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for her as for hidden treasure. Happy is the man that, findeth wisdom, and the man than getteth understanding. For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold. Wisdom is the principal thing ; therefore, get wisdom, and with all thy getting, get understanding. Prov. i: 9; ii. 4; xiii. 14; iv. 7.

And it is, indeed, very plain, that if it were possible entirely to dissolve all the bonds and ties of religion, yet, that it should be so, would certainly be the interest of none but the worst and most abandoned part of mankind. All the good and wise, if the matter was freely left to their choice, would rather have the world governed by the Supreme and Most Perfect Being, mankind subjected to His just and righteous laws, and all the affairs of men superintended by His watchful providence, than that it should be otherwise. Nor do they believe the doctrines of religion with aversion or any sort of reluctancy, but embrace them with pleasure, and are excessively glad to find them true. So that, if it was possible, to abolish them entirely, and any person, out of mere good-will to them, should attempt to do it, they would look upon the favour as highly prejudicial to their interest, and think his good-will more hurtful than the keenest hatred. Nor would any one, in his wits, choose to live in the world, at large, and without any sort of government, more than he would think it eligible to be put on board a ship without a helm or pilot, and, in this condition, to be tossed amidst rocks and quicksands. On the other hand, can any thing give greater consolation, or more substantial joy *, than to be firmly persuaded, not only that there is an infinitely good and wise Being, but also that this Being preserves and continually governs the universe which Himself has framed, and holds the reins of all things in His powerful hand; that He is our father, that we and all our interests are His constant concern; and that, after we have sojourned a short while here below, we shall be again taken into His immediate presence? Or can this wretched life be attended with any sort

* Φεϊ τι τούτων χάρμα μείζον αν λαβοίς. .

of satisfaction, if it is divested of this Divine faith, and be. reaved of such a blessed hope?

Moreover, every one who thinks a generous fortitude and purity of mind preferable to the charms and muddy pleasures of the flesh, finds all the precepts of religion not only not grievous, but exceeding pleasant and extremely delightful. So that, upon the whole, the saying of Hermes is very consistent with the nature of things : “ There is one, and but one good thing among men, and that is religion *.” Even the vulgar could not bear the degenerate expression of the player who called out upon the stage, “ Money is the chief good among mankind t." But should any one say, Religion is the principal good of mankind, no objection could be made against it; for, without doubt, it is the only object the beauties whereof engage the love both of God and man.

But the principal things in religion, as I have frequently observed, are, just conceptions of God. Now, concerning this Infinite Being, some things are known by the light of nature and reason, others only by the revelation which He hath been pleased to make of Himself from heaven. That there is a God, is the distinct voice of every man, and of every thing without him. How much more then shall we be confirmed in the belief of this truth, if we attentively view the whole creation, and the wonderful order and harmony that subsist between all the parts of the whole system! It is quite unnecessary to shew, that so great a fabric could never have been brought into being without an all-wise and powerful Creator ; nor could it now subsist without the same almighty Being to support and preserve it. 6 Let men therefore make this their constant study," says Lactantius, “even to know their common Parent and Lord, whose power can never be perfectly known, whose greatness cannot be fathomed, nor his eternity comprehended I.” When the mind of man, with its faculties,

* Εν και μονον, εν ανθρώποις άγαθον η ευσεβεια.
to Pecunia magnum generis humani bonum.

Ut Parentem suum, Dominumq.; cognoscanæ cujus nec virtus æstimari potest, nec magnitudo perspici, nec eternitas comprehendi. Vol. IV.


comes to be once intensely fixed upon Him, all other objects disappearing, and being, as it were, removed quite out of sight, it is entirely at a stand and overpowered, nor can it possibly proceed further. But concerning the doctrine of this vast volume of the works of God, and that still brighter light which shines forth in the Scriptures, we shall speak more fully hereafter.


Of the Decrees of God.

