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can exert about them,) remain so wholly contingent, as to us, surely all the reason of mankind cannot suggest any solid ground of satisfaction, but in making that God our friend, who is the sole and absolute disposer of all these things, and in carrying a conscience so clear towards him, as may encourage us with confidence to cast ourselves upon him, and in all casualties still to promise ourselves the best events from his Providence, to whom nothing is casual, who constantly wills the truest happiness to those that trust in him, and works all things according to the counsel of that blessed will.

To whom be rendered and ascribed, as is most due, all praise, might, majesty, and dominion, both now and for evermore. Amen.

SERMON IX.

THE WISDOM OF THIS WORLD. PREACHED AT WESTMINSTER ABBEY, APRIL 30, 1676.

"For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God."— 1 COR. iii. 19.

THE wisdom of the world, so called by an Hebraism, frequent in the writings of this apostle, for worldly wisdom, is taken in Scripture in a double sense.

1. For that sort of wisdom that consists in

speculation, called (both by Saint Paul and the professors of it) philosophy; the great idol of the learned part of the heathen world, and which divided it into so many sects and denominations, as Stoics, Peripatetics, Epicureans, and the like; it was professed and owned by them for the grand rule of life, and certain guide to man's chief happiness. But for its utter insufficiency to make good so high an undertaking, we find it termed by the same apostle, (Col. ii. 8,) "vain philosophy;" and (1 Tim. vi. 20,) "science, falsely so called;" and a full account of its usefulness we have in this, (1 Cor. i. 21,) where the apostle, speaking of it, says, that "the world by wisdom knew not God. Such a worthy kind of wisdom is it, only making men accurately and laboriously ignorant of what they were most concerned to know.

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2. The wisdom of this world is sometimes taken in Scripture for such a wisdom as lies in practice, and goes commonly by the name of policy; and consists in a certain dexterity or art of managing business for a man's secular advantage and so being indeed that ruling engine that governs the world, it both claims

and finds as great a pre-eminence above all other kinds of knowledge, as government is above contemplation, or the leading of an army above the making of syllogisms, or managing the little issues of a dispute.

And so much is the very name and reputation of it affected and valued by most men, that they can much rather brook their being reputed knaves, than for their honesty be accounted fools, as they easily may: knave, in the meantime, passing for a name of credit, where it is only another word for politician.

Now this is the wisdom here intended in the text; namely, that practical cunning that shews itself in political matters, and has in it really the mystery of a trade, or craft. So that in this latter part of verse 19, God is said "to take the wise in their own craftiness."

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 part, the very worst of men of all sorts, ways, and professions. So that if it be in truth such a precious jewel as the world takes it for, yet, as precious as it is, we see that they are forced 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. Which character running so cross to the general sense and vogue of mankind concerning it, who are still admiring, and even adoring it, as the mistress and queen regent of all other arts whatsoever, our business, in the following discourse, shall be to inquire into the reason of the apostle's passing so severe a remark upon it and here, indeed, since we must allow it for an art, and since every art is properly a habitual knowledge of certain rules and maxims, by which a man is governed and directed in his actions, the prosecution of the words will most naturally lie in these two things,

I. To shew what are those rules or principles of action, upon which the policy or wisdom here condemned by the apostle does proceed.

II. To shew and demonstrate the folly and absurdity of them, in relation to God, in whose account they receive a very different estimate, from what they have in the world's.

And first, For the first of these; I shall set down four several rules or principles, which that policy or wisdom, which carries so great a vogue and value in the world, governs its actions by.

1. The first is, That a man must maintain a constant continued course of dissimulation, in the whole tenor of his behaviour. Where yet, we must observe, that dissimulation admits of a twofold acception,-(1.) It may be taken for a bare concealment of one's mind: in which sense we commonly say, that it is prudence to dissemble injuries; that is, not always to

declare our resentments of them; and this must be allowed not only lawful, but, in most of the affairs of human life, absolutely necessary for certainly it can be no man's duty, to write his heart upon his forehead, and to give all the inquisitive and malicious world round about him a survey of those thoughts, which it is the prerogative of God only to know, and his own great interest to conceal. Nature gives every one a right to defend himself, and silence surely is a very innocent defence.

