Page images
PDF
EPUB

yet these wise men impute it to their knowledge of the law, that they were freed from this curse, into which the poor ignorant people fell. How cunningly have these fools laid a snare for their own lives!

26. Alas! what could the poor people think, when they heard their doctors and magistrates (men that were gods to them, that sat in Moses' chair) condemned of such extreme folly and indiscretion? What will become of us, might they say, if the pharisees (from whom all that we know is but a thin thrifty gleaning) have so many woes denounced against them for want of spiritual knowledge?

27. Certain it was, there were many poor souls whom the pharisees kept out of heaven for company. Our Saviour tells them so much, "Ye neither go into heaven yourselves, nor suffer others to go in:" but they were such as they had infected with their leaven; such as made those rotten superstructions, which those great doctors built upon the word, foundations of their faith and hope. And as certain it is, that many there were, upon whom God, out of his gracious favour and mercy, had not bestowed such piercing brains, and inquiring heads, as to make them acquainted with their dangerous opinions and traditions. They were such as made better use of that little knowledge they had, than to vent it in discourse, or in maintaining opinions and tenets against the church. They heard the word with an humble honest heart, submitting themselves wholly to it, and restored their faith to its proper seat, the heart and affections; and it was fruitful in their lives and practice. The wisdom of Solomon himself, as long as he gave himself to idolatry and luxury, was folly

and madness, to the discretion and prudence of these poor despised people.

28. Thus you see, "the fool," that in my text is so mad as to say, "There is no God," may have wit enough to understand more; nay, in the opinion of the world, may make a silly fool of him that has laid up in his heart invaluable treasures of spiritual wisdom and knowledge. And, therefore, the Latin translation, following St. Paul, might more significantly have styled him imprudens than insipiens. For the wisdom which is according to godliness, doth most exactly answer to that prudence which moral philosophers make a general overruling virtue, to give bounds and limits to all our actions, and to find out a temper and mean wherein we ought to walk: and, therefore, a most learned divine of our church, yet alive, knew very well what he said, when he defined our faith to be a spiritual prudence; implying, that faith bears the same office and sway in the life and practice of a Christian, as prudence of a moral honest man.

29. Now, saith Aristotle, there may be many intemperate, youthful, dissolute spirits, which may have an admirable, piercing, discerning judgment in speculative sciences, as the mathematics, metaphysics, and the like; because the dwelling upon such contemplations does not at all cross or trouble those rude untamed passions and affections of theirs; yea, they may be cunning in the speculative knowledge of virtues: but all this while they are, notwithstanding, utterly, invincibly imprudent; because prudence requires not only a good discerning judgment and apprehension, but a serenity and calmness in the passions.

30. Therefore the same philosopher does wor

thily reprehend some ancients, who called all virtues sciences; and said, that each particular virtue was a several art, requiring only an enlightening or informing of the reason and understanding, which any, for a little cost, and small pains taking, in frequenting the learned lectures of philosophers, need not doubt but easily to obtain.

31. This conceit of so learned a man does very well deserve our prosecution; and it will not be at all swerving from the business in hand: therefore I shall shew you, how the moralist, by the force of natural reason, hath framed to himself a divinity and religion, resembling, both in method and many substantial parts, the glorious learning of a Christian. I told you, the fore-named doctor did very well to call our faith, or assent to supernatural mysteries, a spiritual prudence.

32. Now, besides moral prudence, nay, before the moralist can make any use thereof, or exercise it in the work of any virtue, there is required another general virtue, which the philosopher calls universal justice; which is nothing else but a sobriety and temper in the affections, whereby they are subdued and captived unto well-informed reason: so that whatsoever it commands to be done, there is no rebellion, no unwillingness in the passions, but they proceed readily to execution, though it be never so distasteful to sense.

33. Now, how well does this express the nature of charity! for, what else is love, but a sweet breathing of the Holy Spirit upon our passions, whereby the Holy Ghost does, as it did in the beginning of Genesis, incubare aquis, move by a cherishing, quieting virtue, upon the sea of our passions! Did not the same Spirit come to Elijah

in a soft whisper? he walks not, in turbine, in a strong wind, to raise a tempest in our affections. Now, when we have received this ipsissimam Dei particulam, (as Plato said of the soul) this shred or portion of the Holy Spirit, which is charity, how evenly and temperately do we behave ourselves to God, and all the world besides! how willingly and obediently do we submit ourselves to the performance of whatsoever faith, out of God's word, doth enjoin us!

34. But yet the analogy and proportion between these two are more evident and observable: that universal justice is no particular singular virtue, neither hath it any particular singular object (as other virtues have; for example, temperance, or abstinence, which hath to do with sensual delights and pleasures, and none else); but when it is determined to, and fastens on, the object of a particular virtue, it is converted into, and incorporates with, that very virtue: for example, if I do exercise this general habit of observing a mean and temper in things that concern diet, or sensual pleasures, it becomes abstinence; if upon objects of terror, it becomes fortitude, or magnanimity. Just so is it with charity. For,

35. Charity is a virtue which never goes alone, and is busied in solitary places, being reserved and excluded from the society and communion of other graces but it is that which seasons, gives life and efficacy to, all the rest; without which, if it were possible for me to enjoy all the graces that the bountiful hand of God ever showered upon a reasonable creature, yet, if St. Paul speaks truth, I should be nothing worth: it is that which fulfils all the commandments. This is evident to all that

shall but slightly, and in haste, read over 1 Cor. xiii. beginning with verse 4, and so onwards; where we may behold almost all the virtues that can be named, enwrapt in one virtue of charity and love, according to the several acts thereof, changed and transformed into so many several graces: it "suffereth long," and so it is longanimity: it "is kind," and so it is courtesy; it "vaunteth not itself," and so it is modesty; it "is not puffed up," and so it is humility; it "is not easily provoked," and so it is lenity; it "thinketh no evil,' and so it is simplicity; it " rejoiceth in the truth," and so it is verity; it "beareth all things," and so it is fortitude; it "believeth all things," and so it is faith; it "hopeth all things," and so it is confidence; it "endureth all things," and so it is patience; it "never faileth," and so it is perseverance.

[ocr errors]

36. You see two glorious and Divine virtues, namely, faith and charity, though not naturally expressed, yet pretty well counterfeited, by the moralist. And, to make up the analogy complete, we have the third royal virtue, which is hope, reasonably well shadowed out in that which they call intentio finis; which is nothing else but a foretasting of the happiness which they propose to themselves as a sufficient reward for all their severe and melancholic endeavours.

37. What shall we say (my beloved friends)? Shall the heathenish moralist, merely out of the strength of natural reason, conclude the knowledge of what is good, and fit to be done, without a practice of it upon our affections, and outward actions, to be nothing worth, nay, ridiculous and contemptible? and shall we, who have the oracles

« EelmineJätka »