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than to bear much with those that are weak in it. And lastly, as it spares the infirmities of others, so it makes not false and vain shews of its own excellencies; it is without hypocrisy. This denies two things, both dissimulation and ostentation. The art of dissembling, or hypocrite-craft, is no part of this wisdom. And for the other, ostentation, surely the air of applause is too light a purchase for solid wisdom. The works of this wisdom may be seen, yea, they should be seen, and may possibly be now and then commended ; but they should not be done for that low end, either to be seen or to be commended. Surely not, being of so noble extraction. This wisdom having descended from Heaven, will be little careful for the estimation of those that are of the earth, and are but too often of the earth, earthly.
The due order of handling these particulars more fully, cannot well be missed. Doubtless, the subject, wisdom from above, requires our first consideration ; next, the excellent qualities that are attributed to it; and lastly, their order is to be considered, the rather, because so clearly expressed, first pure, then peaceable, &c.
Wisdom from above.] There be two things in that: there is the general term of wisdom, common to divers sorts of wisdom, though most eminently and truly belonging to this best wisdom; then there is the birth or original of this wisdom, serving as its difference to specify and distinguish it from all the rest, wisdom from above. Wisdom in the general, is a very plausible word among men.
Who is there that would not willingly pass for wise ? Yea, often those that are least of all such, are most desirous to be accounted such; and where this fails them, they usually make up that want in their own conceit and strong opinion. Nor do men only thus love the reputation of wisdom, but they naturally desire to be wise, as they do to be happy: yet, through corrupt nature's blindness, they 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. φάσκοντες είναι σοφοί εμωρανθησαν. Professing themselves to be wise, they become 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 subtle shifts and deceits that make atheism a main basis and pillar of state policy: such as those that devise mischief upon their beds, &c. Mic. ii. 1. This is a 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. By thy great wisdom, and by thy traffic hast thou increased thy riches, and thine heart is lifted up because of thy riches. Ezek. xxviii. 5. That dexterity of gathering riches, where it is not attended with the Christian art of rightly 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 are: Natural, tugines, it is the word the Apostle St. Paul useth. 1 Cor. ii. äv@gwaos 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, 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 the wisdom that is from above. That 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 in Prov. viii. St. Paul, in the first chapter 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, but they are hid, and no eye sees them, but that which is enlightened with thy wisdom. No, it is impossible, as one says (Sophocles), rå Ossac yvūves XgUT TOVTOS &07, to know Divine things whilé 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 more 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. John i. 18. What wonder if the unlettered and despised Christian knows 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 characterized by those practical graces of purity, peace, meekness, &c.
This wisdom represents to us, the purity of God's nature. 1 John iii. 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, that seeing here is a due wisdom and knowledge necessary for guidance and direction 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 mother 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 arise 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? Not knowing Jesus Christ, and not obeying his gospel, are joined together. Hosea iv. 1, 2; 2 Thes. i. 8. 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. He shall come in flaming fire to render vengeance on them that know not 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