Second. In point of wisdom. The wisdom of a man appears most eminently in two things. 1. In the matter of his choice and chief care. 2. In a due timing of this his choice and chief care.
- A wise man makes choice of that for the subject of his chief care and endeavour, which is of greatest importance and consequence to him.Fools and children only are intent about toys and trifles. They are as busy and earnest in making of a house of dirt or cards, as Solomon was in making of his temple. Those poor baubles are as adequate to their foolish apprehensions, as great enterprises are to wise men. Now such is the importance of the evil day, especially that of death, that it proves a man a fool, or wise, as he comports himself to it. The end specifies every action, and gives it the name of good or evil, of wise or foolish. The evil day of death is, as the end of our days, so to be the end of all the actions of our life. Such will our life be found at last, as it hath been in order to this one day. If the several items of our life—counsels and projects that we have pursued —when they shall be then cast up, will amount to a blessed death, then we shall appear to be wise men indeed; but, if after all our goodly plots and policies for other things we be unprovided for that hour, we must be content to die fools at last, and [there is] no such fool as a dying fool. The Christian goes for the fool, in the world’s account, while he lives; but when death comes, the wise world will then confess they miscalled him, and shall take it to themselves: ‘We fools counted his life to be madness, and his end to be without honour. But how is he now numbered among the children of God, and his lot is among the saints? therefore, we have erred from the way of truth,’ Wis. 5:4,5. The place is apocryphal, but sinners will find the matter of it canonical. It is true, indeed, saints are outwitted by the world in the things of the world, and no marvel; neither doth it impeach their wisdom, any more than it doth a scholar’s to be excelled by the cobbler in his mean trade. Nature, when it intends higher excellences, is more careless in those things that are inferior, as we see in man, who, being made to excel the beasts in a rational soul, is himself excelled by some beast or other in all his senses. Thus the Christian may well be surpassed in matters of worldly commerce, because he hath a nobler object in his eye, that makes him converse with the things of the world in a kind of non-attendance. He is not much careful in these matters; if he can die well at last, and be justified for a wise man at the day of resurrection, all is well, Jude 15. He thinks it is not manners to be unwilling to stay so long for the clearing of his wisdom, as God can wait for the vindicating of his own glorious nature, which will not appear in its glory till that day, when he will convince the ungodly of their hard thoughts and speeches of him. Then they shall, till then they will not, be convinced.
- A wise man labours duly to time and his care and endeavour, for the attaining of what he proposeth.It is the fool that comes when the market is done. As the evil day is of great concernment in respect of its event, so the placing of our care for it in the right season is of chief importance, and that sure must be before it comes. There are more doors than one at which the messenger may enter that brings evil tidings to us, and at which he will knock we know not. We know not where we shall be arrested, whether at bed, or board, whether at home or in the field, whether among our friends that will counsel and comfort us, or among our enemies that will add weight to our sorrow by their cruelty. We know not when, whether by day or night, many of us [know] not whether in the morning, noon, or evening of our age. As he calls to work at all times of the day, so he doth to bed, may be while thou art praying or preaching, and it would be sad to go away profaning them, and the name of God in them; possibly when thou art about worse work. Death may strike thy quaffing-cup out of thy hand, while thou art sitting in the ale-house with thy jovial mates, or meet thee as thou art reeling home, and make some ditch thy grave, that as thou livedst like a beast, so thou shouldst die like a beast. In a word, we know not the kind of evil God will use as the instrument to stab us; whether some bloody hand of violence shall do it, or a disease out of our bowels and bodies; whether some acute disease, or some lingering sickness; whether such a sickness as shall slay the man while the body is alive—I mean, take the head and deprive us of our reason—or not; whether such noisome troubles as shall make our friends afraid to let us breathe on them, or themselves look on us; whether they shall be afflictions aggravated with Satan’s temptations, and the terrors of our own affrighted consciences, or not. Who knows where, when, or what the evil day shall be? Therefore doth God conceal these, that we should provide for all. Cæsar would never let his soldiers know when or whither he meant to march. The knowing of these would torment us with distracting fear, the not knowing them should awaken us to a providing care. It is an ill time to caulk the ship when at sea, tumbling up and down in a storm; this should have been looked to when on her seat in the harbour. And as bad as it is, to begin to trim a soul for heaven when tossing upon a sick bed. Things that are done in a hurry are seldom done well. A man called out of his bed at midnight with a dismal fire on his house-top, cannot stand to dress himself in order, as at another time, but runs down with one stocking half on, may be, and the other not on at all. Those poor creatures, I am afraid, go in as ill a dress into another world, who begin to provide for it when, on a dying bed, conscience calls them up with a cry of hell-fire in their bosoms. But alas! they must go, though they have no time to put their armour on. And so they are put to repent at leisure in hell, of their shuffling up a repentance in haste here. We come to the application of the point.