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Thou, through thy commandments, hast made me wiser than mine enemies; for they are ever with me.—Ver. 98.
IN the former verse you shall find the man of God had expressed his affections to the word, ‘Oh, how I love thy law!’ Now he renders the reason of his great affection, because he got wisdom thereby; a benefit of great value, as being the perfection of the reasonable nature, and a benefit highly esteemed in the world. Those which care not for the reality of wisdom yet affect a reputation of it: Job xi. 12, ‘Vain man would be accounted wise, though he be born like the wild ass’s colt;’ though he be rude and brutish, yet he would fain be accounted wise. Knowledge was the great bait laid for our first parents; and so much of that desire is still left with us, that we had rather be accounted wicked than weak, and will sooner entitle ourselves to the guilt of a vice in morals than own any weakness in intellectuals. No man would be accounted a fool. Well, then, David’s affection is justified; he might well say, ‘Oh, how I love thy law!’ because he got wisdom thereby, and such wisdom as carried him through all his trouble, though he had to do with crafty adversaries, as Doeg, Achitophel, and others, 483that excelled for worldly policy; yet, ‘Oh, how I love thy law!’ For, ‘through thy commandments,’ &c. In which words you have
1. The benefit gotten by the word, wisdom.
2. The original author of this benefit, thou.
3. The means, through thy commandments.
4. The benefit amplified, by comparing it with the wisdom and craft of his enemies, the politicians of Saul’s court, men advanced for their great wisdom and subtlety, Thou hast made me wiser than mine enemies.
5. The manner how he came to obtain this benefit, for they are ever with me.
Doct. That God, through his commands, doth make his people wiser than their enemies.
It is but David’s experience resolved into a proposition. I shall—
1. Illustrate the point by explaining the circumstances of it.
2. Then prosecute it.
First, The benefit obtained is wisdom. Mark—
1. It is not craft, or wisdom to do evil—that is to be learned in the devil’s school—but divine wisdom, such as is gotten by study and obedience of God’s laws: Gen. iii. 1, ‘The serpent was the subtlest of all the beasts in the field.’ Satan’s instruments are very acute in mischief, ‘wise to do evil, but to do good have no knowledge,’ Jer. iv. 22; cunning enough in a way of sin, but to seek in every point of duty; your souls must not enter into their secrets. This wisdom should rather be unlearned; better be fools and bunglers in a way of sin, than wise to do evil: 1 Cor. xiv. 22, ‘Brethren, in malice by ye children, but in understanding be ye men;’ and Rom. xvi. 19, ‘I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil.’ Simplicity here is the best wisdom.
2. It is not worldly policy, or a dexterous sagacity in and about the concernments of this life. There are some which have ‘the spirit of the world,’ 1 Cor. ii. 12, and a genius or disposition of soul which wholly carrieth them out to riches, honours, and pleasures, and are notable in this kind of skill, in promoting their secular ends in these things. A child of God may be a fool to them for this kind of wisdom; for it is our Saviour’s observation, Luke xvi. 8, ‘The children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.’ Though David was wiser than his enemies, yet the children of this world are wiser in their generation, that is, as to carnal fetches and devices to accomplish their worldly purposes; in their generation, that is, about the course of their affairs. Thus David is not wiser than his enemies.
