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[Preached at Whitehall, Ann. 1683.]


For the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.—Luke xvi. 8.

THESE words are in the parable of the rich man’s steward, who, being called upon to give up his accounts, in order to his being discharged from his office, cast about with himself what course he had best to take, to provide for his subsistence, when he should be turned out of his employment: at last he resolves upon this, that he will go to his lord’s debtors, and take a favourable account of them, and instead of “a hundred measures of oil, write down fifty;” and instead of “a hundred measures of wheat, write down fourscore;” that, by this means, he might oblige them to be kind to him in his necessity. The lord, hearing of this, commends the unjust steward, “because he had done wisely; that is, he took notice of his dishonesty, but praised his shrewdness and sagacity, as having done prudently for himself, though he did not deal justly with him. And this is usual among men; when we see a man ingeniously bad, to commend his wit, and to say, it is a great pity he doth not use it better, and apply it to good purposes. Upon the whole, our Saviour makes this observation: That “the children of this world are in their generation wiser 260than the children of light;” as if he had said, thus did this worldly wise man; thus provident was he for his future security and subsistence. He no sooner understands that he is to be turned out of his office, but he considers what provision to make for himself against that time. And is it not pity, that good men do not apply this wisdom to better and greater purposes? For is not every man such a steward, entrusted by God with the blessings of this life, and many opportunities of doing good? For all which, since he must shortly give an account, he ought, in all reason, so to use them, as thereby to provide for the happiness of another life, against this temporal life have an end.

And this is all the parallel intended in this parable, as we may see by our Saviour’s application of it. For parables are not to be stretched to an exact parallel in all the parts and circumstances of them, but only to be applied to the particular point and purpose intended. A parable, and the moral accommodation of it, being (as one well observes) not like two planes, which touch one another in every part, but like a globe upon a plane, which only toucheth in one point. Thus our Saviour separates the wisdom of this steward from his injustice, and proposeth that to our imitation: “The children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.”

The words are a comparison, in which we have,

1st, The persons compared, “the children of this world,” and “the children of light.” It is a very usual phrase among the Hebrews, when they would express any thing to partake of such a nature or quality, to call it the son or child of such a thing. Thus good men are called “the children of God,” 261and bad men “the children of the devil;” those who mind earthly things, and make the things of this world their greatest aim and design, are called “the children of this world;” and those who are better enlightened with the knowledge of their own immortality, and the belief of a future state after this life, are called “the children of light.”

2dly, Here is the thing wherein they are compared, and that is, as to their wisdom and prudence.

3dly, The object of this prudence, which is not the same in both; as if the sense were, that “the children of this world are wiser than the children of light,” as to the things of this world; but here are two several objects intended, about which the prudence of these two sorts of persons is respectively exercised, the concernments of this world and the other: and our Saviour’s meaning is, that “the children of this world are wiser in their generation,” that is, in their way; viz. as to the interests and concernments of this world, “than the children of .light” are in theirs; viz. as to the interests and concernments of the other world.

4thly, Here is a decision of the matter, and which of them it is that excels in point of prudence, in their way; and our Saviour gives it to the “children of this world;” they “are wiser in their generation than the children of light.”

Now this proposition is not to be taken in the utmost strictness and rigour, as if it were universally true, and without any exception, as if no man had ever been so wise and provident for his soul, and the concernments of another world, as worldly men are for the interests and concernments of this life. For there are some that are fools at large, and 262imprudent in their whole conduct and management, both as to their affairs of this world and the other; who are, in too strict a sense, “the children of this world:” they mind nothing but this world, and yet are grossly imprudent, even in their prosecution of their temporal interests; they neglect and forego all other worldly advantages for the sake of a little sensual pleasure; and then they lose and destroy that too, by an over hot and eager pursuit of it, and turn it at last into gall and wormwood. And there are others (as St. Paul for instance) who, I doubt not, have been as prudent, and zealous, and industrious for the promoting of religion, and the salvation of themselves and others, as any man can be about the affairs of this present life; and I hope there are some such in every age; but, God knows, there are very few, and their wisdom and industry is seldom so equal, and constant, and uniform, as that of the men of this world.

So that we are to understand this saying of our Saviour’s with the same allowance as we generally do all moral and proverbial speeches, that they are true for the most part, and the instances and exceptions to the contrary are very rare. It is seldom seen, that good men are so wise for the concernments of their souls, and of religion, as many worldly j men are for their worldly interest.

