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and they must take more pains with their own hearts, and be the more earnest in prayer to God for his affiftance. Their diftemper is not incurable by the heavenly physician; and they will have one pleafureupon a conqueft, above those of milder tempers, it will be more evident that their meekness is not forced. Or, fhould we confult reafon,we must confefs, that when evil confequences may be forefeen, they should rather have fortified us against the tide of paffion, than paffion be made use of afterwards, as a plea for its excufe. And a fincere christian will rather confider thofe effects of his paffion, as aggravations of the finfulness of it; and therefore be more watchful for the future, and diligent to grow in meekness, which will be a preparation for heaven, where neither pride nor paffion have any place, but all is calm and ferene, peaceable, meek and happy.
SUNDAY XV. CHAP. XV.
I. Of Chriftian Prudence. II. Its Ufe. III. Of Confideration and Inconfideration. IV. Cf Chriftian Contentment, Covetousness, Murmuring, Ambition, Difcontent. V. Of Diligence. VI. Of Temptations. VII. Of Watchfulness. VIII. Of Idleness and Industry.
HEN we have well digested the foregoing fubjects, we may improve them into chriftian prudence; they will arm us with all the rules of policy, confiftent with innocence; all prudential methods to compaís a bad end, or those which bear the most promifing afpect to obtain a good end, are abominable, if they are unlawful. So falfhood or cunning craftinefs, as the fcripture calls it, is very different from chriftian prudence; because it is the wisdom of this world, which is foolishness with God: we must not go, upon any pretence of convenience or prudence, beyond the line of our known duty; for, the wisdom to which we are directed, fuppofes a confciencious regard to duty, a hearty defire to know and practise it also. Christian prudence is to fecond this defign, to fa
cilitate and improve it: every thing is beautiful in its season: one branch of duty may not interfere with another; weigh the circumstance of cafes as they occur, which may make a difficulty to discover on which fide of the question duty lies; and fo direct and guide your practice in the fame. We read in scripture of fome, who were wife to do evil, but to do good they had no knowledge; they fhewed art and cunning in the conduct of their wicked practices, but were awkward in any tendency to what is good. The honeft upright heart, which is truly devoted to God, will need the aids of prudence in the practice of piety, to promote the pleasure and luftre thereof. Therefore would men but let their thoughts dwell upon thefe things, it is not credible that the generality could lead fuch prophane and impious, fuch lewd and diffolute, fuch fecure and carele's lives as they do, without thought or remorse. But whether we confider it or not, our latter end will come, and all those dismal confequences, of a finful course, which God has fo plainly threaten'd, and our own confciences do fo much dread, will certainly overtake us at laft; and they cannot be avoided nor prevented, by not thinking of these things. Nothing is more certain than death and judgment, and then an irreversible fentence will pass upon us, according to all the evil we have done, and all the good we have neglected to do in this life; under the heavy weight and preffure whereof we must lie groaning, and bewailing ourselves for ever. Confequently
It is chriftian prudence to avoid any indecencies in our outward behaviour in facred exercifes, as may give men offence, or a handle for cenfure and reproach. The use of wisdom is to direct, and especially it calls for awful fear, when God's judgments are abroad; to humble ourselves under his mighty hand, to practise fubmiffion and patience under his corrections, and truft in him in dark and diftreffing circumftances: on the other hand, the fmiles of his providence, and the light of his countenance, should summon up the lively actings of joy and gratitude, of love and pleature. On fome occafions we are taught that prayer is needful, and at others that praise is our duty; is any man among you flicted? let him pray: Is any merry, let him fing pfalms, fays the apostle. There is no pious affection, nor exercise, but what
what is amiable in itself, and acceptable to God, when it is fuitable to mens prefent circumstances: and therefore it is a confiderable part of chriftian prudence carefully to Regulates attend to this point. Again, our zeal should always be accompanied with prudence;acquaintance with our conftitution and natural tempers will give us light to difcern the fins that most easily beset us, and the best methods of escaping them. By how much the more we discern the devices of Satan, we shall be the better prepared to obviate them for if we are ignorant of them, he is like to gain an advantage over us. Common prudence directs us to the happy and advantageous feafons, the promifing minutes, which may be improved for ftrengthning our good habits, and mortifying our evil difpofitions. Whence
We may conclude, that this is the defperate folly of mankind, that they feldom think seriously of the confequence of their actions; and leaft of all, of fuch as are of concernment to them, and have their chief influence upon their eternal state. None of thefe confider what mifchief and inconveniency a wicked life may plunge them into in this world; what trouble and difturbance it may give them when they come to die; what horror and confufion it may fill them withall, when they are leaving this world, and paffing into eternity; and what intolerable mifery and torment it may bring upon them for ever. But
