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PROVERBS xix. 27. Cease, my Son, to hear the Instruction that caufeth to err
from the Words of Knowledge.
X5 HAT by the Words of Know
ledge in the Text we are to T You understand the Principles and
Dictates of Virtue and Reli#X22466
gion, is so well known to all who are in the least acquainted with the Language of Scripture, especially of the Book of Psalms, the Proverbs, and other Writings of the like Kind, that there is no need to insist
upon the Proof of it. This being admitted, the Wise Man's Advice in the Text amounts to this; That we should be careful to guard against the Arts and Insinuations of such as fet
for Teachers of Infidelity and Irreligion. Vol. III.
These Teachers are not here considered under the Character of vicious and profligate Men, given up to the Excesses of Lewdness, or to be distinguished by any Marks of desperate or notorious Wickedness: They are spoken of only as Instructors, as Disputers, and as Reasoners against the Words of Knowledge. Such the Wise King forewarns us of, advising us to keep at a Distance from Danger, and to stop our Ears against their pernicious Enchantments. He had often before spoken of the Danger of associating with wicked Men, who sleep not, except they do Mischief; who eat the Bread of Wickedness, and drink the Wine of Violence : But here he points out to us another Sort; Men who have arrived to a Pitch of being gravely and seriously irreligious ; who spend their coolest Hours and their calinest Thoughts in the Service of Infidelity, and are maliciously diligent to pervert Men from the Acknowledgment of the Truth, and by the very Arms of Heaven, Reason and Understanding, to enlarge the Bounds of the Kingdom of Darkness.
There are two Things, which, in speaking to this Subject, I would beg leave to recommend to your serious Consideration :
First, The several Temptations which Men lie under to listen to such Instructors as the Text refers to.
Secondly, The great Danger there is in listening to them.
It is one Step towards Security to see the Dangers we are exposed to : For, when we know the weak Places, which are least able to support themselves against the Enemy's Strength, we shall double our Diligence to guard against any Surprize from those Parts. It will be of great Service to us therefore to know the Weaknesses of our own Minds, to understand the Prejudices and Passions which conspire together to deliver us up as a Prey to those who lie in wait for our Ruin. This, if any thing, will enable us to rescue ourselves, by arming us with Resolution to withstand the Temptations which we are acquainted with beforehand. Infidelity has no Rewards or Punishments to bestow : It affords at best but a very hopeless and comfortless Prospect: Which would make a considering Man wonder whence the Temptations to it should arise, and what should give that Keenness which appears in the Passion with which some Men maintain and propagate it.
Wicked and profligate B 2
Men indeed are under fome Temptation from Self-Interest to wish well to the Cause of Infidelity, in opposition to both Natural and Revealed Religion; because it lets them free from the Fears of Futurity, and delivers them from the many uneasy Thoughts that attend them in all their vicious Pleasures and Enjoyments. To live at once under the Dominion of our Passions and the Rebuke of our Minds, to be perpetually doing what we are perpetually condemning, is of all others the most wretched Condition : And it is no Wonder that any Man should strive to be delivered from it, or that those, who resolve to enjoy the Pleasure of Sin here, should wish to be delivered from the Fear of Punishment hereafter. This then is a very great Temptation to Men to hope that all their Fears are false and ill-grounded ; and that Religion, from whence they flow, is nothing but the Cunning of wise Men, and the Simplicity of weak ones. Since therefore the Fears and Apprehensions of Guilt are such strong Motives to Infidelity, the Innocence of the Heart is absolutely necessary to preserve the Freedom of the Mind: Which, if duly weighed, is a good Reaion why a Man, as long as he finds
himself swayed by Appetite and the Pleasures of Vice, should suspect his own Judgment in a Matter where his Reason is so absolutely chained down by Passion and Interest, and disabled from exerting itself to do its
proper Work and Office.
Consider too; In the most unhappy Circumstances of Sin and Guilt, Religion opens to us a much safer and more certain Retreat, than Infidelity can possibly afford, and will more effectually extinguish the Fears and Torments we labour under, and restore the long-forgotten Peace and Tranquillity of the Mind: For, after all the Pains we can take with ourselves to close up our Minds, and to fhut out the Belief of a superior overruling Power, and of a future State of Rewards and Punishments, we cannot be secure of enjoying long even the Comfort we propose to ourselves from it in this Life. We may not always have Strength enough to subdue natural Sense and Reason. Any fudden Shock, either in our Health or in our Fortune, will disperse our animal Spirits, and all the gay Imaginations which attend them, and give us up once again to the cruel Torments of cool Thought and Reflection. Then will our Fears rally their Forces, and