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A Scorner Incapable of True Wisdom.
Preach'd before the
SERMON QUE EN W HITE-HALL. Oxtober 28. 169 4.
PROVERB'S xiv. 6. 1 Scorner seeketh Wisdom, and findetij
T is the Wiseft among the Children
of Men, who speaks; and about That, which most nearly concerns Us, and He best understood, even the Method of attaining True Wisdom: It becomes us,
therefore, to give the most fixt and ferious Attention, we can, to what he is saying.
A Scorner, faith he, seeketh Wisdom, and findeth it not.
Where we are, first, to enquire, Who it is, that is represented to us, under the Character of a Scorner; and, then, in what Sense he is said to Jeek Wisdom, but not to find it.
The Scorner is One, who is frequently mention’d in this Book of Proverbs; and against whom the Author of it hath levelld no small Number of his Apophthegms, and wise Sayings. We find in the Psalms, and Prop!etick Writings also, many Glances at hiin, many Complaints of him : so that the Nation of the Jews did, it seems, abound mightily with this Sort of Men; and they were a Great and Particular Grievance to the Followers of True Piety and Wisdom.
Their Character seems, in short, to have been This. They were Men, that, with much ado, had made a shift to get rid of Good Principles, and such itiff Opinions, as they found inconfistent with a Loose Practice. As they had not any Religion themselves, fo their way was to despise Those who had; to look down with Pity and Contempt upon a poor deluded Under-World; Beasts of Burthen that follow'd, in a Track, after their Leaders; Slaves to receiv'd Rules, and Precarious Opinions, to Foolish Empty Forms and Observances; but who never once reason’d freely, or thought for Themselves. They were unfortunately fallen into a Time, when frequent Commotions hapned in the Jewish State (as the Cafe remarkably was, in the Age before Solomon came to the Throne) and had seen several Sorts of Men uppermost, and, consequently, several Norons of things prevailing by Turns. This contributed mightily to unsettle their Thoughts, or (as They callid it doubtless) to enlarge them; to create in them a slight Opinion of the Eternal Differences of Right and Wrong, Good and Evil; and to make them laugh at Those, who were Eager on any Side, or for any Cause whailo. ever, which they did not get by.
They evidently saw that Some, who sat up for greater Purity, and a Demurer Shew and Face of Religion than their Neighbours, were really Counterfeits, and meant nothing, at the bottom, but Their own Intereit. And they wisely, resolv’d, upon this, that All Religion.
was, like Theirs, a Convenient Trick and Pretence only; invented by Cunning men to keep silly People in awe, to make Princes Reign safely, and the Priesthood Live Easily. But as for Them , they knew better things than to fall in with the Herd, and to give themselves up to be ridden by the Tribe of Levi; the Poorest and most Contemptible Tribe of the Twelve, which had no Lot, no Inheritance among their Brethren ; but liv'd upon the Cheat of Sacrifices and Offerings, and upon driving à Gainful Traffick for the Good Things of This World, here paid down to them, by promising, and preaching up to Those they dealt with, a Recompence in a World to come.
Nor were these men content to enjoy this Secret, which they had thus found out, quietly among themselves ; but set up openly for Profelytes, and a Party; for running down all Religion, and for laughing Piety and Virtue out of Countenance : fo that a Good and Honest Man was sure to be their Mark, where
soever they found him ; and they were bral, lxiv. ever shooting their Arrows against him,
even Bitter Words. And this was come to that pass, that the True Servants of
God did almost sink under the Amiction;
This is, in some measure, the Chara-