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longer than the day of his grace; there are many persons that live under ordinances, but find them altogether lifeless and
powerless as to their souls; for they have lost their opportunity, and God withdraws his Spirit, and strives no more with them. Now the fear of God enables the soul to improve every season, lest his Spirit should withdraw itself. The fear of God doth impress this truth upon the soul, that as the purchasing of our salvation depends upon the satisfaction of Christ, so the obtaining of that salvation depends upon the improvement of the day of grace, 2 Cor. 6. 2. “Behold, now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation."
(2.) This fear of God causeth the soul to improve the season that it enjoys, in respect of the brittleness and frailty of life, our time being certainly short and uncertainly continued. He that is the sovereign Lord of our persons, is the disposer of our time. Death doth not follow the course of nature, but the order of God's decree; therefore it cuts off some in their sins before they come to the flower. Now the fear of God impresseth upon the soul these apprehensions, I cannot command the motions of the Spirit, I cannot lengthen out the thread of life; therefore I will improve the present season. This is that grace which causeth the soul to consider, because eternity depends upon my time, it is most precious, and therefore I will improve it. As a piece of parchment which in itself is not worth a shilling, may be worth ten thousand pounds, in respect of what it conveys; so this short life which thou enjoyest, which in itself is of little worth, yet eternity depends upon it, therefore it is most valuable. The sum is this, do but put these three questions to yourselves, whether or no it is not the highest reason in the world for a man to manage all his acts in the fear of God, who is his judge; to design all his acts for the glory of God, who is his Creator ; to conform all his ways according to the will of God, who is his great master; if you would but resolve these things by the judgment of renewed reason, certain I am, you would esteem the fear of God to be the best wisdom. If Solomon could tell us, that he is wise that wins other men's souls, how much more is he wise that saves his own ? Now it is the fear of God which is the instrument of our salvation ; therefore let that be your principle to govern and order your whole lives, let this be your great engine, and the spring of all your actions to have the fear of God as your director and governor. Certain I am, when at the last day we shall appear before him who is the wisdon of the Father, then shall only those who have followed this course be justified by him. There is good reason therefore that a wicked man, should be esteemed the greatest fool, and the holy man, the only
Opening the several false wisdoms of the world.
OW I come to the use of the whole. This doctrine gives a check to the false wisdoms of the world : you may as in a glass see the extreme difference of those principles of wisdom in the managemement of all affairs which the world lays down, and those principles of spiritual wisdom which are laid down in the word. He is a wise man in the world's account that can spin a web of vanity, who can drive on his carnal designs to the best adrantage; but the worldly wise man is a fool in religion, Jer. 8. 9. “Lo they have rejected the word of the Lord, and what wisdom is in them?” That soul that trembles at God's word, hath more true wisdom than all the sophies of the world. For the opening of this more fully to you, I will discuss it in this method; I will consider
1. What are the designs and ends of worldly wise men.
2. What are those means which they use to achieve those ends.
3. I will show you that that which they account wisdom in the management of those means, for the attainment of those ends, is pe:fect folly.
1. For the first of these, the ends of carnal men in the general, are worldly happiness, that which the world can afford them. This is ever (by the corrupt judgment of man) formed as his happiness, and into this all the motions of his soul are ultimately resolved : there is, since the fall, not only a maim in the sensual appetite, but in the intellectual and highest power of the soul. All the acts of an unsanctified understanding are foolish ; and this is the first ground of the world's folly, an act of the understanding whereby they look upon something as their end, and as their happiness, which is not so. The scripture doth diversify it into three things, into pleasures, profits, and honours, for thus much the world affords. Now the means whereby the world de ; signs to attain these ends proportionably are three, 1 John 2. 16. “ for all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life,” &c. “ is of the world.” The world doth design to purchase these three ends by these three means; the pleasures of the world by the lust of the flesh; the profits of the world by the lust of the eyes, and the honours of the world by the pride of life. These are the means it useth for the attainment of these ends. Now there is a worldly wisdom which is employed in the using those means to that end, and this wisdom is likewise divided into three heads, James 3. 15. “ that wisdom which descendeth not from above, is earthly, sensual, devilish.”
(1.) It is an earthly wisdom because it is exercised upon earthly objects, for earthly ends : this respects the gain of the world.
