Wise men after the flesh characteriz'd, and (by God for the most part) rejected.
1 COR. 1. 26.
YOu have heard of a wisdom secretly implied by this distinctive expressi∣on of the Apostle, Wise men after the flesh, viz. That there is an excel∣lent heavenly wisdome, which is a wisdome after the Spirit. And this is indeed the true proper wisdome. Humane wisdome, like the Glow-worm, may cause some lustre in the night; but heavenly wisdom is like the Sunne, glorious at noon-day. Now concerning these earthly and carnally wise men, see the dreadful dispensation of Gods providence, Not many wise men after the flesh hath God called. Those that by their crafty wisdom are able to get the good things of this world, are denied the good things of the world to come. Those that we use to say of, Let them alone, they will save one, do commonly hereafter lose two, viz. their soul and body. The worlds wise-man at the day of Judge∣ment will be Gods fool. Observe then,
That wise men after the flesh, though of great repute in the world, are for the most*part rejected by God in respect of eternal glory.
The Devil at first made use of the Serpent to deceive mankinde, as being more subtil then any beast of the field; but God he takes the foolish things of the world to confound the wise. That as our Saviour in another case said, That which is highly esteemed amongst men, is abominable before God; So it is here, That which the world magnifieth, which it adoreth; is cast away as refuse and drosse by God. Those things which the world reverenceth as Idols of gold, God many times makes fire-brands in hell: So greatly do Gods thoughts and mans differ.
To open this let us consider, What are the Characters and Properties of wise * men after the flesh. And
First, They are such who have a deep judgement and savoury taste about worldly things, the pleasures and profit of sin, but no apprehension or relish at all about hea∣venly things. Sapiens a Sapore, because he findes a taste and experimental sweet∣ness in the object he is conversant about. Now as the heavenly wise man he findes a sweet relish in heavenly things, as you see by Davids many expressions about the word of God, and the enjoyment of God; So the earthly wise man he hath a savoury pleasing taste in these inferiour comforts: As David saith, Thou hast put more gladnesse in my heart, then they have had when their wine and oyl increaseth, Psa. 4. So these have more joy in the increase of their profit and pleasures, then in any Ordinances or religious Worship of God: As David saith, His soul breaketh for the longing it hath alwayes to the Commandments of God: So his soul even breaks for the longing it hath to the accomplishment of all its lusts and desires. If you then would have a true description of the worldly wise man, it is eminently in this, He hath a delight and sweet savour in the enjoying of all Page 612 fleshly lusts. He findes no delight in God, no sweetnesse in Ordinances, no joy in the holy Ghost. His affections are set upon earthly things and not heavenly. As the Swine delights not in pleasant gardens and medows, but in dirty and miery places; so neither doth the fleshly wise man take any joy in the acts of Religion, he knoweth not the meaning of the sweetnesse and excellency of any grace, but is carried out in all the delight of his soul upon these earthly objects. His thoughts are there, his affections there, his discourse and words there; and herein you may even admire to see what parts, skill and discerning many men have in the matters of the world, but in matters of Religion meer Ideots and very fools. Oh they will one day see their madnesse! Could I tell the way to grow rich, and not the way to Heaven? Could I tell how to save my self here, and not to save my soul hereafter? Oh then be ashamed all you who have know∣ledge and parts about worldly things, but stark ignorant men in matters of god∣linesse.
