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of a very wise man, in entertaining such deliberation and resolves, as we find he had there with himself how strange was that to his ears, Thou fool, this night shall they require thy soul. &c. Luke. 12. 20. Their wisdom is sometimes said to be foolish; or else called the wisdom of the flesh, or fleshly wisdom; said to be earthly, sensual, devilish; they are said to be wise to do evil; while to do good they have no understanding; they are brought sometimes as it were upon the stage with their wisdom, to be the matter of divine triumph; where is the wise ? and that which they account foolishness is made to confound their wisdom. And indeed do they deserve to be thought wise, that are so busily intent upon momentary trifles, and trifle with eternal concernments ? that prefer vanishing shadows to the everlasting glory? that follow lying vanities, and forsake their own mercies? Yea, will they not cease to be wise in their own eyes also, when they see the issue, and reap the fruits of their foolish choice? when they find the happiness they preferred before this eternal one is quite over; and nothing remains to them of it, but an afflictive remembrance ? that the torment they were told would follow, is but now beginning, and without end? when they hear from the mouth of their impartial judge; Remember, you in your life-time had your good things, and my faithful servants their evil ; now they must be comforted, and you tormented? when they are told, you have received (Luke 6. 24. 25.) the consolation ; you were full, ye did laugh, now you must pine, and mourn and weep? Will they not then be as ready to befool themselves, and say as they, (Wisd. 5. 4.) See those righteous ones are they whom we sometimes had in derision, and for a proverb of reproach ; we fools counted their life madness, and that their end was without honor; but
are they numbered among the sons of God, and their lot is among the saints? They that were too wise before, to mind so mean a thing as religion (the world through wisdom knew not God; 1 Cor. 1. 21. strange wisdom !) that could so wisely baffle conscience, and put fallacies upon their own souls; that had so ingenious shifts to elude conviction, and divert any serious thought from fastening upon their spirits; that were wont so slily to jeer holiness, seemed as they meant to laugh religion out of countepance; "they will now know, that a circumspect walking, a faithful redeeming of time, and improving it in order to eternity, was to do, not as fools, but as wise; and begin to think of themselves, now at last, as all wise and sober men thought of them before.
*Folly is joy to him that is destitute of wisdom. Prov. 15.
The other general head of the improvement or use of the doctrine pro
pounded from the text, containing Secondly, Certain rules or prescriptions of duty connatural thereto. 1. That we settle to our minds the true notion of this blessedness. 2. That we compare the temper of our own spirits with it, and labor thence to discern whether we may lay claim to it or no.
Thus far we have an account of the truths to be considered and weighed that have dependence on the doctrine of the text. We proceed,
Secondly. To the duties to be practiced and done in reference thereto, which I shall lay down in the ensuing rules or prescriptions,
1. That we admit and settle the distinct notion of this blessedness in our minds and judgments: that we fix in our own souls, apprehensions agreeable to the account this scripture hath given us of it. This is a counsel leading and introductive to the rest; and which if it obtain with us, will have a general influence upon the whole course of that practice which the doctrine already opened calls for. As our apprehensions of this blessedness are more distinct and clear, it may be expected more powerfully to command our hearts and lives. Hence it is, in great part, the spirits and conversations of christians have so little savour and appearance of heaven in them. We rest in some general and confused notion of it, in which there is little either of efficacy or pleasure; we descend not into a particular inquiry and consideration what it is. Our thoughts of it are gloomy and obscure; and hence it is our spirit is naturally listless and indifferent towards it, and rather contents itself to sit still in a region all lightsome round about, and among objects it hath some present acquaintance with, than venture itself forth as into a new world which it knows but little of. And hence our lives are low and carnal; they look not as though we were seeking the heavenly countıy; and indeed who can be in good earnest in seeking after an unknown state? This is owing to our negligence and infidelity. The blessed God hath not been shy and reserved; hath not hidden or concealed from us the glory of the other world; nor locked up heaven to us; nor left us to the uncertain guesses of our own imagination, the wild fictions of an unguided fancy; which would have created as a poetical heaven only, and have mocked us with false elysiums: but though much
be yet within the vail, he hath been liberal in his discoveries to us. Life and immortality are brought to light in the gospel. The future blessedness (though some refined heathens have had near guesses at it) is certainly apprehensible by the measure only of God's revelation of it: for who can determine, with certainty, of the effects of divine good pleasure, (it is your Father's good pleasure to give you a kingdom?) Who can tell beforehand what so free and boundless goodness will do, further than as he himself discovers it? The discovery is as free as the donation. The things that eye hath not seen, and ear hath not heard, and which have not entered into the heart of man, God hath revealed to us by his Spirit : (1 Cor. 2. 6.) and it follows, ver. 12, We have received the Spirit of God, that we might know the things freely given us of God. The Spirit is both the principle of the external revelation, as having inspired the scriptures which foreshew this glory, and of the internal revelation also, to enlighten blind minds that would otherwise (luutázew) never be able to discover things at so great a distance, see afar off: therefore called the spirit of wisdom and revelation, by which the eyes of the understanding are enlightened to know the hope of that calling, and the riches of the glory of his inheritance among the saints, as the šv there is most fitly to be rendered. Eph. 1. 17.
