Imatges de pÓgina

obtained in the enjoyment of God; and that is real misery in which a person has nothing left to comfort him, and this is not but in being utterly rejected by God.

5. Labour to be humble. Humility lets us see our true worth that it is nothing, and so fences us against complaining, Gen. xxxii. 10. It makes a person wonder that he hath any comfort at all left him; and so lets him into the mystery of, in every thing to give thanks.

6. Do not dwell and pore upon your crosses, for that feeds the complaining humour. Turn your eyes on your mercies left you, and be thankful for them.

7. Learn to unbosom yourself in all your griefs unto the Lord by prayer and supplication. This gave Hannah a happy ease. And go to your Bibles and get your souls refreshed with the good news from the far country, Psal. cxix. 92.

8. Exercise yourself always in some honest business. In those that are idle, Satan is busy to foster the complaining humour. 9. Resist this humour in its beginnings.

Lastly, Live by faith. By this your souls will be stayed on the promises; in all events have a favourable view of the design of God in afflictions, and fix on the things that are not seen, as the object of your chief care, and the great spring of your comfort. Amen.

Ettrick, August, 1717.



PROVERBS iii. 17.

Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.

THE Hebrew name of this book imports sentences well pressed together, and powerful to command our assent and regulate our conduct. In this context wisdom, or real religion is commended in the 16th verse from what she hath. They get much with her who get her. She brings to them in both hands. In the text she is commended for her discipline, the way and manner of life to which she directs her votaries. This is that which chiefly prejudices the men of the world against her, so that they cannot think to live with her. It is represented here in these two, her ways and her paths. Her

ways, that is the ways in which she directs us to walk through the world. She has ways of her own that are not the ways of the world, but ways peculiar to herself, that are chalked out by the holy commands of God. It is called the way of faith and holiness.

Her paths, that is her strait ways, as the word signifies. Amongst her ways there are some very strait ones, and these are most frightful to the world. They are so strait, that they cannot endure them. But they are mistaken. Behold the commendation of them, in two points. First, they are sweet, they are ways of pleasantness. They are like pleasant walks, which invite men to walk in them, by the pleasures that are about them, with the trees, flowers, and other things which surround them. Such a pleasantness the word imports, ver. 18. "She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her; and happy is every one that retaineth her. Issachar saw that rest was good, and the land pleasant." They are so far from being unpleasant and melancholy, that they are ways of pleasantness, very pleasant. They are, secondly, safe. Many ways are sweet that are not safe; pleasant that are not profitable; but both sweetly centre here. Her paths are peace, that is, they are paths of peace. There is no danger in them, nothing to annoy the traveller, while he but keeps straight forward. They are peace itself, most peaceful. That is, all prosperity attends them, and so some versions read it, for so the Hebrew expresseth all prosperity and welfare.

Next observe the extent of the commendation. All her paths are peace. Even those of them that seem most rugged and unpleasant are peace. There are both pleasure and profit wrapped up in them. There is no contrariety amongst them. One does not embitter another, as it is in the ways of the world. The pleasures of religion are full of peace.

Doctrine I. The way of religion is the way of wisdom. They that are truly religious are wise, and the following of religion is the wisest course in the world. Here I shall,

I. Present to you some of the scriptural characters of the way of religion.

II. I shall show that this way of religion, is the way of wisdom. I am then,

I. To present to you some of the scriptural characters of the way of religion,

1. The way of religion is the way of truth. The apostle Peter expressly calls it the way of truth. The faith of principles is a part of religion as well as the practice of holiness. And therefore faith is called wisdom, Eph. i. 8. The God of truth has revealed truth to us in the scriptures of truth, and requires us to believe it. And

the way of error is contrary to the way of religion, and is the product of the blindness of men's minds. "To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." This error proceeds also from their corrupt affections and can never be sanctified by all the plausible pretences with which it is set off. "Will ye speak wickedly for God? And talk deceitfully for him?" A wrong head may lead people out of the way of religion as well as a wrong heart.

2. The way of God's commandments. "I will run, says David, the way of thy commandments, when thou hast enlarged my heart." In this way then the soul labours to do what God requires, and to abstain from what he hath forbidden. So men are out of the way in transgressing these commands, doing what God forbids, and omitting what he requires. Nothing belongs to the way of religion, which is not hedged in by the commands of God on every side. What men offer to God as duty which he has not commanded, and what they account sin, which his law makes not so, is but superstition, and not in religion; and in this men are apt to abound when religion falls into decay among them, as appears in all formalists. 3. The way of faith and not of sense. We walk by faith and not by sight. Religion sets a man chiefly in pursuit of unseen things. The cry of the world is who will shew us any good. But religion leads a person to make choice of an unseen Christ for his portion, unseen hopes, joys of pleasures, yea, "to look to all the things which are not seen, and which are eternal." Others value themselves on what they have in hand; they on what they have in hope. The way of religion is the way of trust and dependence for all on God in Christ, for light, life and strength. "They live by the faith of the Son of God." They go out of this way, who trust in themselves and live upon their own stock.