Secondly, Wisemen after the flesh as they savour only the things of the flesh, so*they have an irreconcilable enmity to the things of God. The more fleshly wisdome and humane craft a man hath, the more wretched enemy and adversary he is al∣wayes to what is good; they are the great politick wise men that do most abhor and scorn Religion. Thus the Apostle Rom. 8. The wisdom of the flesh is enmity against God; what a brand and black infamy doth this Text cast upon all subtil wise men; Their wisdom (that which they boast of, they glory in, the best they have, which the world admireth them for) this is enmity, not dislike, not distaste or aversnesse, but enmity the highest degree of opposition; and enmity in the abstract, nothing but enmity: There is not a crum or a drop of any love or compliance with the things of God. That as the Serpent, though a wise crea∣ture, yet is full of poison and venom; such are all men of parts, and wit, and quick abilities, if not sanctified; They have wisdom but against God; they have wit but a∣gainst godlines; they have craft but to oppose godlines: So that many men would have had easier condemnation at the day of Judgment, if they had been fools and mad men, rather then such wise men; better thou wert a man driven out of thy wits, raving and talking thou dost not know what, then to be so advisedly and deli∣beratly opposing of the waies of God: O then consider, whether the more wisdom and the more parts thou hast, thou art not the more atheistical, the more crafty adversary to what is holy. Whether that be not the only obstacle, why thou dost not submit to the waies of God; Thy lusts do not hinder thee, thy prophanenesse doth not hinder thee, but thy carnal policy, and thy fleshly wisdom, because godlinesse is a way of self-denial, of danger and opposition in this world; there∣fore thy heart cannot comply with it.
Thirdly, The wise men after the flesh they are subtil to invent distinctions and ex∣cuses*to palliate and cover their sins. God tels the Israelites by the Prophet, That they dug deep, and did hide their counsels low, covering themselves, but not with the covering of Gods Spirit, Isa. 30. 1. This wisdom after the flesh, Adam immediate∣ly upon his fall gave a testimony of, when he put off his sinne from himself to Eve, and Eve again upon the Serpent. It was Sauls wisdom after the flesh that made him disobey Gods Commandment, making fair pretences; And the Pro∣phet Hosca bringeth in the Israelites, who by unjust and unlawful waies did heap up treasure, comforting himself with this, There should no iniquity be found in him, Hos. 12. 8. And those false teachers who brought in the worshipping of An∣gels, They had fleshly wisdom, as the Apostle cals it, Col. 2. 23. All the evasions, distinctions and palliations that men have either to cover their sins, or to extenu∣ate them, or to make them no sins, are the sole issue of fleshly wisdome; There∣fore you are exceedingly deceived, if you think drunkennesse, fornication and such sins of the flesh are only damnable; no there is the wisdome of the flesh; There is a fleshly minde, a corrupt minde, which the Scripture makes damnable as well as these. Those many distinctions in Popery about worshipping of Images, Page 613 which are so subtil that a Papist himself saith, A man must have Ingenium valde metaphysicum that can tell how to understand them, are nothing but wisdom af∣ter the flesh. All superstitious worship is a wisdom after the flesh. And as in matters of Religion, so in matters of morality, all subtil pretences, all speci∣ous evasions that men have, when they commit any sinne, or do any unlawful actions, these are poisoned streams from that poisoned fountain of fleshly wis∣dom. Oh then take heed of pleading for thy sins, of distinctions in sinning, of endeavouring to make that lawful which thy conscience tels thee is unlaw∣ful! This seeming carnal wisdome will turn at last to horrour and despair of soul. Thou wilt then see thou didst but mock God, and delude thy own conscience.
Fourthly, Wise men after the flesh they are subtil, crafty and industrious to ac∣complish*all their evil designs, and effect all their wicked purposes that they have con∣trived within themselves. Thus they are said to be wise to do evil; and they are said to study and contrive mischief, and that they cannot sleep till they have wrought it. Their hearts are compared to the Bakers Oven, (Hos. 76, 7.) that is heated, wherein all their mischievous intents are perfected: David often complaineth of such crafty deceitful men, whose tongues were sharper then swords, when their words were smoother then butter. The Apostle cals it 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 and 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Men that can deceive; they make it their work and business, and they do it with much easinesse, because corruption doth prompt them, and the devil is at hand ready to assist them: Glory not then in being crafty and po∣litick to bring about the sinful lusts of thy heart. Thou canst over-reach, cou∣sen, deceive others: Oh remember, Christ hath called us to be sheep and not foxes! Remember this thy wisdom will prove folly; for doth not God say, He will destroy the wisdom of the wise, 1 Cor. 3. And doth not the Lord take the wise in their own craft? Do they not dig their own graves? Do they not fall in the pit they make for others?
