Imágenes de páginas

can exert about them,) remain so wholly con and finds as great a pre-eminence above all tingent, as to us, surely all the reason of man other kinds of knowledge, as government is kind cannot suggest any solid ground of satis above contemplation, or the leading of an faction, but in making that God our friend, army above the making of syllogisms, or who is the sole and absolute disposer of all managing the little issues of a dispute. these things, and in carrying a conscience so And so much is the very name and repuclear towards him, as may encourage us with tation of it affected and valued by most men, confidence to cast ourselves upon him, and in that they can much rather brook their being all casualties still to promise ourselves the reputed knaves, than for their honesty be best events from his Providence, to whom accounted fools, as they easily may: knave, nothing is casual, who constantly wills the in the meantime, passing for a name of credit, truest happiness to those that trust in him, where it is only another word for politician: and works all things according to the counsel Now this is the wisdom here intended in of that blessed will.

the text ; namely, that practical cunning that To whom be rendered and ascribed, as is shews itself in political inatters, and has in it most due, all praise, might, majesty, and really the mystery of a trade, or craft. So dominion, both now and for evermore. Amen. that in this latter part of verse 19, God is

said “ to take the wise in their own crafti


1 Cor. iii. 19.

In short, it is a kind of trick or sleight, got not by study, but converse, learned not from

books, but men; and those also, for the most SERMON IX.

part, the very worst of men of all sorts, ways,

and professions. So that if it be in truth such THE WISDOM OF THIS WORLD, a precious jewel as the world takes it for, yet,

as precious as it is, we see that they are forced PREACHED AT WESTMINSTER ABBEY, APRIL 30, 1676. to rake it out of dunghills; and, accordingly,

the apostle gives it a value suitable to its extract, branding it with the most degrading

and ignominious imputation of foolishness. “ For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God."

Which character running so cross to the general sense and vogue of mankind concerning it,

who are still admiring, and even adoring it, The wisdom of the world, so called by an as the mistress and queen regent of all other Hebraism, frequent in the writings of this arts whatsoever, our business, in the following apostle, for worldly wisdom, is taken in Scrip- discourse, shall be to inquire into the reason ture in a double sense.

of the apostle's passing so severe a remark 1. For that sort of wisdom that consists in

upo it: and here, indeed, since we must speculation, called (both by Saint Paul and allow it for an art, and since every art is prothe professors of it) philosophy; the great perly a habitual knowledge of certain rules idol of the learned part of the heathen world, and maxims, by, which a man is governed and which divided it into so many sects and and directed in his actions, the prosecution of denominations, as Stoics, Peripatetics, Epicu- the words will most naturally lie in these two reans, and the like ; it was professed and things, owned by them for the grand rule of life, and I. To shew what are those rules or principles certain guide to man's chief happiness. But of action, upon which the policy or wisdom for its utter insufficiency to make good so high here condemned by the apostle does proceed. an undertaking, we find it termed by the II. To shew and demonstrate the folly and same apostle, (Col. ii. 8,)“ vain philosophy;" absurdity of them, in relation to God, in and (1 Tim. vi. 20,"science, falsely so called;" whose account they receive a very different and a full account of its usefulness we have in estimate, from what they have in the world's. this, (1 Cor. i. 21,) where the apostle, speaking And first, For the first of these ; I shall set of it, says, that the world by wisdom knew down four several rules or principles, which not God.” Such a worthy kind of wisdom is that policy or wisdom, which carries so great it, only making men accurately and labori a vogue and value in the world, governs its ously ignorant of what they were most con actions by. cerned to know.

1. The first is, That a man must maintain a 2. The wisdom of this world is sometimes constant continued course of dissimulation, in taken in Scripture for such a wisdom as lies the whole tenor of his behaviour. Where yet, in practice, and goes commonly by the name we must observe, that dissimulation admits of of policy; and consists in a certain dexterity a twofold acception,-(1.) It may be taken for or art of managing business for a man's secular a bare concealment of one's mind : in which advantage : and so being indeed that ruling sense we commonly say, that it is prudence engine that governs the world, it both claims to dissemble injuries; that is, not always to

dectare our resentments of them; and this swear the truth of the broadest contradictions, must be allowed not only lawful, but, in most and the highest impossibilities, where interest of the affairs of human life, absolutely neces and pious frauds shall give them an extraorsary: for certainly it can be no man's duty, dinary call to it. to write his heart upon his forehead, and to It is looked upon as a great piece of weakgive all the inquisitive and malicious world ness and unfitness for business, forsooth, for round about him a survey of those thoughts, a man to be so clear and open, as really to which it is the prerogative of God only to think, not only what he says, but what he know, and his own great interest to conceal. swears; and when he makes any promise, to Nature gives every one a right to defend him- have the least intent of performing it, but self, and silence surely is a very innocent when his interest serves instead of veracity, defence.