In speaking to this proposition, I shall do these three things:

First, Confirm and illustrate the truth of it, by considering the several parts and properties of wisdom.

Secondly, Give some probable account of this, by considering, what advantages “the children of this world” have above “the children of light.”


Thirdly, I shall draw some inferences from the whole, by way of application.

First, I shall endeavour to confirm and illustrate the truth of this, by considering the several parts and properties of wisdom. Now this is wisdom, to mind and regard our chief end, and by all means to promote it: and this regard to our chief end doth express itself chiefly in these particulars in our being firmly fixed and resolved upon it; in choosing the fittest means for the compassing and accomplishing of it; in a diligent use of those means; in an invincible constancy and perseverance in the prosecution of it; and in making all things to submit and to stoop to it. These are the principal parts and properties of wisdom; and I shall shew, that in all these “the children of this world” do usually excel “the children of light.”

1st, They are usually more firmly fixed and resolved upon their end. Whatever they set up for their end, riches, or honours, or pleasures, they are fixed upon it, and steady in the prosecution of it. If they set up for riches or honour, they neglect and despise pleasure, if it cross either of those ends. And this fixed resolution of the end, is the great spring of action, and that which inspires men with vigour and diligence in the use of means; and the more resolved men are upon the end, the more active and industrious they will be in the use of means; for the end governs the means, and gives law and measure to our activity and industry in the use of them, and sweetens and allays the trouble and difficulty of them.

So that where the end is once firmly fixed and resolved upon, there will not be wanting fervour of prosecution; but, if we be wavering and unsteady 264as to our end, this will weaken our hands, and quench the heat of our endeavours, and abate the eagerness of our pursuit, and, according to the degree of it, will derive a debility and inconstancy into all our motions. “The double-minded man (as St. James says) is unstable in all his ways.” Now “the children of this world” are commonly more fixed and resolved upon their end, than “the children of light.” It is rare to see the whole life and actions of a good man, so constantly and uniformly conspiring to the furtherance of his great end, so directly tending to the salvation of his soul, and the increase of his glory and happiness in another world, as the actions of a worldly man, and the whole course of his life, do to the advancing of his worldly interests. The covetous or ambitious men seldom do any thing, to the best of their knowledge, that is impertinent to their end, much less contrary to it; through every thing that they do, one may plainly see the end they aim at, and that they are always true to it: whereas the best men do many things which are plainly cross and contrary to their end t and a great many more which have no relation to it; and when they mind it, it is rather by tits and starts, than in any even course and tenor of actions.

And of this we have a famous instance in that worldly and secular church, which now for several hundreds of years hath more steadily pursued the end of secular greatness and dominion, than any other church hath done for the ends of true religion, the glory of God, and the salvation of the souls of men; so that there is hardly any doctrine or practice peculiar to that church, and differing from our common Christianity, bat it hath a direct and visible 265tendency to the promoting of some worldly interest or other. For instance: why do they deny the people the Holy Scriptures, and the service of God, in a language which they can understand; but that, by keeping 1 them in ignorance, they may have them in more perfect slavery and subjection to them? “Why do they forbid their priests to marry, but that they may have no interest distinct from that of their church, and leave all to it when they die? To what end is auricular confession, but to keep people in awe, by the knowledge of their secrets? Why must the laity only receive the sacrament in one kind, but to draw a greater reverence to the priest, whose privilege it shall be to receive in both? And why is the intention of the priest necessary to the efficacy of the sacraments, but to persuade the people, that, notwithstanding the gracious intention of God to ward mankind, they cannot be saved without the good-will of the priest? The doctrines of purgatory and indulgences are a plain device, to make their markets of the sins and souls of men. I might in* stance in a hundred things more in that church, which are of the same tendency. This. St. John foretold should be the character of the spirit of antichrist, that it should be a worldly spirit, and the doctrines of it should serve a secular interest and design: (1 John iv. 5.) “They are of the world, and they speak from the world, and the world hears them.” What church is there in the world, so true throughout to the interest of religion, as this worldly church hath been to its own secular power and greatness?

