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TRUE PIETY IS POLITICAL IVISDOM.
isthuc est sapere, non quod ante pedes modo est
I is a very common, but a very unjust and profligate opinion which obtains in the world, that the fear of God, and the knowledge and practice of religion entirely unfit a man for the discussion of public affairs, or the proper service of his country. Unhappily, those persons, who pass this judgement, are very much disqualified for the office; because they do not appear to understand the merits of the case. For, as none but irreligious people could adopt a sentiment of this kind; so, being irreligious, it is not uncharitable to say, that they are incapable of deciding upon a principle, which (over and above the force of the natural understanding) is the wisdom of God in the mind, and holiness from God in the heart and life. The faculties of such men are too overwhelmed with the sensualities and disorders of the world to see the beauty and propriety of a subject, which is only to be understood by a nobler energy and elevation of soul, than can be raised from the unassisted powers of fallen
But this notion is false in fact. Some of the greatest and wisest statesmen, who, under God, have blessed the world, were eminently distinguished for their love and knowledge of divine truth, and for the circumspection and purity of their lives. And indeed, how can a man be properly wise, who neither knows, nor admires, nor follows, the highest wisdom in the world? -a wisdom, which not only furnishes the soul with vast and comprehensive ideas, but (what is no less important) enables it to pursue, through all the shadows of time, its own proper and eternal felicity. It is not too harsh to say, that a man is, to the greatest of all purposes, a fool, who is only sagacious for the trifles of a moment, while he is stupid in every thing beyond it. How can he be truly a man of sense, who neglects the most solid happiness in this world, and his everlasting safety in another? That person is wise to very little purpose, who is not wise to his own salvation.
The opinion I am bold to condemn, is full of miss chief to society, and tends to defeat every purpose of human polity. The vice of thought usually produces impiety of practice; and from hence we may trace the domineering wickedness of the present day. This wickedness, either by the secret ordination or the open judgement of Providence, always entails upon a people wretchedness and ruin; as the histories of nations, from their earliest date, do most awfully prove. In public communities, as well as in private life, there is no such thing as real prosperity and happiness, without honour and justice, godliness and truth. 1 The Bible furnishes example after example to de monstrate this fact: And what are all the annals of the world, but so many attestations of it? The very miseries recorded of past mankind have always been described as originating in wickedness; and the chief detail of human affairs is composed of the recital of human sins. Wherever a decent or sober period comes in, the historian is perplexed for materials, and passes over it as a circumstance so foreign in the world, as scarcely to be described or known. I believe it will be confirmed by the experience of all mankind, that no bad man was ever honoured by Providence to be a real and lasting blessing, properly so called, to any country or people; but that, whenever such an one has been employed, it has been either for the purpose of a particular scourge, as in the case of Jehu to the family of Ahab, or in the designation of a more general judgement, as in the instances of Alexander, Cæsar, and other butchers of the nations.
Those statesmen, who have feared God as well as honoured the king, have never been called forth by Providence to the principal direction of affairs, but in order that some kind of blessing might ensue. Such men, under God, have been the props of their respective states, and, though less pompous and noisy than conquerors revelling in blood, deserve more properly to be styled, The glories of their country, and the fathers of mankind.
I have been much pleased, in turning over WHITELOCKE's journal of his embassy to Sweden, with a pious sentiment, which is related from the famous chancellor OXENSTIERN of that country. This celebrated states
man was one of the most able and learned men of his time, and conducted affairs with great success for his government. He was wise enough to be pious, as the reader will perceive by the following transcript, given us by one of his own profession. “I have been so much wearied out in public and great actions, that my retirement and quiet have proved the greater contentment to me: and I'find, after all my troubles and toilings in the world, that my private life in the country has afforded me more contentment, than ever I met with in all my public employments. Business was a burden, and much company irksome, yet I have been able to spend some of my time in study; and chiefly, I may say solely, I have applied myself of late to the study of the BIBLE, wherein all wisdom, and the greatest delights are to be found, and much more in the practice of that wisdom. I therefore counsel you (addressing himself to the English ambassador) to make the study and practice of the word of God your chief contentment and delight; as indeed it will be to every soul that favors the truths of God, which infinitely excel all worldly things." To this noble confession of a wise and venerable statesman, it will be apposite enough to add the dying testimony of another great politician, Sir John Mason, who had been privy counsellor to two of our kings. “I have been acquainted (says he) with the most remarkable transactions in foreign parts, and been present at very many state-negotiations for thirty years past; and I have learned this conclusion by the course of so many years' experience, That seriousness is the greatest wisdom, temperance the best physic, and a good conscience the
best estate; and were I to live over my time again, I would change the court for a cloister (or retirement,) and the whole life I have passed in the king's palace, for one hour's happy enjoyment of God in the chapel: All things else forsake me, but my God, my duty, and my prayer."
If this be wisdom in the end of life, it can never be folly in the course of it: and if piety be right conduct, and divinely blessed, in an individual; how happy would a nation be under the general influence of a principle, which could enable them to say, We have the LORD for our God!