and engages him rather to be true to another, (2.) Dissimulation is taken for a man's than false to himself. He only now-a-days positive professing himself to be what indeed speaks like an oracle, who speaks tricks and he is not, and what he resolves not to be; ambiguities. Nothing is thought beautiful and consequently, it employs all the art and that is not painted; so that, what between industry imaginable, to make good the dis French fashions and Italian dissimulations, guise ; and by false appearances to render its the old generous English spirit, which lieredesigns the less visible, that so they may tofore made this nation so great in the eyes prove the more effectual: and this is the dis of all the world round about it, seems utterly simulation here meant, which is the very lost and extinct, and we are degenerated into groundwork of all worldly policy. The super a mean, sharking, fallacious, undermining structure of which being folly, it is but reason way of converse; there being a snare and a that the foundation of it should be falsity. trepan almost in every word we hear, and

In the language of the Scripture it is dam every action we see. Men speak with designs pable hypocrisy; but of those who neither of mischief, and therefore they speak in the believe Scripture nor damnation, it is voted dark. In short, this seems to be the true wisdom ; nay, the very primum mobile, or inward judgmierit of all our politic sages, that great wheel, upon which all the various arts speech was given to the ordinary sort of men, of policy move and turn — the soul, or spirit, whereby to communicate their inind; but tú which, as it were, animates and runs through wise men, whereby to conceal it. all the particular designs and contrivances, by 2. The second rule or principle, upon which which the great masters of this mysterious this policy, or wisdom of the world, does prowisdom turn about the world. So that he ceed, is, That conscience and religion ought to who hates his neighbour mortally, and wisely lay no restraint upon men at all, when it lies too, must profess all the dearness and friend opposite to the prosecution of their interest. ship, all the readiness to serve him, (as the The great patron and coryphæus of this phrase now is,) that words and superficial tribe, Nicolas Machiavel, laid down this for a actions can express.

master rule in his political scheme, “That the When he purposes one thing, he must swear, show of religion was helpful to the politician, and lie, and damn himself with ten thousand but the reality of it hurtful and pernicious.' protestations, that he designs the clean con- Accordingly, having shewn how the former trary. If he really intends to ruin and mur part of his maxim has been followed by these der his prince, (as Cromwell, an experienced men in that first and fundamental principle artist in that perfidious and bloody faculty, of dissimulation already spoken to by us; we once did,) he must weep and call upon God, come now to shew farther, that they cannot use all the oaths and imprecations, all the with more art dissemble the appearance of sanctified perjuries, to persuade him that he religion, than they can with ease lay aside the resolves nothing but his safety, honour, and substance. establishment, as the same grand exemplar of The politician, whose very essence lies in hypocrisy did before.

this, that he be a person ready to do any thing If such persons project the ruin of Church that he apprehends for his advantage, must and State, they must appeal to God, the first of all be sure to put himself into a state searcher of all hearts, that they are ready to of liberty, as free and large as his principles : sacrifice their dearest blood for the peace of and so to provide elbow-room enough for his the one, and the purity of the other.

conscience to lay about, and have its full play And now, if men will be prevailed upon so in. And for that purpose, he must resolve to far, as to renounce the sure and impartial shake off all inward awe of religion, and by judgments of sense and experience, and to no means to suffer the liberty of his conscience believe that black is white, provided there be to be enslaved, and brought under the bondage somebody to swear that it is so; they shall of observing oaths, or the narrowness of men's not want arguments of this sort, good store, opinions, about turpe et honestym, which ought to convince them, there being knights of the to vanish, when they stand in competition post, and holy cheats enough in the world, to with any solid, real good ; that is, (in their

judgment,) such as concerns eating, or drink- tie or restraint upon persons, but merely from ing, or taking money.

