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for happiness, but that a wise man must be miserable in poverty and sickness.” Nay, Diogenes himself, from whose pride and singularity one would have looked for other notions, delivered it as his opinion, “ That a poor old man was the most miserable thing in life.”
Zeno also and his followers fell into many absurdities, among which nothing could be greater than that of maintaining all crimes to be equal; which, instead of making vice hateful, rendered it as a thing indifferent and familiar to all men.
Lastly, Epicurus had no notion of justice, but as it was profitable; and his placing happiness in pleasure, with all the advantages he could expound it by, was liable to very great exception: for, although he taught that pleasure did consist in virtue, yet he did not any way fix or ascertain the boundaries of virtue, as he ought to have done; by which means he misled his followers into the greatest vices, making their names to become odious and scandalous, even in the heathen world.
I have produced these few instances from a great many others, to show the imperfection of heathen philosophy, wherein I have confined myself wholly to their morality. And surely we may pronounce upon it, in the words of St James, that “ This wisdom descended not from above, but was earthly and sensual.” What if I had produced their absurd notions about God and the soul? it would then have completed the character given it by that apostle, and appeared to have been devilish too. But it is easy to observe, from the nature of these few particulars, that their defects in morals were purely the flagging and fainting of the mind, for want of a support by revelation from God.
I proceed, therefore, in the third place, to show the perfection of Christian wisdom from above; and I shall endeavour to make it appear, from those proper characters and marks of it, by the apostle before mentioned, in the third chapter, and 15th, 16th, and 17th verses.
The words run thus :
“ This wisdom descendeth not from above; but is earthly, sensual, devilish.
“ For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.
“ But the wisdom that is from above, is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.
“ The wisdom from above is first pure.” This purity of the mind and spirit is peculiar to the gospel
. Our Saviour says, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” A mind free from all pollution of lusts shall have a daily vision of God, whereof uprevealed religion can form no notion. This is it that keeps us unspotted from the world; and hereby many have been prevailed upon to live in the practice of all purity, holiness, and righteousness, far beyond the examples of the most celebrated philosophers.
It is “ peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated.” The Christian doctrine teacheth us all those dispositions that make us affable and cour. teous, gentle and kind, without any morose leaven of pride or vạnity, which entered into the composition of most heathen schemes: so we are taught to be meek and lowly. Our Saviour's last legacy was peace; and he commands us to forgive our offending brother unto seventy times seven. Christian wisdom is full of mercy and good works, teaching the height of all moral virtues, of which the heathens fell infinitely short. Plato, indeed, (and it is worth observing) has somewhere a dialogue, or part of one, about forgiving our enemies, which was perhaps the highest strain ever reached by man, without divine assistance; yet how little is that to what our Saviour commands us! “ To love them that hate us; to bless them that curse us; and to do good to them that despitefully use us."
Christian wisdom is “ without partiality;" it is not calculated for this or that nation of people, but the whole race of mankind: not so the philosophical schemes, which were narrow and confined, adapted to their peculiar towns, governments, or sects; but, “ in every nation, he that feareth God, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him."
Lastly, It is “ without hypocrisy;" it appears to be what it really is; it is all of a piece. By the doctrines of the gospel, we are so far from being allowed to publish to the world those virtues we have not, that we are commanded to hide even from ourselves those we really have, and not to let our right hand know what our left hand does; unlike several branches of the heathen wisdom, which pretended to teach insensibility and indifference, magnanimity, and contempt of life, while, at the same time, in other parts, it belied its own doctrines.
I come now, in the last place, to show that the great examples of wisdom and virtue, among the Grecian sages, were produced by personal merit, and not influenced by the doctrine of any particular sect; whereas, in Christianity, it is quite the contrary:
The two virtues most celebrated by ancient moralists, were Fortitude and Temperance, as relating to the government of man in his private capacity, to which their schemes were generally addressed and confined; and the two instances wherein those virtues arrived at the greatest height, were Socrates and Cato. But neither those, nor any other virtues possessed by these two, were at all owing to any lessons or doctrines of a sect. For Socrates himself was of none at all: and although Cato was called a stoic, it was more from a resemblance of manners in his worst qualities, than that he avowed himself one of their disciples. The same may be affirmed of
many other great men of antiquity. Whence I infer, that those who were renowned for virtue among them, were more obliged to the good natural dispositions of their own minds, than to the doctrines of any sect they pretended to follow.
On the other side, as the examples of fortitude and patience among the primitive Christians, have been infinitely greater and more numerous, so they were altogether the product of their principles and doctrine; and were such as the same persons, without those aids, would never have arrived to. Of this truth most of the apostles, with many thousand martyrs, are a cloud of witnesses beyond exception. Having therefore spoken so largely upon the former heads, I shall dwell no longer upon this.
And, if it should here be objected, Why does not Christianity still produce the same effects? it is easy to answer, First, That although the number of pretended Christians be great, yet that of true believers, in proportion to the other, was never so small; and it is a true lively faith alone, that, by the assistance of God's grace, can influence our practice.
Secondly, We may answer, that Christianity itself has very much suffered, by being blended up with Gentile philosophy. The Platonic system, first taken into religion, was thought to have given matter for some early heresies in the church. When disputes began to arise, the Peripatetic forms were introduced by Scotus, as best fitted for controversy. And, however this may now have become necessary, it was surely the author of a litigious vein, which has since occasioned very pernicious consequences, stopped the progress of Christianity, and been a great promoter of vice; verifying that sentence given by St James, and mentioned before, “ Where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.” This was the fatal stop to the Grecians, in their progress both of arts and arms; their wise men were divided under several sects, and their governments under several commonwealths, all in opposition to each other; which engaged them in eternal quarrels among themselves, while they should have been armed against the common enemy. And I wish we had no other examples, from the like causes, less foreign or ancient than that. Diogenes said, Socrates was a madman; the disciples of Zeno and Epicurus, nay of Plato and Aristotle, were engaged in fierce disputes about the most insignificant trifles. And if this be the present language and practice among us Christians, no wonder that Christianity does not still produce the same effects which it did at first, when it was received and embraced in its utmost purity and perfection : for such wisdom as this cannot “ descend from above;" but must be