2dly, “The children of this world” are wiser in the choice of means in order to their end; and this is a great part of wisdom: for some means will 266bring about an end with less pains, and difficulty, and expense of time, than others. And the men of the world are very ingenious in discerning the fitness and force of means to their several ends. To what a certainty have men reduced all the ways and arts of gain, and growing rich, and of rising to honour and preferment! What long trains will men lay to bring about their desired end! What subtle methods have men devised, to insinuate themselves into court; and, when they are there, to plant themselves in the eye of their prince, and in the sunshine of his favour: and then they have as many ways of worming others out, as of screwing themselves in!

But, in the concernments of our souls, and the affairs of another world, how dull and injudicious are we! and how awkwardly and untowardly do we apply means to ends, as if men were “only wise to do evil, but to do good had no understanding,” as the prophet complains! By what incongruous and irregular means do many (who would seem to be, and sometimes, perhaps, are, very zealous in religion) endeavour (as they think) to promote God’s glory, by pious frauds, and counterfeit miracles, and telling officious lies for God! What a compass do many men fetch to go to heaven, by innumerable devices of will-worship, by voluntary severities, neither pleasing to God, nor profitable to men! by tedious pilgrimages and senseless ceremonies, and innumerable little external observances, of no virtue or efficacy in religion! and by wandering through a wilderness of opinions, and the bushes and brakes of unprofitable questions and controversies! Whereas the way to heaven lies plain and straight before us, consisting in simplicity of belief, and in holiness and innocency of life. Not but that there are great 267differences in the church of Rome between the secular priests and the regular; between the Jansenists and the Jesuits; but they still unite in a common interest, and are subject to antichrist, their common head. They do not separate from one another, and excommunicate one another, and declare against one another that they are not of the true church; Satan never casts out Satan; and, though he loves divisions among Christians, yet he always takes care that his own kingdom be not divided against itself, so as to endanger the ruin of it. And whenever they have any hopeful design for the extirpation of protestants, they can lay aside their enmities, and be reconciled in such a design. Then the pope and the kings of the earth “take counsel together,” and, like Herod and Pilate when Christ was to be crucified, can be made friends at a day’s warning. Whereas the divisions of the true church are pernicious to it, and, as we see at this day among ourselves, our senseless differences and wild heats on both sides, do contribute to the set ting up of popery, and the ruin of the reformed religion, and yet no persuasion, no experience, can make us wiser.

3dly, “The children of this world” are commonly more diligent in the use of means for the obtaining of their end; they will sweat and toil, and take any pains, “rise up early, and lie down late, and eat the bread of carefulness;” their thoughts are continually running upon their business, and they catch at every opportunity of promoting it; they will pinch nature, and harass it; and rob themselves of their rest, and all the comfort of their lives, to raise their fortune and estate. What drudges were Caesar and Alexander in the way of fame and ambition! How did 268they tire themselves and others with long and tedious marches! To what inconveniences and dangers did they expose themselves and thousands more! What havoc and destruction did they make in the world, that they might gain to themselves the empty title of conquerors of it! When the men of the world engage in any design, how intent are they upon it, and with what vigour do they prosecute it! They do not counterfeit a diligence, and seem to be more serious and industrious than in truth they are; they are rather hypocrites the other way, and would conceal their covetousness and ambition, and not seem, to aspire after riches and honours so much as indeed they do.

But in the pursuit of better things, how cold and remiss are we! With what a careless indifference do most men mind their souls! How negligent and formal, and many times hypocritical, are they in the service of God, and the exercise of religion! With what a pitiful courage, and with what faint spirits, do they resist sin, and encounter the temptations of it! and how often and how easily are they foiled and baffled by them!

4thly, The men of the world are more invincibly constant and pertinacious in the pursuit of earthly things; they are not to be bribed or taken off by favour or fair words; not to be daunted by difficulties, or dashed out of countenance by the frowns and reproaches of men. Offer an ambitious man any thing short of his end and aim, to take him off from the prosecution of it; he scorns the motion, and thinks you go about to fool him out of his interest. Bait a covetous man with temptations of pleasure to get his money from him; how generously will this mean-spirited man trample upon pleasure, 269when it would tempt him from his design of being rich!

Difficulties do not daunt them, but whet their courage, and quicken their endeavours, and set a keener edge upon their spirits. Give an ambitious man almost a demonstration of the impossibility of his attempts; contra audentior ibit, he will go on so much the more boldly and resolutely. In the ways of religion, men are apt to be discouraged and put out of countenance by contempt and reproach; but a covetous man is not to be jeered and flirted out of his money and estate; he can be content to be rich, and give leave to those that are not so, to laugh at him.

