. 1; 2; 3, 4. The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel: To know wisdom and ina struction, to perceive words of understanding ; to receive the instruction of wisdom; justice, and judgment, and equity; to give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion. A NY one who readeth the proverbs SER M: A of Solomon attentively, will see that I.
the principal scope of them is to ma teach men wisdom. His manner of writing is, indeed, such, that no one fubject is methodically treated by him, the whole book being no more than a collection of wise moral sayings, without any coherence, some probably wrote down by himself, and fome extracted afterwards out of other writings which are not now extant; of the former Vol. III. : B
SERM. sort seem to be the first twenty-four chap-
of the book, under this title, chap. XXV. 1.
the 8th, and oth chapters, doth designedly, SERM. and even out of his professed method, that I. is, more largely than in the way of proverbs, insist on the beauty and excellence of wisdom, inviting men seriously and steadily to contemplate her charms, that they may admire her instructions, and give themselves
up to her conduct." '. Wisdom is introduced in the dramatick
way (which is an antient, and, when well managed, a very useful way of writing) as à divine person appearing in a very lovely form, displaying her native worth and beauty; and by the most powerful persuasives, and the most affectionate manner of address, foliciting the degenerate fons of men to hearken to her counsels for their good. The reasonableness and happy effects of our complying with her proposals are represented, and the vanity of all those things which rival wisdom for our affections, is fully shewn. The means, and the necessary dispositions on our part, in order to our attaining the true discretion here justly celebrated, are particularly mentioned, and those prejudices laid open, with the folly and unreasonableness of them, which shut mens minds, and harden their hearts against it.
SERM. With these things in our view as its main
design, let us carefully read the Book of
which ariseth from the testimony of an approving conscience. That you may read it with the greater advantage, I will endeavour, in this discourse, to explain the nature, characters, and uses of the wisdom of which it treateth; and making that the standard, we may try fome things which have the appearance of wisdom, and, perhaps, correct some wrong notions we have entertained in a matter of so great importance : and by that amiable character, which must be high in the esteem of every considerate person, if it appeareth to be justly applied, we may be induced to confent to, and practise the rules Solomon prescribeth.
In general, it is very plain that what this author meaneth by wisdom, is true religion and virtue; whether it be worthy of that name, especially in the peculiar and distin
guishing manner he giveth it, in oppofition Se RM. to every thing else that pretends to it, I I. shall afterwards consider ; at present, I obferve, that what he meaneth by wisdom, is religion and virtue; and you will see it to be so, if you look into the following palfages in the 7th verse of this chapter ; The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; which was a principle Solomon learned from his pious father, to whose instructions he often refers in this book, and acknowledgeth his great obligations to them. This was David's doctrine, Psal. cxi. 10, and indeed it was a maxim received by wise men in ages long before theirs, as you may see in Job xxviii. 28. where it is represented to be the sum of what God taught men, as the substance of their duty, and their most important concern. The fear of the Lord, in the stile of the sacred writers, fignifieth universal religion, because it is an eminent part of it, proper enough therefore, by an usual way of speaking, to describe the whole; and because 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 commandments of God. As every branch of virtue