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hunger or thirst for righteousness? Does he care, cark, and labour, with all the vehemence of his affections, and at the full stretch of his faculties, for heaven; as the child of this world does for vanity and vexation? Far from it. God is his master; but were you to judge by his behaviour only on many occasions, you would take him to be the servant of some lord, equally void of sense and goodness. Heaven too is his aim, but were you to judge of it merely by the manner of his pursuit (so feeble at best, so often interrupted by trifles, and so ill-advised throughout), you would take heaven to be, of all things, the most insignificant.
How far are the votaries of heaven outdone by those of ambition and avarice! A Cæsar, or Cromwell, aims at ends that seem to be placed beyond the bounds of possibility, and above the reach of human power. Yet by a thorough exertion of their abilities, by an obstinate perseverance in well-chosen measures (well chosen, I mean, in regard to the ends in view), and by a resolution which no hardships, no dangers can shake, they, in a few years, accomplish their designs, and find they had laboured for nothing but' vanity and vexation of spirit!'
As much a fool is the miser in regard to his end, and no less wise in the choice of means. How mortified is the man to all folly and vanity, but the folly and vanity of possessing more than he can possibly ever use, or even means in the least to enjoy. From his view of growing richer he never wavers a single moment, nor to the value of a single farthing. He wastes such wisdom on the acquisition of a shilling, as Cæsar could not outdo in that of an empire.
What candidate now for an heavenly crown can you compare with Cæsar or Cromwell? Who labours for eternal riches, as the miser does for money? What is the wisdom of the saint, or martyr, to theirs ? Which of these heroes in Christianity does not often fall into stupid errors and sins, it may be of the grosser kinds, as David and St. Peter ? Take Solomon, if you please, for the wisest child of light. Did ever the silliest child of this world deviate so far from his worldly scheme of life, as that monarch did, from his religious one, when he was on his knees before a deified stone or log?
The force of human understanding is in nothing so clearly
seen, as in the wars waged by mankind on one another, for things of no value, often for things of a pernicious nature, to the possessors. The art of war, and the display of it in a long and active campaign, is undoubtedly the highest exemplification of human wisdom, that hath ever been, or possibly can be given. Is the Christian warfare, wherein the soul and heaven are contended for, managed with any thing like it? No, there is nothing so silly as the Christian soldier in his endeavours to defeat the stratagems of his spiritual enemies ; nothing so awkward as he in the use of his armour. His helmet of salvation is thrown on the ground, and his shield of faith lies at a distance, when the adversary of his soul is laying at him. With the sword of the spirit he knows not how to make a single stroke, when infidelity and vice ought to be invaded. How he yawns, when his enemies are upon him! How he nods over the danger of endless misery.
Though the Christian martyrs died for truth, for heaven, and for God, we admire their fortitude and contempt of death, and revere it as a great and singular sort of heroism, as if they had not trampled on pain and death for somewhat infinitely more valuable, than present ease and life. But a single field of battle may suffice to shew, how this world's martyrs exceed them in numbers, and equal them in bravery, by the hundred thousand, who encounter death there in all its pomp and terror, and by the twenty thousand that fall for the hope of a little higher post, or for the payment of sixpence by the day. Christianity is not less outdone by this world in confessors, than in martyrs. Who suffers so much hunger, cold, self-denial, or even persecution for reli gion, as the miser just now mentioned, for his wealth? Who is so saving of his conscience, or of his treasure in heaven, as this wretch is, of a mouldy crust, or an inch of candle ?
Now, were the spiritual wisdom of much greater extent and difficulty in the acquisition, than the worldly; or, did the benefits arising from the possession of the worldly wisdom, vastly exceed those which spring from the spiritual; the too general indifference for, and ignorance of this, and the intense desire of that, together with the prodigious progress made in it, observable in the bulk of mankind, wonld, on the comparison, be less astonishing and shameful than
they are. But the truth is, a few days are sufficient, for the ? attainment of so much spiritual wisdom, as is requisite for the salvation of a soul, and the benefits arising from it, infinite; whereas, the close application of an antideluvian life it not enough to make any man a thorough master of the worldly wisdom; and then, its fruits and benefits, as their utmost termination is at the grave, must be but of very
little value to an immortal being. Besides, the worldly wisdom almost always fails of its end, the spiritual, never. Again, he who thirsts for the spiritual wisdom, for ' pure water from the fountain of life,' is as well qualified to receive it in the vessel of its natural capacity, as the mere temporal man is to receive that, in his, which flows from the fens and quagmires of this world.
