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But if this be true, then it follows plainly, that that knowledge, which is most suitable to our rational nature, and which most concerns us, as such, to know, is our highest, finest knowledge ; and that ignorance, which relates to things, which are most essential to us, as ra: tional creatures, and which we are most concerned to know, is of all others, the most gross and shameful ignorance.
If therefore there be any things, which concern us more than others, if there be any truths, which are more to us than all others, he, who has the fullest knowledge of these things, who sees these truths in the clearest, strongest light, has, of all others, as a rational creature, the clearest understanding, and the strongest parts,
If therefore our relation to God be our greatest relation, if our advancement in his favour be our highest advancement, he, who has the higheșt notions of the excellence of this relation, he, who most strongly perceives the highest worth, and great value of holiness and virtue, who judges every thing little, when com. pared with it, proves himself to bę master of the best and most excellent knowledge.
As certain therefore as piety, virtue, and eternal happiness are of the most concern to
man, as certain as the immortality of our nature and relation to God are the most glorious cir. cumstances of our nature, so certain is it, that he, who dwells most in contemplation of them, whose heart is most affected with them, who best comprehends the value and excellency of them, who judges all worldly attainments to be mere bubbles and shadows, in comparison of them, proves himself to have, of all others, the finest understanding and the strongest judgment.
Devotion therefore is the greatest sign of a great and noble genius; it supposes à soul in its highest state of knowledge ; and none, but little and blinded minds, who are sunk into ignorance and vanity, are destitute of it.
If a human spirit should imagine some mighty*prince to be greater than God, we should take it for a poor, ignorant creature ; , all people would acknowledge such an imagination to be the height of stupidity.
But if this same human spirit should think it better to be devoted to some mighty prince, than to be devoted to God, would not this be: a still greater proof of a poor, ignorant, and blinded nature ?
Yet this is what all people do, who think any thing better, greater, or wiser, than a devout life.
So that, which way soever we consider this matter, it plainly appears, that devotion is an instance of great judgment, of an elevated nature; and the want of devotion is a certain proof of the want of understanding.
The greatest spirits of the heathen world, such as Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato, Epictetus, Marcus Antoninus, &c. owed all their greatness to the spirit of devotion.
They were full of God. Their wisdom and fleep contemplations tended only to deliver men from the' yanity of the world, the slavery of bodily passions, that they might act as spirits, which came from God, and were soon to return to him.
To see the dignity and greatness of a devout spirit, we need only compare it with other tempers, which are chosen in the room of it.
St. John tells us, that all in the world,' that is, all the tempers of a worldly life, is the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.'
Let us therefore consider, what wisdom or excellency of mind is required to qualify a man for these delights.
Let us suppose a man given up to the pleasures of the body, Surely this can be no sign of a fine mind, or an excellent spirit ; for if he have but the temper of an animal, he is great enough for these enjoyments.
Let us suppose him to be devoted to honours and splendours, to be fond of glitter and equipage. If this temper required any great parts or fine understanding to make a man capable of it, it would prove the world to abound with
Let us suppose him to be in love with riches, and to be so eager in the pursuit of them, as never to think, he has enough. This passion is so far from supposing any excellent sense, or great understanding, that blindness and folly are the best supports, which it has.
Let us, lastly, suppose him in another light, not singly devoted to any of these passions, but, as it mostly happens, governed by all of them in their turns. Does this show a nidre exalted -nature, than to spend his days in the service of any one of them?
For to have a taste for these things, and to be devoted to them, is so far from arguing any tolerable parts or understanding, that they are suited to the dullest, weakest minds, and re
quire only a great deal of pride and folly to be greatly admired.
Let libertines bring any such charge as this, if they can, against devotion. They may as well endeavour to charge light with every thing, which belongs to darkness.
Let them but grant, that there is a God and providence, and then they have granted enough to justify the wisdom, and support the honour : of devotion.
For if there is an infinitely wise and good creator, in whom we live, move, and have our being, whose providence governs all things in all places, surely it must be the highest act of our understanding to conceive rightly of him ; ! it must be the noblest instance of judgment, the most exalted temper of our nature, to wor! ship and adore this universal providence, to conform to its laws, to study its wisdom, and to live and act every where, as in the presence of this infinitely good and wise creator.
He, who lives thus, lives in the spirit of devotion.
What can show such great parts, and so fine, an understanding, as to live in this temper?
For if God is wisdom, surely he must be the wisest man in the world, who most conforms to