« PreviousContinue »
And they are his own choice too; My son, give me thy heart. Entreat him to redress all those abuses wherewith Satan and sin have filled it, and then to take possession of it himself; for therein consists its happiness. This is or should be a main end of our resortings to his house and service. Wrong not yourselves so far as to turn these serious exercises of religion into an idle divertisement. What a happiness were it, if every time you come to his solemn worship, some of your strongest sins did receive a new wound, and some of your weakest graces a new strength!
JAMES, iii, 17. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocris God doth know, that in the day that ye shall eat there. of, your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil, was the first hissing of that old serpent, by which he poisoned mankind in the root. Man, not contented with the impression of God's image, in which he was created, lost it by catching at a shadow. Climbing higher than his station, he fell
far below it. Seeking to be more than man, to become as God, he made himself less than man. He lodged not a night in honor, but became like the beasts that perish. Ever since, nature's best wisdom is full of impurity, turbulency, and distemper; nor can any thing rectify it, but a wisdom from above, that both cleanseth and composeth the soul : it is first pure and then peaceable.
This epistle, as some that follow, is called general, both by reason of the dispersion of the parties to whom it is addressed, and the universality of the subject of which it treats ; containing a great number, if not all, of the necessary directions and comforts of a Christian's life, both for the active and the passive part of it. It is evident that the apostle's main design is, to arm the dispersed Jews against all kinds of temptations, both those of af. fiction, in the first chapter, at the 2d verse, and sinful
temptations, verse 13th; and having discoursed of two special means of strengthening them against both, speaking to God in prayer and hearing God speak in his word, in the two last verses of the first chapter, he recommends, as chief duties of religion and sure evidences of integrity in religion, first, meekness and moderation, chiefly in their speeches, and then charity and purity in their actions.; insisting largely upon the latter, in the second chapter, and upon the former, the ruling of the tongue, in this third chapter : and here towards the end of it, he shows the true opposite springs of miscarriage in speech and action, and of right ordering and regulating of both. Evil conversation, strifes and envyings, are the fruits of a base wisdom' that is earthly, sensual, and devilish ; but purity, meekness, and mercy, are the proper effects and certain signs of heavenly wisdom. • The wisdom that is from above is first pure ; its gentle. ness can agree with any thing except impurity. Then it is peaceable; it offends no body, except purity offend them ; it is not raging and boisterous. It is not only pure, being void of that mire and dirt which the wicked are said to cast out like the sea, but peaceable likewise, not swelling and restless like the sea, as is said of the wicked. Nor is it only peaceable negatively; not offending, but, as the word bears, pacific, disposed to make and seek peace. And as it readily offends none, so it is not easily offended. It is gentle and moderate, and if offended, easily entreated to forgive. And as it easily passeth by men's offences, so it doth not pass by, but looks upon their distresses and wants ; as full of compassion, as it is free from unruly and distempered passions. Nor rests it in an affecting sympathy; its mercy is helpful : full of mercy and good fruits. And it both forgives, and pities, and gives, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. The word adıákpiros may as well bear another sense, no less suiting both with this wisdom and these its other qualities; that is, not taking upon it a censorious discerning and judging of others. They that have most of this wisdom are least rigid to those that have less of it. I know no better evidence of strength in grace, than to bear'much with those that are weak in it. And lastly, as it spares the infirmities of others, so it makes not
false and vain shows of its own excellencies; it is without hypocrisy. This denies two things, both dissimulation and ostentation. The art of dissembling, or hypocrite-craft, is no part of this wisdom. And for the other, ostentation, surely the air of applause is too light a purchase for solid wisdom. The works of this wisdom may be seen, yea, they should be seen, and may possibly be now and then commended; but they should not be done for that low end, either to be seen or to be commended-surely not, being of so noble extraction. This wisdom having de. scended from heaven, will be little careful for the estimation of those that are of the earth, and are but too often of the earth, earthly.
The due order of handling these particulars more fully, cannot well be missed. Doubtless, the subject, wisdom from above, requires our first consideration; next, the excellent qualities that are attributed to it; and lastly, their order is to be considered, the rather, because so clearly expressed, first pure, then peaceable, &c.
