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readiness, and dexterity in action, which is a very pleasant and commodious quality; removing obstructions, directing the intention to ends possible and attainable; suggesting fit means to work by; and contriving right methods of process, &c.
IX. Wisdom begets a sound, healthful, and harmonious complexion of the soul, disposing us with judgment to distinguish, and with pleasure to relish, wholesome things; but to nauseate and reject such as are noxious.
X. Wisdom acquaints us with ourselves, our own temper and constitution, our propensities and passions, our habitudes and capacities; a thing not only very advantageous to us, but also very satisfactory and delightful. Errors of conduct, into which a fool is apt to fall, described. The contrary course of him, who, by impartial reflexion on his own mind, grows familiar with himself.
XI. Wisdom procures and preserves a constant favor and fair respect of men, purchases a good name, and upholds reputation, which things are naturally desirable, &c. This point enlarged on. . XII. Wisdom instructs us to examine, compare, and rightly to value the objects that court our affections and challenge our care, merely regulating our passions and moderating our endeayors; whence ensue a pleasant serenity and peaceable tranquillity of mind. Instances given of corporeal pleasures, honor, power, wit, and beauty, in which wisdom exercising severe and impartial judgment, and perceiving that they have in them no intrinsic excellence, produce no solid content or perfection to the mind, no security to the future condition, or any other durable advantages, concludes that they deserve not any high opinion of the mind regarding them, nor any laborious care in the pursuit of them.
XIII. Wisdom distinguishing the circumstances, limiting the measures, determining the modes, appointing the fit seasons of action ; preserves order, the parent of peace, and prevents
confusion, the mother of iniquity, strife, and disquiet. Business of human life compared to a building, &c.
XIV. Wisdom discovers our relations, duties, and concernments with respect to men, as well as the natural grounds of them; thereby both qualifying and inclining us to the discharge of them; whence exceeding convenience, pleasure, and content ensue: the topic enlarged on: so that wisdom in this point of view is the genuine parent of all moral and political virtue; as Solomon says in her person, I lead in a way of righteousness and in the midst of the paths of judgment.
XV. The principal advantage of wisdom is, that it acquaints us with the nature and reason of true religion, affording the most convincing arguments to persuade us to the practice of it; which is accompanied by the purest of all delights. The manner in which wisdom acquaints us with the nature of religion, that is, wherein it consists, and what it requires, explained. The incentives by which it allures and persuades us noticed.
Lastly, wisdom attracts the favor of God, purchases for us a glorious reward, and secures to us a perpetual felicity. For God loveth none but him that dwelleth with wisdom: Wisd. vii. 28. God loveth wisdom as most agreeable to his own nature, &c. And the paths she leads in are such as directly tend to the promised inheritance of joy and bliss.
Passage of great eloquence, showing how we ought to endeavor to obtain this excellent endowment of soul; with a concluding fervent aspiration after it.
THE PLEASANTNESS OF RELIGION.
PROVERBS, CHAP. III.-VERSE 17.
Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.
The meaning of these words seems plain and obvious, and to need little explication. • Her ways,' that is, the ways of Wisdom.
What this wisdom is, shall not undertake accurately to describe. Briefly, I understand by it, an habitual skill or faculty of judging aright about matters of practice, and choosing according to that right judgment, and conforming the actions to such good choice. Ways' and 'paths' in Scripture dialect are the courses and manners of action. For doing 'there is commonly called 'walking;' and the methods of doing are the 'ways' in which we walk. By pleasantness may be meant the joy and delight accompanying, and by peace the content and satisfaction ensuing such a course of actions. So that, in short, the sense of these words seems simply to be this; that a course of life directed by wisdom and good judgment is delightful in the practice, and brings content after it. The truth of which proposition it shall be my endeavor at this time to confirm by divers reasons, and illustrate by several instances.