Populus mihi sibilat, at mihi plaudo.

The rich worldling can hug himself in his bags, when the world hisseth at him; he can bear “to be hated and persecuted, and have all manner of evil spoke against him” for money’s sake: and in the pursuit of these designs, men will with great resolution encounter enmity and opposition, and endure great sufferings and persecution. How many have been martyrs to their lusts, and have sacrificed their ease and health, and even their lives, in the prosecution of their ambitious, and covetous, and voluptuous designs!

But, on the other hand, how easily are men checked and diverted from a good course, by the temptations and advantages of this world! How many are cold in their zeal for religion, by the favour and friendship of this world! and as their goods and estates have grown greater, their devotion hath grown less! How apt are they to be terrified at the apprehension of danger and sufferings; 270and, by their fearful imaginations, to make them greater than they are, and, with the people of Israel, to be disheartened from all further attempts of entering “into the land of promise,” because it is “full of giants, and the sons of Anak!” How easily was Peter frighted into the denial of his Master! And when our Saviour was apprehended, how did his disciples forsake him, and fly from him! And though they were constant afterwards to the death, yet it was a great while before they were perfectly armed and steeled against the fear of suffering.

5thly, The men of the world will make all things stoop and submit to that which is their great end and design; their end rules them, and governs them, and gives laws to all their actions; they will make an advantage of every thing, and if it will not serve their end one way or other, they will have nothing to do with it. If an ambitious man seek wealth, it is but in order to his design to purchase friends, and strengthen his interest, and to make his rising the easier; he will lay his whole estate at the stake, rather than miss of his end. The covetous man will quit his pleasure, when it lies cross to his interest; if he have any expensive lust and charge able vice, he will turn it off, or exchange it for some more frugal and profitable sin.

But in the affairs of religion, and the concernments of our souls, how frequently do men act with out a due regard and consideration of their great end! and, instead of making other things submit to it, they often bow and bend it to their inferior interest. They make heaven stoop to earth, and religion to serve a worldly design; and the glory of God to give way to gain, and the great concern Clients of their souls, and their eternal salvation, to 271their temporal profit and advantage. The men of the world are generally true to their great end, and pay it that respect which is due to it, and will suffer nothing to take place of it in their esteem and affection; and if men were as wise for their souls, and for another world, they would bring all things to their great end, and make all the concernments of this temporal life to yield and give way to the great concernments of their eternal happiness. I proceed, in the

Second place, To give some account of this, whence it comes to pass, that “the children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light.” And this I shall do, by considering what advantages “the children of this world” have as to the affairs of this world, above what good men have as to the concernments of another world. I shall instance in four or five of the chief.

1st, The things of this world are present and sensible, and, because of their nearness to us, are apt to strike powerfully upon our senses, and to affect us mightily, to excite our desires after them, and to work strongly upon our hopes and fears: but the things of another world being remote from us, are lessened by their distance, and consequently are not apt to work so powerfully upon our minds. They are invisible to us, and only discerned by faith, which is a more obscure and less certain perception of things, than we have of those objects which are presented to our bodily eyes. “The things which God hath prepared for them that love him,” the glory and happiness of the next world, are “things which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard.” “The children of light” do not see God, “as the children of this world see mammon.”


2dly, The sensual delights and enjoyments of this world, are better suited, and more agreeable to the corrupt and degenerate nature of men, than spiritual and heavenly things are to those that are regenerate. In this lapsed and degenerate state of mankind, appetite and sense are apt to prevail above reason, and therefore those things which are most delightful to sense, we favour and mind, and love to busy ourselves about them, because they are most suitable to the animal life, which is the governing principle of corrupt nature.

And the reason of this is plain, because that principle in worldly and sensual men, which pursues earthly things, is in those who are unregenerate entire and undivided, and consequently the affections and inclinations of the whole man, do all tend one way, and run out towards those things in a full and undivided stream; whereas good men are but regenerate in part; and though they have a principle of spiritual life in them, yet their affections are divided, and there is a great struggling and conflict between flesh and spirit, and it is a great while before the spiritual principle doth clearly prevail, and get a perfect victory over our sensual appetites and inclinations. Men’s affections to the world are entire and unbroken, and therefore they pursue these things with all their might; but the best men are but good in part, and that heavenly principle which is in them, is very much hindered in its operations by a contrary principle, our earthly and sensual inclinations, which are hardly ever perfectly subdued and brought under in this world.