As the glory and brightness of the Divine Majesty is so great, that the strongest human eye cannot bear the direct rays of it, He has exhibited Himself to be viewed in the glass of those works which He created at first, and, by His unwearied hand, continually supports and governs. Nor are we allowed to view His eternal counsels and purposes through any other medium than this. So that, in our Catechisms, especially the shorter one, designed for the instruction of the ignorant, it might, perhaps, have been full as proper to have passed over the awful speculation concerning the Divine decrees, and to have proceeded directly to the consideration of the works of God; but the thoughts you find in it, on this subject, are few, sober, clear, and certain; and in explaining them, I think it most reasonable and most safe, to confine ourselves within these limits, in any audience whatever, but especially in this congregation, consisting of youths, not to say, in a great measure, of boys. Seeing, therefore, the decrees of God are mentioned in our Catechism, and it would not be proper to pass over in silence a matter of so great moment, I shall accordingly lay before you some few thoughts upon this arduous subject.

And here, if any where, we ought, according to the common saying, to reason but in few words. I should, indeed, think it very improper to do otherwise ; for such theories ought to be cautiously touched, rather than be spun out to a great length.

One thing we may confidently assert, that all those things which the great Creator produces in different periods of time, were perfectly known to Him, and, as it were, present with Him, from eternity ; and that every thing that happens, throughout the several ages of the world, proceeds in the same order, and same precise manner, as the Eternal Mind at first intended it should ; that none of His counsels can be disappointed or rendered ineffectual, or in the least changed or altered by any event whatsoever. Known to God are all His works, says the Apostle in the council of Jerusalem. Acts xv. 18. And the son of Sirach, God sees from everlasting to everlasting, and nothing is wonderful in His sight. Nothing is new or unexpected to Him; nothing can come to pass that He has not foreseen. And His first thoughts are so wise, that they admit no second ones that can be supposed wiser. And this stability and immutability of the Divine decrees, is asserted even by the Roman philosopher: “ It is necessary,” says he,“ that the same things be always pleasing to Him, who can never be pleased but with what is best *."

Every artist, to be sure, as you also well know, works according to some pattern, which is the immediate object of his mind; and this pattern, in the all-wise Creator, must necessarily be entirely perfect, and every way complete. And if this is what Plato intended by his ideas, (which, not a few, and these by no means unlearned, think very likely) his own scholar, the great Stagyrite, and your favourite philosopher, had, surely, no reason so often and so bitterly to inveigh against them. Be this as it may, all who acknowledge God to be the author of this wonderful fabric, and all these things in it, which succeed one another in their turns, cannot possibly doubt, that He has brought, and continues to bring them all about, according to that most perfect pattern subsisting in His eternal councils; and that these things that we call casual, are all unalterably fixed and determined to Him. For according to that of the

* Necesse est illi eadem semper placere, cui nisi optima placere non possunt.

philosopher, “ Where there is most wisdom, there is least chance," and therefore, surely, where there is infinite wisdom, there is nothing left to chance at all.

This maxim, concerning the eternal councils of the supreme Sovereign of the world, besides that it every where shines clearly in the books of the sacred Scriptures, is also, in itself, so evident and consistent with reason, that we meet with it in almost all the works of the philosophers, and often, also, in those of the poets. Nor does it appear, that they mean any thing else, at least, for the most part, by the - term fate; though you may meet with some things in their works, which, I own, sound a little harsh, and can scarcely be sufficiently softened by any, even the most favourable interpretation.

But, whatever else may seem to be comprehended under the term fate, whether taken in the mathematical or physical sense, as some are pleased to distinguish, it must at last of necessity be resolved into the appointment and good pleasure of the supreme Governor of the world. If even the blundering astrologers and fortune-tellers acknowledge, that the wise man has dominion over the stars; how much more evident is it, that all these things, and all their power and influence, are subject and subservient to the decrees of the all-wise God! Whence the saying of the Hebrews, “ There is no planet to Israelt."

And according as all these things in the heavens above and the earth beneath, are daily regulated and directed by the Eternal King, in the same precise manner were they all from eternity ordered and disposed by Him, who worketh all things according to the counsel of his own will, Eph. i. 11, who is more ancient than the sea and the mountains, or even the heavens themselves.

These things we are warranted and it is safe to believe. But what perverseness, or rather madness, is it, to endeavour to break into the sacred repositories of Heaven, and pretend to accommodate those secrets of the Divine kingdom to the mea

* Ubi plus est sapientiæ, ibi minus est casus.
+ Non esse planetam Israeli.

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