صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

depression of human pride, it is in conclusion strenuously maintained that God has greatly blessed and honoured men, like Bunyan, not without knowledge, but without learning; and has left learned men, and especially those whose hearts are not devoted to their Heavenly Master, barren and unfruitful.

Speaking of philosophical sciences, Augustine thus excellently distinguishes between the illiterate Christian and the speculative philosopher. Unhappy is that man who knows all these things and knows not thee; but blessed is he who knows thee, though he knows not these things. But he who knows both thee and them is not happier on their account, but on account of thee alone is happy, if knowing thee he glorify thee as God, and be thankful, and be not vain in his imaginations. For as he is in a better situation, who posseses a tree, and is thankful to thee for the use of it, though he knows neither its height, nor breadth, than he who measures it, and counts all its branches, and neither possesses it, nor knows nor has learned his Creator, so the believer, whose property all the riches of the world are, and who having nothing, yet possesseth all things, by cleaving to thee whom all things serve, is indisputably better than the most knowing natural philosopher upon earth, who lives in the neglect of thee.' 1

! See Augustine's Confessions.

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

Holy tempers, and a holy conduct are essential to our attaining the wise and great end, the happy experience, and the true enjoyment of divine knowledge. No natural talents, nor any acquired learning can supply the place of Christian graces, or be a substitute for them. As the first sin was preferring knowledge to obedience, and the effect was a darkened understanding and a sinful and miserable life, so it is now. Sin produces ignorance as well as misery. The consideration of this subject is seasonable and important, as many have asserted, that man is not accountable for his belief; but the Bible shows us that the origin of infidelity is the wickedness of the heart, (John iii. 18, 19.) Our moral character has an immense influence on our opinions.

A humble Christian, who desires to please God above all things, and who seeks, by a diligent and devout study of His word to know His will, in order that he may do that will, has in these holy dispositions the very elements of the highest wisdom and usefulness; and, as these dispositions are maintained and increased, he will find them continually to assist and correct his views, and make all his acquirements really valuable, profitable, and sanctifying. However a man may have attained a clear systematic divinity; yet, if he be seriously defective in Christian graces, he will, in proportion to the extent of that defect, not know divine

truth in its use and enjoyments; and his knowledge will be imperfect. In some cases he will turn aside to vain speculations which have a shew of wisdom, and, as he thinks, promote his own importance or even usefulness; but the result will be unprofitable to himself and others : and in other cases, like Solomon of old, and Lord Bacon in later times, he will be very wise for others, and yet very foolish for himself.

There is, indeed, an extended connexion in all parts of the divine system, and especially in each branch of Divine truth. It resembles a rich and magnificent chain of gold, in which not only each separate link is exquisitely finished and wrought, but is united to similar links, and thus is made subservient to farther ends, as were the chains of gold on the neck of Aaron, supporting on his breast that breast-plate, in which were the Urim and Thummim, the lights and perfections of the church.

There is also a beautiful re-action arising from our own conduct. One thing affects another, and the impression made returns again, so that there is a reciprocal and endless progression of good or evil, according to the conduct of the moral agent. This makes sin a tremendous evil ; this makes holiness infinitely desirable ; for the influence of either will never be exhausted, but will affect immortal beings through eternal ages. Nor is there any remedy for the evil of sin, but in that great salvation, which stops the contagion, and imparts the counteracting and healthful spirit of divine grace.

This moral re-action is always at work, and in seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, we are most effectually securing every other good. As Solomon, by seeking wisdom rather than riches, gained both; so by that which is the beginning of wisdom, even, by humility and the fear of the Lord, are riches, and honour, and life.

It is a remarkable part of the Divine wisdom, that revealed truth is not given to us in an accurately arranged system, or in an orderly and minute statement of its different ramifications in one lengthened discussion, but in history, and in promises, and precepts given as occasions arose from time to time; the aim of all which is to promote practical holiness, in attaining which we fail not to obtain saving truth, and without which we cannot know God; for without holiness no man shall see the Lord. God is to be known by the life and experience of the Christian, rather than by. bare study. O taste and see how good the Lord is !

All sin HAS A BLINDING INFLUENCE UPON THE HUMAN MIND. When men's deeds are evil, it causes them to love darkness rather than light. It hinders the just perception of spiritual things. None of the wicked shall understand. The too eager pursuit of even lawful occupations engages and distracts the mind of the worldly man, and leaves him no time for the calm, and patient, and steady application of his mind to the discovery of divine truth. If he asks, what is truth, even from the first source of truth, he has no patience to wait for the answer.

To such a one, invisible things appear distant and uncertain, and if of a superior nature, yet so remote as rather to be admired, than desired or pursued. The gratification of the lusts of their own hearts led the heathen to change the truth of God into a lie. Rom. i. 25, 26. The indulgence of unholy tempers and affections, such as pride, envy, malice, impurity, ambition, gives a real distaste to the opposing truths of Christianity. And when these sins

break out in the life, and lust has conceived and brought forth sin, then, even if truth had been previously acquired, it is held or confined and detained in unrighteousness (Rom. i. 18). When they knew God and glorified him not as God, they became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened, and one sin led on to another, till they sunk into the very depths of idolatry.

Archbishop Usher says, “ All sins are in the epistle to the Hebrews termed ignorances (Heb. ix. 7, compared with Lev. xvi. 16, 17), and sinners ignorant and erring persons (Heb. v.2); because, however, in the general the understanding may be informed rightly, yet when particular actions come to be resolved upon, men's perverse wills and inordinate affections cloud their minds, and lead them out of the way. That, therefore, is to be accounted sound knowledge which sinks from the brain into the heart, and from thence breaks forth into action (setting head, heart, hand, and all a-work), and so much only must thou reckon thyself to know in Christianity, as thou art able to make use of in practice.' He quotes James ii. 18. iii. 13, and 1 John ii. 3, 4, to illustrate this. 1

Here, then, we see where the Christian will bend his main strength, he must not cultivate gifts, rather than graces; attainments in knowledge, rather than attainments in holiness; studies must not come before or displace prayer; conferences for acquiring knowledge, before conferences for acquiring spirituality of mind and Christian experience.

But let us endeavour to illustrate these general

See a Sermon appended to the 4th edition of his Answer to a Jesuit, p. 27.

C

« السابقةمتابعة »