I. Then, wisdom of itself is delectable and satisfactory,* as it implies a revelation of truth, and a detection of error to us. It is like light, pleasant to behold, casting a sprightly lustre, and
* Veritatis luce menti hominis nibil dulcius. Cic. Acad. 2.
diffusing a benign influence all about; presenting a goodly prospect of things to the eyes of our mind; displaying objects in their due shapes, postures, magnitudes, and colors; quickening our spirits with a comfortable warmth, and disposing our minds to a cheerful activity ; dispelling the darkness of ignorance, scattering the mists of doubt, driving away the spectres of delusive fancy; mitigating the cold of sullen melancholy; discovering obstacles, securing progress, and making the passages of life clear, open, and pleasant. We are all naturally endowed with a strong appetite to know, to see, to pursue truth; and with a bashful abhorrency from being deceived and entangled in mistake. And as success in inquiry after truth affords matter of joy and triumph; so being conscious of error and miscarriage therein, is attended with shame and sorrow, These desires wisdom in the most perfect manner satisfies, not by entertaining us with dry, empty, fruitless theories, on mean and vulgar subjects; but by enriching our minds with excellent and useful knowlege, directed to the noblest objects, and serviceable to the highest ends. Nor in its own nature only, but,
II. Much more in its worthy consequences is wisdom exceedingly pleasant and peaceable: in general, by disposing us to acquire and to enjoy all the good, delight, and happiness we are capable of; and by freeing us from all the inconveniences, mischiefs, and infelicities our condition is subject to. For whatever good from clear understanding, deliberate advice, sagacious foresight, stable resolution, dexterous address, right intention, and orderly proceeding doth naturally result, wisdom confers: whatever evil blind ignorance, false presumption, unwary credulity, precipitate rashness, unsteady purpose, ill contrivance, backwardness, inability, unwieldiness and confusion of thought, beget, wisdom prevents. From a thousand snares and treacherous allurements, from innumerable rocks and dangerous surprises, from exceedingly many needless incumbrances and vexatious toils of fruitless endeavor, she redeems and se
More particularly, III. Wisdom assures us we take the best course, and proceed as we ought. For by the same means we judge aright, and reflecting on that judgment are assured we do so : as the
same arguments by which we demonstrate a theorem convince us we have demonstrated it, and the same light by which we see an object makes us know we see it. And this assurance in the progress of the action exceedingly pleases, and in the sequel of it infinitely contents us. He that judges amiss, not perceiving clearly the rectitude of his process, proceeds usually with a dubious solicitude; and at length, discovering his error, condemns his own choice, and receives no other satisfaction but of repentance. Like a traveller, who, being uncertain whether he goes
in the right way, wanders in continual perplexity, till he be informed, and then too late, understanding his mistake, with regret seeks to recover himself into it. But he that knows his
and is satisfied that it is the true one, makes merrily and carelessly, not doubting he shall in good time arrive to his designed journey's end. Two troublesome mischiefs therefore wisdom frees us from, the company of anxious doubt in our actions, and the consequence of bitter repentance : for no man can doubt of what he is sure, nor repent of what he knows good.
IV. Wisdom begets in us a hope of success in our actions, and is usually attended therewith. Now what is more delicious than hope ? what more satisfactory than success? That is like the pursuit of a flying enemy, this like gathering the spoil ; that like viewing the ripe corn, this like the joy of harvest itself. And he that aims at a good end, and knows he uses proper means to attain it, why should he despair of success, since effects naturally follow their causes, and the Divine Providence is wont to afford its concourse to such proceedings ? Beside that such well-grounded hope confirms resolution, and quickens activity, which mainly conduce to the prosperous issue of designs. Farther,
V. Wisdom prevents discouragement from the possibility of ill success, yea and makes disappointment itself tolerable. For if either the foresight of a possible miscarriage should iscourage us from adventuring on action, or inculpable frustration were intolerable, we should with no heart apply ourselves to any thing; there being no designs in this world, though founded on the most sound advice, and prosecuted by the most diligent endeavor, which may not be defeated, as depending on divers