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In regard to our own times, and to bring the matter home to ourselves, it is indisputable that we greatly excel our ancestors in the conveniencies and in the elegancies of life; that knowledge of every kind is become more general, science and literature more universal, than in the ages before us. But then, to our shame and ignominy, it is equally indisputable, that we are by no means inferior to them in our corruption and depravity; that, even in an open contempt of the doctrines of the Gofpel and the revelation of God's word, vices have sprung up amongst us, which were unknown to our less guilty predecessors, and crimes which would have disgraced the dark ages of barbarity and paganism, have been reserved to diftinguish the enlightened æra of Christanity.
So far was earthly wisdom and knowledge from making men wiser and better, more conscientious or religious; that it was, on the other hand, the principal cause of that corruption and degeneracy, which prevailed in the world at the time of the Christian dispensation; when God sent down his Son to confute the wisdom of the wife; when, out of the mouths of babes and sucklings he ordained strengih; when a set of ignorant and illiterate men were inspired by the Holy Spirit, to overthrow all the superb edifices of vain wisdom and falfe philosophy, and by the immediate power of God to silence the ignorance of foolish men.
What then are the inferences to be drawn, or what are the determinations which will
result from the conviction of this folemn truth?
Muft we give up all our title to, and all our search after wisdom and knowledge ? must we suffer our understandings to remain uncultivated, and our faculties to languish and decay? must we, in short, who are made in the image of God, endeavour to throw aside that divine fimilitude, and reduce ourselves to a level with the beasts that perish? God forbid? The God of knowledge doth not command it, the God of wisdom doth not require it of us.
Whilft Learning hath Modefty for her handmaid, Humility for her companion, and Devotion for her guide, she is amiable, useful, praise-worthy; but when she is vain and selffufficient, if here, instead of promoting the cause of virtue and religion, she takes up arms against them, while she observes the works of nature, and derides the miracles of God, inftead of adoring him for them; then doth she sink even beneath ignorance, and is more hateful and more contemptible, with all her knowledge and wisdom, than barbarity itself.
That knowledge which we should be moft solicitous to attain, we are generally most ready to neglect and despise: the knowledge which we ought first to learn, is the last which we acquire, the knowledge of our own poor and imperfect selves. But the man of learning is too proud and self-sufficient, the man of the world is too busy and sordid, the man of pleafure is too idle and voluptuous, ever to make }imtelf mailer of it; it is a knowledge, indeed, which will require great toil and affi.
duity in the search, and still greater care and folicitude in the preservation of it.
But then it is a treasure which will amply repay our labour; it is an acquisition that will fully recompence all the pains we can endure, and all the difficulties we can encounter in the pursuit of it: it will not, like other knowledge, be found insufficient, perplexing, unimproving, or unsatisfactory; but it will render us wiser and better, and therefore happier, than we were before the poffeffion of it.
Thanks be to God, we have a wisdom which Solomon could not have, and a knowledge which he could not attain unto, the wisdom of salvation by Jesus Christ, and the knowledge of his holy Gospel: to that wisdom and that knowledge therefore let us apply; that knowledge will not make us vain, that wisdom will not make us melancholy: he that hath it will not have grief, and he that increaseth it will not increase forrow. Let us leave therefore this world, and the knowledge and the wisdom of it, and go in search of the knowledge of God, and the wisdom of salvation: let us put up our prayers to the Almighty, to our great Patron and Benefactor, the inexhaustible fountain of wisdom, that he would enlighten our understandings and improve our faculties: that he will bring us finally to those manfions where we shall know even as we are known, where we shall be wise as he is wise, and pure as he is pure; that he will grant us in this life knowledge of his trnth, and in that which is come life everlasting.
ON RETIREMEN T.
SERM Ο Ν
PSALM IV, 4.
Stand in awe and fin not: commune with your
cun heart, and in your chamber, and be still. TO
check the impulse of passion and pre
vent the first attacks of vice on the soul of man, a reverential awe of the Deity is implanted in every breast by the gracious Author of our being. Till this faithful guard is removed by violence, or seduced and drawn away by our deceitful and corrupt affections, guilt can by no means gain admittance. Whilst the instructions of this useful monitor are carefully attended to, the dictates of fin and satan will not be regarded. The fear of the Lord is the beginning, and it is the continuance also of true wisdom; the moment we part from it, we are in danger of falling into error, and deviating into the paths of vice.
In the earlier part of life therefore we should endeavour to imprint this divine signature on our minds in the most indelible characters, characters which should grow with our growth, and strengthen with our strength; such as may never be effaced by time, place or circumstance,
and to retain always in our souls, that which will always be their best security.
And to this end the holy Pfalmist, who well knew our obligation and necessity of complying with the precept he gives, hath at the same time that he enjoined, condescended also to guide and direct us in the practice of it; and hath accordingly pointed out to us the most effectual means of preserving that religious awe and veneration of God, which alone can ensure our everlasting falvation. Commune with your own hearts, says he, and in
your chamber, and be ftill
. The royal monitor, who gives us the advice, was well acquainted both with public and pri· vate life; he had experienced the danger of courts and palaces, and he hath tasted the sweets of retirement and contemplation: to these last therefore he admonishes us to repair for that peace and tranquillity which it is not in the power of a noisy venal world to bestow; to fhun that bustle and glare which is too apt to dazzle and deceive us, and seek the calm and quiet shade of life, where we may undis. . turbed reflect on our duty towards God and man, and promote both our present and future happiness.
We are not, at the same time, to imagine, that by this retirement is meant an entire feparation from our fellow-creatures, a felfish ftoical contempt of them, a churlish folitary recess from mankind, and a total abstinence from all the pleasures of social life ; for this would be acting in oppolition to the first laws