Fifthly, Wise men after the flesh they are conceited and puffed up with this wisdom,* They are swoln bladders puffed up with the empty winde that is in them. He that thinketh he knoweth any thing, knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know, 1 Cor. 8. 2. Oh it is a great matter to know as we ought to know; now the carnal wise man knoweth nothing as he ought to know; He knoweth not the matter as he ought to know, nor the manner; Not the matter; for Paul desired to know nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified, 1 Cor. 2. And again, He accounted all things dung and drosse, for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ, Phil. 3. And the Apostle would not have men glory in their riches, or in their might and power, yet in this, that they know God; now the wisdom of the flesh doth not inable us to know God or Christ, not God as revealed in his Word, therefore such wise men do so often dishonour him and break his Command∣ments, and are refractory under his judgements, not Christ; for none can know him, but such as Paul that account their own righteousnesse dung, that go out of themselves, as poor, naked and miserable: But alas, wise men after the flesh cannot do any of these. And then for the manner, they ought to know all things two waies: First, Humbly, with sense of their great ignorance, as Agar though so wise, saith, He had not the knowledge of a man, Prov. 30. 23. that he was a beast and no man; Now the carnally wise are proud and arrogant, de∣serving that Motto which the Romans gave to their god Terminus that bounded their goods, Nulli ced•, I give place to none. And secondly, we must know truths practically, to do them, to finde the power of them upon our hearts: •f ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them; and without this, knowledge and wisdom is but oil to make the flames of hell hotter. The Apostle speaks of knowing Truths as they are in Jesus, Ephes. 4. 1. and that is, when they make us put off the old man, and put on the new; And again, there is the acknowledging of truth after godlinesse, Tit. 1. 1. Now of all men in the world none are so hop•∣lesse Page 614 and remote from grace, and in such opposition to Christ, as carnally wise men, because the first foundation that is to be laid in Christianity, is to cast off all our own wisdom, our own knowledge, He must become a fool that he may be wise, so the Apostle, 1 Cor. 3. 18. Now to become a fool by way of conception in the worlds account, and by our sense and feeling is, when we see our sins, the aggravations of them, the eternal misery accompanying them, and that all this is done by our own madnesse and folly: Oh what a fool, what a beast is such an one become in his own thoughts! He could even with Nebuchadnezzar for∣sake the company of men, and hide himself with beasts, because he hath so greatly sinned against God; such a fool must a man become ere he is spiritually wise; and further he is to become a fool, because all the way of believing, of comfort, of duty, of obedience, he must fetch onely from directions out of the Scripture. He is such a fool that he knoweth not how to believe, how to go to Christ, what way to take to be justified: Thus every man is to become a fool: But oh what indignation and scorn is in a wise mans brest to become thus an∣nihilated, as it were! yet our Saviour also doth pregnantly confirm this, when he said, Unlesse a man become as a little childe (Lnk. 9. 47.) he cannot enter into the kingdom of Heaven. You see then, that of all men in the world, those who have great parts, abilities and deep reaches, have the greatest cause to tremble. Thou art too wise to be godly; Thou art too wise to be a babe of Christs; Thou art too wise to deny thy self, and take up thy crosse and follow him. Take heed the devil hath not got thee on a pinacle, and he will not leave till he hath thrown thee down headlong into hell: Oh then take heed of self-conceit, of boasting in thy own parts, of leaning to thy understanding. There is more hope of the prophanest beast and most ungodly wretch that is, then of such an one. Such the Pharisees were, and very few of them ever got any spiritual good by Christ.
