« AnteriorContinuar »
propounding the world as our aim or design is a great folly; for these are all lying delights and perishing vanities. Would you not esteem that man a very fool who should make a journey for a year, and provide victuals but for one day? Thus foolish is he who makes a journey for eternity with the things of mortality. All the things here below may be compared to the diurnal river (that I have read of) which runs in the day, but is dry in the night ; the reason they give of it is this, because it springs from the melting of snow, which lies on the top of the mountains. Now the beams of the sun dissolving that snow in the day, there is a current and stream, but the snow being congealed in the night, then is the channel dry. So it is with the world, all the things here below run in the day for the time (possibly) of life, or of prosperity ; but when the night of death comes, then those rivers are dry; and therefore certainly it cannot but be the greatest folly and madness for a person to make these things his end. It is a rule the heathen gives, it is a note of folly for a man to make an ill bargain; I know not what worse bargain can be made, than for a man to exchange his soul for the world, therefore he is the greatest fool that doth so. But on the other side, consider that God is an object that is able to bring both perfection and satisfaction to the soul; he is able to bring perfection, because in him there is a transcendency of all good; he is able to bring satisfaction, because once God being enjoyed there is no fear of the loss of him. He brings perfection to the soul in its chiefest faculties; to the understanding he brings in perfection as he is the first and the highest in generi veri, as he is the first truth; to the will he brings perfection, as he is the last and chiefest in genere boni, as he is the chiefest good. Thus the understanding is perfected in its knowledge, and the will is perfected in its love; therefore for the soul to make sure of him, (as it doth by the fear of God) to make God its friend, certainly it is the best wisdom. The sum is this, in God there is a fulness of perfection, and a perpetuity of fruition, and therefore the soul once attaining him is made really and perfectly happy; whereas all the things of the world fall short as to the conveyance of these two.
The folly of worldly wise men in particular, in pursuing the pleasures,
profits and honours of the world,
2. CONSIDER these things in particular ; we will take them asunder, and so show you how every carnal man is the greatest fool, by pursuing worldly things.
Ist. Consider pleasures. This is one end for which many persons de rack their understandings and employ their knowledge ; and the souls of very many serve them for no other use but to be (if I may so speak) as cooks to provide sauces for their bodies. Certainly this must needs be a very great folly; for do you think the candle of the Lord was enlightened in a man merely to search after earthly satisfactions? Do you think the understanding (which is the excelleney of the reasonable creature) was given merely to be conversant about these things, which are common between us and beasts? (for sensual pleasures are the happiness of a beast) it cannot be. The folly therefore of pursuing of this, will appear to you in two things.
(1.) Suppose you could squeeze all the pleasures of the world into one draught, yet they will deceive your expectations, and therefore it is a folly to search after them. Take all the pleasures of the world, and they cannot satisfy your empty senses, much less are they able to fill the expanded desires of your souls, All the glory of the world cannot satisfy the desires of one eye, much less can it fill the desires and vacuities of the heart. Worldly pleasures are a sum in our desires, they are but a cipher in our enjoyment; they are Junos in the pursuit, but they are clouds in the embraeement. All the pleasures of the world are but an earnest of grief, if not of ruin: take them all and bring them to a person that lies under a troubled conscience, how suddenly are they extinguished? They are no more able to give ease to a wounded spirit, than a drop of wine is able to sweeten a large vessel of water; and therefore certainly it must be a folly
to make these your end and happiness, because they deceive your expectations. Whereas the pleasures which the soul obtains from communion with God, they do not cloy us but they satisfy us; the things of the world cannot satisfy our senses, but the peace of God passeth all understanding; and therefore there is a vast difference between them, and consequently that wisdom is more excellent that pursues the one, than that which pursues the other. Those pleasures which come from religious exercises are generous, and more co-natural to spirits, they do not degrade the reasonable creature, they do not sink a man beneath his species as bodily pleasures do. As that heat which is conveyed to the body by exercise, is far more natural and wholesome than that which is conveyed by fire; so those pleasures which the soul that fears God obtains by religious duties, are far more excellent than those dreggy delights which are conveyed by the things of this world.