those faint remainders of natural conscience, Upon which account, these “children of which God will be sure to keep alive upon darkness" seem excellently well to imitate the hearts of men, as long as they are men, the wisdom of those “ children of light,” the for the great ends of his own providence, great illuminati of the late times, who pro- | whether they will or no. So that, were it fessedly laid down this as the basis of all their not for this sole obstacle, religion is not now proceedings ; That whatsoever they said or so much in danger of being divided, and torn did for the present, uuder such a measure of piece-meal by sects and factions, as of being light, should oblige them no longer, when a at once devoured by atheism. Which being greater measure of light should give them so, let none wonder, that irreligion is accounted other discoveries.

policy, when it is grown even to a fashion ; And this principle, they professed, was of and passes for wit with some, as well as for great use to them : as how could it be other-wisdom with others. For certain it is, that wise, if it fell into skilful hands? For since advantage now sits in the room of conscience, this light was to rest within them, and the and steers all : and no man is esteemed any judgment of it to remain wholly in them ways considerable for policy, who wears reliselves, they might safely and uncontrollably gion otherwise than as a cloak; that is, as pretend it greater or less, as their occasions such a garment as may both cover and keep should enlighten them.

him warm, and yet hang loose upon him too. If a man has a prospect of a fair estate, and 3. The third rule or principle, upon which sees a way open to it, but it must be through this policy, or wisdom of the world, proceeds, fraud, violence, and oppression; if he see is, That a man ought to make himself, and large preferments tendered him, but condi not the public, the chief, if not the sole end tionally, upon his doing base and wicked of all his actions. He is to be his own centre offices ; if he sees he may crush his enemy, but and circumference too: that is, to draw all that it must be by slandering, belying, and things to himself, and to extend nothing giving him a secret blow; and conscience shall beyond himself: he is to make the greater here, according to its office, interpose, and world serve the less; and not only, not to protest the illegality and injustice of such love his neighbour as himself, but indeed to actions, and the damnation that is expressly account none for his neighbour but himself. threatened to them by the Word of God; And therefore, to die or suffer for his the thorough-paced politician must presently country, is not only exploded by him as a laugh at the squeamishness of his conscience, great paradox in politics, and fitter for poets and read it another lecture, and tell it, that to sing of, than for wise men to practise ; but just and unjust are but names grounded only also, to make himself so much as one penny upon opinion, and authorized by custom, by the poorer, or to forbear one base gain to which the wise and the knowing part of the serve his prince, to secure a whole nation, or world serve themselves upon the ignorant and to credit a church, is judged by him a great easy; and that, whatsoever fond priests may want of experience, and a piece of romantic talk, there is no devil like an enemy in power, melancholy, unbecoming a politician ; who no damnation, like being poor, and no hell is still to look upon himself as his prince, his like an empty purse ; and therefore, that those country, his church, nay, and his God too. courses, by which a man comes to rid himself The general interest of the nation is nothing of these plagues, are ipso facto prudent, and to him, but only that portion of it, that he consequently pious : the former being, with either does or would possess. It is not the such wise men, the only measure of the rain that waters the whole earth, but that latter. And the truth is, the late times of which falls into his own cistern, that must confusion, in which the heights and refine relieve him : not the common, but the enments of religion were professed in conjunc closure, that must make him rich. tion with the practice of the most execrable Let the public sink or swim, so long as he villainies that were ever acted upon the earth; can hold up his head above water: let the and the weakness of our church discipline ship be cast away, if he may but have the since its restauration, whereby it has been benefit of the wreck : let the government be scarce able to get any hold on men's con ruined by his avarice, if by the same avarice sciences, and much less able to keep it; and he can scrape together so much as to make his the great prevalence of that atheistical doc peace, and maintain him as well under trine of the Leviathan, and the unhappy pro another : let foreigners invade and spoil the pagation of Erastianism; these things, I say, land, so long as he has a good estate in bank with some others, have been the sad and fatal elsewhere. Peradventure, for all this, men causes that have loosed the bands of con may curse him as a covetous wretch, a traitor, science, and eaten out the very heart and and a villain : but such words are to be looked sense of Christianity amongst us, to that upon only as the splendid declaimings of degree, that there is now scarce any religious | novices, and men of beat, who, while they


rail at his person, perhaps envy his fortune: \ minds. For an enemy's money, he thinks, or possibly of losers and malecontents, whose may be made as good a friend as any; and portion and inheritance is a freedom to speak. gratitude looks backward, but policy forward : But a politician must be above words. Wealth, and for sense of honour, if it impoverisheth a he knows, answers all, and if it brings a storm man, it is, in his esteem, neither honour nor upon him, will provide bim also a coat to weather it out.

