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therefore the misery of man is great upon him” (Eccl. viii. 5, 6). To open this, the case there spoken of, is provoking rulers and men that have power in their hand. Now, a man that desires to keep the commandments of God, shall be taught to walk so circumspectly, that he shall not needlessly provoke the wrath of men to his own ruin, nor draw down the displeasure of God upon his head. God will show him the season when to act, and when to forbear; a right time, and a right manner; when to oppose by way of reproof and admonition, and when to hold his peace; he will find the fit time for doing of every business which God hath stated, and the ignorance of this time costs a man a great deal of misery; for he goes on, “ To every purpose there is time and judgment, therefore the misery of man is great upon him.” When men are self-confident, or distempered with passion and prejudice, and consult not with God, they are carried on by headlong counsels, or moved with the impulsion of their own interest and corrupt affection, into the mouth of danger; but he that makes conscience of his duty, and comes to the word of God without any private affection, he shall find time and judgment, those important circumstances, stated and determined, when to act, and when not; they shall find a fair opportunity of Providence, either of checking or leading them on to complete their resolutions. Many a good action miscarrieth for want of observing time and judgment, or consulting with God and his word about it; when to speak, when to hold our peace; to do, or not to do. Another Scripture that speaks to this purpose, Eccl. vii. 16–18: Be not overwise, over-foolish, over-just, over-wicked, that is the sum of what is spoken there; “for he that feareth God, shall come forth of them all." A man may many times do a thing conscientiously, and upon an opinion of duty, and thereby involve himself in trouble and danger, when indeed there is no necessity so to do (that is it which Solomon means); there. fore, to moderate zeal with prudence, that he may neither be remiss in his own interest, nor passionately violent in the concernments of God; to preserve his heart from faulty and imprudent extremes ; that we may sincerely keep unto duty, yet wisely decline danger. The word of God will teach us, if, in the fear of God, without being biassed and prepossessed with any corrupt aims, we come to take the direction of it, we shall walk without offence. Well then, you see this is the wisdom God teacheth those that give up themselves to the direction of the word ; they are wiser than their enemies; and this is policy enough for a Christian. It teacheth us how to please God, and how to govern and order all our affairs, that we need not needlessly exasperate and provoke men to our own ruin. So that the word of God hath more wisdom to guide him, than his enemies have subtle craft to ruin and ensnare him.
Fourthly, The manner how we come to receive this benefit by the word, in that clause, “ They are ever with me." These words may be interpreted as implying frequency of meditation, or presentness of counsel and direction, the one as the fruit of the other.
Ist, Frequency of meditation, “ They are ever with me;' that is, often thought of by me, for my comfort and direction. A man that exerciseth himself in the commandments of God, there is his study and business. The king of Israel, for his comfort and direction, was to have the book of the law ever before him (Deut. xvii. 19); and, “ Thou shalt meditate therein day and night” (Josh. i. 8). “They are ever with me," the law
is always in my eye and heart. It is not a slight looking into them that will give us this wisdom, but an intimate, constant acquaintance, when we are much in studying out God's mind.
2ndly, “ They are ever with me:" this may imply also that they should be a ready help. Such as derive their wisdom from without, they cannot have their counsellors always with them to give advice. But, when a man hath gotten the word in his heart, he finds a ready help: he hath a seasonable word to direct him in all difficulties, in all straits, and in all temptations, to teach him what to do against the burden of the present exigence; to teach him what to do and what to hope for.
Having illustrated the words of the text, I now address myself to make good the proposition, that a child of God is wiser than his enemies; I shall do it in a twofold consideration.
1. They are wiser in their general choice.
2. Wiser as to the particular controversy, or enmity, that is carried on against them by their enemies, as to those contests they have with their carnal enemies about the things of God; for I suppose these enemies here are not only such as had a private grudge, or carnal quarrels, but upon a public account; they have more wisdom by God to guide them, than their enemies have craft to ruin them.
First, Supposing these enemies to be carnal men (for such are the enemies of God's people), they are wiser than their enemies, in their general course and choice of life. To determine this, let us see what is wisdom, and what is folly. Saith Solomon, “ I applied mine heart, &c., to seek out wisdom, &c., and to know the wickedness of folly, even of foolishness and madness" (Eccl. vii. 25). Wisdom lies in three things :1. In fixing a right end. 2. In the choice of apt and proper means. 3. In the accurateness and diligence of our prosecution; and, as to degrees of comparison, he is wiser than another that hath a better end, a better way, and is more dexterous and vigorous in pursuing the means, that he may accomplish his ends. For instance, if we speak of worldly wisdom, the wisdom of the world is to fix the world for our scope. “He that will be rich," saith the Apostle, and accordingly he that busieth himself with such means as will conduce to that purpose, that wholly gives up himself to worldly pursuits, and that, with all his heart and vigour, makes haste to be rich (this is the wisdom of the world), he “shall not be innocent," saith Solomon. Then there is heavenly wisdom, when we make the enjoyment of God to be our scope, take the law of God for our rule, and make religion to be our business; avoiding evils, improving all occasions, sparing no cost nor trouble to compass such a holy end, that we may come to the enjoyment of the blessed God, this is a spiritual wise man. Then, among the children of God, one is wiser than another, as his intention is more fixed, as his means are more regular, or as his prosecution is more exact, uniform, and industrious. He that keeps close to his purpose of glorifying God and enjoying God, and he that understands more of his rule, he is the wiser man; and he that is more accurate and industrious, and with greater self-denial doth give up himself to God; as there are some that are more heavenly, more watchful, more diligent in the spiritual life, than others. Well then, if wisdom be to be determined by these things, the children of God, that are taught by the word of God, will be found to be wiser than their enemies and all carnal men.
