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Serm. without any means of defending itfelf, pre* ferving its rights, or protecting its inhabitants: Juft fo is the man in whom reafon and confcience have loft their force, and no more maintain their dominion over the lower affections; he is a prey to every temptation* having no defence againft it ^ fierce paffions, with an impetuous fury, drive him (and he hath no power to refift them) juft as fhips are driven by a tempeft. In this cafe it is impoffible to attain to wifdom or virtue, and to maka any progrefs in if, for it is the beft exercife of reafon. Religion is a reafonable fervice, and liberty is effentially neceflary to it; for without willingnefs, or a free choice (every one is fenfible) there can be no fuch thing as religion or virtue. Though we may very well conceive moral goodnefs, indeed, the moft perfect, without what Solomon calleth rule over our own fpirit, or a maftery over paffions and other infirmities; becaufe there is no fuch thing, no affections or difpofitions of a contrary tendency in the moft perfect being; nor doth goodnefs neceffarily include it: Yet in the imperfect ftate of the human nature, the meafure of virtue dependeth on, and is proportionate to the degree of our conqueft over the frailties, the felfifh affections and pafi .? fions
fio;is of our own minds; and it may be S E R M. juftly faid, not only that rule over the fpirit hath a connedtion with wifdom in the moral .and religious fenfe, but that it is the very thing itfelf. . .
.This, my brethren, giveth us juft occafion to' confider with regret the degeneracy of mankind; Solomon faith, Ecclef. vii. 29. That God made man upright, but they have fought cut many inventions. The integrity of our nature confifteth in the dominion of the fu"perior powers, and "the fubordination pf the
i 1 'f • M*""T
appetites and paffions to them; but it is derformed when, on the contrary, the lower Affections get the afcendant, and reafqn arid qDnfclence are dethroned, which experience
"£s well as the fcripture meweth to be the unhappy cafe of finners who are difobedient, and deceived, ferving divers lufts and plea
Jur^S, the brutal part ruleth over the man.; paffions .indulged becpme untra£table and impetuous; and cuftom in finning is a principle ftrong as nature itfelf. The prophet reprefenteth the difficulty of reforming habitually vicious and wicked met*, by comparing it tqa natural impoffibilfty; Jer. xiii. 23. Can tie Ethiopian change bis Jkin, or the leopard his Jpats, then may ye aljo do gaod who are aecujiomed to do'
nets. To encourage and animate us in fhak- S E R M« ing off the yoke of fin, and returning to God, the hope of forgivenefs is confirmed by the facrifice of Chrifl's death, in whom God hath declared himfelf well pleafed, and reconciled to finners who obey the gofpel; and the fpirit is promifed and given to help our infir
jnhies, and where the fpirit of the Lord ?s9 there is liberty, 2 Cor. iii. 17. The tendency of his affiftance and operations, and of the whole chriftian miniftration, is to refcue finners from the moft reproachful and painful bondage of fin,. and teach them to rule over themfelves, to deny felf, not reafon and confcience, the power of which is re-eftablimed by the miniftration of the Spirit, but the extravagancies of paffion, and the irregular de
, (ires of the fle'fh and of the mind. Let us, therefore,.f;avingfo great encouragement, be .prevailed with to ufe our beft endeavours that we may more and more underftand and accuftom ourfelves to this difcipline, that fo ipaking conftant proficiency in wifdom, we
. may enjoy the fruits of it here in pleafantnefs and peace, and have the aflured hopes of the
( reward which God hath promifed hereafter
.. to the wife,.Dan. xii. 3. That they JhallJhine as the bright nefs of the firmament, not in outward fplendor, but true fubfhntial glory.
5 S E R
The Proud and Scornful incapable of attaining to WISDOM.
PROVERBS XIV. 6.
. A J"corner feeketb wifdom, andfindetb it not.
Serm. TF wifdom or religious virtue be the noA blefl accomplifhment of the human nature, moft fuitable to fuch beings as we are, in itfelf tranfcendently excellent, and upon a comparifon far more valuable than all we can defire in this world; if it will afford the trueft and moft fubftantial pleafures to our "minds while we live here, and the beft pro.fpect of future felicity in the enjoyment of the divine favour, yet without any real difadvantage to our prefent; outward intereft; all which I have endeavoured to fhew in difcourfing from feveral paflages in this book: If, I fay, it be fo, then certainly they who are convinced of this, mould, ufe their utmoft endeavours in the conftant purfuit of wifdom; they fiiould refolutely thwart every