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way. If there are no dangers before them, they do not fall into any: but then their fuccess is not to be attributed to any wit or fagacity of theirs ; they are happy by fortune, rather than design. But if there should be dangers, they are sure to meet them ; for they take no care at all to avoid or escape them, but run directly upon them, and so they receive the reward of their floth and folly. But this is not the case with the religious man. He looks before him, and considers the dangerous consequences of vice and wickedness. He sees plainly that sin will bring a long train of evils after it. There will be the horror of a guilty confcience, the wrath of God, and the torments of hell: and what forer calamities can possibly befal him? Who knows the power of God's anger ? It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God : for our God is a consuming fire. Therefore, if the confequences of fin are so dreadful, he is a wise and intelligent man, a man of thought and judgment, who takes timely care to prevent these evils by repentance and obedience to the laws of God.
Thus much shall suffice for the proof of the wisdom of religion.
The religious man is wise, because he acts up to the dignity of his nature, and the design of his creation; because he imitates the best and most perfect beings; because he lays the surest foundation for peace and tranquillity ; because he aims at a good end, and uses proper means to attain it ; and because he secures himself from the greatest and most intolerable evils.
Nothing now remains but to make application. And,
1. From what has been said we may learn to make a right estimate of true wisdom :
it is something very different from what the generality of people take it to be. Many imagine that it consists in 'notion and speculation, and in great natural abilities and endowments of mind. He who has the largest compass of knowledge, and the greatest depth of thought, who can reason most strongly, and dispute
most subtily, is, in their opinion, the wisest man. There are others who think that wisdom consists in a vigorous pursuit of worldly pleasures and en
joyments. They esteem those to be the wisest men, who are most expert in the affairs of this life, who raise to themselves the greatest estates, and make the greatest noise and figure in the world. But both these are grofly mistaken. For true wisdom consists not either in great intellectual accomplishments, or in the arts of acquiring riches and reputation in this world. A man may have great natural parts, and be very dexterous in worldly affairs, and yet be an enemy to God by wicked works : and whoever is so cannot be a wise man, because he acts in opposition to his own true interest and happiness ; for the happiness of man consists in communion with God, and conformity to him. A man may be learned and rich, and yet by fin make himself miserable for ever : and if so, what is he the wiser for taking so much pains in the acquisition of learning and riches ; for neither of them will affwage the torments of hell ?
Therefore if we will make a right judgment of things, we must come to this conclusion, that religion is the truest wisdom ; because it contains in it a sense of the obligations we are under
to the author of our beings, and a behaviour agreeable thereto ; and because it secures the happiness of the whole man, and that not only for a time, but throughout the whole extent of his duration, that is to say to all eternity.
2. If religion is wisdom should have a high esteem of religious
Wisdom naturally draws respect: if we see a man act with judgment and discretion, we can't forbear applauding and commending him. Why, no man acts with so true a judgment and so much discretion as the religious man. Whilft others make their court to mortal men, and use a thousand mean arts to gain their favour, he seeks the honour which comes from God, and strives to approve himself to him by integrity and uprightness of life. Whilst others labour for the meat which perisheth, he labours for that meat which endures to everlasting life. Whilst others pursue the gross pleasures of the body, and can relish nothing but what gratifies their senses, he aspires after more refined and elevated joys, such as flow from converse with heaven, and the reflection upon virtuous actions. · Whom should we re
verence, whom should we love, if not a virtuous man, who retains such just ideas of things, and makes such admirable use of them in the conduct of life?
3. If religion is wisdom; then let us all be religious. There is something in the name of wisdom that is enough to raise our ambition, if we have any in us. Hear what Solomon says of wisdom in the third chapter of the Proverbs. The merchandize of it is better than the merchandize of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold : she is more precious than rubies, and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her. And chap. IV. ver. 7. Wif dom is the principal thing: therefore get wisdom, and with all thy getting get understanding. Now to be religious, is the way to get wisdom and understanding ; for the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding. Men may account
us fools for neglecting things visible and present for those which are invisible and future : but it is a small thing with christians to be judged of man's judgment. They have a greater regard for the opinion of God than of men : and in his o