Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

But now,

live idly in pomp and splendour, who would scruple to charge such a bishop with want of understanding ? If we do not judge, and pronounce after this manner, our reason and judgment are but empty sounds. if a judge is to be reckoned ignorant, if he does not feel or perceive the value and worth of justice; if a bishop is to be looked upon as void of understanding, if he is more experienced in other things, than in the exalted virtues of his apostolical calling; then all common Christians are to be looked upon as more or less knowing, according as they know more or less of those great things, which are the common and greatest concern of all Christians. If a gentleman should fancy that the moon is no bigger than it appears to the eye, that it shines with its own light, that all the stars are only so many spots of light; if after reading books of astronomy, he should still continue in the same opinion, most people would think he had but a poor apprehension. But if the same person should think it better to provide for a short life here, than to provide for a glorious eternity hereafter, that it was better to be rich than to be eminent in piety, his ignorance and dullness would be too great to be compared to any thing else.

There is no knowledge that deserves so much as the name of it, but that which we call judgment. And that is the most clear and improved understanding, which judges best of the value and worth of things; all the rest is but the capacity of an animal, is but mere seeing and hearing

And there is no excellence of any knowledge in us, till we exercise our judgment, and judge well of the value and worth of things. If a man had eyes that could see beyond the stars, or pierce into the heart of the earth, but could not see the things that were before him, or discern any thing that was serviceable to him, we should reckon that he had but a very bad sight. If another had ears that received sounds from the world in the moon, but could hear nothing that was done upon earth, we should look upon him to be as bad as deaf. In like manner,

if a man has a memory that can retain a great many things; if he has a wit that is sharp and acute in arts and sciences, or an imagination that can wander agree

ably in fictions, but has a dull, poor apprehension of his duty and relation to God, of the value of piety, or the worth of moral virtue, he may very justly be reckoned to have a bad understanding. He is but like the man that can only see and hear such things as are of no benefit to him.

As certain therefore as piety, virtue, and eternal happiness are of the most concern to man, as certain as the immortality of our nature, and relation to God, are the most glorious circumstances of our nature, so certain is it, that he who dwells most in contemplation of them, whose heart is most affected with them, who sees farthest into them, who best comprehends the value and excellency of them, who judges all worldly attainments to be mere bubbles and shadows, in comparison of them, proves himself to have of all others the finest understanding, and the strongest judgment. And if we do not reason after this manner, or allow this method of reasoning, we have no arguments to prove, that there is any such thing as a wise man, or a fool. For a man is proved to be a natural, not because he wants any of his senses, or is incapable of every thing, but because he has no judgment, and is entirely ignorant of the worth and value of things; he will perhaps choose a fine coat rather than a large estate. And as the essence of stupidity consists in the entire want of judgment, in an ignorance of the value of things; so on the other hand the essence of wisdom and knowledge must consist in the excellency of our judgment, or in the knowledge of the worth and value of things. This therefore is an undeniable proof that he who knows most of the value of the best things, who judges most rightly of the things which are of most concern to him, who had rather have his soul in a state of Christian perfection, than the greatest share of worldly happiness, has the highest wisdom and is at the farthest distance from men that are naturals, that any knowledge can place him. On the other hand, he that can talk the learned languages, and repeat a great deal of history, but prefers the indulgence of his body to the purity and perfection of his soul, who is more concerned to get a name, or an estate here, than to live in eternal glory hereafter, is in the nearest state to that natural, who chooses a painted coat, rather than a large

estate. He is not called a natural by men, but he must appear to God, and heavenly beings, as in a more excessive state of stupidity, and will sooner or later certainly appear so to himself.

But now if this be undeniably plain, that we cannot prove a man to be a fool, but by shewing that he has no knowledge of things that are good and evil to himself, then it is undeniably plain that we cannot prove a man to be wise, but by shewing that he has the fullest knowledge of things that are his greatest good, and his greatest evil.

If, therefore, God be our greatest good ; if there can be no good but in his favour, nor any evil but in departing from him, then it is plain, that he who judges it the best thing he can do to please God to the utmost of his power, who worships and adores him with all his heart and soul, who had rather have a pious mind than all the dignities and honours in the world, shews himself to be in the highest state of human wisdom.

To proceed; We know how our blessed Lord acted in a human body; it was his meat and drink to do the will of his Father who is in heaven. And if any number of heavenly spirits were to leave their habitations in the light of God, and be for awhile united to human bodies, they would certainly tend towards God in all their actions, and be as heavenly as they could, in a state of flesh and blood.

