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coaches instead of their own legs, and with candlelight in the place of sunshine. Here is their treasure; and here are their hearts; and here therefore are their heads too, fullfraught with that kind of wisdom, which is necessary to a scheme of life, infinitely perplexed in its views, and not less opposed in the management.
Now, the good Christian (I mean as the world goes) partakes too much in this character, and looks like the joint issue of light, and of this world. His false heart often forgets that it belongs to a Christian, and is divided. So is his understanding too of course. He
goes to two different schools, and attends to two opposite arts, and therefore cannot possibly be so good a proficient in either, as the worldling is in the management of his temporal designs, which engrosses the whole man.
Thus stands the comparison between the real children of light, and those of this world. You may easily judge how it is likely to terminate between the latter, and the pretended children of light, who make Christianity the compliment of their professions only, but know almost nothing of its principles or spirit, and live in direct contradiction to what they do know. Here we have not wisdom to compare with wisdom, but downright folly and stupidity of the grossest kind. We need not, therefore, take up much time in examining a difference so glaringly evident on the slightest inspection.
The professors I am speaking of, insist they are Christians; and we, for the present, will grant it, purely because they have been baptized; but we must take leave at the same time to call them children of this world, for this obvious reason, that we can see nothing in them or about them, which savours of any thing else. As each of them, therefore, is a sort of double man, we want not another for a comparison, and have nothing more to do, than just to see whether his wisdom as a child of light, or as a child of this world, is most' considerable. This will cost us but little pains. Two or three points of trial will lead us to a clear decision.
View him on his worldly side, in his contracts and covenants with mankind about all sorts of property, and you will find him keen enough to be a match for any man, even
for a man of the law. He knows to a tittle what he is entitled to, and what he must do to make good his pretensions. This he performs with the greatest exactness, and that he claims with equal precision.
Yet this very man, turned round and viewed on the Christian side, is found wholly ignorant of the covenant between God and his soul. What God hath therein promised to him, or he vowed to God, he little knows, and as little cares. Heaven is promised, and he is sworn to believe and obey. But what is heaven good for? Or what is his vow to him ? Yes, heaven, he says, he wishes for of all things, but owns he cannot act up to the terms on which it is offered, yet hopes he shall at last be admitted there. He does not expect an harvest without ploughing and sowing, yet hopes for an eternal kingdom, without doing, or even knowing what is to be done, to obtain it. He says to God, • depart from me, for I desire not the knowledge of thy ways ;' but is in no pain about the menace of Christ, who hath threatened to answer him at the last day, with his own word, 'depart from me, for I know you not.'
In all the contests he maintains with others about property or honour, his title to either will bear no argument, whereof he does not know the utmost force, and does not make the utmost use. His adversary, though as subtle as he, can pass none on him, that admits of a solid or even of a plausible answer. No prejudices of education, no whims, can so blind the eye of his judgment here, as to warp it from his pretensions.
How different a' man is he in religious disputations! Here he hath nothing but sophistry and passion for reason; and with these endeavours to support the most stupid ig. norance, the most groundless prejudices, the wildest imaginations. He cannot be sent to buy bread, in order to eat it for flesh, nor to buy wine in order to drink it for blood, to any other but a religious market. He will not quarrel with his neighbours, nor cut their throats for wearing a white or black coat, any where else but in a church. He may be brought, such is his modesty, sometimes to give up his judgment to that of another man in secular affairs; but, in religious matters, he “leans to his own understanding, and decides against the plain and express declarations of God.'
He does not believe, he will be less expert in any profession or science, but that of religion, for being early instructed in its principles.
Take him now in practice, and you will soon perceive how ill the religious part of him can bear a comparison with the worldly. See how he studies, dresses, dangles, to humour his worldly patron! How he labours to serve the man who can promote him! How he mortifies all his own passions to gratify those of the great man he depends on! A word or a nod from his lordship sufficiently intimates his will to the spaniel, who is sure to make one on every public day, and to run at every invitation.
Far otherwise does this pretended servant of God testify his dependence on Almighty goodness. What appetite will he deny, what passion will he subdue, what worldly view will he lose sight of, to honour or please Almighty God? God calls him to his house; but he hath somewhere else to go; or if not, thither, in that case, perhaps he does go, but with infinite indifference, sometimes even with an air of condescension; and when he is there, good God! how little does he look as if he were praying to thee, or listening to thy word.