3dly, The worldly man’s faith and hope, and fear of present and sensible things, is commonly stronger than a good man’s faith and hope, and fear 273of things future and eternal. Now faith, and hope, and fear, are the great principles which govern and bear sway in the actions and lives of men. If a man be once firmly persuaded of the reality of a thing, and that it is good for him, and possessed with good hopes of obtaining it, and great fears and apprehensions of the danger of missing it, this man may al most be put upon any thing. The merchant traffics, and the husbandman ploughs and sows in faith, and hopes that God will bless his labours, that he shall reap the fruit of them, and plainly sees, that if he do not take this pains he must starve. But how few are there that believe, and hope, and fear concerning the things of another world, as “the children of this world” do concerning the things of this world! If any man ask me, how I know this? I appeal to experience; it is plain and visible in the lives and actions, and endeavours of men. Good men are seldom so effectually and thoroughly persuaded of the principles of religion, and the truth of the sayings contained in the Holy Scriptures, as the men of the world are of their own sayings and proverbs. Men do not believe that “honesty is the best policy;” or, as Solomon expresseth it, that “he that walketh uprightly, walketh surely;” as the men of the world believe their own maxims, that “a man may be too honest to live;” that “plain dealing is a jewel, but he that wears it shall die a beggar.” Few men’s hopes of heaven are so powerful and vigorous, and have so sensible an effect upon their lives, as the worldly man’s hopes of gain and advantage. Men are not so afraid to swear, as they are to speak treason; they are not so firmly persuaded of the danger of sin to their souls and bodies in another world, as of the danger to which some crimes against 274the laws of men do expose their temporal lives and safety; therefore they will many times venture to offend God, rather than incur the penalty of human laws.

4thly, The men of the world have but one design, and are wholly intent upon it, and this is a great advantage. He that hath but one thing to mind may easily be skilled and excel in it. When a man makes one thing his whole business, no wonder if he be very knowing and wise in that. Now the men of the world mind worldly things, and have no care and concernment for any thing else. It is a saying, I think, of Thomas Aquinas, Cave ab illo qui unicum legit librum, “He is a dangerous man that reads but one book;” he that gives his mind but to one thing must needs be too hard for any man at that. Application to one thing, especially in matters of practice, gains a man perfect experience in it, and experience furnisheth him with observations about it, and these make him wise and prudent in that thing.

But good men, though they have a great affection for heaven and heavenly things, yet the business and necessities of this life do very much divert and take them off from the care of better things; they are divided between the concernments of this life and the other, and though there be but one thing necessary in comparison, yet the conveniences of this life are to be regarded; and though our souls be our main care, yet some consideration must be had of our bodies, that they may be fit for the ser vice of our souls; some provision must be made for their present support, so long as we continue in these earthly tabernacles; and this will necessarily engage us in the world, so that we cannot always 275and wholly apply ourselves to heavenly things, and mind them as the men of the world do the things of this world.

5thly, and lastly, The men of the world have a greater compass and liberty in the pursuit of their worldly designs, than good men have in the prosecution of their interests. The “children of light” are limited and confined to the use of lawful means for the compassing of their ends; but the men of the world are not so straight-laced, quocunque modo rem; they are resolved upon the point, and will stick at no means to compass their end. They do not stand upon the nice distinctions of good and evil, of right and wrong, invented by speculative and scrupulous men, to puzzle business, and to hinder and disappoint great designs. If Ahab have a mind to Naboth’s vineyard, and Naboth will not let him be honest, and have it for a valuable consideration, he will try to get it a cheaper way; Naboth shall, by a false witness, be made a traitor, and his vineyard, by this means, shall be forfeited to him. And thus the unjust steward in the parable provided for himself; he wronged his lord, to se cure a retreat to himself in the time of his distress.