The art, neveltheless, of reclaiming and saving the soul, and of acquiring eternal happiness, short and easy as it is to the learner, and infallible as it is, if known and reduced to practice, in the attainment of its infinitely desirable end, is but imperfectly known, and still more imperfectly applied, by the real children of light. But the art of acquiring riches, of catering for our pleasures, and of rising to worldly power and honour, which cannot be arrived at, without infinite study and pains, which is so difficult in the practice, and hazardous in the success, as all men know; and as all dying men know, so vain, so insignificant in its end and aim; is well understood, and as well followed, by the generality of mankind; and why? But because the children of this world, who are by far the greater number, give their whole hearts, and consequently their whole heads to it; while the children of light give but a share, perhaps no great share, of either, to that light, and the remainder is at the service of a world, which they have solemnly renounced.
There is no child of this world, who, supposing him ever so unthinking, will not choose a greater, rather than a smaller piece of gold, though they must be put into the scales to find a difference. But supposing the difference to be very considerable, as of one, and a thousand, in that case, if he hath his choice, he never deliberates, but instantly, eagerly prefers the greater. So instantly would he choose a life, rather than an hour, of pleasure, equal in degree, and differing only in continuance. So instantly would he choose a
large estate, rather than a single acre; and a kingdom, than an estate. So far reason helps the most stupid to wisdom in sensible and worldly things; but goes a great way farther in deeper thinkers. These it will put on ploughing and sowing in order to somewhat yet unseen, the future increase of harvest; it will put them on laying out large sums in trade, with a view to future profit; it will put them on practising the strictest abstinence, on swallowing the most nauseous medicines, or even on cutting off their limbs, for sake of future health. Yet the difference between the thing chosen, and the thing avoided, in aļl these and the like cases, is but small; for every man knows, that a few days may, or, at least, a few years must, reduce it to nothing.
But set the same man to compare temporal things with eternal, and you shall see him, as it were, suddenly deprived of his reason, choosing that which is uncertain, rather than that which is sure! that which is momentary, rather than that which is eternal ! that which is small and worthless, rather than that which is infinitely valuable! Nay, that which he knows to be evil on the whole, rather than that which he knows to be wholly good. In all this now he follows but one rule, a rule, directly against which he acts in tillage, trade, physic, namely, to choose the present rather than the future, though the future is, in his own judgment, infinitely better.
If we inquire, how it comes to pass that his boasted reason here so strangely deserts him, we shall find, it is because he seldom weighs spiritual and temporal things together in the same balance, but apart, and therefore knows not how to make a just and fair comparison. Temporal and present things press on him, not only with all their own, but with a large addition of imaginary weight. This is owing to the quickness of his senses, and the vehemence of his affections and passions. On the other side, spiritual things lie but lightly on his apprehension through the deadness of his faith, and the dullness or in frequency of his meditations. Having therefore lively impressions of the temporal, he easily discerns their differences, and weighs them, one against the other, with sufficient exactness; but can make little or no comparison of the spiritual with spiritual,' a thing never done, but by the wisdom which the Holy Ghost teacheth,' because he will not give his mind to this wisdom, nor admit a clear and lively sense of such things.
But, if at any time, sense on one side, and faith on the other, should attempt to bring the comparative weight of temporal and spiritual things to the test of his reason; his reason, knowing only the weight of the former, nay, perhaps taking it to be greater than it is, through the imposition of his senses, appetites, affections, passions, and imagination; and little, or not at all, affected by his faith towards the latter; swerves to the side of temporal things, or is too easily prevailed with, at least to tolerate a preference she cannot approve. Here reason loses her prerogative, not her being, or her strength; for henceforth she is employed in planning and executing the worldly or sensual schemes of her seducers, and, according to her higher or lower degree of ability, makes the man a more or less ingenious fool, ingenious as to means, and a fool as to ends. He knows the difference between a true and counterfeit farthing, and a.ways chooses the true; yet he obeys the command of a pope against the express command of God; he strains at the gnat of mint-tithe, and swallows the camel of iniquity and cruelty; he boggles at an innocent, perhaps useful, ceremony, but stretches away at full speed on the road of schism.
Here you may learn how it is, that the evidence of things not seen' dwindles down to almost nothing;' and the substance of things hoped for evaporates into a shadow. Death and judgment, because yet future, and not foreseen in any precise point of time, are set aside, as events that may never occur. Heaven and hell too are removed still farther from the attention; and even he, who is not only
about them but within them, is not in all the thoughts of such men.' No, they have other things to think of, 'what they shall eat, and what they shall drink, and wherewithal they shall be clothed;' nay, how they shall gather that which they never mean to use, or squander that which they know not how to give ; how they shall prolong their lives, and shorten their days; how they shall reconcile honour to treachery in themselves, and contempt to integrity in other men; how they who find no satisfaction in a natural world made by God, may be happy in an artificial one of their own making, with pernicious cookeries for wholesome food, with