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followed wicked courses, but in a state of madness and diftra&ion. The idolatry of the heathen world is condemn’d as folly; Rom. I. 22, 23. Profeshing themselves to be wise they became fools ; and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four footed beasts, and creeping things. An unregenerate state is represented as a state of darkness and ignorance ; Ephes. IV. 17, 18. This I say therefore and testify in the Lord, that ye benceforth walk, not as other gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated
from the life of God, through the ignorance that is in them. And chap. V. verse 8. the apostle calls them darkness before their converfion, and light after their embracing christianity. Ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord. Who is a wise man, and endued with knowledge among you ? says St. James, chap. III. ver. 13. Let him shew out of a good conversation bis works with meekness of wisdom. And ver. 17: he gives a description of true religion under the name of the wisdom which is from above. The wisdom which is from above is first pure, then peaceable,
gentle, gentle, easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. Thus it appears plain enough from scripture, that the fear of the Lord is wisdom. I will,
II. Prove the same from reason.
We have observed already that the fear of the Lord implies the belief of some principles ; viz. that there is a God, and that he will reward piety and virtue. Now it is evident,
1. That the belief of these principles is a proof of wisdom and good sense ; because they are agreeable to right reason. Reason tells us that something has existed from eternity. For if there had ever been a time when nothing was, 'tis impossible that any thing should ever have been : for where there is no agent to work, and no matter to work upon, nothing can be produc'd into being. And it is evident, not only that fomething hath been from eternity, but also something independent and selfexistent ; for otherwise there must have been an infinite succession of dependent beings without any original cause at all. But it is very inconceivable that there should be a series of beings without any cause of their existence. No tolerable account can be given of our own existence, or of that of any thing else, but upon the supposition of such a being as we call God. To ascribe such a regular and beautiful structure as that of the universe, to chance, is so very wild and extravagant, that it is a wonder how the thought could ever enter into the mind of man. To say that the world exists necessarily, is equally absurd : for nothing is more easy to conceive, than that the world might never have been at all, or might have been otherwise than now it is. Either of these may be suppos'd without a contradiction ; and consequently the world cannot be the self existent being. Therefore if we will not run ourselves upon contradictions and absurdities, but will use the reason of our minds, we must acknowledge that there is a wise and intelligent being, who hath created us and all other things. To deny the existence of God, argues either want of understanding, or a great abuse of it: and therefore the psalmist calls such a person a fool, Psalm XIV. 1. The fool bath said in his heart there is no God.
But reason not only teaches us that God is; but likewise that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek bim. He is infinite in knowledge, and therefore must needs know which of his crea. tures are good and religious ; and being perfectly acquainted with the relations of things one to another, he cannot but know that there is a suitableness of reward to virtue, and that it is fit and congruous that a religious man should be happy. And since he knows these things, we cannot doubt but that he will act accordingly. He hath all
power : and therefore 'tis reasonable to suppose that he will make use of it in favour of good men, and actually bestow upon them that happiness which he knows to be suitable to their piety and virtue. Thus it appears that speculative religion is wisdom. But,
2. I will prove the same more largely of practical religion.
(1.) Practical religion is wisdom, bem cause 'tis acting up to the dignity of our natures, and the design of our creation. Man is not made only to eat, and drink, and sleep, and perform the functions of an animal life. No ; there is a spirit in man, and the inspiration of the Almighty
giveth him understanding. He hath more excellent powers than the brutes, and therefore in all reason his actions should excel theirs. Now to be religious, is to act like himself. It is to act in character, and agreeably to that nature which God hath given him. Man hath the idea of a deity, which brutes have
And what doth the idea of a deity infer? doth it not infer an obligation to his worship and service ? doth it not command veneration and esteem, love and gratitude, dependence and obedience? Now for a man to have such sentiments as these, and yet to be vicious and immoral, is the very height of folly ; for 'tis acting in direct contradiction to his own principles and maxims.
We should reckon that man a very bad politician, who contrives excellent schemes of government, and then overthrows them all in his practice. If a person hath good and just notions of things, common prudence will direct him to act in conformity thereto. What! shall I believe that there is a fupreme being who knows the secrets of my heart, and takes notice of the actions of my life, and will one day call me to an account for them, and at the