But this internal discovery is made by the mediation and interveniency of the external : therefore having that before our eyes we are to apply our minds to the study and consideration of it; and in that way to expect the free illumination of the Holy Spirit. In the mean time we must charge our ignorance, and the darkness of our cloudy thoughts, touching these things, upon our carelessness, that we do not attend; or our incredulity, that we will not believe what God hath revealed concerning them: it is therefore a dutiful attention, and reverential faith that must settle and fix the notion of this blessedness. If we will not regard nor give credit to what God hath discovered concerning it, we may sit still in a torpid, disconsolate darkness, which we ourselves are the authors of, or (which is no less pernicious) compass ourselves with sparks beaten out of our own sorge, walk in the light of our own fire, cheat our souls with the fond dream of an imagined heaven, no where to be found, till we at length lie down in sorrow. How perverse are the imaginations of men in this (as in reference to the way, so) in respect of the end also; for as they take upon them to fancy another way to happiness quite besides and against the plain word of God; so do they imagine to themselves another kind of happiness, such as shall gratify only their sensual desires; a Mahometan, indeed a fool's paradise ; or at best it is but a negative heaven; they many times entertain in their thoughts (of which their sense too is the only measure ) a state wherein nothing shall offend or incommode
the flesh; in which they shall not hunger, nor thirst, nor feel want : and when they have thus stated the matter in their own thoughts, we cannot beat them out of it, but that they desire to go to heaven (namely, the heaven of their own making ;) when, did they conceive it truly and fully, they would find their hearts to abhor it, even as hell itself. Therefore here we should exercise an authority over ourselves, and awaken conscience to its proper work and business; and demand of it, is it not reasonable these divine discoveries should take place with me; hath not God spoken plainly enough? why should my heart any longer hang in doubt with me, or look wishfully towards future glory, as if it were an uncouth thing ? or is it reasonable to confront my own imaginations to his discoveries ? Charge conscience with the duty it owes to God in such a case; and let his revelations be received with the reverence and resignation which they challenge; and in them study and contemplate the blessedness of awakened souls, till you have agreed with yourself fully how to conceive it. Run over every part of it in your thoughts; view the several divine excellencies which you are hereafter to see and imitate : and think what every thing will contribute to the satisfaction and contentment of your spirits. This is a matter of unspeakable consequence. Therefore, to be as clear as is possible, you may digest what is recommended to you in these more particular directions.
(1.) Resolve with yourselves, to make the divine revelation of this blessedness the prime measure and reason of all your apprehensions concerning it. Fix that purpose in your own hearts, so to order all your conceptions about it, that when you demand of yourselves, what do I conceive of the future blessedness? and why do I conceive so ? the divine revelation may answer both the questions. I apprehend what God hath revealed, and because he hath so revealed. The Lord of heaven sure best understands it, and can best help us to the understanding of it. If it be said of the origin of this world, wicei vožuev, it may much more be said of the state of the other, we understand it by faith : (Heb. 11. 5.) that must inform and perfect our intellectuals in this matter.
(2.) Therefore reject and sever from the notion of this blessedness, whatsoever is alien to the account Scripture gives us of it, Think not that sensual pleasure, that a liberty of sinning, that an exemption from the divine dominion, distance and estrangedness from God (which by nature you wickedly affect) can have any ingrediency into, or consistency with, this state of blessedness.
(3.) Gather up into it whatsoever you can find by the scripture-discovery to appertain or belong thereto. Let your notion of it be to your uttermost, not only true, but comprehensive and full, and as particular and positive, as God's revelation will war
rant: especially remember it is a spiritual blessedness, that consists in the refining and perfecting of your spirits by the vision and likeness of the holy God, and the satisfying of them thereby for ever.
(4.) Get the notion of this blessedness deeply imprinted in your minds ; so as to abide with you, that you may not be always at a loss, and change your apprehensions every time you come to think of it. Let a once well-formed idea, a clear, full state of it be preserved entire, and be (as a lively image ) always before your eyes, which you may readily view upon all occasions. .
2. That having well fixed the notion of this blessedness in your minds, you seriously reflect upon yourself, and compare the temper of your spirit with it; that you may find out how it is affected thereto; and thence judge in what likelihood you are of enjoying it. The general aversion of men's spirits to this so necessary work of self-reflection, is one of the most deplorable symptoms of lapsed degenerated humanity. The wickedness that hath over-spread the nature of man; and a secret consciousness and misgiving hath made men afraid of themselves, and studiously to decline all acquaintance with their own souls; to shun themselves as ghosts and spectres; they cannot endure to appear to themselves. You can hardly impose a severer task upon a wicked man, than to go retire an hour or two, and commune with himself; he knows not how to face bis own thoughts: his own soul is a devil to him, as indeed it will be in hell, the most frightful, tormenting devil. Yet, what power is there in man, more excellent, more appropriate to reasonable nature, than that of reflecting, of turning his thoughts upon himself? Sense must here confess itself outdone. The eye that sees other objects cannot see itself: but the mind, a rational sun, cannot only project its beams, but revert them; make its thoughts turn inward. It can see its own face, contemplate itself. And how useful an endowment is this to the nature of man? If he err, he might perpetuate his error, and wander infinitely, if he had not this self-reflecting power; and if he do well, never know without it the comfort of a rational self-approbation : which comfort paganish morality hath valued so highly, as to account it did associate a man with the inhabitants of heaven, and make him lead his life as among the gods (as their pagan language is ;) though the name of the reflecting power conscience, they were less acquainted with; the thing itself they reckoned as a kind of indwelling deity, as may be seen at large in those discourses of Maximus Tyrius, and Apuleius, both upon the same subject, concerning the god of Socrates. And another giving this precept. Familiarize thyself with the gods, adds, subñv deoīs. Eugi de déons ó συνεχώς δεικνυς εαυτούς την έαυτά ψύχην, αρεσκομένην μέντε τοις απονεμομένους, ποιήσαν δε όσα βάλεται ο δαίμων, ον εκάςω παραάς
την &c.-εσος δέ εςιν εκάς: νες saj nóyos. Marc. Anton. lib. “and this shalt thou do if thou bear