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I believe they are not to be taken here to SERM. fignify Matters of Speculation, such as the
II. deep Counsels of God, which always were and always will be far above out of our Sight, but that Part of Religion only which is more clearly made known, and which has a more immediate Relation to Practice.
From the Words of the Text I shall endeavour to prove, that true Religion is the only true Wisdom.
I. Because it directs us to the best End.
II. Because it affords us the best Means of obtaining it.
First, then, I am to prove that true Religion is the only true Wisdom, because it directs us to the best End. I call it true Religion, to distinguish it from that which is only fo in Appearance ; for every thing is not Piety and Godliness that seems to be fo, nor is every thing Religion that bears the Name of it: For it is no unusual thing to put the Name of Religion upon that which is only the Product of Fancy, Interest, or a peevish Humour. With what Rage and Fury have some People harrassed one another about Matters foreign to Religion, from the great and unsearchable Decrees of
Serm. God, down to the weak and simple Invena II.
tions of Mep! By, giving way to the idle Wfiims of Fancy and Imagination, People have been brought to look for Religion any where but in the Scriptures, to introduce the Doctrines of Men in the Room of the Doctrines of Christ, and at length to dispute away their Bibles, where alone the true Religion is to be found. Thus, by leaving Truth, we open a Way to numberlefs Errors which we are led into unavoidably. The hidden Things of Providence have been the Subject of much Debate and Enquiry for many Generations; but to what Purpose ? Can we by searching find out God can we find out the Almighty unto Perfection. It is as high as Heaven, what canst thou do a deeper than Hell, what can'st thou know ? And suppose we could find out these secret Ways of Providence, what is that to the fearing the Lord, and departing from Evil ? Should we lead better Lives for it? or go to Heaven the sooner? Good and Evil are things easily learnt without any great Stretch of Abilities; and 'tis not the Knowledge of Mysteries that is required of us, but a good Life: For what doth the Lord our God require of us, but to fear the Lord our God, to walk in bis Ways, and to love him, and
to serve him with all our Heart; and with Serm. all our Soul, to keep the Commandments of
II. the Lord, and his Statutes which he hath commanded us ? And even in Things of lefs Importance, what different Shapes has Religion appeared in, according to the various Fancies and Inclinations of Men! Even in the Apostles Days, among the Corinthia ans, some were for Paul, some for Apollos, fome for Cephas, and some for Christ; and they were so much divided about it, as if these Names had signified so many different Religions ; as if Christ had been divided, and they had all set up a separate Interest for themselves. How Religion has been disguised by Self-interest, and an insatiable Thirst after Wealth, the World too well knows; and as long as Godliness is Gain in the obvious and literal Sense, and Religion is made a Craft, great will be Dimna of the Ephesians. Nor has Religion suffered less from a peevish and quarrelsome Temper : With what Strife and Contention have Men engaged one another about what they have not understood ; and which it would signify nothing to Religion if they had, or on which Side the Truth of the Matter in Dispute lay.! For I believe it will be allowed, that in most religious Controversies, as they are
SERM. called, Religion itself is least of all concernIT.
ed: For Religion is not concerned about things of an indifferent Nature, but about Matters weighty and substantial. The Kingdom of God, sày St Paul, is not Meat and Drink, but Righteousness and Peace, and Joy in the Holy Ghost : For he that in these things serveth Christ, is acceptable to God, and approved of Men. So that the true Religion is not that which lies out of our Reach, nor does it consist of trifling Speculations, but it goes into the Heart as well as the Head, and shines forth in our Lives.
But this only by the way. Now taking it for granted, that that which directs us to the best End is the only true Wisdon, because 'tis agreeable to the Dictates of a rational Creature acting as such, I shall prove that Religion directs us to the best End, and therefore that it is the only true Wisdom. The best and most desirable End that can be imagined is eternal Happiness; and tho’ itis what all Men wish for, yet nothing but Religion points it out to us, because nothing but that can give us any Certainty or Assurance of a future State, where alone it is to be had; and which the Christian Religion especially has made manifest by
the Appearance of our Saviour Jesus Christ, Serm. who hath brought Life and Immortality to
II. Light thro' the Gospel. This was a great Secret to the wiseft of the Gentile World, who, after all their curious Searches, and philosophical Inquiries, could not find where to set
up their Place of Reft; and after all their Disputes about the Nature of Happiness, they made it a thin metaphysical Shadow rather than any thing real, and either left it as they found it, or else explained it by what wanted to be explained again, and was still the Matter in Dispute : And indeed 'tis no wonder that they who can't see beyond the Grave, with any Clearness or Certainty, can't discover the Seat of Happiness, and find out a Reward for the Righte
Nature itself can never demonstrate this ; nor can they who dwell in Houses of Clay, without some Assistance from Above, have any tolerable Apprehensions of Houses not made with Hands, eternal in the Hea
The Stoicks asserted, that Virtue was itself a sufficient Recompence, and an an ample Reward for all the Pains, Troubles and Sufferings that Men undergo in this Life; which, tho' it is indeed an honoura. ble Opinion of Virtue, and a noble Advance in Favour of Religion ; and tho it be likeD 2