(2.) Dissimulation is taken for a man's positive professing himself to be what indeed he is not, and what he resolves not to be; and consequently, it employs all the art and industry imaginable, to make good the disguise; and by false appearances to render its designs the less visible, that so they may prove the more effectual: and this is the dissimulation here meant, which is the very groundwork of all worldly policy. The superstructure of which being folly, it is but reason that the foundation of it should be falsity.

In the language of the Scripture it is damnable hypocrisy; but of those who neither believe Scripture nor damnation, it is voted wisdom; nay, the very primum mobile, or great wheel, upon which all the various arts of policy move and turn-the soul, or spirit, which, as it were, animates and runs through all the particular designs and contrivances, by which the great masters of this mysterious wisdom turn about the world. So that he who hates his neighbour mortally, and wisely too, must profess all the dearness and friendship, all the readiness to serve him, (as the phrase now is,) that words and superficial actions can express.

When he purposes one thing, he must swear, and lie, and damn himself with ten thousand protestations, that he designs the clean contrary. If he really intends to ruin and murder his prince, (as Cromwell, an experienced artist in that perfidious and bloody faculty, once did,) he must weep and call upon God, use all the oaths and imprecations, all the sanctified perjuries, to persuade him that he resolves nothing but his safety, honour, and establishment, as the same grand exemplar of hypocrisy did before.

If such persons project the ruin of Church and State, they must appeal to God, the searcher of all hearts, that they are ready to sacrifice their dearest blood for the peace of the one, and the purity of the other.

And now, if men will be prevailed upon so far, as to renounce the sure and impartial judgments of sense and experience, and to believe that black is white, provided there be somebody to swear that it is so; they shall not want arguments of this sort, good store, to convince them, there being knights of the post, and holy cheats enough in the world, to

swear the truth of the broadest contradictions, and the highest impossibilities, where interest and pious frauds shall give them an extraordinary call to it.

It is looked upon as a great piece of weakness and unfitness for business, forsooth, for a man to be so clear and open, as really to think, not only what he says, but what he swears; and when he makes any promise, to have the least intent of performing it, but when his interest serves instead of veracity, and engages him rather to be true to another, than false to himself. He only now-a-days speaks like an oracle, who speaks tricks and ambiguities. Nothing is thought beautiful that is not painted; so that, what between French fashions and Italian dissimulations, the old generous English spirit, which heretofore made this nation so great in the eyes of all the world round about it, seems utterly lost and extinct, and we are degenerated into a mean, sharking, fallacious, undermining way of converse; there being a snare and a trepan almost in every word we hear, and every action we see. Men speak with designs of mischief, and therefore they speak in the dark. In short, this seems to be the true inward judgment of all our politic sages, that speech was given to the ordinary sort of men, whereby to communicate their mind; but to wise men, whereby to conceal it.

2. The second rule or principle, upon which this policy, or wisdom of the world, does proceed, is, That conscience and religion ought to lay no restraint upon men at all, when it lies opposite to the prosecution of their interest.

The great patron and coryphæus of this tribe, Nicolas Machiavel, laid down this for a master rule in his political scheme, "That the show of religion was helpful to the politician, but the reality of it hurtful and pernicious." Accordingly, having shewn how the former part of his maxim has been followed by these men in that first and fundamental principle of dissimulation already spoken to by us; we come now to shew farther, that they cannot with more art dissemble the appearance of religion, than they can with ease lay aside the substance.

The politician, whose very essence lies in this, that he be a person ready to do any thing that he apprehends for his advantage, must first of all be sure to put himself into a state of liberty, as free and large as his principles: and so to provide elbow-room enough for his conscience to lay about, and have its full play in. And for that purpose, he must resolve to shake off all inward awe of religion, and by no means to suffer the liberty of his conscience to be enslaved, and brought under the bondage of observing oaths, or the narrowness of men's opinions, about turpe et honestum, which ought to vanish, when they stand in competition 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,
which God will be sure to keep alive upon
the hearts of men, as long as they are men,
for the great ends of his own providence,
whether they will or no. So that, were it
not for this sole obstacle, religion is not now
so much in danger of being divided, and torn
piece-meal by sects and factions, as of being
at once devoured by atheism. Which being
so, let none wonder, that irreligion is accounted
policy, when it is grown even to a fashion;
and passes for wit with some, as well as for
wisdom with others. For certain it is, that
advantage now sits in the room of conscience,
and steers all and no man is esteemed any
ways considerable for policy, who wears reli-
gion otherwise than as a cloak; that is, as
such a garment as may both cover and keep
him warm, and yet hang loose upon him too.