(2.) It is called a sensyal wisdom because it aims at the satisfaction of our flesh; the bent of nature runs that way, for the gratifying of our senses, which are common between us and beasts, and thus it doth aim at pleasures.
(3.) It is called a devilish wisdom upon this account, because pride which is the instrument whereby it would advance itself to glory, doth not only proceed from the devil as its author, but is in the devil as in its subject. There are some sins which make men the devil's slaves, but there are other sins which make men the devil's sons. Men are slaves to the devil when they commit such sins which the devil is not capable of, as all those sins which are merely acted by the body: but men are the devil's sons when they commit such sins which the devil is capable of, as pride, malice, and such other spiritual sins; for these render a man as like the devil as an incorporated soul can be like an incorporeal spirit. Thus in general I have laid down the scheme and draught of that which I will open particularly to you: for the
1st of these, The ends and designs of those persons that are wise according to the world. In the general know thus much, there is no greater mistake in the world, than when a man mistakes his end : this I lay down as a principle which will carry me through all the discourse. For as it is direct folly for a man to propound to himself no end in his actions (this is as if a man should strike a ball into the open air, there will be no return of it to him again) so it is the next degree of madness and folly for a man to mistake his end ; and the reason of it is this, the last end of a man is happiness, and the best that he can design for himself. Now can there be a greater mistake than about our happiness ? Pleasures, honours, and profits, the devil makes use of as his engines to destroy and undermine us; therefore that man is lost, the very first step that he takes, who makes these things his end. According to this method did the devil manage his first temptation ; for so you shall find, Gen. 3. 6. “ when the woman saw that the tree was good for food (there is the lust of the flesh) and that it was pleasant to the eyes (there is the lust of the eyes) and a tree to be desired to make one wise" (there is the pride of life) then she was taken and foiled. And satan found this temptation was so successful, that he hath formed all his snares ever since according to this first model ; therefore, when a man shall once propound these things to be his end, it is folly, the devil hath outwitted him. Let us consider the more particular reasons why the propounding of these things as our end is the folly of a rational creature ; for the opening of that I must lay down this previous proposition. The soul of man is his better part: the soul is the angel, and therefore tħat must only be propounded as my end which can bring that to perfection and satisfaction, because therein consists the happiness of the creature. Now consider the soul under these three notions,
1. Consider the soul in reference to its nature, and so it is immaterial.
2. Consider the soul in reference to its capacity, and so it is infinite (in some sense.)
3. Consider the soul in reference to its continuance and duration, and so it is eternal.
Now by the opening of these you will see what madness it is for a reasonable creature to propound any worldly thing to himself as his end. Consider,
First, The nature of the soul, which is immaterial: and therefore it can neither receive perfection nor satisfaction from the world. Whatsoever doth convey either of these things, must have some commensurateness, some suitableness to the nature of the soul : to give you an instance, consider the bodily senses, whenever they receive delight, it springs from the proportion that is between the object and the senses. The
when it receives pleasure, it is because there is a suitableness between the visive faculty, and the colour of the thing seen.
Natural reason receives delight from considering the contexture and concatenation that is between natural productions and their causes, here is a commensurateness between them ; but now the upper part of the soul cannot receive any perfection or satisfaction, but from God, because there is nothing suitable to its nature besides him. As it was breathed from God, and inspired by him into the body, so it can only be perfected in him.
Secondly. If you consider the capacity of the soul, and that (in some degree) is infinite. The soul of man is capable of the image of God, of righteousness and holiness to renew him ; it is capable of the peace of God to delight him ; it is capable of the wrath of God, which is infinitely above the fears of man. Now can the world satisfy this soul which is capable of these things? We use to say, that a well or the brain of a man is. empty, when the one wants water and the other wants wit, although the one be full of air and the other full of vapours; the reason of it is this, because wherever there is a want of that which should be of any thing, we say that it is empty. If the whole world were put into the heart of man, yet the heart would be empty without God, because it wants that of which it is capable, and which it should have. There must always be a conformity between the ingredients and the receptivity of the subject that takes them in. Is it not a folly then to make the world your end ? A man may as soon fill a vessel with virtue, or learning, as fill the soul with the world.
Thirdly. Consider the continuance of the soul. It is of an immortal duration ; it shall continue as long as God is merciful to save, as long as God is just to punish. Then certainly the