When God invites him to the food of eternal life, this goodly Christian either turns a deaf ear to the gracious call, and always stays away, or goes once only for five times he ought to go, or goes in the rags and filth of his sins. And this, he wisely judges, is enough to ensure his salvation with an all-knowing searcher of hearts; attendance enough for that Saviour who purchased him with his blood. Had this pretended servant of God any spiritual wisdom, he would want no long or pressing exhortations to the duties of religion, for they say, a word is enough for the wise. But how many lessons, psalms, epistles, gospels, must be read, and how many sermons preached, to him, before he can be made, in any low degree, acquainted with his religion, or warmed to any feelings of piety, devotion, or repentance ! A look from the great man is well enough understood by this pretended child of light, who goes away unaffected from the repeated instructions and vehement exhortations of the great God. The great man does but intimate, and is obeyed; the great God cries aloud, again and again, and is
not heard. The wretched man, nevertheless, of whom I am speaking, after acting this part, will stomach it not a little to be told, that as sure as God is a wise being, so surely must this his nominal servant be a fool, for expecting anything else from such a conduct, but infinite indignation.
Nothing now can appear more wonderful than this man's stupidity, to one who considers the plentiful lights in order to religious knowledge, and the irresistible motives to the service of God, afforded by the gospel, whereof God by Isaiah, saith, · I will bring the blind by a way that they know not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known. I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. Hear ye, therefore, ye deaf, and look, ye blind, that ye may see.' And, behold, immediately after he asketh,' who is blind but my servant ? Seeing many things, but he observeth not; and opening the ears but he heareth noti'
Pursue the mere professor of Christianity into the general tenor of his life and conversation, or his dealings among mankind, and you will find him there too, wise enough as to the affairs of this world, and worse than an ideot in matters of religion.
Every thing that naturally tends to promote the profits, pleasures, or honours, he aims at, that he studies, that he steadily pursues, that he carries into execution with admirable address. When lawful measures prove insufficient, he lies, perjures, circumvents, or perhaps murders, if he hath room to hope for secrecy and safety, from infamy and death; and no fox knows better how to kennel in a rock, than he does, in all the arts of fair appearance, and of eluding a legal prosecution. But as a Christian, he either proposes no scheme at all, or one directly contrary to the end he pretends to have in view. Heaven, he says, is his aim; and wickedness we know is his course, a course which he himself knows leads quite the contrary way. He travels with iniquity, and hath conceived mischief, and brought forth falsehood; he leaves the paths of uprightness to walk in the way of darkness;' yet he says, I am the child of light and hope, I am in the way to heaven. He knows he is to be justly judged for the life he leads here, and either rewarded, if a good man with heaven, which is infinitely preferable to all
the pleasures; or punished, if wicked, with hell, which is infinitely worse than all the miseries of this world; yet heaven he forfeits for a trifle, an oath, a bottle; and hell he rushes into, to avoid somewhat as insignificant, the taunts of a coxcomb, or the frowns of a paltry man in
paltry man in power. What sort of wisdom now is his, who can so distinguish between small enjoyments, not exactly equal, as to prefer, and between small disquietudes, not exactly equal, as to avoid the greater; and yet knows not how to distinguish in either case when the difference is infinite ?
How keenly does our Saviour upbraid this gross, I had almost said, infinite folly, in the words of my text! One would think, no fool could be like him, who prefers sin to virtue; this world, or rather hell, to heaven; and the enemy of mankind to God, as the avowed child of this world does. Christ, nevertheless, here maintains that this is a wise man, to him who professing Christianity, and acknowledging all the attributes, particularly the infinite wisdom and holiness of God, hopes to be saved by that religion, against its most peremptory declarations; to impose on God himself; and to make a sort of composition between virtue and vice, between God and the author of sin.
The professed Christian declares, he hath given himself up to the guidance of that. wisdom, which is from the Father of lights,' that wisdom which prefers the great to the little, the good to the evil, the infinite good to the infinite evil. But when in the midst of those lights, ‘he walks not honestly as in the light, but in ignorance and works of darkness, does he not betray a much greater degree of folly, than the children of this world, who, if they prefer it to heaven, are at least consistent with their own choice in the
management of their pursuit? Had it not been better for him never to have known the way of righteousness, than, after he hath known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto him, like the dog to his vomit,' and the sow after she was washed, to her 'wallowing in the mire ? He who hath chosen this world, and acts uniformly up to his choice, gives himself some chance of accomplishing his purpose, and is therefore by far a wiser man than he who having two inconsistent ends in view, and attempting to arrive at them by two widely different ways, is sure to miss of both. In this