Ist, They are wiser, as they have a nobler end, even the great end for which they were created, which is the enjoyment of God. Surely, the higher ends any man hath, the wiser is he. Now, there is none higher than God; for that which is the chiefest good, that should be our utmost end. There is nothing good in itself, and for itself, but only God: when we have God, we need not consider what further good to get by him; for to get him, that is enough. To look at anything as good in itself, without looking further what it is good for, it is to put it in the place of God. Of all other things, besides God, we may say, What doth it serve for? what use may I put it to? what am I the better for it? But now, beyond God, there is nothing to be sought : food and raiment, that is for health; and health, that is for service; and service, for the glory of God. Everything riseth higher and higher, till it terminate in God. Certainly, he is a wise man that lives up to the highest end, and makes this bis scope, to enjoy God. Well now, he is a wise man that doth not mind trifles, but doth promote his proper, necessary, and great interest. This is our proper, great, and necessary interest, to make God our friend, and Heaven our portion: beyond these, there is nothing more; for God is the chiefest good. Let me pursue it by another medium : certainly, a higher end is to be preferred before a subordinate; a general good before a particular; that which will yield all things, before that which will only yield us a limited or particular comfort: so he is the wiser man that chooseth God for his portion ; for he that hath God, “shall inherit all things” (Rev. xxi. 7); and, “ Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added” (Matt. vi. 33); that is a more universal good. Again, a profitable good is to be preferred before a pleasing. He that prefers a little pleasure before a solid good, you count him a fool; as Esau, that sold his birth-right for a mess of pottage: and to part with all for a little temporal satisfaction, certainly that is a main folly. In short, a spiritual good is to be preferred before a corporeal; why? Because a man is more concerned as a soul than a body; therefore that wisdom that is only “ earthly, sensual, devilish," as the wisdom is that is not from above (James iii, 15), is folly. This is all for the body, or outward man; and he is called a fool, that only provideth for his body (Luke xii.). Why a fool? He had provided but for half his self, for the worse and more brutish part, and for that half but for a little while; therefore, “Thou fool, this night," &c. Then an eternal good should be preferred before a temporal. Man that lives for ever, must have a happiness that lasts for ever; we live longer in the other world by far than here, therefore our care should be for that. Indeed, if a man did not live after death, and there were an end of him when he dies, it were the greatest wisdom to make the best use of his time here, to look no further than temporal things. Ay; but now, to look after the world, and neglect things to come, is to be wise for the present, and be fools to all eternity; we cannot count that wisdom. Again, a necessary good is to be preferred before an arbitrary; now, “ One thing is needful” (Luke x. 42). It is not necessary to be rich, to live in pleasure, to wallow in delights; within a while, we shall not be a penny the better for these things. It is not necessary to have so great a plenty of worldly accommodations; it is not necessary to our happiness hereafter, nor to the comfort of our lives for the present, to have so much here. Now, see who is the wiser man, he that looks no higher than to some subordinate end, or he that fixeth upon the last end; he that pitcheth upon some limited good, or he that pitcheth upon the most universal good, that will
yield him all things; he that pleaseth his fancy with toys, or he that looketh after a solid benefit; he that taketh care for his body, or he that minds his soul; he that mindeth that which is accessory or indifferent to his happiness, or he that mindeth that which is mainly necessary; he that looketh after a perishing vanity, or he that mindeth eternal happiness. Certainly, if there be a God, and this God can do all things, and our happiness lies in the enjoyment of him, he is the wisest man that takes God for his portion, and makes it his business to keep in with him; and so doth a child of God. Thus wisdom is seen in fixing our aim.