II. Chriftian prudence will warn us of the tempEnables us to tations which are apt to excite our irregular appetites, and direct us to avoid them: whereas if we rafhly enter into temptation, it is difficult to preferve our innocence. But chriftian prudence will take away the occafions of ill treatment, will not allow us to fuffer as bufy-bodies, or upon account of needlefs provocations, and promote our fincere endeavours to do good to the fouls of our fellow-creatures. Men are indifferent about their beft interefts, and fo ready to mifinterpret the most honeft methods taken for their amendment, that fome policy and prudence must be used to make charitable endeavours take place. Whoever would fucceed in inftructing of the ignorant, or convincing of gain-fayers, or reforming of the vicious, must take
pains to render himself acceptable, as far as may be, without finful compliances. Again,
Prudence exercises mercy and charity to the bodies of men, and not only manageth all our affairs with discretion, fo that we may have to give to him that needeth; but also diftinguifheth the proper objects of charity, fince we cannot reach all cafes; and maketh an equal diftribution of our bounty. Reproof may be thrown away, where it will do more hurt than good; he that reproveth a scorner, gets to himself shame; and he that rebuketh a wicked man, gets to himfelfa blot: reprove not a fcorner, left he hate thee; rebuke a wife man, and he will love thee. When you fee a man defperate in fin, and mock at reproof, it is a vain thing to reprove him, to add fin to fin, and expofe yourself, without ferving any good end thereby. There may be fome fuccefs in reproving a wife man; one who has yet some commendable modesty remaining, and will patiently hear what you have to fay. By prudence we diftinguish perfons, and are directed to the fittest opportunities to judge when it is proper to speak, and when to keep filence; and to confider the different tempers, expectations and views of those with whom we converse, that we may avoid offence. The command is, that our discourse be good to the use of edifying; To edify. which intimates that we should be always careful left any thing pafs from us in converfation, which may tend to corrupt the minds of others; and that religious difcourfe, or that which directly tends to fpiritual good, fhould frequently be the fubject of our difcourfe. The number of bad men, even in the best of times, requires much prudence to carry those, who are truly good, fecurely and reputably through their courfe of obedience in this world: and difcreet admonitions are never out of feason. The wicked are ever ready to triumph in the leaft advantage they can gain, and to reproach our profeffion thereupon. And could they find any thing to impeach our moral character, that would make us their jeft and reproach; they will gladly lay hold of any imprudences to reproach religion, and those who pretend to it; and therefore we should endeavour to prevent their ill-natured fatisfaction.
Therefore laying afide all deceitful arts, which are inconfiftent with fincerity, let us promote the wisdom that is from above, that it may help forward the comfortable and fuccefsful performance of our duty, and recommend our holy profeffion in Chrift Jefus. Let us care ully conful not only the matter of our duty, but the most acceptable and amiable manner of performing it, and endeayour to become masters of an habitual prudence, to direct us mp n fudden dangers: and it will be our character, with the wife man, to have our eyes in our head. Acquaintance with holy fcriptures will be of fingular ufe to our improvement ident conduct, by the way, as well as becoming wife unto falvadon. if we carefully attend to the precepts and the histoLies contained in those heavenly oracles, they will be in this ref ect a light to our feet, and a lamp to our paths.
Solomon's proverbs, and the pattern of Chrift, fhould be especially studied for this end; because the bleffed Jefus was not only a pattern of fpotlefs innocence, but a model of the greateft prudence; as in him were hid all the treasures of wifdom and knowledge. His method was to chufe the fittest means in all cafes to reach his ends, and took advantage of all occurrences to convey a word in season to those with whom he converfed, in the manner and at the times wherein his inftructions were moft apt to make impreffion on his followers. He never fhewed his charity to their bodies, in healing their difeafes, or in other inftances of compaffion, but he laid hold on fuch happy opportunities to be a monitor alfo for their greater hopes. The golpel history contains many inftances of his prudent conduct for avoiding dangers, and the effects of his enemies malice, till his time was come; and of his wary and of his wary answers to captious and enfnaring questions, whereby he either softned the rage of his adversaries, or evaded their wicked defigns. From whence his followers may derive great light by a diligent obfervation of his behaviour attended with its various circumftances, and learn to practise what he strictly commanded, to be wife as ferpents, but harmless as doves.
III. By the virtue of confideration man is deThe ufe of terred from all rafhundertakings, and confiders the subject well before he fixes any refolution; which
Hov to be improved.