3. It is not great skill in arts and civil discipline. This is indeed a gift of God, but given promiscuously, sometimes to the good and some times to the bad; sometimes to the good, for Solomon could unravel all the secrets of nature, and dispute of everything from the cedar to the hyssop, 1 Kings iv. 23, 29-31; and sometimes to the bad, as the heathen philosophers, many of whom knew all things almost within the circuit of the world. Yet how little this wisdom is to be valued in regard of that wisdom which we get by God’s commandments, God hath in some short shown, in that he hath suffered those books which 484Solomon wrote concerning trees, plants, beasts, to be lost; whereas to this day the writings of the heathens are preserved, as Aristotle’s book De Animalibus, &c. But now those books in which Solomon taught the fear of God and true wisdom, which is godliness, are, by the singular care of God’s providence, conserved for our use and benefit. God hath herein shown that we might want those other books without the loss of true wisdom, but those books that indeed make us wise to salvation, these are kept. Learning is a glorious endowment indeed, but God would give us that gift by the writings of heathens; but grace, which is true wisdom, he would give us that by the holy scripture. A man may excel in learning, yet, after all the profound researches and inquiries of his high-flown reason into the mysteries of nature, he may be a very fool, and be damned for ever; for Paul saith of the philosophers: Rom. i. 22, ‘Professing to be wise, they became fools;’ since they had not the true knowledge of God and the way of salvation.
4. It is not a bare knowledge of God’s will, but wisdom. Knowledge is one thing, and wisdom another: ‘I, wisdom, dwell with prudence,’ Prov. viii. 12. Many are knowing men, well skilled with notions, but they want prudence or practical direction for the governing of their hearts and ordering of their ways. In the scripture you shall find faith is not only opposed to ignorance, but to folly: Luke xxiv. 25, ‘O ye fools, and slow of heart to believe.’ Every natural man is a fool, Titus iii. 3, though never so notionally wise and skilled in the theory of divine knowledge: Prov. xiv. 8, ‘The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way;’ not to soar aloft in speculation, abstract from practice, and remote from spiritual influence, but to direct his course so as he may attain to the chiefest good; not only to know what is to be done, but to do what is to be known. Carnal men have great knowledge, and yet are spiritual fools for all that; they may lick the glass, and never taste the honey; or, like negroes, dig in mines of knowledge while others enjoy the gold; they may search out the mysteries of that religion which the godly man lives upon, dispute of heaven while others surprise it and take it by force; or, like the lark, soar high, but fall into the net of the fowler. A careful strict walking, that is the true wisdom; and thus we have stated the benefit.
Secondly, Here is the author of this benefit, which is God, ‘Thou, through thy commandments:’ which I note, not only to show to whom we must go for this wisdom: ‘If any man lack wisdom, let him ask it of God,’ James i. 5; nor to show to whom we must ascribe the glory of it; if we get any benefit by the word, praise belongeth to God, who is ‘the father of lights, from whom cometh every good and perfect gift,’ James i. 17. All candles are lighted at his torch, and all the stars owe their brightness to this sun; to the father of lights we owe all the light, wisdom, and direction that we have. I say, not only for these ends do I note it, but to show the main and principal reason why a child of God is far more safe by his godly wisdom than his enemies by all their worldly policy. Why? God is of his side, counselling, directing, and instructing him what to do; whereas they are acted and influenced by Satan: Ps. xxxvii. 12, 13, ‘The wicked plotteth against the just; the Lord shall laugh at him, for he seeth that his 485day is coming.’ The wicked plotteth against him, but there is a wise God that acts for him. He doth not say the just countermineth the wicked, and strains himself to match his enemy with policy and craft, but God watcheth for him. If it were only this policy against piety, it were not so much, but it is men’s craft against God’s wisdom: Prov. xxi. 30, ‘There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the Lord.’ These three words express the sum and height of all natural abilities: wisdom notes a quick apprehension; understanding, a wise foresight grounded upon experience; counsel, a designation of some rare artifice and device. Now neither wisdom nor understanding nor counsel, none of these can stand against the Lord. God’s children are sometimes dismayed when they consider the advantages of their enemies, their wisdom, learning, malice, experience. But here is their comfort, that they may set God against all these—God, who is the fountain of wisdom; for he is interested in their cause, his wisdom against their craft; and so, having the direction of the mighty counsellor, they are safe.
Thirdly, Here is the means, ‘Through thy commandments,’ or through the directions of the word. You will say, What can we learn from the word to match our enemies in policy? what wisdom will that teach us for our safety and preservation against the malice of our wicked enemies? There is our rule, and the more close and punctual we are in the observance of it, the more safe we are. A double wisdom we learn from the word of God, which is our security against the malice and craft of our enemies.