Upon which account, these " children of darkness" seem excellently well to imitate the wisdom of those "children of light," the great illuminati of the late times, who professedly laid down this as the basis of all their proceedings; That whatsoever they said or did for the present, uuder such a measure of light, should oblige them no longer, when a greater measure of light should give them other discoveries.

3. The third rule or principle, upon which this policy, or wisdom of the world, proceeds, is, That a man ought to make himself, and not the public, the chief, if not the sole end of all his actions. He is to be his own centre and circumference too: that is, to draw all things to himself, and to extend nothing beyond himself: he is to make the greater world serve the less; and not only, not to love his neighbour as himself, but indeed to account none for his neighbour but himself.

And therefore, to die or suffer for his country, is not only exploded by him as a great paradox in politics, and fitter for poets to sing of, than for wise men to practise; but also, to make himself so much as one penny the poorer, or to forbear one base gain to serve his prince, to secure a whole nation, or to credit a church, is judged by him a great want of experience, and a piece of romantic melancholy, unbecoming a politician; who is still to look upon himself as his prince, his country, his church, nay, and his God too.

The general interest of the nation is nothing to him, but only that portion of it, that he either does or would possess. It is not the rain that waters the whole earth, but that which falls into his own cistern, that must relieve him not the common, but the enclosure, that must make him rich.

And this principle, they professed, was of great use to them: as how could it be otherwise, if it fell into skilful hands? For since this light was to rest within them, and the judgment of it to remain wholly in themselves, they might safely and uncontrollably pretend it greater or less, as their occasions should enlighten them.

If a man has a prospect of a fair estate, and sees a way open to it, but it must be through fraud, violence, and oppression; if he see large preferments tendered him, but conditionally upon his doing base and wicked offices; if he sees he may crush his enemy, but that it must be by slandering, belying, and giving him a secret blow; and conscience shall here, according to its office, interpose, and protest the illegality and injustice of such actions, and the damnation that is expressly threatened to them by the Word of God; the thorough-paced politician must presently laugh at the squeamishness of his conscience, and read it another lecture, and tell it, that just and unjust are but names grounded only upon opinion, and authorized by custom, by which the wise and the knowing part of the world serve themselves upon the ignorant and easy; and that, whatsoever fond priests may talk, there is no devil like an enemy in power, no damnation, like being poor, and no hell like an empty purse; and therefore, that those courses, by which a man comes to rid himself of these plagues, are ipso facto prudent, and consequently pious: the former being, with such wise men, the only measure of the latter. And the truth is, the late times of confusion, in which the heights and refinements of religion were professed in conjunction with the practice of the most execrable villainies that were ever acted upon the earth; and the weakness of our church discipline since its restauration, whereby it has been scarce able to get any hold on men's consciences, and much less able to keep it; and the great prevalence of that atheistical doctrine of the Leviathan, and the unhappy propagation of Erastianism; these things, I say, with some others, have been the sad and fatal causes that have loosed the bands of conscience, and eaten out the very heart and sense of Christianity amongst us, to that degree, that there is now scarce any religious

Let the public sink or swim, so long as he can hold up his head above water: let the ship be cast away, if he may but have the benefit of the wreck: let the government be ruined by his avarice, if by the same avarice he can scrape together so much as to make his peace, and maintain him as well under another let foreigners invade and spoil the land, so long as he has a good estate in bank elsewhere. Peradventure, for all this, men may curse him as a covetous wretch, a traitor, and a villain: but such words are to be looked upon only as the splendid declaimings of novices, and men of heat, who, while they

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rail at his person, perhaps envy his fortune: or possibly of losers and malecontents, whose portion and inheritance is a freedom to speak. But a politician must be above words. Wealth, he knows, answers all, and if it brings a storm upon him, will provide him also a coat to weather it out.

