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name. It rests on him as the Eternal Truth, as the Rock of Ages: “ Abraham being strong in faith, gave glory to God.”*
Directions for increasing Faith. 1. Earnest and humble
prayer: “ Lord, increase our faith.” Fall at the footstool of the cross, crying, with him in the gospel, “ Lord, I believe; help thou my unbelief.”+
II. Frequent and devout converse with the object of it.
III. Watchfulness against the influence of those objects which have a fatal tendency to eclipse its light, to obstruct its operations, and impair its effects: namely, sensual pleasure ; eager pursuit of the world; intimate converse with men of the world.
JAMES i. 5.--If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that
giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not. I Of all the gifts which God is wont to dispense to the children of men, the most valuable is wisdom. Without this, the advantages we derive from every other are precarious and transitory, and are often more than overbalanced by the evils which result from their abuse. Wisdom is of incomparable value, Rom. iv. 20. † Mark ix. 24. I Preached in June 1811.
as it instructs us how to use every other good; how to turn it to the best account, and make it most subservient to the true end of our being. The Scriptures extol the excellence of wisdom in the highest terms :-“ Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding : For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than pure gold. She is more precious than rubies : and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her.”*
Wisdom is to be distinguished from knowledge; to which it bears an affinity, but ought not to be confounded with it. There may be a large compass of knowledge acquired, the fruit of extensive observation and reading, accompanied with a quick perception and a capacious memory, where there is very little wisdom. A wretched misconduct may appear at the same [time], a series of imprudences, thoughtless prodigality, or intemperance, sufficient to invalidate the least pretension to wisdom. There are far more knowing than wise
Talents of the highest order, and such as are calculated to command universal admiration, may exist apart from wisdom. Though wisdom necessarily presupposes knowledge, and it is impossible to exercise it in things of which we are ignorant, yet it ought to be something more practical, or rather more comprehensive: it ever bears a relation to the end ; and, in proportion as it is perfect, to the highest and last end the agent can be supposed to have in view. It first judges of the end fittest to be pursued, and next determines what are the most fitting and suitable means of accomplishing it.
* Prov. iii. 13-15.
Every other quality besides is subordinate and inferior to wisdom, in the same sense as the mason who lays the bricks and stones in a building is inferior to the architect who drew the plan and superintends the work. The former executes only what the latter contrives and directs. Now, it is the prerogative of wisdom to preside over every inferior principle, to regulate the exercise of every power, and limit the indulgence of every appetite, as shall best conduce to one great end. It being the province of wisdom to preside, it sits as umpire on every difficulty, and so gives the final direction and control to all the powers of our nature. Hence it is entitled to be considered as the top and summit of perfection. It belongs to wisdom to determine when to act and when to cease; when to reveal, and when to conceal a matter ; when to speak, and when to keep silence; when to give, and when to receive; in short, to regulate the measure of all things, as well as to determine the end, and provide the means of obtaining the end, pursued in every deliberate course of action.
Every particular faculty or skill besides needs to derive direction from this; they are all quite incapable of directing themselves. The art of navigation, for instance, will teach us to steer a ship across the ocean, but it will never teach us on what occasions it is proper to take a voyage. The art of war will instruct us how to marshal an army, or to fight a battle, to the greatest advantage; but you must learn from a higher school when it is fitting, just, and proper, to wage war or to make peace. .
The art of the husbandman is to sow and bring to maturity the precious fruits of the earth ; it belongs to another skill to regulate their consumption by a regard to our health, fortune, and other circumstances.
In short, there is no faculty we can exert, no species of skill we can apply, but requires a superintending hand; but looks up, as it were, to some higher principle, as a maid to her mistress, for direction : and this universal superintendent is wisdom.*
To carry our ideas of it as high as possible, the wise man traces it up to its fountain, and contemplates it as it subsists in the breast of Deity.
The admirers of Cowper will, on reading the above, be naturally reminded of his graphic contrast of Knowledge and Wisdom, in the sixth book of the Task.
“ Knowledge and Wisdom, far from being one,
Have ofttimes no connexion. Knowledge dwells
Lord by wisdom hath founded the earth; by understanding hath he established the heavens. By his knowledge the depths are broken up, and the clouds drop down the dew.”*
But though we have taken occasion to speak thus far of wisdom in general, it is doubtful whether we are to take the word in that extension in the passage before us.
If we turn to the context, we shall find St. James describing the happy fruits which result from a right temper under affliction and persecution. This epistle, as well as the two epistles of Peter, are supposed to have been addressed to the Jews under circumstances of
persecution. St. James had exhorted christians to count it all joy when they fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of their faith worketh patience. “But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing." He then adds, “ If
you lack wisdom,” (that is, the wisdom necessary to suffer right, the wisdom included in a right and becoming temper under persecutions and trials,) “ let him ask of God.”
In this view, the wisdom here mentioned may be considered as including two things.
I. A knowledge of duty.
A clear and just conception of what was duty was not always easily attained. A season of
persecution for righteousness' sake would naturally be
Prov. iii. 19, 20.