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religion, and of justifying their own aversion to it. On the other hand, great good is done by those who “walk circumspectly,” and "shine forth as lights in the world e.” They "put to silence the ignorance of foolish men ," and "shame those who falsely accuse their good conversation in Christe.” What St. Peter says of "wives winning by their good conversation their unbelieving husbands h,” we doubt not is often verified in all other relations of life; those who behold the light that is set before them being constrained to acknowledge, that“ the righteous is more excellent than his neighbouri.” A certain awe is impressed on the minds of the ungodly by the sight of “a man of God.” “Herod feared John,” when he saw what a just and holy man he wask: and it is particularly said of Saul, that, " when he saw that David behaved himself very wisely, he feared him?.” And if we will walk “holily, justly, and unblameably before men,” we shall have a testimony in their consciences, "that God is with us of a truthm” and that the principles we profess are “worthy of all acceptation n."] 3. The honour of God and his Gospel
[The argument which St. Paul uses to enforce on servants the maintenance of a dutiful behaviour towards their unbelieving masters, is, “ that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed 0." How terrible is the thought that our indiscretions should ever produce such an effect as this! On the other hand, our blessed Lord bids us to“ make our light shine before men, that they who behold our good works may be stirred up to glorify our heavenly Father P.” What a stimulus is here! what a motive to circumspection ! what an incentive to every thing that is great and holy! Believer, can you reflect one moment on the thought, that God can be glorified in you, and not determine, like David, to “ walk wisely before him in a perfect way?” If nothing but your own welfare and the welfare of your fellow-creatures were at stake, you would watch over your every action, your every disposition; but when you consider, that the honour of God himself is in a measure dependent upon you, methinks, you should be utterly purposed, that, if it be possible, “God himself shall not find any thing amiss with you?; and that, at all events, your conduct shall be so blameless, " that they who are of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you "."]
of Messrs. Whitfield and Wesley ; which, though afterwards condemned by the authors themselves, are to this hour made the sole grounds of estimating their character ; and not their character only, but the characters of thousands who were never guilty of any of their extravagances. e Phil. ii. 15, 16.
f 1 Pet. ii. 15. 8 1 Pet. ii. 16. h 1 Pet. iii. 1.
i Prov. xii. 26. k Mark vi. 20. 11 Sam. xviii. 15. m 1 Cor. xiv. 25. n 1 Tim. i. 15. 0 1 Tim. vi. 1.
P Matt. v, 16.
q Ps. xvii. 3.
Having shewn the importance of this resolution, we will distinctly mark, II. The
in which it must be carried into effectIt is scarcely needful to say, that we must have respect to every commandment of God, without
partiality or reserve; for where there is partiality there is hypocrisy"; and where there is hypocrisy, there is neither “a perfect heart,” nor “a perfect way,” nor indeed one spark of true “wisdom.” This then must be ever borne in mind, that without an unreserved endeavour to fulfil the whole will of God, the forming of such a resolution must be altogether nugatory and delusive. But supposing the resolution to be sincerely formed, then the question will arise, How must a person demean himself so as really to effect his wish? We answer, he must conduct himself, 1. With meekness and modesty
[Nothing is more disgusting than forwardness in a religious character. It is offensive in any; but most of all in one who professes to feel himself a poor, blind, ignorant, guilty creature, “ less than the least of all saints,” yea, rather, “the very chief of sinners.” How unseemly is it to see such an one full of conceit, obtrusive, talkative, loving pre-eminence, and “ thinking himself to be something, when he is nothing'!" Yet how many such professors are there, wherever the Gospel is preached! On the other hand, how lovely is the character of one that is gentle, modest, unassuming, arrogating nothing to himself, and willing on all occasions to “ take the lowest place!" Such a person, whilst he himself“ is beautified with salvation," reflects an honour on the Gospel, and “adorns the doctrine of God our Saviour'.” Such a disposition is lovely even in the sight of God himself, and is esteemed by him an ornament of great pricey.” It should seem that this was a distinguishing feature in our Lord's character, since the Apostle particularly beseeches us “ by the meekness and gentleness of Christ 2: " and the more we have of the mind of Christ in this respect,
wisely shall we walk both towards them that are withouta” the pale of the Church, and those that are within. The want of this disposition renders our way far more difficult, I Tit. ii. 8. 8 Jam. iii. 17.
t Gal. vi. 3. u Ps. cxlix. 4. * Tit. ï. 10.
y 1 Pet. iii. 4. 2 2 Cor. x. 1. a Col. iv. 5.
whilst it incapacitates us for encountering the difficulties which it puts in our way;
This then we conceive to be our first object, to obtain a humble and subdued spirit, which, whilst it offends none who differ from us, qualifies us to bear with patience, and to turn to good account, whatever evils the unreasonableness of wicked men may inflict upon us. By means of it we shall “ out of the eater bring forth meat, and out of the strong bring forth sweet;" or, in other words, we shall make “all things work together for our good.”] 2. With kindness and charity
[There is really in many religious professors almost the same acrimony against the ungodly world, as there is in the ungodly world against them. But how unbecoming is this ! for, if there be a difference between us and others, who is it that has made us to differb? And, if we see others yet lying in their natural enmity against God, what does their state call for, but pity and compassion ? Besides, love is the very end, yea the sum and substance, of all religion. If we have not love, we may give all our goods to feed the poor, and our body to be burned, and yet be no better than “sounding brass, and tinkling cymbals d.” If this principle preside not in our hearts, we shall do nothing well. This will lead us to consult the best interests of all around us: to study how we may most influence them for their good; and to bend to circumstances, in order to abate their prejudice, and gain the easier access to their minds. It was from this principle that St. Paul“ became all things to all meno.” If he might but “gain the more,” he was ready to deny himself the most innocent enjoyments, and to comply with any requisitions, which would consist with fidelity to his God. How conciliatory will be the conduct of one who acts under this principle! With what “meekness will he give to an inquirer a reason of the hope that is in him8; and convey instruction to a blind and obstinate opposer"! How cautiously will he “cut off occasion from those who seek occasion against him?!" How watchfully will he “ abstain even from the appearance of evil," and prevent, if possible, his good from being evil spoken of?. In a word, where love is in the heart, and “ the law of kindness is in the lips,” the enemies of religion will be "put to silence, and the mouths of gainsayers be stopped.”] 3. With prudence and foresight
[Solomon observes, “I Wisdom dwell with Prudencem." But many seem to think that they have nothing to do with b 1 Cor. iv. 7. c 1 Tim. i. 5.