1. This wisdom we get by the commandment; it directs us how to keep in with God, which is our great wisdom; this is to stop danger at the fountain-head: Prov. xvi. 7, ‘When a man’s ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.’ The way to get peace and safety in evil times is not to comply with enemies, but to comply with God. All our danger lies in his anger, not in their wrath and rage; for God can bridle them or let them loose upon us as he sees good. He hath the hearts of all men in his hands as the rivers of water; the creature is but God’s instrument, and wholly at his dispose. We have no need to fear the sword, if we do not fear him that wears the sword; nor need we fear the creature if we do not break with God. Many are troubled with the ill-will of men, or about the rage of men, and are full of fears when they meet with any opposition in their profession of godliness, and how soon men may be let loose upon them in time of danger, but look not to the cause of it, which is their offending God; therefore our chief wisdom is to serve him and study to please him. When a war is begun between two nations, the way to end it is not by a treaty with this or that private soldier, or to seek their favour, but to treat with those that employ them; so it is not to fawn and crouch and court the favour of men, but to be reconciled to God, and get him made a friend, then we need not fear man’s enmity. Now this wisdom the word of God teacheth us, how to walk with all-pleasing before God, and then the creature cannot meddle with us without his leave. Another place is, Prov. x. 9, ‘He that walketh up rightly walketh safely; but he that perverteth his ways shall be known.’ There is no one seems to be more exposed to danger than he 486that is sincere, that is, strictly severe to a godly purpose, that walks uprightly, that stands strictly and precisely upon his duty to God; and yet there is no man usually more safe. But he that turneth and windeth to avoid dangers, and runs to his shifts and studied arts to provide for his own security, usually is left in the mire, and comes off with some notable blemish; he is cast from God’s protection. There are but two sorts of men in the world that usually do carry their purpose; they are either those that are perfectly honest through out, without daubing and warping, or those that are perfectly dishonest, that wholly give up themselves to a course of fraud and sin, that are resolved to boggle at nothing, neither checks of conscience nor rules of honesty or equity will stop them; these, in judgment, are permitted to carry their purpose in worldly things. So the plain, downright, upright man, that will not for fear or favour step a jot out of God’s way, but keeps close to God’s direction, is the truest and most perfect politician in the world. They that are thus severe to their purpose will be found the wisest men at length, not only in the world to come, but in this world; for it is our warping and going out of God’s way that causeth our trouble and confusion of thoughts.
2. The word teacheth us how to give the enemy no advantage and needless provocation. It is not enough to do good, but we must do it well, well timed and well ordered for every circumstance. Now God by his word teacheth his people so to do: Eccles. viii. 5, 6, ‘Whoso keepeth the commandment shall feel no evil thing; and a wise man’s heart discerneth both time and judgment. Because to every purpose there is time and judgment; therefore the misery of man is great upon him.’ To open this: The case there spoken of is provoking rulers and men that have power in their hand. Now a man that desires to keep the commandments of God shall be taught to walk so circumspectly that he shall not needlessly provoke the wrath of men to his own ruin, nor draw down the displeasure of God upon his head. God will show him the season when to act and when to forbear, a right time and a right manner, when to oppose by way of reproof and admonition, and when to hold his peace; he will find the fit time for doing of every business which God hath stated, and the ignorance of this time costs a man a great deal of misery; for he goes on, ‘To every purpose there is time and judgment, therefore the misery of man is great upon him.’ When men are self-confident, or distempered with passion and prejudice, and consult not with God, they are carried on by headlong counsels, or moved with the impulsion of their own interest and corrupt affection into the mouth of danger. But he that makes conscience of his duty, and comes to the word of God without any private affection, he shall find time and judgment, those important circumstances, stated and determined, when to act and when not; they shall find a fair opportunity of providence either checking or leading them on to complete their resolutions. Many a good action miscarrieth for want of observing time and judgment, or consulting with God and his word about it; when to speak, when to hold our peace, to do or not do. Another scripture that speaks to this purpose, Eccles. vii. 16-18, Be not over-wise, over-foolish, over-just, over-wicked, that is the sum 487of what is spoken there; ‘But he that feareth the Lord shrill come forth of them all.’ A man may many times do a thing conscientiously and upon an opinion of duty, and thereby involve himself in trouble and danger when indeed there is no necessity so to do (that is it which Solomon means); therefore, to moderate zeal with prudence, that he may neither be remiss in his own interest nor passionately violent in the concernments of God; to preserve his heart from faulty and imprudent extremes, that we may sincerely keep unto duty, yet wisely decline danger. The word of God will teach us, if, in the fear of God, without being biassed and prepossessed with any corrupt aims, we come to take the direction of it, how to walk without offence. Well, then, you see this is the wisdom God teacheth those that give up themselves to the direction of the word; they are wiser than their enemies, and this is policy enough for a Christian. It teacheth us how to please God, and how to govern and order all our affairs, that we need not needlessly exasperate and provoke men to our own ruin. So that the word of God hath more wisdom to guide him than his enemies have subtle craft to ruin and ensnare him.
Fourthly, The manner how we come to receive this benefit by the word, in that clause, ‘They are ever with me.’ These words may be interpreted as implying frequency of meditation, or presentness of counsel and direction, the one as the fruit of the other.
1. Frequency of meditation, ‘They are ever with me:’ that is, often thought of by me, for my comfort and direction. A man that exerciseth himself in the commandments of God, there is his study and business. The king of Israel, for his comfort and direction, was to have the book of the law ever before him, Deut. xvii.; and Josh. i. 8, ‘Thou shalt meditate therein day and night.’ ‘They are ever with me,’ the law is always in my eye and heart. It is not a slight looking into them that will give us this wisdom, but an intimate constant acquaintance, when we are much in studying out God’s mind.
2. ‘They are ever with me.’ This may imply also that they should be a ready help. Such as derive their wisdom from without, they cannot have their counsellors always with them to give advice. But when a man hath gotten the word in his heart, he finds a ready help; lie hath a seasonable word to direct him in all difficulties, in all straits, and in all temptations, to teach him what to do against the burden of the present exigence, to teach him what to do and what to hope for.
Having illustrated the words of the text, I now address myself to make good the proposition, that a child of God is wiser than his enemies. I shall do it in a twofold consideration:—
1. They are wiser in their general choice.
2. Wiser as to the particular controversy or enmity that is carried on against them by their enemies, as to those contests they have with their carnal enemies about the things of God; for I suppose these enemies here are not only such as had a private grudge, or carnal quarrels, but upon a public account; they have more wisdom by God to guide them than their enemies have craft to ruin them.
First, Supposing these enemies to be carnal men (for such are the enemies of God’s people), they are wiser than their enemies in their general choice and course of life. To determine this, let us see what 488is wisdom and what is folly. Saith Solomon, Eccles. vii. 25, ‘I gave my heart to seek out wisdom, and to know the wickedness of folly, even of foolishness and madness.’ Wisdom lies in three things—(1.) In fixing a right end; (2.) In the choice of apt and proper means; (3.) In the accurateness and diligence of our prosecution. And as to degrees of comparison, he is wiser than another that hath a better end, a better way, and is more dexterous and vigorous in pursuing the means that he may accomplish his ends. For instance, if we speak of worldly wisdom, the wisdom of the world is to fix the world for our scope: ‘He that will be rich,’ saith the apostle, and accordingly he that busieth himself with such means as will conduce to that purpose, that wholly gives up himself to worldly pursuits, and that with all his heart and vigour makes haste to be rich; this is the wisdom of the world: ‘He shall not be innocent,’ saith Solomon. Then there is heavenly wisdom when we make the enjoyment of God to be our scope, take the law of God for our rule, and make religion to be our business, avoiding evils, improving all occasions, sparing no cost nor trouble to compass such a holy end, that we may come to the enjoyment of the blessed God; this is spiritual wisdom. Then, among the children of God one is wiser than another as his intention is more fixed, as his means are more regular, or as his prosecution is more exact, uniform, and industrious. He that keeps close to his purpose of glorifying God and enjoying God, and he that understands more of his rule, he is the wiser man; and he that is more accurate and industrious, and with greater self-denial doth give himself up to God; as there are some that are more heavenly, more watchful, more diligent in the spiritual life than others. Well, then, if wisdom be to be determined by these things, the children of God, that are taught by the word of God, will be found to be wiser than their enemies and all carnal men.
