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derstand wisdom; and ye fools, be ye of an understanding heart. Hear, for I will speak of excellent things; and the opening of my lips shall be right things. For my mouth shall speak truth, and wickedness is an abomination to my lips.” Thus the wisdom, or word of God puts forth its voice, and challenges the reverence and attention of mankind. In every situation and condition it addresses the sons of men, and calls upon them to be wise, that is pious, virtuous, and holy.
By wisdom and understanding, as properties of men, are intended true religion. « The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding.” In loving God, Jesus Christ, and the religion he taught, men love wisdom itself; and possessing this holy temper, the wisdom of God shall dwell and delight in them. If they early seek and cultivate it, they have a promise of success. No reasonable grounds of apprehension that they shall fail exist. The Holy One, in the name and character of wisdom, says, “ I love them that love me, and those that seek me early shall find me." All that is required of men in this passage, is early and sincere attention to the principles and duties of religion. To this they are encouraged
by God's gracious assurance that, on condition of their loving him, and seeking him early, they shall find him, and be objects of his love.
The truly religious are the truly wise. Religion is the wisdom to be sought, and is promised to those who seek it early. To impress the subject upon the minds of youth, and gain their consent to become wise and good, we shall state the reasonableness and importance of religion; and then show how necessary it is, and what encouragenient is given them, to make it the object of their first attention and care.
I. We shall state the reasonableness and importance of religion.
By religion I intend that knowledge, fear, love, and reverence of God, and that faith in Jesus Christ and his gospel, which shall produce holy affections of heart, and the fruits of righteousness, or undissembled piety and goodness. Pure and undefiled religion is the service which rational creatures owe their creator. It requires us to " present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God, which is our reasonable service.” In the general idea of religion many particular duties are included. Several forms of expression, such as faith, holiness, goodness, righteousness, godliness, im
56 ply the whole of religion. But general terms include all the particular branches of duty.
Were man innocent, his religion would consist in such affections and conduct towards God and his fellow beings, as should preserve him in this happy state. But, as he has become sinful, the religion suited to his present condition includes repentance. This necessarily belongs to the religion of every creature that has offended against God. By repentance we mean a conviction of sin, a deep and sincere sorrow for it, a renunciation of it, and a strong desire to be freed from its dominion and defilement. The religion of man, therefore, does not intend absolute, universal and perfect conformity to the law and will of God; but it must consist, in part, in pursuing the way he has pointed out to obtain pardon, and restoration to holiness and happiness. This way is “ repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ,” , which shall so operate upon heart and life, as to bring the person to a conformity to the spirit and precepts of the gospel.
But, not to enlarge upon what religion is in all its particular duties, and as it relates to the subjects and object of it, we will only observe, that the seat of it is the heart, and that it means,
in general, a right temper and conduct towards God and man: such a faith, repentance, and holy obedience, as shall, according to the dispensation of grace, render man a fit object of the divine complacency.
The reasonableness and importance of such a religion are manifest. Can it be conceived that any thing is more reasonable in itself, or of greater importance to man, than that his temper and conduct should be right in respect to his. maker, and fellow- creatures ? On this his own happiness depends. It is the only ground on which he can hope for the divine approbation, which he considers, if correct in his judgment, the highest felicity. " The favour of God is life, and his loving kindness better than life.”
The light of nature teaches that rational creatures are required to love, fear, reverence, and obey their creator. This is a natural dictate of reason. No person in his senses will dis. pute this point. But the mission, office, and sufferings of the Saviour present the most affecting proof of the importance of religion. He appeared in the world to raise men to the knowledge and practice of it, and sealed its truth with his own blood. Called to the exercises of it by such a friend, who exemplified its duties, and vindicated its principles, it must appear a
58 reasonable and important duty to follow his steps. Besides, in religion nothing hard and unreasonable is to be found. “Wisdom's ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.” There is nothing difficult, or discouraging, in true religion, to one that has a taste for it. But, were it otherwise, it would be a reasonable homage to the Creator, and of high importance to ourselves. It promotes his glory, is connected with our own present and future happiness, and communicates blessings to fellow mortals. “ Godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.” It has a benign influence upon external circumstances, and on the temper of the mind. It suppresses, or mod. erates, the turbulent passions, which often fill the soul with anguish and confusion, while it gives full scope to all the sweet, pure, and benevolent affections. It breathes peace, adds dignity to the human character, and leads up to the celestial paradise. God hath promised “eternal life to them, who, by patient continuance in well doing, seek for glory, honour, and immortality.” On the other hand, he hath threatened “ indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul that doeth evil.” In