Sixthly, The wise man after the flesh he useth to measure all duty by safety, himself*and his own safety and advantages, are of his privy counsel. Thus because Peter perswaded Christ to avoid the crosse, Christ sharply reproved him, telling him, He savoured not the things of God, but of men, Mat. 16. 23. Peter speaks as a wise man, but not as a godly Christian. Paul denied this crafty wisdom, when he would not consult with flesh and bloud: And David when he made the word of God his counsellour: Our Saviour in many directions would break down this wisdom after the flesh, as when he said, What will it profit a man to win the whole world and lose his own soul? And He that will save his life will lose it. Here you see that he dehorts from this wisdome, because it is indeed folly, and it will prove the greatest undoing of a man: So our Saviour at another time tels them, His Disciple must deny himself, must take up his crosse, must look for nothing of comfort or advantage in this life, That the servant cannot expect to be above the Master: Now the very Birds of the Air, and beasts of the field had better provision then he had; What harsh Doctrine then is this to wisdom after the flesh? Will they be perswaded to cut off their right-hand, to pull out their right-eyes? No, they are wiser then so: Oh then take heed of this divel in thee! for so our Saviour called that carnal wisdom in Peter, run from it, as Jo∣seph did from his Mistresse: Say of it, as Jacob of his wicked sons, Oh my soul, enter not in this counsel! Bid carnal wisdom be gone before thou wilt consider what God requireth of thee.
Seventhly, Wise men after the flesh they will choose sinne rather then affliction:* Whereas the Scripture makes the evil of sinne infinitely greater then any out∣ward evil; carnal wisdom asserts the clean contrary. Oh beloved, we should fear nothing but sinne! not to be outwardly miserable and undone, but to sin, we should cry out with Joseph, How can we do such things and sinne against God? We should pray, Lord, Whatsoever thou wilt keep me from, keep me from sin∣ning: But alas, sinne is but a mock, a nothing to a carnal wise man. Tell him of Page 615 provoking God, of sinning against his conscience, of eternal damning in hell. He makes but a bold derision of such things. Oh the patience of God that cau∣seth not the thunderbolts of his vengeance to strike such immediately into hell: Oh then take heed of this fleshly wisdom, whereby thou wilt choose to commit a thousand sins, rather then lose the least earthly advantage! This will prove gall and wormwood at the later end. This will roar like a Lion in thy conscience hereafter. We shall one day hear thee cry out with Judas: Oh I have sinned in betraying my soul, in betraying my conscience, in betraying the truth of God, unlesse Faith and Repentance prevent such wounds and blows!
Lastly, The wise man after the flesh so lives and orders all his affairs, as if God*did not rule and govern in the world; as if it were of man to order all his own af∣fairs; as if God kept himself within the circle of the heavens, and let the sons of men do what they pleased; and from this it is that meer carnal wisdom disco∣vers it self remarkably in two things:
1. It trusteth only to outward helps and humane refuges, as for faith in God, and trust in the promises, they regard it not, but as so much breath out of the Ministers mouths. You have the Prophet Isaiah and Jeremiah debating this case with the Israelites, They would not trust in God, They would have the Arm of Assyria, They would go into Egypt, and they thought this was the on∣ly wisdom; in how many places doth God perstringe this? and the Prophet by way of a sharp irrision tels them, Yet God is also wise; They regard no wisdom but of man, yet God is also wise, Isa. 31. 2.
2. Under the judgements of God in the world not to be humbled, not to look on them as the stroaks of God, but to be like senslesse beasts under Gods anger.
Use of Instruction. Learn what censure to passe upon all worldly wisdom. Ne∣ver * call that saving of thy self, which is indeed such infinite loosing of thee: Oh pray that God would give thee the true heavenly wisdom which is from above. We may say, This fleshly wisdom is that which sets hell on fire; Take that away, and there would be no hell; as he said of self love, Oh kill this Serpent that crawls in thy brest! Thou hadst been godly long before this time, but for car∣nal wisdom. Thou hadst been as forward as any other in the way to Heaven, but for this fleshly wisdome. Thou wouldst not have defiled thy conscience, and gone against it, but for fleshly wisdom: Oh how is it, that after so much hearing and reading, thy sins are not cast away! thy conscience is convin∣ced, thy heart many times trembleth; Oh it is this carnal wisdome hin∣ders thee!