2ndly, Wisdom lies in the choice of apt and proper means; and that is, to take the word for his rule. First God for his portion, then the word for his rule. To presume of the end, without using the means, is folly; therefore, next to a good end and scope, there must be a good path. Now, that we might not grope blindfold, and wander up and down in fond superstitions, God hath given us his word to instruct us in all things which concern our duty and our danger, and to make us every way wise to salvation (2 Tim. iii. 15). If our happiness lies in the enjoyment of God, it is meet God should appoint the way how we should come to him. We should have been at a great loss, if the Lord had given us grace to fix upon him as our end ; if he had not given us a rule, we could not find out our way. But now, God, hath so exactly chalked it out, that a fool shall not err therein (Isa. xxxv. 8), such plain directions as make wise the simple (Psalm xix. 7); a plain rule, found out by the wisdom of God, and so stated for all, and peremptorily commanded to all, that the most simple that will give up themselves to God's direction, they shall find it. Now, who are wise? they that walk in the way of their own hearts, or they that will take God's direction in his word ? those that will live according to the counsel of God's word, or those that will fashion their lives according to the course of this world, or according to the customs and examples of carnal men, like themselves? Who is wiser, they that will inquire after the mind of God, who is wisdom itself, and can best judge of wisdom and folly; or they which shape their course according to the secular wisdom that prevails in the world, and which hath often failed in its end? Who the wiser man, he that hath taken God's counsel, and can never be deceived; or those that walk according to the course of this world, and find themselves wholly to be deceived? “This their way is their folly; yet their posterity approve their sayings” (Psalm xlix. 13). They will imitate that folly which hath been so fatal and so mischievous to others, and think themselves happy. Many carnal men, when they died, they all-to-be-fooled themselves, and lamented it, that they had taken no more care to please God, and walked no more closely with him; that they had been more busy about worldly things, than they had been for their precious and immortal souls: therefore, surely, the children of God are wiser than their opposites, that give up themselves to the vanity of carnal pursuits.
3rdly, Wisdom lies in a vigorous prosecution of fit means to the best end, without which all is nothing. It is in vain to be sensible of our end, and to be convinced of our way, unless we mind to walk in it. Many carnal men will say, that their happiness lies in the enjoyment of God. that the Scriptures are the word of God, and his directions to attain that happiness; but their folly lies in this, that they have not a hearty consent to take this word for their rule, and give up themselves to the directions thereof. “Wherefore is there a price in the hand of a fool to get wisdom, seeing he hath no heart to it?" (Prov. xvii. 16 ;) that is, such means and such opportunities given them to be happy; but that is a price in the hands of a fool, his heart hangs off from the way; and therefore here is the great effect of wisdom, when we do with all our hearts give up ourselves to God, that he may take his own way with us to make us happy for ever. Wisdom lies in obedience: “ Keep therefore, and do then; for this is your wisdom,” &c. (Deut. iv. 6, 7.) The world will say it is a simple course to be so nice, scrupulous, and precise; but God tells you it is your wisdom, and they that keep his statutes are a wise and understanding people. The Devil fills us with all kind of prejudices against religion. To such as love ease, he represents difficulty, and the yoke of Christ to be a tedious yoke. If they love honour, he tells them of reproaches and disgrace. If they affect wisdom, he telleth them it is a low doctrine, beneath the sublimity of their parts and abilities. Now, God assureth you, this is your wisdom and understanding. So, “ And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil, is understanding” (Job xxviii. 28). There is an inquiry there in that chapter, where wisdom is to be found? and it is resolved, that it is nowhere to be found, but in a strict obedience; not in the knowledge of the secrets of nature; not in the crafts and policies of the world ; not in the plots and contrivances of the wicked ; not in dex. terity to get wealth; but in keeping God's commandments with all preciseness and care. Briefly, this dexterous and effectual prosecution of the means which lead to our end, lies in three things; and so accordingly we may know wisdom: all these are called wisdom in Scripture.
i. In diligence and constant labour in spiritual life. When a man makes religion his work, then he is a wise man, true to his end. There are a company of notional fools in the world that make religion their talk, but do not make it their work, that can talk at as high a rate as others; they have a naked approbation of the things of God, but do not lie under the power and dominion of them: “A wise man's heart is at his right hand” (Eccl. x. 2),-a speech which seems to be contrary to the natural posture of the heart in the body; for the heart both of the one and the other is towards his left; but a wise man's heart is at his right hand. The right hand is that which is ready for action, so a wise man is ready and prepared to obey every good work. When men are diligent, serious, and hard at work for God, “ working out their salvation with fear and trembling," then are they thoroughly wise.
2. It lies in circumspection and watchfulness, when we are very heedful, lest we be turned out of the way, and that we do not anything that is contrary to the will of God; therefore it is said, “ See then that ye walk cir. cumspectly, not as fools, but as wise" (Eph. v. 15). When is a man a fool, and when a wise man? When we are careful in all things to practise according to our light, to walk exactly according to the rules of God's word, these are the only true wise, whatever the world thinks of them. The more circumspect men are, the more the world counts them fools, crazy-brains, and judge it to be a fond scrupulosity to expose themselves to scorning and trouble, for that which they call a nicety ; but the less circumspect, the more foolish; and the more wary, and more desirous to see God's word, this is wisdom: that is the reason why it is said, “ The fear of the Lord prolongeth days” (Prov. x. 27). When men once come