They would certainly act in this manner, because they would know that God was the only good of all spirits ; and that whether they were in the body or out of the body, in heaven or on earth, they must have every degree of their greatness and happiness from God alone. All human spirits therefore, the more exalted they are, the more they know their divine original, the nearer they come to heavenly spirits, by so much the more will they live to God in all their actions, and make their whole life a state of devotion. Devotion therefore is the great'est sign of a great and noble genius, it supposes a soul in its highest state of knowledge ; and none but little and blinded minds, that are sunk into ignorance and vanity, are destitute of it.

If a human spirit should imagine some mighty prince to be greater than God, we should take it for a poor, ig

29*

joe

a ta

as

we lor:

me

and

norant creature ; all people would acknowledge such an imagination to be the height of stupidity. But if this bis same human spirit should think it better to be devoted to some mighty prince, than to be devoted to God, would far not this still be a greater proof of a poor, ignorant, and that blinded nature ? Yet this is what all people do, who

qui ihink any thing better, greater, or wiser than a devout

ado life. So that which way,soever we consider this matter, it plainly appears, that devotion is an instance of great judgment, of an elevated nature ; and the want of devotion is a certain proof of the want of understanding. Gc The greatest spirits of the heathen world, such as Py- to thagoras, Socrates, Plato, Epictetus, Marcus, Antonius, tio &c. owed all their greatness to the spirit of devotion.

to They were full of God; their wisdom and deep contem

pr plations, tended only to deliver men from the vanity of be the world, the slavery of bodily passions, that they might rig act as spirits that came from God, and were soon to return to him. Again ; To see the dignity and greatness of a devout

lave spirit, we need only compare it with other tempers, that wb are chosen in the room of it. St. John tells us, that all

wie in the world, that is, all the tempers of a worldly life,) is of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life. Let us therefore consider, what wisdom or excellency of if mind there is required to qualify a man for these delights. the Let us suppose a man given up to the pleasures of the

WE body, surely this can be no sign of a fine mind, or an

hi excellent spirit; for if he has but the temper of an ani- do mal, he is great enough for these enjoyments. Let us suppose him to be devoted to honours and splendours, to be fond of glitter and equipage ; now if this temper required any great parts or fine understanding to make a man capable of it, it would prove the world to abound

th with great wits. Let us suppose him to be in love with riches, and to be so eager in the pursuit of them, as never to think he has enough; now this passion is so far from supposing any excellent sense, or great understanding, that blindness and folly are the best supports that it hath. Let us, lastly, suppose him in another light, not singly devoted to any of these passions, but as it mostly happens, governed by all of them in their turns į

SO

V

[ocr errors]

sucks

rant, a

a dere

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

p Fanity #

does this shew a more exalted nature, than to spend his days in the service of any one of them ? For to have a taste for these things, and to be devoted to them, is so far from arguing any tolerable parts or understanding,

that they are suited to the dullest, weakest minds, and redo quire only a great deal of pride and folly to be greatly

admired. But now let libertines bring any such charge as this if they can, against devotion. They may as well endeavour to charge light with every thing that be

longs to darkness. Let them but grant that there is a ertandingan God, and Providence, and then they have granted enough da ti to justify the wisdom, and support the honour of devo

tion. For if there is an infinitely wise and good Creade retien, tor, in whom we live, move, and have our being, whose ncontre providence governs all things in all places, surely it must

be the highest act of our understanding to conceive Jeg mig rightly of him; it must be the noblest instance of judg-on to re ment, the most exalted temper of our nature, to worship

and adore this universal Providence, to conform to its a deroui, laws, to study its wisdom, and to live and act every hers that where, as in the presence of this infinitely good and that di wise Creator. Now he that lives thus, lives in the spirit life.) of devotion. And what can shew such great parts

, and so fine an understanding, as to live in this temper? For Tency of if God is wisdom, surely he must be the wisest man in

the world, who most conforms to the wisdom of God, of the who best obeys his providence, who enters farthest into

his designs, and does all he can, that God's will may be done on earth, as it is done in heaven. A devout man makes a true use of his reason; he sees through the

vanity of the world, discovers the corruption of his naper re- ture, and the blindness of his passions. He lives by a

law which is not visible to vulgar eyes; he enters into the world of spirits; he compares the greatest things, sets eternity against time ; and chooses rather to be for ever great in the presence of God, when he dies, than to have the greatest share of worldly pleasures whilst he lives. He who is devout, is full of these great thoughts; he lives upon these noble reflections, and conducts himself by rules and principles, which can only be apprehended, admired and loved by reason. There is nothing therefore that shews so great a genius, nothing that so

of life.

delights

[ocr errors]

an ani

Let us Durs,

to

make a abound e with

em, as so far under

pports light

as

urns

« EdellinenJatka »