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to direct our lives to an end, which the most knowing may fail of, and the most ignorant arrive at. "The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us, and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law." Which reflection of Moses, put in general terms, is, that the only knowledge which is of any avail to us, is that which teaches us our duty, or assists us in the discharge of it. The economy of the universe, the course of nature, almighty power exerted in the creation and government of the world, is out of our reach. What would be the consequence, if we could really get an insight into these things, is very uncertain; whether it would assist us in, or divert us from, what we have to do in this present state. If then there be a sphere of knowledge, of contemplation and employment, level to our capacities, and of the utmost importance to us; we ought surely to apply ourselves with all diligence to this our proper business, and esteem every thing else nothing, nothing as to us, in comparison of it. Thus Job, discoursing of natural knowledge, how much it is above us, and of wisdom in general, says, "God understandeth the way thereof, and he knoweth the place thereof. And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding." Other orders of creatures may perhaps be let into the secret counsels of heaven, and have the designs and methods of Providence, in the creation and government of the world, communicated to them: but this does not belong to our rank or condition. "The fear of the Lord, and to depart from evil," is the only wisdom which man should aspire after, as his work and business. The same is said, and with the same connexion and context, in the conclusion of the book of Ecclesiastes. Our ignorance, and the little we can know of other things, affords a reason why we should not perplex ourselves about them; but no way invalidates that which is the "conclusion of the whole matter, Fear God, and keep his commandments; for this
is the whole concern of man." So that Socrates was not the first who endeavored to draw men off from laboring after, and laying stress upon other knowledge, in comparison of that which related to morals. Our province is virtue and religion, life and manners; the science of improving the temper, and making the heart better. This is the field assigned us to cultivate: how much it has lain neglected is indeed astonishing. Virtue is demonstrably the happiness of man; it consists in good actions, proceeding from a good principle, temper, or heart. Overt acts are entirely in our power. What remains is, that we learn to keep our heart; to govern and regulate our passions, mind, affections: that so we may be free from the impotencies of fear, envy, malice, covetousness, ambition; that we may be clear of these, considered as vices seated in the heart, considered as constituting a general wrong temper: from which general wrong frame of mind, all the mistaken pursuits, and far the greatest part of the unhappiness of life, proceed. He who should find out one rule to assist us in this work, would deserve infinitely better of mankind, than all the improvers of other knowledge put together.
Lastly, Let us adore that infinite wisdom, and power, and goodness, which is above our comprehension. "To whom hath the root of wisdom been revealed? or who hath known her wise counsels? there is one wise and greatly to be feared; the Lord sitting upon his throne.. He created her, and saw her, and numbered her, and poured her out upon all his works." If it be thought a considerable thing, to be acquainted with a few, a very few, of the effects of infinite power and wisdom: the situation, bigness, and revolution of some of the heavenly bodies; what sentiments should our minds be filled with concerning him, who appointed to each its place, and measure, and sphere of motion, all which are kept with the most uniform constancy? "Who stretched out the heavens, and telleth the number of the stars, and calleth them all by their names. Who laid the foundations of
the earth, who comprehendeth the dust of it in a measure, and weigheth the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance." And, when we have recounted all the appearances which come within our view, we must add, “Lo, these are part of his ways; but how little a portion is heard of him? Canst thou by searching find out God? Canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection? It is as high as heaven; what canst thou do? Deeper than hell; what canst thou know?"
The conclusion is, that in all lowliness of mind we set lightly by ourselves: that we form our temper to an implicit submission to the Divine Majesty; beget within ourselves an absolute resignation to all the methods of his providence, in his dealings with the children of men: that, in the deepest humility of our souls, we prostrate ourselves before, him and join in that celestial song, "Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints! Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name?"