Wisdom from above. 'There be two things in this there is the general term of wisdom, common to divers sorts of wisdom, though most eminently and truly belonging to this best wisdom; then there is the birth or original of this wisdom, serving as its difference to specify and distinguish it from all the rest, wisdom from above. Wisdom in the general is a very plausible word among men. Who is there that would not willingly pass for wise ? Yea, often those that are least of all such, are most desirous to be accounted such; and where this fails them, they usually make up that want in their own conceit and strong opinion. Nor do men thus love the reputation of wisdom only, but they naturally desire to be wise, as they do to be happy: yet, through corrupt nature's blindness, they do as naturally mistake and fall short both of the one and the other; and being once wrong, the more progress they make, they are further out of the way, and pretending to wisdom in a false way, they still befool themselves, as the apostle speaks, Professing themselves to be wise, they become fools.
Our Apostle, ver. 15, speaking of that wicked wisdom that is fruitful of wrongs, strifes, and debates, and that is
only abusively to be called wisdom, shows what kind of wisdom it is, by three notable characters, earthly, sensual, and devilish; which though they be here jointly attributed to one and the same subject, yet we may make use of them to signify some differences of false wisdom. There is an infernal, or devilish wisdom, proper for contriving cruelties and oppressions, or subtle shifts and deceits that make atheism a main basis and pillar of state policy: such are those that devise mischief upon their beds, Mic, ii, 1. This is a serpentine wisdom, not joined with, but most opposite to dove-like simplicity. There is an earthly wisdom that draws not so deep in impiety as the other, yet is sufficient to keep a man out of all acquaintance with God and divine matters, and is drawing his eye perpetually downwards, employing him in the pursuit of such things as cannot fill the soul, except it be with anguish and vexation. By thy great wisdom, and by thy traffic hast thou increased thy riches, and thine heart is lifted up because of thy riches, Ezek. xxviii, 5. This dexterity of gathering riches, where it is not attended with the Christian art of rightly using them, abases men's souls, and indisposes them wholly for this wisdom that is from above. There is a sensual wisdom, far more plausible than the other two, more harmless than that hellish wisdom, and more refined than that earthly wisdoun, yet po more able to make man holy and happy than they are. Natural; it is the word the apostle St Paul useth. i Cor. ii, 14, naming the natural man by his better part, his soul ; intimating that the soul, even in the highest faculty of it, the understanding, and that in the highest pitch of excellency to which nature can raise it, is blind in spiritual objects. Things that are above it, cannot be known but by a wisdom from above. Nature neither affords this wisdom, nor can it of itself acquire it. This is to advertise us, that we mistake not morality and common knowledge, even of divine things, for the wisdom that is from above. That may
raise a man high above the vulgar, as the tops of the highest mountains leave the valleys below them; yet is it still as far short of true supernatural wisdom, as the highest earth is of the bigbest sphere. There is one main point of the method of this wisdom that is of most hard digestion to a natural mao, and the more naturally
wise he be, the worse he likes it'; If any man would be wise, let him become a fool that he may be wise. 1. Cor. iii, 18. There is nothing gives nature a greater prejudice against religion, than this initial point of self-denial. When men of eminent learning, or the strong politicians hear, that if they will come to Christ, they must renounce their own wisdom to be fit for his, many of them go away as sorrowful as the young man when he heard of selling all bis goods and giving them to the poor.
Jesus Christ is that eternal and substantial Wisdom that came from above, to deliver men from perishing in their affected folly, as you find it at large in Prov. viii. St. Paul, in the first chapter of his first epistle to the Corinthians, calls him the wisdom of God, ver. 24--that shows his excellency in himself; and ver. 30, he tells us that he is made of God our wisdom—that shows his usefulness to
And by him alone is this infused wisdom from above conveyed to us. In him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge; and from his fulness, if at all, we receive grace for grace ; and of all graces,
first measures of this wisdoin, without which no man can know himself, much less can he know God.
Now this supernatural wisdom bath in it both speculation and prudence; it is contemplative and practical ; these two must not be separated. I wisdom dwell with prudence. This wisdom in its contemplative part reads Christ much, and discovers in him a new world of hidden excellencies unknown to this old world. There are treasures of wisdom in him, but they are hid, and no eye sees them, but that which is enlightened with this wisdom. No, it is impossible, as one says,
" to know di. vine things while God concealeth them." But when the renewed understanding of a Christian is once initiated into this study, it both grows daily more and more apprehensive, and Christ becomes more communicative of himself, and makes the soul more acquainted with the amiable countenance of his father in him reconciled. No man hath seen Göd at any time: the only begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him, John i, 18. What wonder if the unlettered and despised Christian know more of the mysteries of heaven, than the naturalist, though both wise and learned ? Christ