That such thoughts and principles as these lie at the bottom of most men's actions; at the bottom, do I say? nay, sit at the top, and visibly hold the helm in the management of the weightiest affairs of most nations, we need not much history, nor curiosity of observation, to convince us: for though there have not been wanting such heretofore, as have practised these unworthy arts, (forasmuch as there have been villains in all places and all ages,) yet now-a-days they are owned aboveboard; and whereas men formerly had them in design, amongst us they are openly vouched, argued, and asserted in common discourse.

But this, I confess, being a new, unexemplified kind of policy, scarce comes up to that which the apostle here condemns for the "wisdom of the world," but must pass rather for the wisdom of this particular age, which, as in most other things, it stands alone, scorning the examples of all former ages, so it has a way of policy and wisdom also peculiar to itself.

4. The fourth and last principle that I shall mention, upon which this wisdom of the world proceeds, is this: That in shewing kindness, or doing favours, no respect at all is to be had to friendship, gratitude, or sense of honour; but that such favours are to be done only to the rich or potent, from whom a man may receive a farther advantage, or to his enemies, from whom he may otherwise fear a mischief.

I have here mentioned gratitude, and sense of honour, being (as I may so speak) a man's civil conscience, prompting him to many things, upon the accounts of common decency, which religion would otherwise bind him to, upon the score of duty. And it is sometimes found, that some, who have little or no reverence for religion, have yet those innate seeds and sparks of generosity, as make them scorn to do such things as would render them mean in the opinion of sober and worthy men; and with such persons, shame is instead of piety, to restrain them from many base and degenerous practices.

But now our politician having baffled his greater conscience, must not be nonplused with inferior obligations; and having leaped over such mountains, at length poorly lie down before a mole-hill: but he must add perfection to perfection; and being past grace, endeavour, if need be, to be past shame too. And accordingly, he looks upon friendship, gratitude, and sense of honour, as terms of art to amuse and impose upon weak, undesigning

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minds. For an enemy's money, he thinks, may be made as good a friend as any; and gratitude looks backward, but policy forward: and for sense of honour, if it impoverisheth a man, it is, in his esteem, neither honour nor

sense.

Whence it is, that now-a-days, only rich men or enemies are accounted the rational objects of benefaction. For to be kind to the former is traffic; and in these times men present, just as they soil their ground, not that they love the dirt, but that they expect a crop and for the latter, the politician well approves of the Indian's religion, in worshipping the devil, that he may do him no hurt how much soever he hates him, and is hated by him.

But if a poor, old, decayed friend or relation, whose purse, whose house and heart had been formerly free, and open to such an one, shall at length upon change of fortune come to him with hunger and rags, pleading his past services and his present wants, and so crave some relief of one, for the merit and memory of the other; the politician, who imitates the serpent's wisdom, must turn his deaf ear too, to all the insignificant charms of gratitude and honour, in behalf of such a bankrupt, undone friend, who having been already used, and now squeezed dry, is fit only to be cast aside. He must abhor gratitude as a worse kind of witchcraft, which only serves to conjure up the pale, meagre ghosts of dead, forgotten kindnesses, to haunt and trouble him; still respecting what is past; whereas such wise men as himself, in such cases, account all that is past, to be also gone; and know, that there can be no gain in refunding, nor any profit in paying debts. The sole measure of all his courtesies is, what return they will make him, and what revenue they will bring him in. His expectations govern his charity. And we must not vouch any man for an exact master in the rules of our modern policy, but such an one as hath brought himself so far to hate and despise the absurdity of being kind upon free cost, as (to use a known expression) not so much as to tell a friend what it is a clock for nothing.

And thus I have finished the first general head proposed from the text, and shewn some of those rules, principles, and maxims, that this wisdom of the world acts by: I say some of them, for I neither pretend nor desire to know them all.

II. I come now to the other general head, which is, to shew the folly and absurdity of these principles in relation to God. In order to which we must observe, that foolishness, being properly a man's deviation from right reason in point of practice, must needs consist in one of these two things,

1. In his pitching upon such an end as is unsuitable to his condition; or,

2. In his pitching upon means unsuitable to the compassing of his end.

There is folly enough in either of these; and my business shall be to shew, that such as act by the forementioned rules of worldly wisdom, are eminently foolish upon both accounts.

