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§. 2. What one thus qualified is to do for the actual attainment of it. All the advice that I can think fit here to be given, may be reduced to four heads:
1. That we do not suffer our minds to be engaged in quest of knowledge foreign to our purpose.
2. That we apply ourselves with a very tender and sensible concern to the study of illuminating truths.
3. That we act conformable to those measures of light which we have attained.
4. That we frequently and constantly address our selves to God by praye for the illumination of his grace.
1. That we do not suffer, &c. This is a natural and necessary consequence of what has been already faid concerning illumination. For if illumination consist in the knowledge, not of all sorts of truths, but the most necessary and important, such as purify and perfeet our nature ; such as procure us sacred and stable pleasure, and all the rewards that flow from our adoption to God; it is then plain, he, who would be perfect, ought not to amuse and distract his mind in pursuit of trifling or divertive knowledge : that he ought to shun, and not to admit, whatever is apt to entangle, perplex, or defile him; and to fix his thoughts, and confine his me
ditations to the great truths of the gospel. . He, that knows the only true God, and Jefus Christ, whom he hath sent, knows enough to oblige him to virtue, and to open the way to glory and everlasting life. He, that knows nothing but Jesus Christ, and him crucified, knows enough in order to peace, grace, and joy; enough to promote holiness and hope : hope that abounds in joy unspeakable and full of glory.
2. We must apply our selves with a very tender and sensible concern to the study of illuminating truths. This rule must be un derstood to enjoin three things. I. Great care and caution in examining doctrines proposed ; and in distinguishing between truth and falfhood. 2. Great diligence and induftry to increase and enlarge our knowledge. 3. Frequent and serious reflections upon the truths we know.
1. There is need of great caution in the trial and examination of doctrines. This the scripture it self frequently puts us in mind of : and not without reason; because the devil fows his tares amongst the wheat; errors, and these too fatal and destructive ones, are frequently obtruded upon the world for the revelations of God; and every party, nay, every single author, lays the stress of salvation on their peculiar and distinguishing opinions. Beloved, believe not
every spirit, but try the fpirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world, i John iv. 1. 'Tis needless to multiply texts or words on this occasion. When the peace and purity of our mind, the rectitude and happiness of our lives, and the blessedness of eternity has so close and necessary a dependance upon the doctrines we imbibe, that we hereby either secure or forfeit them; who fees not, unless he be stupid and infatuated, that greater care and solicitude is necessary here, than in any matter whatever, because there is no other of equal moment? Bad money, or bad wares, inftead of good; an ill title, or conveyance, instead of a firm and clear one, may impoverish us : bad drugs, instead of good, may infe&t the body, and destroy the health: but what is all this to the dilmal consequences of error and berely, which impoverishes and infects the mind, perverts the life, and damns the man to all eterni. ty? The example of the Bereans is never forgot ; and indeed never ought to be on this occasion. We must admit nothing hastily; assent to nothing without examining the grounds on which it stands. Credulity, precipitation and confidence are irreconcilable enemies to knowledge and wisdom.
2. We are to use great diligence and industry to enlarge and increase our knowledge.
The treasures of divine wisdom are almost infinite; and it fares with those that study them, as with a traveller when he ascends a rising ground: every new step almost enlarges his horizon, and presents new countries, new pleasures to his eye. 'Tis our own negligence, if we do not daily extend the compass of our knowledge : if our view of things grow not more distinct and clear, and our belief of them more firm and steddy. This
and in the knowledge of Christ Jefus our Lord, 2 Pet. iii. 18. This is, to have the eye of our understanding opened, Eph. i. 17. This is, to be filled with the knowledge of God, in all wisdoin and understanding, Col. i. 9. This is, finally, for the word of God to dwell in us richly, Col. iii. 16. And of what importance this is, is manifest from what I have before proved; namely, that illumination consists not in a credulous and ill-grounded, in a slight and superficial, or a confufed and obscure, or imperfect fort of knowledge ; but in a clear, distinct, firm, and well established one. And the acquiring such a one demands a very diligent and an indefatigable study of the word of life. To fill the mind with numerous, great, and beautiful ideas, and these clear and distinct ; to have them engraven in the memory in deep and lasting characters; to have them lodged and disposed in that order, as to be able in an instant to have res course to them, to discern and demonstrate plainly the connexion and dependance of one upon another, and the unquestionable evidence of each ; this is a work of time and labour; the fruit of a regular and assiduous search after truth; and, if the capacities and fortunes of all men will not suffer them to come up to this, they must come as near as they can. But if such a search as this be not necessary to penetrate the depths, and to discover the beauties of divine truths, or to convince the world and our selves of the certainty of them; yet certainly without it we shall never be able to extraet their force and virtue, and to derive purity and nourishment from them ; which is the next thing implied in the rule laid down.
is, to grow
3. We must make frequent and serious reflections on the truths we do know. This again naturally follows from the notion of illumination as it is before settled. For if it is not every knowledge of the best things that suffices for illumination, but a vital and operative one, that is, a well-grounded, clear, distinct, and well-digested one; it is plain, that constant, daily, and devout meditation is necessary to illumination ; because ?tis not a transient and perfuncto