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do as naturally mistake and fall short both of the one and the other; and being once wrong, the more progress they make, they are further out of the way: and pretending to wisdom in a false way, they still befool themselves, as the apostle speaks, Rom. i. 22: φασκούλες ειναι σοφοι εμωρανθησαν, professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.
Our apostle, ver. 15, speaking of that wicked wisdom that is fruitful of wrongs, strifes, and debates, and that is only abusively to be called wisdom, shews what kind of wisdom it is, by three notable characters, earthly, natural, and devilish; which though they be here jointly attributed to one and the same subject, yet we may make use of them to signify some differences of false wisdom. There is an infernal, or devilish wisdom, proper for contriving cruelties and oppressions, or subtile shifts and deceits, that make atheism a main basis and pillar of state policy ; such are those that devise mischief upon their beds, &c. Mic. ii. 1. This is serpentine wisdom, not joined with, but most opposite to the dove-like simplicity. There is an earthly wisdom that draws not so deep in impiety as that other, yet is sufficient to keep a man out of all acquaintance with God and divine matters, and is drawing his eye perpetually downwards; employing him in the pursuit of such things as cannot fill the soul, except it be with anguish and vexation, Ezek? xxviii. 4, 5. That dexterity of gathering riches, where it is not attended with the Christian art of right using them, abases men's souls and indisposes them wholly for this wisdom that is from above. There is a natural wisdom far more plausible than the other two, more harmless than that hellish wisdom, and more refined than that earthly wisdom, yet no more able to make man holy and happy than they ; natural fuxixn: it is the word the apostle St. Pauluseth, 1 Cor.ji. 14, av9pwa fuxixos, naming the natural man by his better part, his soul; intimating that the soul, even in the highest faculty of it, the understanding, and that in the highest pitch of excellency to which
nature can raise it, is blind in spiritual objects: things that are above it, cannot be known but by a wisdom from above. Nature neither affords this wisdom, nor can it of itself acquire it. This is to advertise us, that we mistake not morality and common knowledge, even of divine things, for ihe wisdom that is from above. This may raise a man high above the vulgar, as the tops of the highest mountains leave the valleys below them ; yet is it still as far short of true supernatural wisdom, as the highest earth is of the highest sphere. There is one main point of the method of this wisdom that is of most hard digestion to a natural man, and the more natural wise he be, the worse he likes it-If any man would be wise, let him become a fool that he may become wise, 1 Cor. iii. 18. There is nothing gives nature a greater prejudice against religion than this initial point of self-denial : when men of eminent learning or the strong politicians hear, that if they will come to Christ, they must renounce their own wisdom to be fit for his, many of them go away as sorrowful as the young man, when he heard of selling all his goods and giving them to the poor.
Jesus Christ is that eternal and substantial wisdom that came from above, to deliver men from perishing in their affected folly, as you find it at large, Prov. viii. St. Paul in the 1st chap. of his first epistle to the Corinthians calls him the wisdom of God, ver. 24; that shews his excellency in himself; and ver. 30, he tells us that he is made of God our wisdom; that shews his usefulness to us; and by him alone is this infused wisdom from above conveyed to us--In him are the hid treasures of wisdom and knowledge, Col. ii. 3. And from his fulness (if at all) we all receive grace for grace; and of all graces, first some measures of this wisdom, without which no man can know himself, much less can he know God. Now this supernatural wisdom hath in it both speculation and prudence. It is contemplative and practical. These two must not be separated, I wisdom dwell with prudence, Prov. viii. 12. This wisdom in its contemplative part reads
Christ much, and discovers in him a new world of hidden excellencies unknown to this old world. There are treasures of wisdom in him, Col. ii. 3, but they are hid, and no eye sees them but that which is enlightened with this wisdom: no, it is impossible, as one says, ** τα θεια γνωναι κρυπloντος Θεα, to know divine things while God concealeth them. But when the renewed understanding of a Christian is once initiated into this study, it both grows daily more and more apprehensive, and Christ becomes more communicative of himself, and makes the soul acquainted with the amiable countenance of his father in him reconciled. No man hath seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him, St. John i. 18. What wonder if the unlettered and despised Christian know more of the mysteries of heaven than the naturalist, though both wise and learned? Christ admits the believer into his bosom, and he is in the bosom of the Father. But withal know, that all this knowledge though speculatively high, yet descends to practice; as it learns what God is, so it thence teacheth man what he should be: this wisdom flows from heaven, and a heavenly conversation flows from it, as we find it there charactered by these practical graces of purity, peace, meekness, &c.