1. And first, for that first sort of foolishness imputable to them; namely, that a man, by following such principles, pitches upon that for his end which no ways suits his condition.

Certain it is, and indeed self-evident, that the wisdom of this world looks no farther than this world. All its designs and efficacy terminate on this side heaven, nor does policy so much as pretend to any more than to be the great art of raising a man to the plenties, glories, and grandeurs of the world. And if it arrives so far as to make a man rich, potent, and honourable, it has its end, and has done its utmost. But now that a man cannot rationally make these things his end, will appear from these two considerations,

(1.) That they reach not the measure of his duration or being; the perpetuity of which surviving this mortal state, and shooting forth into the endless eternities of another world, must needs render a man infinitely miserable and forlorn, if he has no other comforts, but what he must leave behind him in this. For nothing can make a man happy, but that which shall last as long as he lasts. And all these enjoyments are much too short for an immortal soul to stretch itself upon, which shall persist in being, not only when profit, pleasure, and honour, but when time itself shall cease, and be no more.

No man can transport his large retinue, his sumptuous fare, and his rich furniture into another world. Nothing of all these things can continue with him then, but the memory of them. And surely the bare remembrance that a man was formerly rich or great, cannot make him at all happier there, where an infinite happiness or an infinite misery shall equally swallow up the sense of these poor felicities. It may indeed contribute to his misery, heighten the anguish, and sharpen the sting of conscience, and so add fury to the everlasting flames, when he shall reflect upon the abuse of all that wealth and greatness that the good providence of God had put as a price into his hand for worthier purposes, than to damn his nobler and better part, only to please and gratify his worse. But the politician has an answer ready for all these melancholy considerations; that he, for his part, believes none of these things: as that there is either a heaven, or a hell, or an immortal soul. No, he is too great a friend to real knowledge, to take such troublesome assertions as these upon trust. Which if it be his belief, as no doubt it is, let him for me continue in it still, and stay for its confutation

in another world; which if he can destroy by disbelieving, his infidelity will do him better service, than as yet he has any cause to presume that it can. But,

(2.) Admitting, that either these enjoyments were eternal, or the soul mortal, and so, that one way or other they were commensurate to its duration, yet still they cannot be an end suitable to a rational nature, forasmuch as they fill not the measure of its desires. The foundation of all man's unhappiness here on earth, is the great disproportion between his enjoyments and his appetites; which appears evidently in this, that let a man have never so much, he is st desiring something or other more. Alexander, we know, was much troubled at the scantiness of nature itself, that there were no more worlds for him to disturb: and in this respect, every man living has a soul as great as Alexander, and put under the same circumstances, would own the very same dissatisfactions.

Now this is most certain, that in spiritual natures, so much as there is of desire, so much there is also of capacity to receive. I do not say, there is always a capacity to receive the very thing they desire, for that may be impossible: but for the degree of happiness that they propose to themselves from that thing, this I say they are capable of. And as God is said to have "made man after his own image," so upon this quality he seems peculiarly to have stamped the resemblance of his infinity. For man seems as boundless in his desires, as God is in his being; and therefore, nothing but God himself can satisfy him. But the great inequality of all things else to the appetites of a rational soul appears yet farther from this; that in all these worldly things, that a man pursues with the greatest eagerness and intension of mind imaginable, he finds not half the pleasure in the actual possession of them, that he proposed to himself in the expectation. Which shews, that there is a great cheat or lie which overspreads the world, while all things here below beguile men's expectations, and their expectations cheat their experience.

Let this therefore be the first thing, in which the foolishness of this worldly wisdom is manifest. Namely, that by it a man proposes to himself an end wholly unsuitable to his condition; as bearing no proportion to the measure of his duration, or the vastness of his desires.

2. The other thing, in which foolishness is seen, is a man's pitching upon means unsuitable to that which he has made his end.

And here we will, for the present, suppose the things of the world to have neither that shortness nor emptiness in them, that we have indeed proved them to have; but that they are so adequate to all the concerns of an intelligent nature, that they may be rationally

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