d 1 Cor. xiii. 1. e 1 Cor. xvi. 14. f 1 Cor. ix. 19-22. & 1 Pet. iii. 15. h 2 Tim. ii. 25. i 2 Cor. xi. 12.
k 1 Thess. v. 22. 1 Rom. xiv. 16. m Prov. viï. 12.
prudence: they have only to follow their own notions of duty, and to leave all consequences to God. Hence they go forward in their own way, and in their own spirit; never once considering, what may be the effect of their conduct on the minds of others: and, though they may do some good, they do more injury than they can well conceive. But if we would behave ourselves wisely in a perfect way, we must consider the probable consequences of our actions", and endeavour to accomplish our ends by the most inoffensive means. When Paul went to Jerusalem, where God's design of calling the Gentiles into his Church, and of abrogating the Mosaic ritual, was but imperfectly understood, he took the precaution of conferring privately with the leading members of that Church in the first instance, in order to explain his views to them, and through them to remove the prejudices of the people at large. This was wise ; and the wisdom of it appeared in the effects which followed. Similar precautions should be used by us in all our commerce with the world at large, or with the Church in particular: we should give no unnecessary offence either to the Jew, or to the Greek, or to the Church of God.” We should consider what every one can bear; and should suit ourselves to his capacity or condition. Our blessed Lord himself set us this example, speaking every thing in a way of parables, according as his auditors were able to receive itp. St. Paul also administered " milk or strong meat" to his converts, according as the measure of their proficiency required? And we also are taught to act under the influence of the same principle, towards all whom we may have occasion to address; " not casting our pearls before swine,” “ nor pouring new wine into old bottles, " but accommodating our instructions to the necessities and dispositions of all who hear us. In a word, “I would,” as St. Paul says, “ have you wise concerning that which is good, and simple concerning evil ."] 4. With disinterestedness and simplicity
[There is a carnal wisdom, which operates in a way of craft and cunning: but this is directly opposed to “ the wisdom that is from above," which consists in simplicity and godly sincerity. “ It is this, and this alone, that proceeds from the grace of God, and under the influence of which we are to have our conversation in the worlds.” If there be any selfish objects proposed, any sinister motives indulged, any artifices practised by us, we are far from true wisdom: true wisdom disclaims every thing that is disingenuous. Its eye is single, its object pure, its operation lucid, uniform, irreprehensible. It will bear the light: it will shine the brightest, where it is brought most to view. If n Eccl. viii. 5. o Gal. ii. 2.
P Mark iv. 33. 91 Cor. üi. 2. r Rom. xvi. 19. 8 2 Cor. i. 12.
it make us “wise as serpents, it will keep us harmless as dovest." Every measure of deceit must be banished; all falsehood, either in word or deed, abhorred; and truth and equity must stand confessed in the whole of our dealings. This is true wisdom; and, “ whosoever walks according to this rule, peace shall be upon him, and mercy, even upon all the Israel of Godu."] We conclude with one or two DIRECTIONS for the
attainment and increase of this wisdom : 1. Let a conformity to its dictates be your constant aim
[" The wisdom of the prudent is, to understand his way." If we walk at random, and without a due consideration of our ways, we never shall attain any true wisdom. We must be aware that folly is bound up in our hearts, and that we are constantly liable to err. We must take our rule of action from the unerring words of truth. We must measure our sentiments and actions by that rule. We must in particular set the Lord Jesus Christ before us, and endeavour to drink into his spirit, and to walk in his steps. This must be our constant habit. Whether our actions be more or less important, they must all be referred to this standard, and be regulated by this principle. Then we shall gradually have our minds enlightened: we shall see with increasing evidence our former deviations from the right path. We shall see, how erroneously we judged on many occasions; and how unwisely we acted, whilst yet we thought that we were acting right. Thus our judgment will be matured; our consciences be preserved tender; and our ways be conformed to the perfect will of God. “Who then is wise and endued with knowledge amongst you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom."] 2. Pray earnestly to God to inspire you with it
[It is “the Lord alone that giveth wisdom?:” and to him David directed his supplications, in the words of our text, “O when wilt thou come unto me?” David felt his insufficiency for that great work which lay before him, and he panted after an increase of grace to fit him for it. Thus should we pant after the influences of the Holy Spirit, to "open the eyes of our understanding,” and to " guide us into all truth." Without the aid of the Holy Spirit we cannot hope to fill up our several stations in life with true wisdom. David, as a monarch, felt his need of divine aid to execute the resolution he had formed. Solomon desired this aid beyond either riches or honour: and God, in answer to his prayer,
gave him a wise and under
* Prov. xiv. 8.
t Matt. x. 16.
y Jam. ii. 13. VOL. VI.
u Gal. vi. 16.