This wisdom represents to us, the purity of God's nature, 1 John ini. 3. It gives the soul an eye to see the comeliness and beauty of purity; as the philosopher said of virtue, to the end it might be loved, he would wish no more but that it could be seen.
And as it thus morally persuades, so by an insensible virtue it assimilates the soul to Christ, by frequent contemplation. It also produces all the motives to holiness and obedience; it begets these precious qualities in the soul; it giveth a Christian a view of the matchless virtues that are in Christ, and stirs him up to a diligent, though imperfect imitation of them ; it sets before us Christ's spotless purity, in whose mouth there was no guile, and so invites us to purity; it represents
the perpetual calmness of his spirit, that no tempest could reach to disturb it; in his mouth there was no contentious noise, his voice was not heard in the streets, and this recommends peaceableness and gentleness, and so in the rest here mentioned.
Hence I conceive may be fitly learned for our use, seeing here is a due wisdom and knowledge necessary for guidance, and directing in the ways of purity and peace; it is evident that gross ignorance cannot consist with the truth of religion, much less can it be a help and advantage to it. I shall never deny that a false, superstitious religion stands in need of it; “ not too much scripture-wisdom for the people.” The pomp of that vain religion, like court masks, shews best by candle-light; fond nature likes it well; the day of spiritual wisdom would discover its imposture too clearly. But to let their foul devotion pass, (for such it must needs be that is born of so black a mo. ther as ignorance,) let this wisdom at least be justified of those that pretend to be her children. It is lamentable that amongst us, where knowledge is not withheld, men should, through sloth and love of darkness, deprive themselves of it. What abundance of almost brutish ignorance is amongst the commons; and thence uncleanness, and all manner of wickedness; a darkness that both hides and increaseth impurity ! What is the reason of so much impiety and iniquity in all places, but the want of the knowledge of God? Hosea iv. 1, 2, and 2 Thess. i. 8, not knowing Jesus Christ, and not obeying his gospel are joined together. It will be found true, that where there is no obedience there is no right knowledge of Christ: but out of all question where there is not a competency of knowledge, there can be no obedience; and as these two lodge together, so observe what attends them both, ibid.: He shall come in flaming fire to render vengeance on them that know noi God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
And if there be any that think to shroud unpunished amongst the thickets of ignorance, especially amidst the means of knowledge, take notice of this, though it may hide the deformity of sin from your own sight for a time, it cannot palliate it from the piercing eye, nor cover it from the revenging hand of divine justice. As you would escape then that wrath to come, come to wisdom's school; and how simple soever ye be as to this world, if you would not perish with the world, learn to be wise unto salvation.
And truly it is mainly important for this effect, that the ministers of the gospel be active and dexterous in imparting this wisdom to their people. If they would have their conversation to be holy, and peaceable, and fruitful, &c., the most expedient way is once to principle them well in the fundamentals of religion, for therein is their great defect. How can they walk evenly and regularly so long as they are in the dark? One main thing is to be often pointing at the way to Christ, the fountain of this wisdom. Without this, you bid them to be clothed, and clothe them not.
How needful then is it that pastors themselves be seers indeed, as the prophets were called of old ; not only faithful but wise dispensers, as our Saviour speaks, St. Luke xii. 42. That they be didaxloxos, able and apt to teach, 1 Tim. jij. 2. Laudable is the prudence that tries much the churches' store-houses, the seminaries of learning; but withal, it is not to be forgot, that as a due furniture of learning is very requisite for this employment, so it is not sufficient. When one is duly enriched that way, there is yet one thing wanting that grows not in schools : except this infused wisdom from above season and satisfy all other endowments, they remain xoiva, common and unholy, and therefore unfit for the sanctuary. Amongst other weak pretences to Christ's favour in the last day, this is oneWe have preached in thy name; yet says Christ, f never knew you; surely then they knew not him, and yet they preached him. Cold and lifeless (though never so fine and well contrived) must those discourses be, that are of an unknown Christ. Pastors are called angels, and therefore, though they use the