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of all that is good amongst us, and such the efforts making to extend it over the face of the whole earth, that, instead of looking to former times as better than our own, we may rather hail the approach of the millennial period, when the Messiah himself shall reign, and diffuse peace and happiness over the face of the whole earth.]
2. It is pernicious in its tendency
[What is the tendency of this inquiry, but to hide from our eyes the blessings we enjoy, to magnify in our minds the evils we endure, and to render us dissatisfied even with God himself? It is notorious, that they who are most clamorous about the comparative excellence of former times, pass over all our present mercies as unworthy of notice. Nothing has any attraction for them, but some real or supposed evil. And their aim is, to diffuse the same malignant feeling throughout the whole community. And, though in their own immediate purpose they do not intend to complain of God himself, they do so in effect for it is his providence that they arraign, and his dispensations that they criminate. "There is not evil in the city, any more than good, but God is the doer of itd:" and it were far more likely to be rectified through personal humiliation before him, than by intemperate and factious clamours against his instruments. In the midst of such complaints there is not a word to call forth gratitude to God, or even submission to his holy will. There is no recollection of our ill deserts, no admiration of God's tender mercies, no encouragement to praise and thanksgiving. Nothing but murmuring is uttered, nothing but discontent is diffused. Whether, therefore, men consider their own happiness, or the happiness of the community, they will do well to abstain from this invidious inquiry; or, if at any time they feel disposed to make it, to ascertain, in the first instance, that the grounds of their inquiry are just.] A word of ADVICE shall close the present subject
1. Instead of complaining of the times, let us all endeavour to make them better
[Much is in our power, for the improvement of the worst of times. It must be expected, in this distempered world, that troubles of some kind or other will arise: they cannot be wholly averted from individuals, or families, or nations. But, if all ranks of the community would unite, as they might well do, to lighten the burthens of each other, and to contribute, according to their respective abilities, to the happiness of the community, we should have little occasion to complain of present times, and none at all to institute invidious comparisons with former times.]
c Exod. xvi. 7. Numb. xiv. 27.
d Amos iii. 6.
2. Let us seek that which will render all times and seasons happy
[Religion is a cure and antidote to every ill, whether of a public or private nature. Amongst those who were endued with
piety in the Apostolic age, you find none who were 66 murmurers and complainers." Their habit of mind is better expressed by those words of the Apostle, "I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere, and in all things, I am instructed, both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need." Having tasted of redeeming love, they are become comparatively indifferent to every thing else. Whatever they possess, they account an undeserved mercy: whatever they want, they regard as scarcely worthy of a thought. They know that" all things shall eventually work together for their good." They are hid, in the secret of their Saviour's presence, from the strife of tongues: and whilst the minds of others are agitated with violent and malignant passions, theirs are "kept in perfect peace." This, then, I would earnestly recommend to you: Let your first concern be about your own souls. Seek for reconciliation with your offended God; and endeavour to walk in the light of his countenance. Then, whatever others may do, you may look forward to better times, when all troubles shall have fled away, and your happiness be unalloyed in the bosom of your God.]
e Phil. iv. 11, 12.
THE EXCELLENCY OF SPIRITUAL WISDOM.
Eccl. vii. 12. Wisdom is a defence, and money is a defence: but the excellency of knowledge is, that wisdom giveth life to them that have it.
TO have our minds well regulated in reference to religion, is most desirable. There is, in reality, no discordance between the duties which we owe to God and to man; or between our callings as men, and our callings as Christians. The things which relate to this world demand our attention, as well as those which relate to a future state. If, on the one hand, our worldly pursuits ought not to thrust out religion; so neither, on the other hand, should our pursuit of heavenly things lead us to neglect any part of our worldly occupations. God has said, "Six days shalt thou labour; but the seventh day thou shalt keep
holy to the Lord." This shews, that we then only perform our duty aright, when we comprehend in our daily services a well-regulated devotion to the concerns of time, and to the interests of eternity. The two great objects of general pursuit are, "wisdom, and money." The one is followed only by a select portion of the community; the other is sought by all; but, whichever of the two any man affects, provided he give to heavenly pursuits the chief place, he does right to prosecute it with zeal and diligence; being not slothful in business, and yet fervent in spirit, serving the Lord"." This combination of duties is spoken of in our text: for the elucidation of which, I will shew,
I. The excellency of wisdom above riches
We are here told, that both wisdom and money are good in their place
[Both the one and the other of these are "a defence," or, as the word imports, "a shadow." Now, as a shadow affords to persons a protection from the heat of the solar rays, so do wisdom and money screen him from many of the calamities of life; and afford to him many sources of enjoyment, of which those who are not possessed of them are deprived. Money will enable a person to choose his employment in life, whilst the most menial and painful offices are left for those who are not able to choose for themselves. It provides also many comforts, to which the poor are altogether strangers. In a time of sickness, especially, its use is felt: for, by means of it its possessors often obtain relief, for the want of which their poor neighbours are left to sink. So wisdom also brings with it very extensive benefits, in that it elevates the character, and qualifies a man for stations, to which, from birth, he was not entitled to aspire. It provides, also, good occupation for the mind; so that a man possessed of it is never less alone than when alone. Thus it protects him from that state of degradation to which many, for want of it, are reduced; and from that listlessness which induces persons of an uncultivated mind to betake themselves to some evil employment for the sole purpose of getting rid of time.
