« AnteriorContinuar »
SER M. actions, and is usually attended therewith. Now
what is inore delicious than hope? what more satisfactory than success ? That is like the pursuit of a flying enemy, this like gathering the spoil; that like viewing the ripe corn, this like the joy of harvest itself. And he that aims at a good end, and knows he uses proper means to attain it, why should he despair of success, since effects naturally follow their causes, and the Divine Providence is wont to afford its concourse to such proceedings ? Beside that such well-grounded hope confirms resolution, and quickens activity, which mainly conduce to the prosperous ifsue of designs. Farther,
V. Wisdom prevents discouragement from the possibility of ill success, yea and makes disappointment itself tolerable. For if either the foresight of a possible miscarriage should discourage us from adventuring on action, or inculpable frustration were intolerable, we should with no heart apply ourselves to any thing; there being no designs in this world, though founded upon the most sound advice, and profecuted by the most diligent endeavour, which may not be defeated, as depending upon divers causes above our power, and circumstances beyond our prospect. The inconstant opinions, uncertain resolutions, mutable affections, and fallacious pretences of men, upon which the accomplishment of most projects relies, may easily deceive and disappoint us. The imperceptible course of nature exerting itself in sudden tempefts, diseases, and unlucky casualties, may surprise us, and give an end to our businesses and lives together. However, such is the irresistible power of the Divine Providence, guided by the unsearchable counsel of his will, that we can never be assured that it will not interpose and hinder the effects of our endeavours. Yet notwithstanding, when we act prudently, we have no reason to be disheartened ; because, having good intentions, and using fit means, and having done our best, as no deserved blame, so
no considerable damage can arrive to us : and though s ERM. we find Almighty God hath croffed us, yet we are sure he is not displeased with us. Which consideration, wherewith Wisdom furnishes us, will make the worst success not only tolerable, but comfortable to us. For hence we have reason to hope, that the Allwife Goodness reserves a better reward for us, and will sometime recompense not only the good purposes we unhappily pursued, but also the unexpected disappointment we patiently endured ; and that however we shall be no losers in the end. Which dir. course is mainly fortified by considering how the best and wisest attempts have oft miscarried. We see Mofes, authorised by God's command, directed by his counsel, and conducted by his hand, intended to bring the Israelites into the land of Canaan; yet, by the unreasonable incredulity and stubborn perverseness of that people, he had his purpose frustrated. The holy prophets afterward earnestly ena deavoured to contain the same people within compass of obedience to the divine commands, and to reduce them from their idolatrous and wicked courses ; yet without correspondent effect. Our Saviour, by the example of his holy life, continual instruction, and vehement exhortations, assayed to procure a belief of and submission to his moft excellent doctrine ; yet how few believed his report, and complied with his discipline? Yea, Almighty God himself often complains, how in a manner his designs were defeated, his desires thwarted, his offers refused, his counsels rejected, his expectations deceived. Wherefore (faith he concerning his vineyard) when I 19a. 7. 4. looked it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes? And again, I have spread out my hands all Ifa, Ixv. 2. ihe day to a rebellious people. And again, I have even Jer. vii. 25, sent unto you all my prophets daily, rising up early, and 26. sending them; yet they bearkened not unto me. Wherefore there is no good cause we should be disheartened, or vexed, when success is wanting to well
SER M. advised purposes. It is foolish and ill-grounded in
tentions, and practices unwarrantable by good rea. fon, that make the undertakers solicitous of success, and being defeated leave them disconfolate. Yea farther,
VI. Wisdom makes all the troubles, griefs, and pains incident to life, whether casual adversities, or natural afflictions, easy and supportable ; by rightly valuing the importance, and moderating the influe ence of them. It suffers not busy fancy to alter the nature, amplify the degree, or extend the duration of them, by representing them more fad, heavy, and remediless than they truly are.