1. They are wiser as they have a nobler end, even the great end for which they were created, which is the enjoyment of God. Surely the higher ends any man hath, the wiser he is. Now there is none higher than God, for that which is the chiefest good that should be our utmost end. There is nothing good in itself and for itself, but only God. When we have God, we need not consider what further good to get by him, for to get him is enough. To look at anything as good in itself, without looking further what it is good for, is to put it in the place of God. Of all other things besides God we may say, What doth it serve for? what use may I put it to? what am I the better for it? But now, beyond God there is nothing to be sought; food and raiment, that is for health; and health, that is for service; and service for the glory of God. Everything riseth higher and higher, till it terminate in God. Certainly he is a wise man that lives up to the highest end, and makes this his scope to enjoy God. Well, now, he is a wise man that doth not mind trifles, but doth promote his proper, necessary, and great interest. This is our proper, great, and necessary interest, to make God our friend and heaven our portion; beyond these there is nothing more, for God is the chiefest good. Let me pursue it by another medium. Certainly a higher end is to be preferred before a subordinate, a general good before a particular, that which will yield 489all things, before that which will only yield us a limited or particular comfort. So he is the wiser man that chooseth God for his portion, for he that hath God ‘shall inherit all things,’ Rev. xxi. 7; and Mat. vi. 33, ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all things shall be added:’ that is a more universal good. Again, a profitable good is to be preferred before a pleasing. He that prefers a little pleasure before a solid good, you count him a fool; as Esau, that sold his birthright for a mess of pottage. And to part with all for a little temporal satisfaction, certainly that is a main folly. In short, a spiritual good is to be preferred before a corporal. Why? Because a man is more concerned as a soul than a body; therefore that wisdom that is only ‘earthly, sensual, devilish,’ as the wisdom is that is not from above, James iii. 15, this is all for the body or outward man; and he is called a fool that only provideth for his body, Luke xii. Why a fool? He had provided but for half his self, for the worser and more brutish part, and for that half but for a little while; therefore, ‘Thou fool, this night,’ &c. Then an eternal good should be preferred before a temporal. Man, that lives for ever, must have a happiness that lasts for ever. We live longer in the other world by far than here, therefore our care should be Tor that. Indeed, if a man did not live after death, and there were an end of him when he dies, it were the greatest wisdom to make the best use of his time here, to look no further than temporal things. Ay! but now to look after the world and neglect things to come is to be wise for the present, and be fools to all eternity. We cannot count that wisdom. Again, a necessary good is to be preferred before an arbitrary. Now ‘one thing is necessary,’ Luke x. 42. It is not necessary to be rich, to live in pleasure, to wallow in delights; within a while we shall not be a penny the better for these things. It is not necessary to have so great a plenty of worldly accommodations; it is not necessary to our happiness hereafter, nor to the comfort of our lives for the present to have so much here. Now, see who is the wiser man, he that looks no higher than to some subordinate end, or he that fixeth upon the last end? He that pitcheth upon some limited good, or he that pitcheth upon the most universal good that will yield him all things? He that pleaseth his fancy with toys, or he that looketh after a solid benefit? He that taketh care for his body, or he that minds his soul? He that mindeth that which is accessary or indifferent to his happiness, or he that mindeth that which is mainly necessary? He that looketh after a perishing vanity, or he that mindeth eternal happiness? Certainly if there be a God, and this God can do all things, and our happiness lies in the enjoyment of him, he is the wisest man that takes God for his portion, and makes it his business to keep in with him; and so doth a child of God. Thus wisdom is seen in fixing our aim.
