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A GOOD LIFE THE BEST LOGIC.
tions and most refined notions, only as instruments to move and set a-work the great principles of action, the will and the affections; that He would convince them of the infinite vanity and uselessness of all that learning that makes not the possessor of it a better man; that He would keep them from those sins that may grieve and provoke His Holy Spirit, the fountain of all true light and knowledge, to withdraw from them, and so seal them up under darkness, blindness, and stupidity of mind. For where the heart is bent upon and held under the power of any vicious course, though Christ Himself should take the contrary virtue for His doctrine, and do a miracle before such an one's eyes for its application, yet He would not practically gain his assent, but the result of all would end in a “non per, suadebis etiamsi persuaseris.” Few consider what a degree of
. sottishness and confirmed ignorance men may sin themselves into.
This was the case of the Pharisee. And no doubt but this very consideration also gives us the true reason, and full explication, of that notable and strange passage of Scripture in Luke xvi. : “That if men will not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead.” That is, where a strong, inveterate love of sin has made any doctrine or proposition wholly unsuitable to the heart, no argument or demonstration, no, nor miracle whatsoever, shall be able to bring the heart cordially to close with and receive it. Whereas, on the contrary, if the heart be piously disposed, the natural goodness of any doctrine is enough to vouch for the truth of it; for the suitableness of it will endear it to the will, and by endearing it to the will, will naturally slide it into the assent also; for in morals, as well as in metaphysics, there is nothing really good but has a truth commensurate to its goodness.
The truths of Christ crucified are the Christian's philosophy, and a good life is the Christian's logic-that great
instrumental introductive art, that must guide the mind into the former. And where a long course of piety, and close communion with God, have purged the heart, and rectified the will, and made all things ready for the reception of God's Spirit, knowledge will break in upon such a soul, like the sun shining in his full might, with such a victorious light, that nothing shall be able to resist it.
If now, at length, some should object here, that from what has been delivered, it will follow, that the most pious men are still the most knowing, which yet seems contrary to common experience and observation, I answer, that as to all things directly conducing and necessary to salvation, there is no doubt but they are so; as the meanest common soldier, that has fought often in an army, has truer and better knowledge of war than he that has read and writ whole volumes of it, but never was in any battle.
Practical sciences are not to be learned but in the way of action. It is experience that must give knowledge in the Christian profession, as well as in all others. And the knowledge drawn from experience is quite of another kind from that which flows from speculation or discourse. It is not the opinion, but the path of the just, that the wisest of men tells us shines more and more unto a perfect day. The obedient, and the men of practice, are those sons of light that shall outgrow all their doubts and ignorances, that shall ride upon these clouds, and triumph over their present imperfections, till persuasion
pass into knowledge, and knowledge advance into assurance, and all come at length to be completed in the beatific vision, and a full fruition of those joys, which God has in reserve for them whom by His grace He shall prepare for glory.
The Lot cast into the Lap. [In this sermon sufficient justice is done to the seemingly fortuitous element so often noticed in human affairs. We are
THE LOT CAST INTO THE LAP.
not so sure that equal justice is done to that Divine control or overruling which chooses the “lot of our inheritance," and which, when the lot is cast into the lap, determines the side of the die that shall come uppermost. To our apprehension, also, the closing paragraphs are flavoured with a slight soupçon of chagrin. Dr South was not over-much contented with the share of preferment which had fallen to his “ lot.”]
Then for the friendships or enmities that a man contracts in the world, than which surely there is nothing that has a more direct and potent influence upon the whole of a man's life, whether as to happiness or misery ; yet chance has the ruling stroke in them all.
A man by mere peradventure lights into company, possibly is driven into an house by a shower of rain for present shelter, and there begins an acquaintance with a person, which acquaintance and endearment grows and continues, even when relations fail, and perhaps proves the support of his mind and of his fortunes to his dying day.
And the like holds in enmities, which come much more easily than the other. A word unadvisedly spoken on the one side, or misunderstood on the other, any the least surmise of neglect, sometimes a bare gesture, nay, the very unsuitableness of one man's aspect to another man's fancy, has raised such an aversion to him, as in time has produced a perfect hatred of him, and that so strong and so tenacious that it has never left vexing and troubling him, till, perhaps, at length it has worried him to his grave; yea, and after death too, has pursued him in his surviving shadow, exercising the same tyranny upon
memory. It is hard to please men of some tempers, who indeed hardly know what will please themselves; and yet if a man does not please them, which it is ten thousand to one if he does, if they can but have power equal to their malice (as sometimes, to
plague the world, God lets them have), such an one must expect all mischief that power and spite, lighting upon a base mind, can possibly do him.
As for men's employments and preferments, every man that sets forth into the world comes into a great lottery, and draws some one certain profession to act and live by, but knows not the fortune that will attend him in it.
One man, perhaps, proves miserable in the study of the law, who might have flourished in that of physic or divinity. Another runs his head against the pulpit, who might have been very serviceable to his country at the plough. And a third proves a very dull and heavy philosopher, who possibly would have made a good mechanic, and have done well enough at the useful philosophy of the spade or the anvil.
Now, let this man reflect upon the time when all these several callings and professions were equally offered to his choice, and consider how indifferent it was once for him to have fixed upon any one of them, and what little accidents and considerations cast the balance of his choice, rather one way than the other, and he will find how easily chance may throw a man upon a profession, which all his diligence cannot make him fit for.
And then for the preferments of the world. He that would reckon up all the accidents that they depended upon, may as well undertake to count the sands or to sum up infinity ; so that greatness, as well as an estate, may, upon this account, be properly called a man's fortune, forasmuch as no man can state either the acquisition or preservation of it upon any certain rules—every man, as well as the merchant, being here truly an adventurer. For the ways by which it is obtained are various, and frequently contrary: one man, by sneaking and flattering, comes to riches and honour (where it is in the power of fools to bestow them); upon observation whereof, another presently thinks to arrive to the same greatness by the very
FAVOUR IS DECEITFUL.
same means, but striving, like the ass, to court his master, just as the spaniel had done before him, instead of being stroked and made much of, he is only rated off and cudgelled for all his courtship.
The source of men's preferments is most commonly the will, humour, and fancy of persons in power; whereupon, when a prince or grandee manifests a liking to such a thing, such an art, or such a pleasure, men generally set about to make themselves considerable for such things, and thereby, through his favour, to advance themselves; and at length, when they have spent their whole time in them, and so are become fit for nothing else, that prince, or grandee, perhaps dies, and another succeeds him, quite of a different disposition, and inclining him to be pleased with quite different things. Whereupon these men's hopes, studies, and expectations, are wholly at an end. And besides, though the grandee whom they build upon should not die, or quit the stage, yet the same person does not always like the same things. For age may alter his constitution, humour, or appetite ; or the circumstances of his affairs
different courses and counsels; every one of which accidents wholly alters the road to preferment. So that those who travel that road must be like highwaymen, very dexterous in shifting the way upon every turn : and yet their very doing so sometimes proves the means of their being found out, understood, and abhorred; and for this very cause that they are ready to do anything, are justly thought fit to be preferred to nothing.
Cæsar Borgia, base son to Pope Alexander VI., used to boast to his friend Machiavel, that he had contrived his affairs and greatness into such a posture of firmness, that whether his holy father lived or died, they could not but be secure. If he lived, there could be no doubt of them; and if he died, he had laid his interest so as to overrule the next election as he pleased. But all this while the politician never thought or
may put him