The third and last thing only remains, to make some inferences from what hath been said by way of application. And,

1st, Notwithstanding the commendation which hath been given of the wisdom of this world, yet upon the whole matter it is not much to be valued and admired. It is, indeed, great in its way and kind; but it is applied to little and low purposes, employed about the concernments of a short time and a few days, about the worst and meanest part of ourselves, and accompanied with the neglect of 276greater and better things, such as concern our souls, and our whole duration, even our happiness to all eternity. And, therefore, that which the world admires and cries up for wisdom, is, in the esteem of God, who judgeth of things according to truth, but vanity and folly. “The wisdom of the world (saith St. Paul) is foolishness with God.” The rich man in the parable, who increased his goods, and enlarged his barns, and laid up for many years, did applaud himself, and was, no doubt, applauded by others for a very wise man: but because “he laid up treasure for himself, and was not rich toward God;” that is, did not employ his estate to good and charitable purposes; therefore God, who calls no body out of his right name, calls this man, “fool:” “Thou fool, this night shall thy soul be taken from thee, and then whose shall all these things be?” And our Saviour here in the text, while he commends the wisdom of” the children of this world,” he adds that which is a considerable blemish and abatement to it: “The children of this world are wiser, εἰς τῆς γενεὰν τῶν ἐαυτῶν, for their age,” for the concernments of this present life; but this is but a short and purblind wisdom, which sees but a little way, and considers only things present and near at hand; whereas true wisdom hath a larger and farther prospect, and regards the future as well as the present, and takes care to provide for it. Nay, our Saviour gives the wisdom of this world its utmost due when he says, “The children of this world are wiser for their generation;” for this is the t very best that can be said of it, it seldom looks so far, and holds out so long. Many men have survived their own projects, and have lived to see the folly and ill fate of their covetous and ambitious 277designs. So the prophet tells us: (Jer. xvii. 11.) “As the partridge sitteth on eggs and hatcheth them not, so he that getteth riches, and not by right, shall leave them in the midst of his days, and at his end shall be a fool.”

This is wisdom, to regard our main interest; but if we be wrong in our end (as all worldly men are), the faster and farther we go, the more fatal is our error and mistake. “The children of this world” are out in their end, and mistaken in the main; they are wise for this world, which is inconsiderable to eternity; wise for a little while, and fools for ever.

2dly, From what hath been said, we may infer, that if we lose our souls, and come short of eternal happiness, it is through our own fault and gross neglect; for we see that men are wise enough for this world; and the same prudence, and care, and diligence, applied to the concernments of our souls, would infallibly make us happy. Nay, our Saviour here in the text tells us, that usually less wisdom and industry than the men of this world use about the things of this world, is exercised by “the children of light,” who yet at last, through the mercy of God, do attain eternal life.

So that it is very plain, that if men would but take that care for their immortal souls, which they generally do for their frail and dying bodies, and be as heartily concerned for the unseen world, and for eternity, as they are for things visible and temporal, they would, with much more certainty, gain heaven, than any man can obtain worldly riches and honours. And can we in conscience desire more than to be happy for ever, upon as easy and upon more certain terms than any man can be rich or great in this world? For we may miss of these things after 278all our travail and pains about them; or, if we get them, we may lose them again: but if we “seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness,” if we be sincerely good, we are sure to have the reward of it, even that “eternal life, which God, that can not lie, hath promised;” if we “lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven,” they will be safe and secure there, where “no moth can corrupt, nor thieves break through and steal.”

If we would seriously think of the other world, and were thoroughly possessed with a firm belief of the eternity of that happiness or misery which remains for men after this life, we should pray to God, and hear his word, and perform all the duties of religion with the same care and concernment, with the same fervour and intention of mind, as men prosecute their worldly business. Were we fully persuaded of the unseen glories and torments of the other world, we should be much more affected with them, than with all the temptations and terrors of sense; because in reason they are much more considerable. The disgrace of the pillory will fright men from perjury; and will not everlasting shame and confusion? The fear of death will deter many men from robbing and stealing, who would perhaps venture upon these crimes, if there were no danger in them; and will not the horrors of the second death, of the “worm that dies not, and the fire that is not quenched,” have as great an awe and influence upon us? If they have not, it is a sign that we do not equally believe the danger of human laws and the damnation of hell.

