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In many cases, they seem so much above the skill of either, that unless God in his mercy rebuke this lying spirit, and call it back, it may go on, and persuade millions to their destruction.
ADVANTAGES OF CHRISTIANITY TO THE
ROM, I. 22.
Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.
THERE is no one project to which the whole race of mankind is so universally a bubble, as to that of being thought wise : and the affectation of it is so visible, in men of all complexions, that you every day see some one or other so very solicitous to establish the character, as not to allow him self leisure to . do the things which fairly win it ;-expending more art and stratagem to appear so in the eyes of the world, than would suffice to make him so in truth.
It is owing to the force of this desire, that you see, in general, there is no injury touches a man so sensibly, as an insult upon his parts and capacity. Tell a man of other defects ? that he wants learning, industry, or application, he will hear your reproof with patience.-Nay, you may go further : take him in a proper season, you may tax his morals—you may tell him he is irregular in his conduct,-passionate or revengeful in his nature,-loose in his principles ?-deliver it with the gentleness of a friend, - possible, he'll not only bear with you,-but, if ingenuous, he will thank you for your lecture, and promise a reformation. But hint-hint but at a de
fect in his intellectuals, touch but that sore place, from that moment you are look'd upon as an enemy sent to torment him before his time ; and, in return may reckon upon his resentment and ill-will forever : so that, in general, you will find it safer to tell a man he is a knaye than a fool ;--and stand a better chance of being forgiven for proving he has been wanting in a point of common honesty, than a point of com
Strange souls that we are ! as if to live well was not the greatest argument of wisdom !-and, as if what reflected upon our morals, did not most of all reflect upon our understandings !
This, however, is a reflection we make a shift to overlook in the heat of this pursuit; and, though we all covet this great character of wisdom, there is scarce any point wherein we betray more folly than in our judgments concerning it; rarely bringing this precious ore either to the test or the balance; and though 'tis of the last consequence not to be deceived in it, we generally take it upon trust,-seldom suspect the quality, but never the quantity of what has fallen to our lot: so that, however inconsistent a man shall be in his opinions of this, and what absurd measures soever he takes in consequence of it, in the conduct of his life, he still speaks comfort to his soul ; and, like Solomon, when he had least pretence for it, in the midst of his nonsense will cry out and
say, 6 That all my wisdom remaineth with & me.”
Where then is wisdom to be found ? and where is the place of understanding ?
The politicians of this world,“ professing themselyes wise,”-admit of no other claims of wisdom.
but the knowledge of men and business, the understanding the interests of states,
the intrigues of courts-the finding out the passions and weaknesses of foreign ininisters,--and turning them and all events to their country's glory and advantage.
-Not so the little man of this world, who thinks the main point of wisdom is to take care of himself;to be wise in his generation ;-to make use of the opportunity whilst he has it, of raising a fortune, and heraldizing a name.-Far wide is the speculative and studious man (whose office is in the clouds) from such little ideas :Wisdom dwells with him in finding out the secrets of nature ;--sounding the depths of arts and sciences;--measuring the heavens ;telling the number of the stars, and calling them all by their names : so, that when in our busy imaginations we have built and unbuilt again “God's stories in the “ heavens," -and fancy we have found out the point whereon to fix the foundations of the earth; and, in the language of the book of Job, have searched out the corner-stone thereof, we think our titles to wisdom built upon the same basis with those of our knowledge, and that they will continue forever!
The mistake of these pretenders is shewn at large by the apostle, in the chapter from which the text is taken, Professing themselves wise ;"_in which expression (by the way) St. Paul is thought to allude to the vanity of the Greeks and Romans, who being great encouragers of arts and learning, which they had carried to extraordinary heights, considered all other nations as barbarians in respect of themselves ; and, amongst whom, particularly the Greeks, the men of study and inquiry had assumed to themselves, with great indecorum, the title of the wise men.
With what parade and ostentation soever this was made out, it had the fate to be attended with one of the most mortifying abasements which could happen to wisdom ; and that was an ignorance of those points which most concerned, man to know..
This he shews from the general state of the Gen. tile world, in the great article of their misconceptions of the Deity ;-and, as wrong notions produce wrong actions, of the duties and services they owed to him, and, in course, of what they owed to one another.
For though, as he argues in the foregoing verses, -" The invisible things of him from the creation " of the world might be clearly seen and under“stood, by the things that are made ;'--that is, Though God, by the clearest discovery of himself, had ever laid before mankind such evident proofs of his eternal being, his infinite powers and perfections--so that what is to be known of bis invisible nature might all along be traced by the marks of bis goodness-and the visible frame and order of the worlds--yet so utterly were they without excuse, -that though they knew God, and saw his image and superscription in every part of his works, "yet they glorified him not !"-So bad a use did they make of the powers given them from this great discovery, that, instead of adoring the Being thus manifested to them, in purity and truth, they fell into the most gross and absurd delusions :-"Chang“ed the glory of the incorruptible God, into an. " image made like unto corruptible men ;-to birds, " -to four-footed beasts and creeping things ! “ Professing themselves to be wise, they became “ fools.”-All their specious wisdom was but a