Page images
PDF
EPUB

§. 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 fuffer our minds to be engaged in queft of knowledge foreign to our purpose.

2. That we apply our felves with a very tender and fenfible concern to the study of illuminating truths.

3. That we act conformable to those meafures of light which we have attained.

4. That we frequently and conftantly address our felves to God by prayer, for the illumination of his grace.

1. That we do not fuffer, &c. This is a natural and neceffary confequence of what has been already faid concerning illumination. For if illumination confift in the knowledge, not of all forts of truths, but the most neceffary and important, fuch as purify and perfect our nature; fuch as procure us facred and ftable 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 diftract his mind in pursuit of trifling or divertive knowledge: that he ought to fhun, and not to admit, whatever is apt to entangle, perplex, or defile him; and to fix his thoughts, and confine his meditations

0

[ocr errors]

ditations to the great truths of the gospel. He, that knows the only true God, and Jefus Christ, whom he hath fent, knows enough to oblige him to virtue, and to open the way to glory and everlasting life. He, that knows nothing but Jefus Chrift, 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 felves with a very tender and fenfible concern to the ftudy of illuminating truths. This rule must be understood to enjoin three things. 1. Great care and caution in examining doctrines propofed; and in diftinguishing between truth and falfhood. 2. Great diligence and induf try to increafe and enlarge our knowledge. 3. Frequent and ferious reflections upon the truths we know.

1. There is need of great caution in the trial and examination of doctrines. This the fcripture it felf frequently puts us in mind of and not without reafon; because the devil fows his tares amongst the wheat; errors, and thefe too fatal and deftructive ones, are frequently obtruded upon the world for the revelations of God; and every party, nay, every fingle author, lays the ftrefs of falvation on their peculiar and diftinguishing opinions. Beloved, believe not

[ocr errors]

every fpirit, but try the fpirits whether they are of God: because many falfe prophets are gone out into the world, 1 John iv. 1. 'Tis needless to multiply texts or words on this occafion. When the peace and purity of our mind, the rectitude and happinets of our lives, and the bleffedness of eternity has so close and neceffary a dependance upon the doctrines we imbibe, that we hereby either fecure or forfeit them; who fees not, unless he be ftupid and infatuated, that greater care and folicitude is neceffary 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 infect the body, and destroy the bealth: but what is all this to the difmal confequences of error and herefy, 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 occafion. We must admit nothing baftily; affent to nothing without examining the grounds on which it ftands. Credulity, precipitation and confidence are irreconcilable enemies to knowledge and wifdom.

[blocks in formation]

.

2. We are to use great diligence and induftry to enlarge and increase our knowledge. The treafures of divine wisdom are almost infinite; and it fares with those that study them, as with a traveller when he afcends a rifing ground: every new step almost enlarges his horizon, and prefents new countries, new pleasures to his eye. 'Tis our own negligence, if we do not daily extend the compafs of our knowledge: if our view of things grow not more diftinct and clear, and our belief of them more firm and steddy. This is, to grow in grace and in the knowledge of Chrift 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 wisdom 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 confifts not in a credulous and ill-grounded, in a flight and superficial, or a confufed and obfcure, or imperfect fort of knowledge; but in a clear, diftinct, firm, and well established one. And the acquiring fuch 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 diftinct; to have them engraven in the memory

[ocr errors]

mory in deep and lafting characters; to have them lodged and difpofed in that order, as to be able in an inftant 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 affiduous fearch after truth; and, if the capacities and fortunes of all men will not fuffer them to come up to this, they must come as near as they can. But if fuch a fearch as this be not neceffary to penetrate the depths, and to difcover the beauties of divine truths, or to convince the world and our felves of the certainty of them; yet certainly without it we fhall never be able to extract their force and virtue, and to derive purity and nourishment from them ; which is the next thing implied in the rule laid down.

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 fettled. For if it is not every knowledge of the best things that fuffices for illumination, but a vital and operative one, that is, a well-grounded, clear, diftinct, and well-digefted one; it is plain, that conftant, daily, and devout meditation is neceffary to illumination ; because 'tis not a tranfient and perfuncto

« PreviousContinue »