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Not that they are destitute of the natural faculty of understanding, but they do not use it as they ought; they are not blind, but they wink; they hold the truth of God in unrighteousness, and though they know God, yet they do not glorify him as God, Rom. i. 18, 21, nor suffer the apprehensions of him to have a due influence
their hearts and lives. Men generally stand very much upon the credit of their understandings, and of all things hate to be accounted fools: The best way to avoid this reproach is to be truly religious, to fear the Lord, and to depart from evil. For certainly there is no such imprudent person as he who neglects God and his soul, and is careless about his everlasting concerns; because this man flies from happiness, pursues misery, and makes haste to be undone. Hence it is that Solomon, frequently in the Proverbs, gives the title of fool to a wicked man, as the fittest character of him, because he is so eminently such. There is no such fool as the sinner, who every moment ventures his soul, and lays his everlasting interest at stake. Every time a man provokes God, he does the greatest mischief to himself that can be imagined. A mad man, who cuts himself, tears his own flesh, and dashes his head against the stones, does not act so unreasonably as he, because he is not so sensible of what he does : wickedness is a kind of voluntary frenzy, a chosen distraction ;, and
every sinner does wilder and more extravagant things than any one can do who is out of his wits; only with this sad difference, that he knows better what he does. For to them who believe another life after this, an eternal state of happiness and misery, nothing can be made more evident than the folly of wicked men ; for it is not a plainer truth, that the whole is greater than a part; than it is, that the concerns of eternity should be regarded more than those of time,
I will therefore put the matter into a temporal case, that wicked men, who understand any thing of the rules and principles of worldly wisdom, may see the imprudence of an irreligious and sinful course, and be convinced that this their way is their folly, even themselves being judges.
Is that man wise, as to his body and his health, who only clothing his hands, leaves the rest of his body naked; who provides only against the tooth-ach, and neglects whole troops of mortal diseases that are ready to rush inupon him? Just so does he who takes care only for this vile body, but neglects his precious and immortal soul ; who is very solicitous to prevent small and temporal inconveniences, but takes no care to escape the damnation of hell.
Is he a prudent man, as to his temporal estate, who lays designs for a day, without any prospect to, or provision for, the remaining part of
bis life? Even so does he who provides for the short time of this life, but takes no care for all eteruity; which is to be wise for a moment, but a fool for ever ; and to act as crossly to the reason of things as can be imagined; to regard time as if it were eternity, and to neglect eternity as if it were but a short time.
Do we count him a wise man, who is wise in any thing but his own proper profession; wise for every body but himself; who is ingenious to contrive his own misery, and to do himself a mischief; but is dull and stupid as to the designing any real benefit and advantage to himself? Such a one is he who is ingenious in his calling, but a bad Christian; for Christianity is more our profession than the very trades we live upon; and such is every sinner who is wise to do evil, but to do good hath no understanding. .
Is it wisdoin in any to disoblige him who is his best friend, and can be his sorest enemy? Or with one weak troop to go out to meet him that comes against him with thousands ? To fly a small danger, and run upon a greater ? Thus does every wicked man who neglects the Being that can save or destroy him; who strives with his Maker; and with the small and inconsiderable forces of a man, takes the field against the mighty God, the Lord of hosts.
Is not he an imprudent man, who in inatters of great moment loses opportunities never to
be retrieved ? Who standing upon the shore, and seeing the tide making towards him, and knowing that he has but a few minutes to save himself, yet will lay himself to sleep there, till the sea rush in upon him and overwhelm him? And is he any better who trifles away this day of God's grace and patience, and foolishly puts off the necessary work of repentance, and the weighty business of religion to a dying hour?
To end these questions: is he wise who hopes to attain the end without the means; nay, by means that are quite contrary to it? Such is every wicked man who hopes to be blessed hereafter without being holy here; and to be happy, that is, to find a pleasure in the enjoyment of God, and in the company of holy spirits, by rendering himself as unsuitable to, and unlike them as be can.
Wouldst thou then be truely wise! be wise for thyself! wise for thy soul ! wise for eternity !--Resolve upon a religious course of life; fear God, and depart from evil. Look beyond things sensible, unto things which are not seen, and are eternal. Labour to secure the great interests of another world, and refer all the actions of this short and dying life, to that state which will shortly begin, but never have an end. This will approve itself to be wisdom at the last, whatever the world judge of it now.
For not that which is approved of men now, but what will finally be approved of God, is true wisdom; that which is esteemed so by Him who is the fountain and original of all wisdom; the first rule and measure, the best and most competent judge of it.
But why should I use arguments to persuade men to that which is so excellent, so useful, and so necessary? Religion has attractions in itself beyond' all arguments; for if it be the best knowledge, and the greatest wisdom, I can offer nothing beyond this to your understandings to raise your esteem of it; nothing beyond this to your affections to excite your love and desire. All that can be done, is, to set the thing before men, and to offer it to their choice
; and if their natural desire of knowledge, and wisdom, and happiness, will not persuade them to be religious, it is in vain to use arguments.—Religion is matter of our freest choice, and if men will obstinately and wilfully set themselves against it, there is no remedy. God has provided no remedy for the obstinacy of men ; but if they choose to be fools and to be miserable, he leaves them to inherit their choice, and to enjoy the portion of sinners.