Whence it is, that now-a-days, only rich That such thoughts and principles as these men or enemies are accounted the rational lie at the bottom of most men's actions; at objects of benefaction. For to be kind to the the bottom, do I say? pay, sit at the top, and former is traffic ; and in these times men visibly hold the helm in the management of present, just as they soil their ground, not the weightiest affairs of most nations, we need that they love the dirt, but that they expect not much history, nor curiosity of observa a crop: and for the latter, the politician well tion, to convince us : for though there have approves of the Indian's religion, in worshipnot been wanting such heretofore, as have ping the devil, that he may do him no hurt ; practised these unworthy arts, (forasmuch as how much soever he hates him, and is hated there have been villains in all places and all by him. ages,) yet now-a-days they are owned above But if a poor, old, decayed friend or relaboard; and whereas men formerly had them tion, whose purse, whose house and heart had in design, amongst us they are openly vouched, been formerly free, and open to such an one, argued, and asserted in common discourse. shall at length upon change of fortune come

But this, I confess, being a new, unexem to him with hunger and rags, pleading his plified kind of policy, scarce comes up to that past services and his present wants, and so which the apostle here condemns for the crave some relief of one, for the merit and “ wisdom of the world,” but must pass rather memory of the other; the politician, who for the wisdom of this particular age, which, | imitates the serpent's wisdom, must turn his as in most other things, it stands alone, deaf ear too, to all the insignificant charms scoring the examples of all former ages, so it of gratitude and honour, in behalf of such a has a way of policy and wisdom also peculiar bankrupt, undone friend, who having been to itself.

already used, and now_squeezed dry, is fit 4. The fourth and last principle that I shall only to be cast aside. He must abhor gratimention, upon which this wisdom of the tude as a worse kind of witchcraft, which only world proceeds, is this: That in shewing serves to conjure up the pale, meagre ghosts kindness, or doing favours, no respect at all of dead, forgotten kindnesses, to haunt and is to be had to friendship, gratitude, or sense trouble him ; still respecting what is past ; of honour; but that such favours are to be whereas such wise men as himself, in such done only to the rich or potent, from whom cases, account all that is past, to be also gone; a man may receive a farther advantage, or and know, that there can be no gain in to his enemies, from whom he may otherwise refunding, nor any profit in paying debts. fear a mischief.

The sole measure of all his courtesies is, what I have here mentioned gratitude, and sense return they will make him, and what revenue of honour, being (as I may so speak) a man's they will bring him in. His expectations civil conscience, prompting him to many govern his charity. And we must not vouch things, upon the accounts of common decency, any man for an exact master in the rules of which religion would otherwise bind him to, our modern policy, but such an one as hath upon the score of duty. And it is sometimes brought himself so far to hate and despise the found, that some, who have little or no absurdity of being kind upon free cost, as (to | reverence for religion, have yet those innate use a known expression) not so much as to seeds and sparks of generosity, as make them tell a friend what it is a clock for nothing. scorn to do such things as would render them And thus I have finished the first general mean in the opinion of sober and worthy head proposed from the text, and shewn some men; and with such persons, shame is instead of those rules, principles, and maxims, that of piety, to restrain them from many base and this wisdom of the world acts by: I say some degenerous practices.

of them, for I neither pretend nor desire to But now our politician having baffled his know them all. greater conscience, must not be nonplused II. I come now to the other general head, with inferior obligations; and having leaped which is, to shew the folly and absurdity of over such mountains, at length poorly lie these principles in relation to God. In order down before a mole-hill: but he must add to which we must observe, that foolishness, perfection to perfection; and being past grace, being properly a man's deviation from right endeavour, if need be, to be past shame too. reason in point of practice, must needs consist And accordingly, he looks upon friendship, in one of these two things,gratitude, and sense of honour, as terms of art 1. In his pitching upon such an end as is to amuse and impose upon weak, undesigning | unsuitable to his condition; or,