4. The way of holiness. "It shall be called the way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it. As he who hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation." Religion teaches holiness, in heart and life, piety towards God, and righteousness towards men. It allows no sin, however small the world accounts it to be. Nay the very appearance of evil, religion teaches to eschew. It gives one holy rule, by which to regulate heart, lip, and life, the conversation at home and abroad, in public before the world, and in secret before God alone, in our personal and relative conversation.

5. The way of irreconcilable opposition to the devil, the world, and the flesh. And therefore the Christian life is called a warfare. The way of worldly ease, to row with the stream is not the way of

religion. They who enter upon religion, must encounter the powers of hell, and as it is Satan's business to tempt, it is theirs to resist and wrestle against him. They commence nonconformists to the world. For the command is, be not conformed to this world. They make a practical separation from the world lying in wickedness, holding quite a contrary course to that, which the gale of the world's example would drive them. "The Lord preserves them from this generation for ever." They deny the cravings and lusts of the flesh, "with all ungodliness, and live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world." They strive to mortify irregular passions and affections. "For they that are Christ's have crucified

the flesh with its affections and lusts."

6. The way of spiritual worship. "For we are the circumcision which worship God in the Spirit." In this a man aims at inward obedience, consecrating his heart as a temple to the Lord, in which to offer the spiritual sacrifices of faith, fear, love, thankfulness and other parts of unseen religion. They who take up with the form of religion and mere external duties are out of the way. "Having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof." True religion teaches to give spiritual service to God, because he is a Spirit; and to join the power of godliness with the form of it.

7. The strait and narrow way. "Strait is the gate and narrow is the way that leadeth unto life, and few there be that find, and walk in it." The multitude chooseth the broad way of sin, in which they find room for their beloved lusts, and walk at all adventures without a certain rule, but as their corrupt inclinations draw them. There is no such room in the way of religion. They must deny themselves the latitude of thoughts, words, and actions, that others freely take to themselves, endeavouring in all things to think, speak, and act by rule, the rule of the holy law.

8. The way of universal obedience. "Then shall I not be ashamed when I have respect to all thy commandments." The first step which a person takes in that way, the soul says, Lord what wilt thou have me to do? They dare not wilfully neglect any of God's commandments. Some persons neglect the duties of piety towards God, and deal fairly with their neighbours. Some take an opposite course. They pretend to piety and neglect morality. Some fix on the substantial duties, with a slighting of circumstantials; others are so taken up with the circumstantials, that they justle out the weighty matters of the law, but the way of real religion joins both. For while it requires the weighty matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith to be done, it enjoins also not to leave the other undone.

Lastly, The good old way. "Thus saith the Lord, stand ye in

the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls." If you have a mind to walk heavenward, you must go by the footsteps of the flock. The way which the saints have trodden, in the several ages of the church. It is the way in which we will see the cloud of witnesses that have gone before us. We are directed to their steps, whom the world hath counted fools, because they could not be satisfied to take the way of the world. We proceed now,


II. To shew that this way of religion, is the way of wisdom. 1. The only wise God has directed the children of men unto the way of religion, and therefore it must be the way of wisdom. Do they not act wisely that take the course to which God has directed What is our Bible, but a system of precepts of religion. It is God's word commanding and recommending this way to us. This was the way in which God set man at first. When by sin he lost his way, it pleased God to make a new revelation of his will and to set him on his way again, the way of religion in faith and holiness. 2. Our Lord Jesus Christ brings his people to this way and leads them in it to the end. "He is given to be a leader and commander to the people." He that is the wisdom of the Father, is the guide that hath gone on the head of the blessed company that travel this way through the world: and they run looking unto Jesus the author and the finisher of their faith. He leads his people off from the way of sin and of the world, into the way of religion. He guides them in it and keeps them on it unto the end. "For this God is our God for ever; he will be our guide even unto death." He knows what is the wisest and best course for them to take, and his love to them engages him to lead them to it, therefore let who will account it folly, it is the way of wisdom only.

3. The Spirit of Christ effectually determines his people to this way, moves and excites and strengthens them to walk forward in it. "This I say then, walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh." The Spirit searcheth the deep things of God, and the same that is the Spirit of wisdom, is the Spirit of holiness and sanctification. And therefore the way of holiness must be the wisest course we can take.

4. Would you know what way God himself would take if he were walking among men on this earth? We may know this already. The Son of God became man, and dwelt among us, and the way which he took was not the way of the world, but the way of religion and unspotted holiness. "He left us an example, that we should follow his steps." He kept himself unspotted by sin. "He did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth." He was not charmed VOL. III.


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