(2.) As pleasures do deceive our expectations, so they draw forth our corruptions, and consequently render us miserable ; and therefore the pursuit of them is the greatest folly. There is nothing more dangerous in the world than sin mingled with pleasure ; it is like poison in sweet wine, which suddenly destroys, which presently strikes to the brain and heart, and so conveys death more speedily. And therefore that person who now makes it his design to taste the pleasures of sin, or rather to wallow in them; to drink them in as a fish doth water, as Tertullian speaks, post pauca libidinum momenta evaporata, after a few moments of lust which are evaporated, what will remain in the soul ? The body will fail the lust, the lust will fail the satisfaction, and all will fail the man; and then what is become of his pleasure? What remains of it but the worm and the fire ? And is it not a folly then? Oh do but consider, do you think the images of these pleasures which are enjoyed in this world are able to refresh the soul of a damned person? No. They are all extinguished there, they will rather increase the torment.
2dly. Consider the profits of this world being made our end, whether they can make us happy, or consequently whether a man is wise in pursuing of them. As the scripture tells us, that " laughter is madness,” so it tells us, that “riches are vanity;" and therefore the pursuit of them cannot purchase to a man the title of a wise man, Prov. 21. 26. “ the getting of riches by a lying tongue is a vanity tossed to and fro of them that seek death.” All the riches of the world are not able to convey that happiness upon which wisdom is exercised, in respect of those considerations which were before laid down. Certainly you would say, that if a man should lie under a paroxysm of the gout or stone, that this man would esteem it a very foolish thing in another, to tell him that a piece of gold would heal him. There is no suitableness between that and his disease; it is just so here, there is a vast
unsuitableness between the soul and earthly treasures. Besides, impress this upon yourselves ; when the soul shall take its farewel of the world, it can carry none of these things with it; and this renders it to be a most egregious folly to pursue them. Would you not account that man a very fool that when he comes to an inn, should spend all his time there to furnish and adorn a room with curious hangings, when he must stay but for a night, and leave it the next day? Oh consider, what is our life! Is it not a vapour ? Is it not a bubble ? Is it not sometimes shorter than a night? And shall we spend our time and our thoughts, which are the noblest offspring of our souls, about the pursuit of that which is like the hanging of a room for a night? Is not this folly and madness?
3dly. To come to the honours of the world. And as the scripture tells us, that “ laughter is madness," and "riches are vanity;" so it tells us, that “ honour is but a fancy.” What is the glory of the world ? It is a phantasm, a shadow, a mere reflection, that which hath no reality in it. There is a notable expression in Psalm 62. 9.“ surely men of low degree are vanity, and men of high degree are a lie.” They are the greater lie of the two upon this account, because greatness promiseth something, and performs nothing: and therefore for a person to make this his aim, certainly it must be an argument of the greatest folly. Do but a little realize to yourselves this, when the wise men of the world, those that are wise in their generation, shall appear before God, when they shall reflect upon all earthly objects, and consider the vanity and the vexation of them, how will they befool themselves ? What furious reflections will the soul make upon itself, when it shall consider for that which is not, the treasures of the world, for a mere fancy, for that which is madness in itself; I have hazarded and lost the enjoyment of an infinite good for ever. To conclude, there is no fool like the
sinning fool, who ventures his soul at every turn, and to obtain the world runs blindfold into endless ruin.
That all buman knowledge is not sufficient to make a man wise.
FROM hence we may learn, that those persons which please themselves only with human knowledge, are not wise in scripture account. If it were possible for a man to unravel nature from the cedar to the hyssop, if he had such a judgment as to penetrate into all natural conclusions, and to resolve all effects into their proper causes; yet if this man be without the fear of God (as Jerom said concerning worldly-wise men in the general, sapientur in infernum descendunt) he doth but wisely go to hell. Now that I may show you, that all human knowledge without the fear of God cannot render a man truly wise; consider it in these three respects.
1. In respect of its insufficiency to repair the ruins of the fall, or to perfect that which is amiss. Experienced Solomon tells us, that “ that which is crooked cannot be made straight ;" Eccles. 13. 7. I shall apply it thus, there is an impossibility in natural knowledge to rectify the spirit of man, which is fallen from its primitive rectitude, or to restore the image of God to the soul, which is so much distorted by reason of sin. Rom. 1. 21. The apostle speaking concerning the wisest heathens, “because that when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful, but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened,” 22. v. “ Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools," all this is spoken of the wiset heathens. Seneca in a letter of his, where he makes an inquiry after wisdom, resolves it to be this, " for a man to have his soul