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PSA L. cxix. 34.
keep thy Law.
That to keep the Law of God, is to have
Understanding ; or, in other words, that the Belief and Practice of true Religion is the truest Wisdom.
Man, if he acts as a rational Being, must act upon proper Motives and Inducements, and direct all his Actions to fome wise and good End. The main End of all, with regard to himself, is the Perfection and Happiness of his Nature, the Attainment of such a State, as will be most blissful and most lasting. To pursue this End by just and proper Measures is true Wisdom; and every Deviation from it, or Mistake concerning it, is in an equal degree Madness and Folly. And VOL. II.
whatever then bids fairest to rectify Men's Errors in Judgment and Practice, with relation to the true Happiness and Perfection of human Nature, that Scheme, whatever it be, has the justest Title to a Perfection of Understanding. And this is what the Psalmist here implies of the Belief ar.d Practice of true Religion, or following the Laws of God. Now that this is not too favourable or partial a Teftimony concerning the Excellency and Wifdom of Religion, I shall endeavour to make appear, by these Confiderations :
I. That the End Religion proposes is the
most noble, and most worthy of a ratio
nal Soul. II. That this End is not imaginary, or
beyond our Reach, but attainable by us. III. That when attained, it will fully an
swer all our Expectations and Desires.
mean time have the most happy Influ-
of the Follies and Disappointments of Men may be resolved into this, That they either propose low and base Ends to themselves, or such as are absolutely, or probably at least, out of their Reach, and consequently their Labour in the Pursuit is vain ; or such as fail upon the Attainment, and leave
them as miserable as they found them; or such as they cannot pursue consistently with their other Purposes, and consequently without great Pain and Disquiet. And he then must surely best deserve the noble Appellation of the wifest and most prudent of Men, who proposes the most noble Ends, provided they are attainable ; provided they will be sufficient to answer all his Purposes when attained ; and provided they will have the happiest Influences
upon him during the Pursuit. And how far this is the religious Man’s Case will in some measure appear, if we consider,
I. That the End Religion proposes is the most noble and most worthy of a rational Soul. What End so great and noble in itself, as the procuring the Love and Favour of Almighty God, and the advancing his Glory in the World? What End so worthy of a rational Soul, as that of answering the Designs for which God brought it into Being ? And these are the Ends which Religion proposes; and which the good Man pursues both steadily and consistently, and takes the wisest and most effectual Methods to attain them. Every intelligent Being, that thinks at all, must be sensīble of his Dependance on that superior Being to whom he owes his Existence, and on whose Favour or Displeasure his Happiness or Misery must depend. Every Man must know how little able he is to govern the
Powers of Nature, or command the Passions and Appetites of his Fellow-Creatures; and yet must find, that without these Abilities he cannot prolong his Existence, or secure his Enjoyments but for one Moment. And if then he cannot command his own Happiness, his next Recourse must in Wisdom be to him who is best able and most willing to secure it; and this can only be the God of Nature, whose Knowledge is infinite, and his Power boundless. He alone can know the various Wants and Distresses of Men, and with Certainty remove and redress them; and his Love and Friendship is therefore the wifest End the Mind of Man can pursue. And if then it be our Understanding to labour after his Love, Religion alone can be this true Wisdom, since that alone is the proper Means, which our own Faculties and his Revelations point out to us, to procure his Favour and Protection. For Religion is plainly nothing else, but a constant and uniform Obedience to his Will, so far as it is known to us, or discoverable by us; and it does therefore still farther recommend itself to us in point of Wisdom, as it is one constant, regular, and steady Principle of Action,
The good Man is ever steady and consistent. He has one general Point in View, which is worthy of all his Labours, and he pursues it with the Vigour and Uniformity it deserves. All his Actions tend one Way, all his
Thoughts and Reflections center in it. To be ever veering from Point to Point, and shifting our Pursuits as we do our Dress, argues great Folly and Weakness of Mind, as it implies either a Want of Judgment in the Choice of our Objects, or Levity and Inconsistency in the Pursuit of them. And it is therefore a farther Argument of the religious Man's Wifdom, that he never finds Reason to alter his Choice. Experience confirms his Judgment of Things, and every Step he takes in his Progress in Piety discovers new Charms and Loveliness in it. The farther he proceeds, the more Encouragement he finds; and the more he reflects, the more he is convinced, that it must be his best Understanding to pursue the Ends for which he was created ; and that he can no otherwise do this, than by a truly religious Course of Life.
What can we imagine could be the Design of an all-wise and all-good Being in giving us these thinking Powers, and this Liberty of A&ion, unless it were to display his Honour and Glory in the Contemplation and Imitation of his Nature and Works; to magnify his Goodness, and imitate his Perfections; to improve these noble Faculties, by dedicating them to his Will, and, as far as our little Sphere of Action will give leave, to exert the famę Goodness and Benevolence to others, which we see wonderfully displayed in every Part of the Creation? What Ends lefs noble