2. Wisdom lies in the choice of apt and proper means, and that is, to take the word for his rule; first God for his portion, then the word for his rule. To presume of the end, without using the means, is folly; therefore, next to a good end and scope, there must be a good path. Now, that we might not grope blindfold, and wander up and down in fond superstitions, God hath given us his word to instruct us in all things which concern our duty and our danger, and to make us 491every way wise to salvation, 2 Tim. iii. 15. If our happiness lies in the enjoyment of God, it is meet God should appoint the way how we should come to him. We should have been at a great loss if the Lord had given us grace to fix upon him as our end, if he had not given us a rule; we would not find out our way. But now God hath so exactly chalked it out, that ‘a fool shall not err therein,’ Isa. xxxv. 5; such plain directions as ‘make wise the simple,’ Ps. xix. 7; a plain rule, found out by the wisdom of God, and so stated for all, and peremptorily commanded to all, that the most simple that will give up themselves to God’s direction they shall find it. Now who are wise? they that walk in the way of their own hearts, or they that will take God’s direction in his word? those that will live according to the counsel of God’s word, or those that will fashion their lives according to the course of this world, or according to the customs and examples of carnal men like themselves? Who is wiser? they that will inquire after the mind of God, who is wisdom itself, and can best judge of wisdom and folly? or they which shape their course according to the secular wisdom that prevails in the world, and which hath often failed in its end? Who the wiser man? he that hath taken God’s counsel, and can never be deceived, or those that walk according to the course of this world, and find themselves wholly to be deceived? Ps. xlix. 13, ‘This their way is their folly; yet their posterity approve their sayings.’ They will imitate that folly which hath been so fatal and so mischievous to others, and think themselves happy. Many carnal men when they died, they all-to-be-fooled themselves, and lamented it that they had taken no more care to please God, and walked no more closely with him; that they had been more busy about worldly things than they had been for their precious and immortal souls. Therefore surely the children of God are wiser than their opposites, that give up themselves to the vanity of carnal pursuits.
3. Wisdom lies in a vigorous prosecution of fit means to the best end, without which all is nothing. It is in vain to be sensible of our end and to be convinced of our way unless we mind to walk in it. Many carnal men will say that their happiness lies in the enjoyment of God, that the scriptures are the word of God, and his directions to attain that happiness; but their folly lies in this, that they have not a hearty consent to take this word for their rule, and give up themselves to the directions thereof: Prov. xvii. 16, ‘Wherefore is there a price in the hand of a fool to get wisdom, seeing he hath no heart to it?’ that is, such means and such opportunities given them to be happy, but that is a price in the hands of a fool, his heart hangs off from the way; and therefore here is the great effect of wisdom, when we do with all our hearts give up ourselves to God, that he may take his own way with us to make us happy for ever. Wisdom lies in obedience: Deut. iv. 6, 7, ‘Keep, therefore, and do them; for this is your wisdom,’ &c. The world will say it is a simple course to be so nice, scrupulous, and precise; but God tells you it is your wisdom; and they that keep his statutes are a wise and understanding people. The devil fills us with all kind of prejudices against religion. To such as love ease, he represents difficulty, and the yoke of Christ to be a tedious yoke. If they love honour, he tells them of reproaches and disgrace. If they affect 491wisdom, he telleth them it is a low doctrine, beneath the sublimity of their parts and abilities. Now God assureth you this is your wisdom and understanding. So Job xxviii. 28, ‘And unto man he said, Be hold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.’ There is an inquiry there in that chapter where wisdom is to be found; and it is resolved that it is nowhere to be found but in a strict obedience; not in the knowledge of the secrets of nature, not in the crafts and policies of the world, not in the plots and contrivances of the wicked, not in dexterity to get wealth, but in keeping God’s commandments with all preciseness and care. Briefly, this dexterous and effectual prosecution of the means which lead to our end lies in three things, and so accordingly we may know wisdom: all these are called wisdom in scripture.