True, indeed, neither wisdom nor money can protect us from every evil disease or accident may assault one person as well as another: nor can they afford entire protection under any circumstances, any more than a shadow can altogether remove a Rom. xii. 11.
the heat of the atmosphere. But, as a shadow, they may screen us from much evil, and alleviate many pains which they cannot entirely ward off.]
But wisdom has an excellency far above money
[Wisdom is more our own than money, which soon makes itself wings and flies away." In many respects, also, has it a tendency to promote our welfare in life, beyond money. Riches rather contract the mind than enlarge it; whereas wisdom expands the mind, and dispels that conceit and insolence which characterize a purse-proud man. Money, too, when not combined with wisdom, leads a man into every species of dissipation and folly, and opens to him temptations to every kind of sensual indulgence. But wisdom provides for his mind such occupations as place him at a distance from temptation, and especially when his facilities for profuse expenditure are on a contracted scale. And thus the man of wisdom moves in a far safer and happier sphere; his pleasures being more refined, and his employments more innocent. I may further observe, that riches render us a prey to designing men; and subject us to many vexations, to which less opulent persons are but little exposed: whereas wisdom holds not forth any such baits to dishonest and designing men; who, if not disposed to join with us in our pursuits, will leave us, without interruption, to prosecute our own. Nor is it the least excellence of wisdom that it induces thoughtful habits, which are favourable to sobriety, to meditation, and to a candid investigation of conflicting interests: whilst money rather tends to dissipate thought, and to fix the mind only on present indulgences. In a word, money, without wisdom, tends to the destruction of life; whereas wisdom, freed from the temptations of wealth, tends rather to the preservation of life, and to the securing of that equanimity which, to a worldly man, is the main source of comfort in the world.]
Whilst we thus acknowledge that both wisdom and money have, though in different degrees, their respective excellencies, we are constrained to maintain, II. The excellence of spiritual wisdom above them both
The benefit ascribed to wisdom in the latter clause of my text necessarily leads our thoughts to a different kind of wisdom from that which is mentioned in the former clause. And we find the same distinction made by the Prophet Jeremiah: "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might: let not the rich man glory in his riches: but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he
understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord, which exercise loving-kindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth"." Here is a spiritual wisdom spoken of, which infinitely exceeds all that the wisest or richest of unenlightened men can possess. make this clear, let it be remembered,
1. A man may possess all the wisdom and all the riches of the world, and yet be dead: but the smallest measure of spiritual wisdom" giveth life giveth life to them that
[The manna which God gave by Moses to the Israelites in the wilderness supported life, but could not give it: whereas our Lord and Saviour, whom that manna typified, gives life to all who believe on him. Now spiritual wisdom consists in the knowledge of Christ; as Christ himself has said, "This is life eternal, to know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent d." And if we be but "babes in Christ," still" have we passed from death unto life," and are become new creatures in Christ Jesus "."]
2. Wisdom and riches too frequently lead men to self-confidence and creature-dependence; whereas spiritual wisdom invariably humbles the soul, and leads it to seek its all in Christ
[A life of faith upon the Son of God is the very essence of all spiritual wisdom-]
3. By carnal wisdom, and by wealth, men are often betrayed into a contempt of all religion; whereas spiritual wisdom brings with it such a love to religion as gradually transforms the soul into the divine image
[Yes, in truth, faith, if genuine, will "purify the hearts;" and he that hath a hope in Christ will purify himself, even as he is pure h". -]
4. A man possessing wisdom and riches in their utmost extent, may perish; but a man that is wise towards God, is made "wise unto salvationi".
[Hence it was that St. Paul, who in his unconverted state possessed a very abundant measure of these earthly talents, "considered them all but as dross and dung, in comparison of the excellency of the knowledge of Christ." And hence
b Jer. ix. 23, 24.
c John vi. 47-51.
d John xvii. 3. 8 Acts xv. 9.
i 2 Tim. iii. 15.
k Phil. iii. 7, 8.