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2. Election or a choice of those means which have an intrinsical respect to the obtaining of that happiness, is another act of wisdom. Hence it is said, Prov. 2. 10. “ When wisdom entereth into thine heart," (observe the expression) bare knowledge enters into the head, or it enters into the tongue, but wisdom enters into the heart; it makes a man to choose those things which may promote his real happiness.
3. Another act of this heavenly wisdom is an application of our light to practice. When we honour our knowledge by conformable acts, it is a fruit of spiritual wisdom; and this is the great difference between mental knowledge and prudential judgment. Mental knowledge is terminated in the bare speculation of an object; but that which is practical judgment goes forth into the conversation. Hence it is said, Prov, 12. “I wisdom dwell with prudence.” What is prudence, but the reduction of our knowledge to the various occurrences of our lives ? Divine wisdom always ends in a good conversation; it is better known by the life, than by discourse. Naked knowledge is like the light of the moon, men sleep by it; but this heavenly wisdom is like the light of the sun, men work by it; and therefore it is said, Jam. 3. 13. “Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you ? Let him show out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.
(4.) The aim and scope, and design of spiritual wisdom is, to enable a person to glorify God and to enjoy him ; to glorify God
1 that so God may be honoured by us, and to enjoy God that we may be honoured by him. Thus you have the draught and scheme of that wisdom that is heavenly.
How the fear of God is wisdom,
ii. WHICH brings me nearer to the text. In what respects is the fear of God this heavenly wisdom? And that I shall answer in these four particulars.
The fear of God is the best wisdom, because
1. The fear of God is wisdom, because it manageth the highest business. Wisdom is not conversant about toys, but in the guiding of the soul to its eternal rest; in that is wisdom expressed and exercised. We look upon a man that spends his time in picking of straws, and then in sticking them upon his clothes, as a madman; what is the reason of it ? Because these acts are below reason. So that man that spends his time and strength in reference to the world only, is a spiritual fool : what is the reason of it? Because these actions are below a christian ; and the one is as much spiritual folly as the other is natural frenzy. Aristotle tells us, that wisdom is the knowledge of the most honourable truths, and of those that are of the greatest concernment: now the fear of God is conversant about these, and that appears principally in this particular ; this fear conforms our greatest actions to that which is the greatest rule of wisdom, and that is the law of God; which is a draught of his will. Now the will of God as it is the rule of goodness, so it is the rule of wisdom ; and this grace of divine fear squares all our great actions according to the rule of the word of God. This is that grace which deals with invisible sins, and those that are not known to the eye of the world; this is that grace which balanceth all our affections and corrects their excess. All temptations are usually grounded in love of pleasures, profits, or honours. Now it is this fear that crucifies the affections, is the mother of obedience and devotion; and therefore certainly because it manageth all our highest works, and conforms them to that rule that is perfect wisdom : this fear of God is most eminently wisdom, upon this account. There is no such fool in the world as the careless christian, for that person is heedless in his main business; and however this fear of God may be inconvenient to our worldly affairs; however it may be troublesome to the flesh (for the world accounts it but a fond scrupulosity, and the flesh accounts it but a weak folly) yet know thus much (for I speak in answer to that objection) it is true wisdom for a man to be esteemed a fool in the world. I Cor. 3. 18. “ If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool that he may be wise.". This fear by thus conforming our greatest acts to the rule of wisdom, certainly is wisdom eminently; when the fear of God doth draw the line, a man's steps must be very straight.
2. This fear of God doth advance the supreme interest of the soul, and therefore it must be the best wisdom. And here
First. Negatively, take all the blessings of the world these are not the highest interest of the scul; the pursuit of earthly things is more worth than the gain of them: that person that wastes himself in the gain of worldly advantages, doth (if I may so speak) dig for iron with a mattock of gold. Such a person is like some foolish children, which with a great deal of toil and sweat run after a butterfly, and when they have got it, what is the reward? A worm between their fingers; alas, a great estate many times proves poison. But I am sure it is never bread, it can never give satisfaction; therefore it is not wisdom principally, or only to follow that. Consider, how many men of basest spirits and lowest parts, have wrought themselves into worldly estates. He that looks for happiness in this world, it is as if a man should look for treasure in a coalpit, he is not likely to find it there; therefore in the next place positively.
