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SERM. is enjoined by the divine precepts, which
I. shew us all that is morally good with re-

spect to ourselves and our fellow-creatures,
as well as to God, so true religion is nothing
else but the practice of virtue, from a regard
to the Deity. The fear of the Lord, if we
understand it in the strictest sense, of a pi-
ous reverence for the supreme Being, with
a disposition to do his will, is called the be-
ginning of wisdom, as being a very eminent
part of our duty, or rather a principle na-
turally productive of that righteousness and
goodness in which true wisdom consisteth :
If we take it in a greater latitude, as inclus
ding with the principle all its genuine fruits,
in an universal conformity to the will of
God, then it is the whole duty of man, as
Solomon says, Ecclef. xii. 13. and compre-
hendeth all which the sacred writers call
wisdom. So Job delivereth the doctrine in
the place already referr'd to, Unto man be
said, The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom ;
and to depart from evil, is understanding,

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Again ; the wisdom which Solomon recommendeth is called the knowledge of the Holy, chap. ix. 10. where the principle already mentioned, is repeated in the fame words, The fear of the Lord is the be

ginning

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ginning of wisdom; and it is explained thus, Serma the knowledge of the Holy is understanding. I. They are religious things about which it is conversant; the deepest penetration in other matters, the highest attainments in human sciences and arts, and the exactest judgment in the affairs of this world, will not intitle any one to the character of wise, according to the doctrine of this excellent author ; but an acquaintance with divine objects, and with the duty we owe to God, is, according to him, the truest understanding. Neither is it meer speculative knowledge even of religion he meaneth; the instructions of wisdom do all tend to practice; and the conformity of our lives to its rules is that only which will denominate us wise men in Solomon's account, Prov. xxviii. 7. Whojo keepeth the law, is a wife fon. .

Besides these general declarations, which are very comprehensive, taking in every part of our duty, and which plainly shew the design of the Proverbs is to represent the wisdom of universal righteousness; the character of wisdom is applied to particular virtues, and it is said to consist in them, as in the text, ver. 3. To receive the instructions of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity.

B 4

Justice

a great part of our behaviour towards man

S
ERM. Justice is a very important branch of our
I.

duty, a virtue which we have frequent oc-
cafion for the exercise of in life ; it directeth

kind, injoineth us to preserve the rights of men inviolable, and to render to all their due, to do as we would be done by, without being warped by a regard to any selfish or private interest. Perhaps there is not any thing in religion itfelf more disagreeable to the wisdom of the world; for, generally, men make their own interest the chief end of their policy, and form their schemes for private advantage, without caring to dilo tinguish nicely between right and wrong; and however they may esteem inflexible righteousness, as virtue and religion, yet it is far from being accounted wisdom. But not to enter upon an inquiry into the truth of the case, whether justice be only a kind of religious fimplicity, or real wisdom, founded on the best maxims, and worthiest of an intelligent nature, and conducive to all the ends it ought to pursue ; or if that cunning which deviateth from integrity, useth fraud and indirect arts to promote selfish ends, be true discretion, and becoming the understanding of a man : without inqui

ring

ring into this, I say, it is sufficient to my SerM. present purpose, that justice, judgment, and 1. equity, are the wisdom which Solomon inculcateth.

Another virtue, which he recommendeth under the same character, is chastity. This he very often insisteth upon, particularly in the 2d, the 5th, and 7th chapters, proving at large the fimplicity and thoughtlesness of the adulterer, who, with the insensibility of a beast, is caught in the toil, and stupidly falls into the snare which is laid for him. The men who abandon themselves to the pursuit of dishonourable and irregular plea(ures, fondly imagine there is a great deal of art and contrivance in their

management; they are the men, in their own conceit, of deep intrigue, and refined understandir:g, valuing themselves upon the little artifices, whereby they seduce the unhappy partners of their crimes, and impose upon those whom they injure. But all this, in the judgment of Solomon, is extreme folly; and the senseless wretch, deprived of all reason, is only hasting to his ruin, as an ox goeth to the slaughter, or, as a fool to the correction of the stocks. The intemperate will not, perhaps, pretend to the character of wise ;

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SERM. they, satisfy themselves with their sensual
I.

gratifications as the best enjoyments, having
endeavoured to drown all sense of superior
excellence ; they decry wisdom, and treat it
with contempt, as too rigid and solemn for
that gaiety in which they chuse to spend
their days. But if we will take our notions
of things from this writer, voluptuousness
and excesses in eating and drinking are di-
rectly contrary to wisdom, which guardeth
her votaries against them as most pernicious,
Prov. xxiii. 19. Hear thou, my son, and be
wife, and guide thine heart in the

way.

Be not amongst wine-bibbers, amongst riotous eaters of flesh; for the drunkard and the glutton Mall come to poverty; and drowsiness Mall cloath a man with, Fags.

Slothfulness, a lazy stupid inactivity and indolence, is a vice very incident to human Nature ; and they who give themselves up to it vainly fancy they take the wisest course, avoiding many dangers, and a great deal of painful toil and labour ; the pluggard is wiser in bis own conceit than seven men that can render a reason : But in this book he is charged with brutish folly, and even sent to the beasts, as wiser than he, to be instructed by them, Prov, vi, 6. Go to the ant, thou sug

garda

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