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mends as a treasure of so great value, is not the wisdom of this world (for that is foolishness with God, 1 Cor. iii. 19.) but it is the wisdom that cometh from above, which will make us wise unto salvation: the wisdom of living in the fear and love of God, and in a strict obedience to his commandments. The fear of the Lord, says he, is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the holy is understanding : Prov. ix. 10. or as it is in Job, Behold the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil'is understanding. Job. xxviii. 28.
Behold then the excellency of Religion! it not only secures to us a reversion of endless happiness, but makes our lives at present easy and delightful: the very paths of Religion are pleasant, as well as the end to which they lead. It is true, vice has its present pleasures as well as virtue: but then there is this difference between them; the pleasures of sin, are weak, shortlived, and only varnished over ;. they begin and end almost in the same moment, and can never be purchased but at the expence of much succeeding trouble, shame, and self condemnation. Whereas those which result from a holy and religious life, are substantial, sinceré, steady and secure: they leave no disgust upon the mind; no loathings and dislike: are neither accompanied with shame, nor followed with remorse or sadness: those bitter allays to all sinful gratifications. “ We may talk “ of pleasures and enjoyments, says a “ Great Prelate* of our church, but
no man ever truly found them, till “ he became acquainted with God, and
was made sensible of his love, and
partaker of his heavenly favours, and “ lived in an entire friendship and “ communion with him.” No, certainly; Religion is the only happiness of a rational creature, the only thing that can give us any true and real satisfaction: all other pleasures are, at best, but short and transitory; but in Religion we find a delight and satisfaction, which is solid, substantial, and
* Arch. of York, in his Volume of Sermons, p.:501.
lasting; a delight that grows and improves under thought and reflection.
“ Whenever to use the words of “ another excellent person) an action “ is good and virtuous, it is not only “ natural, but carries with it a felicity “ flowing from, and essential to, the
very nature of it. Paternal, con
jugal, filial affection; are they not “ full of delight? Justice, friendship, “ beneficence, all the offices of hu- . “ manity, and the whole train of “ virtues; does not the exercise of " them administer the most sincere and “ lasting joy? The propensity there " is in us toward them, and the satis“ faction there is in the doing of them, “ does in dispositions not debauched, “ lead most irresistibly to the practice
of them: we have, when we are “ about them, no boding, misgiving
thoughts, no forbidding whispers, 110
secret reluctancy Comfort, com“ placency of mind, and a gratulating “ conscience, always accompany such " actions."
What a perpetual source of joy and consolation is a good conscience! It
gladdens the heart, cheers and refreshes the soul, and fills the mind with a constant serenity and cheerfulness, which is infinitely to be preferred to the noisy mirth of fools and madmen. He that is possessed of this inestimable jewel, has a treasure greater than all the riches of the Indies : a treasure, which he always carries about with him, and which neither the malice of the Devil, nor the wickedness of men can rob him of. And so long as he retains this fund of joy and comfort, (as he always niay, unless he is wretchedly wanting to hiinself) he can never be truly miserable. For a good conscience, as it gives a relish to all our outward enjoyments, so it abates and takes off the edge of the sharpest affliction : and not only enables a man to bear up under present evils, but fortifies him against the dread and apprehension of future
It arms him with courage and resolution, and gives him such a firmness and presence of mind, as makes him able to endure the greatest shock. Solomon observes, that the wicked flee, when no man pursueth; but the righ
teous are bold as a lion. Prov. xxviii.
And the Holy Psalmist tells us, that a good man shall not be afraid of any evil tidings; for his heart standeth fast, and believeth in the Lord. Ps. cxii. 7. The Lord, says he, is my light and my salvation ; whom then shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life : of whom shall I be afraid? Ps. xxvii. 1. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no eril; for thou art with me, thy rod and thy staff comfort me. Ps. xxiii. 4. : What indeed should he fear, whose soul is anchored upon the rock of ages; who has the God of Jacob for his help ; whose hope is in the Lord his God? Ps. cxlvi. 5. He knows that he is in the hands of a most gracious and merciful Father, and is fully persuaded that all things shall work together for good to them that love him : he is assured, that the eye of the Lord-is upon them that fear him ; upon them that hope in his mercy to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine. Ps.xxxii. 18, 19. And there