[1.] In diligence and constant labour in the spiritual life. When a man makes religion his work, then he is a wise man, true to his end. There are a company of notional fools in the world that make religion their talk but do not make it their work, that can talk at as high a rate as others; they have a naked approbation of the things of God, but do not lie under the power and dominion of them: Eccles. x. 2, ‘A wise man’s heart is at his right hand.’ A speech which seems to be contrary to the natural posture of the heart in the body, for the heart both of the one and the other is towards his left, but a wise man’s heart is at his right hand. The right hand is that which is ready for action, so a wise man is ready and prepared to obey every good work. When men are diligent, serious, and hard at work for God, ‘working out their salvation with fear and trembling,’ then are they thoroughly wise.
[2.] It lies in circumspection and watchfulness, when we are very heedful lest we be turned out of the way, and that we do not anything that is contrary to the will of God; therefore it is said, Eph. v. 15, ‘See that you walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise.’ When is a man a fool and when a wise man? When we are careful in all things to practise according to our light, to walk exactly according to the rules of God’s word; these are the only true wise, whatever the world thinks of them. The more circumspect men are the more the world counts them fools, crazy brains, and judge it to be a fond scrupulosity to expose themselves to scorning and trouble, for that which they call a nicety; but the less circumspect, the more foolish; and the more wary and more desirous to see God’s word, this is wisdom. That is the reason why it is said, ‘The fear of the Lord prolongeth days,’ Prov. x. 27. When men once come to stand in awe of God, when they are afraid to do anything that may displease God, and look for a warrant and rule, and desire to know the mind of God in every action, these are wise men.
[3.] This wisdom lies in self-denial, or being at some cost or charge to compass our end. A godly man knows his end will recompense him sufficiently at last, the enjoyment of God will pay for all. It is a part of folly, not wisdom, to have great aims and designs, and loath to be at charges. He that will not be at the cost will never bring any weighty matter to pass. So he is called a wise merchant that sold all for the pearl of price, Mat. xiii. 46. Surely heaven is worth something; therefore, if you are called to despise the delights of the flesh, the honours 492of the world, to part with them, to be dead to temporal interests, it seems the greatest folly in the world, but indeed it is the truest wisdom. Saith Lactantius, Usually wisdom dwells at the sign of folly. Why? Because all wisdom puts men upon some self-denial. Carnal men count it folly for a man to be dead to his conveniences and worldly concernments, and that upon the pursuit of invisible things that lie in another world: but this indeed is the greatest wisdom. There is no wisdom without some self-denial. Carnal men have a self-denial, a cursed one; none deny themselves so much as they; they part with heaven, Christ, peace, and serenity of conscience, all the hopes, all the comforts of the Spirit, merely to please the flesh and gratify their interest in the world; all is to compass the pleasure, profits, and honours of the world, and so to dig for iron with mattocks of gold, waste precious things to compass them that are vile and contemptible.
Well, then, let us see who are wise, they that are working out their salvation, or those that are pleasing the flesh? they that are wary and circumspect, and loath to break with God, or those that run blindfold upon the greatest dangers, and go ‘like an ox to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction of the stocks’? Prov. vii. 22. Who are wise? those that sell all for the pearl of price, or those that part with their birthright, all their hopes in God, and present sense of his love, for a little temporal convenience?
Thus I have proved the first thing, namely, that the children of God are wiser than their enemies as to their general choice.
THE END OF VOL. VII.
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