2. In his pitching upon means unsuitable in another world; which if he can destroy by to the compassing of his end.

disbelieving, his infidelity will do him better There is folly enough in either of these; service, than as yet he has any cause to preand my business shall be to shew, that such sume that it can. But, as act by the forementioned rules of worldly (2.) Admitting, that either these enjoy. wisdom, are eminently foolish upon both ments were eternal, or the soul mortal, and accounts.

so, that one way or other they were commen1. And first, for that first sort of foolishness surate to its duration, yet still they cannot imputable to them ; namely, that a man, by be an end suitable to a rational nature, forasfollowing such principles, pitches upon that much as they fill not the measure of its desires. for his end which no ways suits his condition. The foundation of all man’s unhappiness here

Certain it is, and indeed self-evident, that on earth, is the great disproportion between the wisdom of this world looks no farther his enjoyments and his appetites; which than this world. All its designs and efficacy appears evidently in this, that let a man have terminate on this side heaven, nor does policy never so much, he is still desiring, something so much as pretend to any more than to be or other more. Alexander, we know, was the great art of raising a man to the plenties, much troubled at the scantiness of nature glories, and grandeurs of the world. And if itself, that there were no more worlds for it arrives so far as to make a man rich, potent, him to disturb: and in this respect, every and honourable, it has its end, and has done man living has a soul as great as Alexander, its utmost. But now that a man cannot and put under the same circumstances, would rationally make these things his end, will own the very same dissatisfactions. appear from these two considerations,

Now this is most certain, that in spiritual (1.) That they reach not the measure of natures, so much as there is of desire, so much his duration or being; the perpetuity of which there is also of capacity to receive. I do not surviving this mortal state, and shooting forth say, there is always a capacity to receive the into the endless eternities of another world, very thing they desire, for that may be immust needs render a man infinitely miserable possible: but for the degree of happiness that and forlorn, if he has no other comforts, but they propose to themselves from that thing, what he must leave behind him in this. For this I say they are capable of. And as God is nothing can make a man happy, but that said to have “made man after his own image," which shall last as long as he lasts. And all so upon this quality he seems peculiarly to these enjoyments are much too short for an have stamped the resemblance of his infinity. immortal soul to stretch itself upon, which For man seems as boundless in his desires, as shall persist in being, not only when profit, God is in his being; and therefore, nothing pleasure, and honour, but when time itself but God himself can satisfy him. But the shall cease, and be no more.

great inequality of all things else to the No man can transport his large retinue, his appetites of a rational soul appears yet farther sumptuous fare, and his rich furniture into from this; that in all these worldly things, another world. Nothing of all these things that a man pursues with the greatest eagercan continue with him then, but the memory ness and intension of mind imaginable, he of them. And surely the bare remembrance finds not half the pleasure in the actual posthat a man was formerly rich or great, cannot session of them, that he proposed to himself make him at all happier there, where an in- in the expectation. Which shews, that there finite happiness or an infinite misery shall is a great cheat or lie which overspreads the equally swallow up the sense of these poor world, while all things here below beguile felicities. It may indeed contribute to his men's expectations, and their expectations misery, heighten the anguish, and sharpen the cheat their experience. sting of conscience, and so add fury to the Let this therefore be the first thing, in everlasting flames, when he shall reflect upon which the foolishness of this worldly wisdom the abuse of all that wealth and greatness is manifest. Namely, that by it a man prothat the good providence of God had put as a poses to himself an end wholly unsuitable to price into his hand for worthier purposes, his condition; as bearing no proportion to ihan to damn his nobler and better part, only the measure of his duration, or the vastness to please and gratify his worse. But the of his desires. politician has an answer ready for all these 2. The other thing, in which foolishness is melancholy considerations; that he, for his seen, is a man's pitching upon means unpart, believes none of these things: as that suitable to that which he has made his end. there is either a heaven, or a hell, or an And here we will, for the present, suppose immortal soul. No, he is too great a friend the things of the world to have neither that to real knowledge, to take such troublesome shortness nor emptiness in them, that we have assertions as these upon trust. Which if it indeed proved them to have ; but that they be his belief, as no doubt it is, let him for me are so adequate to all the concerns of an intelcontinue in it still, and stay for its confutation ligent nature, that they may be rationally

« AnteriorContinuar »