Surely men have not the same belief of heaven, and affection for it, that they have for this world, If they had, their care and diligence about these 279things would be more equal. For we are not so weak as we make ourselves; we are not yet so degenerate, hut, if we would set ourselves seriously to it, and earnestly beg the assistance of God’s grace, we might come to know our duty, and our wills might be engaged to follow the directions of our understandings, and our affections to obey the command of our wills, and our actions to follow the impulse of our affections. Much of this is naturally in our power; and what is wanting, the grace of God is ready to supply. We can go to church, and we can hear the word of God; and we can consider what we hear; we can pray to God, and say, “We believe, Lord help our unbelief,” and enable us to do what thou requirest of us; and we can forbear a great many sins, which we rashly and wilfully run into: a great present danger will fright us from sin, a terrible storm will drive us to our devotion, and teach us to pray; a sharp fit of the gout will take a man off from drinking; the eye of a master or magistrate will restrain men from many things, which they say they cannot forbear. So that we do but counterfeit, and make ourselves more cripples than we are, that we may be pitied: for if fear will restrain us, it is a sign that we can for bear; if the rod of affliction will fetch it out of us, and make us do that which, at other times, we say we are unable to do, this is a demonstration that it is in us. and that the thing is in our power.

It is true, we can do nothing that is good without the assistance of God’s grace; but that assistance which we may have for asking, is in effect in our own power. So that if the matter were searched to the bottom, it is not want of power that hinders us from doing our duty, but sloth and negligence; 280for God hath “given us exceeding great and precious promises, whereby we may be made partakers of a Divine nature;” and by virtue whereof, if we be not wanting to ourselves, we may “cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, and perfect holiness in the fear of God.”

3dly, and lastly, What a shame and reproach is this to the children of light! Our Saviour speaks this by way of upbraiding, as we may judge by the terms of comparison which he useth, that “the children of this world should be wiser than the children of light,” that is, than “wisdom’s own children; and that they should be “wiser in their generation,” that is, for the concernments of a short and inconsiderable time, than the others are for all eternity.

How should it make our blood to rise in our faces, and fill us with confusion, that the men of this world should be more prudent and skilful in the contrivance and management of their little affairs; more resolute and vigorous in the prosecution of them, than we are about the everlasting concernments of our souls! That a worldly church should use wiser and more effectual means to promote and uphold ignorance, and error, and superstition, than we do to build up the true church of Christ in knowledge, and faith, and charity! That the men of the world should toil and take more pains for the deceitful riches, than we do for the true; and be contented to hazard more for a corruptible crown, than we for an incorruptible! That they should love pleasure more than we do God, and mind their bodies and temporal estates more than we do our souls and our eternal happiness!

Do but observe the men of the world—what a 281pace they go, what large and nimble steps they take in the pursuit of earthly things; they do not seek riches as if they sought them not, and love the world as if they loved it not, and enjoy the present delights of this world, as if they possessed them not; though the fashion of this world passeth away: but we seek heaven, as if we sought it not, and love God as if we loved him not, and mind eternity, and the world to come, as if we minded them not; and yet the fashion of that world doth not pass away.

But to all this it may be said, you have already told us, that “the children of this world” have so many advantages above “the children of light,” that it is no wonder if they excel and outstrip them: and it is very true, that in many respects they have the advantage of them. But if the children of light would look about them, and take all things into consideration, they might see something very considerable to balance the advantages on the other side. It is true, the things of this world are present and sensible; but so long as we have sufficient assurance of the reality of a future state, and of the rewards and punishments of it, the greatness and eternity of these is such an amazing consideration, that no distance can render them inconsiderable to a prudent and thinking man. And though the men of the world have an entire principle, which is not divided between God and the world; whereas, in good men there is a great conflict of contrary principles, the flesh and spirit; yet this disadvantage is likewise balanced by that powerful assistance of God’s grace, which is promised to all good men, (who heartily beg it of him, and are sincerely resolved to make use of it. And lastly, Though the 282men of the world have many ways to compass their ends, yet “the children of light” have one great and infallible one. All the means which the men of the world use to accomplish their designs, may fail and miscarry; for “the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor yet bread to the wise, nor riches to men of understanding, nor favour to men of skill; but time and chance happen to all:” but he that sincerely serves God, and useth the means for the attaining of everlasting salvation, is sure to attain it; if we seek the righteousness of God, as we ought, we shall certainly be admitted into his kingdom. And this surely is an unspeakable advantage, which u the children of light” have above “the children of this world,” that if we faithfully use the means, we cannot fail of the end; “if we have our fruit unto holiness, our end shall be everlasting life;” which God of his infinite goodness grant to us all, for his mercy’s sake!

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