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SERMON I

PSAL. cxix. 34.

Give me Understanding, and I shall keep thy Law.

N this pious Ejaculation of the Pfalmift
there is evidently implied this
this great
Truth,

I

That to keep the Law of God, is to have
Understanding; or, in other Words, ·
that the Belief and Practice of true
Religion is the trueft Wisdom.

Man, if he acts as a rational Being, must act upon proper Motives and Inducements, and direct all his Actions to fome wife and good End. The main End of all, with regard to himself, is the Perfection and Happinefs of his Nature, the Attainment of fuch a State, as will be most blissful and moft lafting. To purfue this End by just and proper Measures is true Wisdom; and every Deviation from it, or Mistake concerning it, is in an equal degree Madness and Folly. And VOL. II. B what

whatever then bids faireft to rectify Men's Errors in Judgment and Practice, with relation to the true Happiness and Perfection of human Nature, that Scheme, whatever it be, has the jufteft Title to a Perfection of Underftanding. And this is what the Pfalmift here implies of the Belief ar.d Practice of true Religion, or following the Laws of God. Now that this is not too favourable or partial a Teftimony concerning the Excellency and Wifdom of Religion, I fhall endeavour to make appear, by these Confiderations:

I. That the End Religion proposes is the
most noble, and most worthy of a ratio-
nal Soul.

II. That this End is not imaginary, or

beyond our Reach, but attainable by us. III. That when attained, it will fully anfwer all our Expectations and Defires. And,

IV. That, till it is attained, it will in the mean time have the most happy Influences upon us in all our other Purfuits.

Great part of the Follies and Difappointments of Men may be refolved into this, That they either propofe low and base Ends to themselves, or fuch as are abfolutely, or probably at least, out of their Reach, and confequently their Labour in the Pursuit is vain; or fuch as fail upon the Attainment, and leave

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them as miferable as they found them; or fuch as they cannot purfue confiftently with their other Purposes, and confequently without great Pain and Difquiet. And he then muft furely best deferve the noble Appellation of the wifeft and most prudent of Men, who proposes the moft noble Ends, provided they are attainable; provided they will be fufficient to answer all his Purposes when attained; and provided they will have the happiest Influences upon him during the Purfuit. And how far this is the religious Man's Case will in fome measure appear, if we confider,

I. That the End Religion propofes is the most noble and moft worthy of a rational Soul. What End fo great and noble in itself, as the procuring the Love and Favour of Almighty God, and the advancing his Glory in the World? What End fo worthy of a rational Soul, as that of anfwering the Designs for which God brought it into Being? And these are the Ends which Religion proposes; and which the good Man purfues both steadily and confiftently, and takes the wifest and most effectual Methods to attain them. Every intelligent Being, that thinks at all, must be fenfible of his Dependance on that fuperior Being to whom he owes his Existence, and on whofe Favour or Displeasure his Happiness or Mifery must depend. Every Man must know how little able he is to govern the B 2

Powers

Powers of Nature, or command the Paffions. and Appetites of his Fellow-Creatures; and yet muft find, that without these Abilities he cannot prolong his Existence, or fecure his Enjoyments but for one Moment. And if then he cannot command his own Happiness, his next Recourse must in Wisdom be to him who is best able and moft willing to secure it; and this can only be the God of Nature, whofe Knowledge is infinite, and his Power boundless. He alone can know the various Wants and Diftreffes of Men, and with Certainty remove and redress them; and his Love and Friendship is therefore the wifeft End the Mind of Man can purfue. And if then it be our Understanding to labour after his Love, Religion alone can be this true Wisdom, fince that alone is the proper Means, which our own Faculties and his Revelations point out to us, to procure his Favour and Protection. For Religion is plainly nothing elfe, but a conftant and uniform Obedience to his Will, fo far as it is known to us, or discoverable by us; and it does therefore ftill farther recommend itself to us in point of Wisdom, as it is one conftant, regular, and steady Principle of Action.

The good Man is ever fteady and confiftent. He has one general Point in View, which is worthy of all his Labours, and he pursues it with the Vigour and Uniformity it deferves. All his Actions tend one Way, all his

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Thoughts and Reflections center in it. To be ever veering from Point to Point, and shifting our Pursuits as we do our Dress, argues great Folly and Weakness of Mind, as it implies either a Want of Judgment in the Choice of our Objects, or Levity and Inconsistency in the Pursuit of them. And it is therefore a farther Argument of the religious Man's Wifdom, that he never finds Reafon to alter his Choice. Experience confirms his Judgment of Things, and every Step he takes in his Progress in Piety difcovers new Charms and Lovelinefs in it. The farther he proceeds, the more Encouragement he finds; and the more he reflects, the more he is convinced, that it must be his beft Understanding to purfue the Ends for which he was created; and that he can no otherwife do this, than by a truly religious Course of Life.

What can we imagine could be the Defign of an all-wife and all-good Being in giving us these thinking Powers, and this Liberty of Action, unless it were to difplay his Honour and Glory in the Contemplation and Imitation of his Nature and Works; to magnify his Goodness, and imitate his Perfections; to improve these noble Faculties, by dedicating them to his Will, and, as far as our little Sphere of Action will give leave, to exert the fame Goodness and Benevolence to others, which we fee wonderfully displayed in every Part of the Creation? What Ends lefs noble could

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