It allows them no force beyond what naturally and necessarily they have, nor contributes nourisiment to their increase. It keeps them at a due distance, not permitting them to encroach upon the soul, or to propagate their influence beyond their proper sphere. It will not let external mischances, as poverty and disgrace, produce an inward senfe which is beyond their natural efficacy : nor corporeal affections of sickness and pain, disturb the mind, with which they have nothing to do. The region of these malignant diftempers being at most but the habit of the body, Wisdom by effectual antidotes repels them from the heart, and' inward parts of the soul. If any thing, fin, and our unworthy miscarriages toward God, should vex and discompose us : yet this trouble Wifdom, by representing the divine goodness, and his tender mercies in our ever-blessed Redeemer, doth perfectly allay. And as for all other adversities, it abates their noxious power, by shewing us they are either merely imaginary, or very short and temporary : that they admit of remedy, or at most do not exclude comfort, not wholly hindering the operations of the mind, nor extinguishing its joys; that they may have a profitable ule, and pleasant end ; and, however, neither imply bad conscience, nor induce obligation to punishment. For,
VII. Wisdom hath always a good conscience at- SE RM. tending it, that purest delight and richest cordial of the foul ; that brazen wall, and impregnable fortress against both external affaults, and internal commotions; that continual feast, whereon the mind, destitute of all other repait, with a never-languishing appetite may entertain itself; that faithful witness, and impartial judge, whoever accuses, always acquitting the innocent foul; that certain friend, in no strait failing, in no adversity deserting ; that sure refuge in all storms of fortune, and perfecutions of disgrace: which, as Soloinon here notes, renders a man's Neep sweet, and undisturbed with fearful phantasıns, his heart light, and his steps secure ; and, if any thing, can make the Stoical paradox good, and cause the wise man to smile in extremity of torment; arming his mind with an invincible courage, and infusing a due confidence into it, whereby he bears up cheerfully against malicious reproach, undauntedly sustains adversity, and triumphs over bad fortune. And this invaluable treasure the wife man is only capable of poffesfing; who certainly knows, and heartily approves the grounds upon which he proceeds; when as the fool, building his choice upon blind chance, or violent passion, or giddy fancy, or uncertain example, not upon the steady warrant of good reason, cannot avoid being perplexed with suspicion of mistake, and fo neceflarily is deprived of the comfort of a good conscience.
VIII. Wisdom confers a facility, expert readiness, and dexterity in action ; which is a very pleasant and commodious quality, and exceedingly sweetens activity. To do things with difficulty, struggling, and immoderate contention, disheartens a man, quells his courage, blunts the edge of his resolution, renders him sluggish and averse from business, though ap prehended never lo necessary, and of great moment. Thefe obftructions Wisdom removes, facilitating operations by directing the intention to ends posible
s E r M. and attainable, by suggesting fit means and instru
ments to work by, by contriving right methods and courses of process; the mind by it being stored with variety of good principles, sure rules, and happy expedients, reposed in the memory, and ready upon all occasions to be produced, and employed in practice.
IX. Wisdom begets a found, healthful, and harmonious complexion of the soul, disposing us with judgment to distinguish, and with pleasure to relish favoury and wholesome things, but to nauseate and reject such as are ingrateful and noxious to us; thereby capacifying us to enjoy pleasantly and innocently all those good things the divine goodness hath provided for, and consigned to us; whence to the foul proceeds all that comfort, joy, and vigour, which results to the body from a good conftitution, and perfect health.
X. Wisdom acquaints us with ourselves, our own temper and constitution, our propensions and pasfions, our habitudes and capacities; a thing not only of mighty advantage, but of infinite pleasure and content to us. No man in the world less knows a fool than himself; nay, he is more than ignorant, for he constantly errs in the point, taking himself for, and demeaning himself as toward another, a better, a wiser, and abler man than he is. He hath wonderful conceits of his own qualities and faculties; he affects commendations incompetent to him ; he foars at employment surpassing his ability to manage. No comedy can represent a mistake more odd and ridiculous than his : for he wanders, and stares, and hunts after, but never can find nor difcern himself : but always encounters with a false shadow instead thereof, which he passionately hugs and admires. But a wise man, by constant observation, and impartial reflection upon himself, grows very familiar with himself: he perceives his own in
linations, which if bad, he strives to alter and correct; if good, he cherishes and corroborates them :