Secondly. The fear of God promotes that which is the supreme interest of the soul. The soul is more noble than the body, and therefore that which makes the soul happy must be our supreme interest. Seneca hath written a whole epistle upon this subject, “What is true wisdom ?' And after he hath removed all natural enjoyments and excellencies, he doth resolve true wisdom to consist in this; this is his expression, then a man is truly wise when he doth ad bonum revertere suum, return to
his own good. Now what is the good of the creature? I answer, there is a double good or perfection, which belongs to every creature. (1.) The absolute good and perfection wherein it was created, and that is the perfection of its beauty. (2.) There is a respective perfection and good for which it was created, and that is the perfection of its use. And therefore if you would know what is the supreme interest of the soul? In one word it is this, when a soul doth arrive to the image of God, which is the perfection of its beauty, and to communion with God, which is the perfection of its use.
(1.) When a soul arrives to the image of God, which is the perfection of its beauty. Thus we read, that man was created after God's image in righteousness and true holiness : now this grace of all others, hath the most powerful influx upon the conversation of a saint, and therefore is most necessary to repair the ruins and decays of God's image.
(2.) As for the enjoyment of God and communion with him, this grace
likewise of all others hath the most excellent power to bring us to that. The fear of God is that grace which makes God our friend, and therefore it promotes our highest interest. Suppose a man were to live for ever in the world, I should then esteem it a piece of wisdom for him to make the great ones of the world his friends. But alas we must appear before God as our judge, and therefore to ensure God and get his image, and enjoy his favour, is the highest and best wisdom. Yet let me add this by the way, that the person that fears God drives on a double interest, Prov. 16.7. “When a man's ways please the Lord, he maketh his enemies to be at peace with him." Take this therefore as a rule, that a religious constancy will sooner gain men to be your friends than a base compliance; therefore he that fears God best promotes that interest too. But however, suppose he doth not, the attaining of God's image and his favour are the supreme interest of the soul. The fear of God will bring to the soul both perfection and satisfaction, and therefore it is the best wisdom.
3. The fear of God enables the soul to avoid the most destructive dangers. All the wisdom of the world is exercised upon one of these two points, either to obtain some good that a man desires, or to decline some evil that a man fears. Now the fear of God as it enables a man to attain to that which is an in-, finite good, so to avoid that which is an infinite evil. By how much the more excellent and more difficult the good is that we would obtain, and how much the more perilous and imminent an evil is that he would avoid, by so much greater is the wisdom that doth obtain the one, and avoid the other. Now the wisdom of God's fear teacheth us to obtain the highest good, and to avoid the worst and highest evil. What is the greatest danger in the world ? It is not the loss of external goods; for alas these things are of a perishing nature, riches take wings and fly away, honour depends upon the fancy of another, pleasure dies in the very enjoyment of it; therefore the loss of these things cannot be the greatest danger. Nor can the enduring of the most sharp afflictions in this life be the greatest evil: for consider how many of those that have been dear in God's affections have lain under the greatest corrections ; nay, they have triumphed over them; therefore that is not the greatest danger. But the loss of the soul, that precious jewel, that is more worth than the world, is the greatest loss, and to endure the terrors of God in conscience is the greatest inisery. Now the fear of God doth enable the soul to decline this loss, and to escape these terrors, therefore it must be the greatest wisdom.
4. (In order to all these things) the fear of God doth improve the best seasons.
We esteem it a great piece of wisdom in the world, for a person to improve his time. There is no person but hath his particular season and his time. Now the fear of God teacheth us to improve that season and time for our eternal good, and that upon a double account.
(1.) In regard of the gales of the spirit's motions, which are very transient. For we cannot command the clock of mercy, to strike when we please, therefore a man should improve every season : for it is said, Phil. 2. 12. “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” it follows, verse 13. “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good plea
It is the fear of the Lord which excites a man to blow up every spark into a flame, and cherish every motion of the spirit, for he knows not how long this breath of the spirit will remain. Such a person doth improve opportunities. Now opportunity is evo xaigs, the flower of time. As a flower may wither and decay, yet the stalk remain ; so a man may lose his opportunity, and yet enjoy time. The day of God's patience is