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present privilege. It must be the light of life (John viii. 12.) else the light that is in us is darkness, and how great is that darkness! (Matt. vi. 23.) How affecting to see knowledge so often unaccompanied with vitality, no impression of divine influence, no perception of spiritual things, no enjoyment of heavenly consolation. We would not indeed disparage rational knowledge. It is indispensable as a medium of communicating the more excellent blessing, and without some measure of it, there could be no natural capacity for the reception of spiritual truth. As a foundation may be without a superstructure, but not a superstructure without a foundation. But while we admit its necessity, we deny its sufficiency. It is only the door, the entrance to that better knowledge, which is sufficient as well as necessary--that knowledge that is the effect of divine influence, and introduces us to a vital union with our God and Saviour (1 John v. 20.) O let us ever remember the emptiness of all stores of knowledge short of this, and let us seek for it as efficacious, transforming into His image, and making us meet for His presence, Who is Light, and in Whom is no darkness at all. All doctrines have, when rightly received, a practical influence. The atonement is not revealed to lessen, but to increase our dread of sin: election is not declared that we may be careless about sin, but that we may never be satisfied till we are holy: the precious promises are not given to make us negligent and worldly, but partakers of the Divine nature. The excellent Robert Bolton could to his comfort on his death-bed profess that he never in his sermons taught any thing but what he had first sought to work on his own heart.
Be sure what you are learning, and be not like those
who were ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth, 2 Tim. in. 7, Such persons upon the first flight of imagination, will leave evangelical truth for any fancy that flits across their path. Vitringa's words in summing up the uses of the study of prophecy, may well be applied bere, · They teach us God and the true perfections of his nature, they explain the reasons of that admirable providence which he exercises in governing the world and the church, they deeply impreșs every where the highest reverence of his divine majesty and justice, they shake off torpor and that epidemic lethargy, by which most men miserably perish fast asleep, they stimulate the mind to true virtue and holiness, they not only recall and withdraw, but also deter us from all vices ; every where they persuade to penitence and faith, the necessary means of salvation, and not only to fly from sin, but also to abhor it. They build up and commend a good conscience; they terrify an evil one, so that he who reads them perceives that a present God is with him. Wherefore we must with the apostle say, Therefore brethren, earnestly follow prophecy.'1 Thus also the Holy Scriptures, and all the parts of theological knowledge are full of truths calculated to lead us to God, and quicken us in his service.
Another use is, that it is a great HELP TO THE FARTHER UNDERSTANDING OF THE BIBLE, Cecil justly observes in his Remains, ' a man ought to call im from every quarter whatever may assist him to understand, explain, and illustrate the Bible.' Here is the high office of Theology. Let all our knowledge of every kind, not merely pay tribute to the Bible,
See Vitringa Typus Doctrinæ, p. 48, 49. 1716.,
but be pursued with a direct intention of more fully elucidating divine truth. As languages, arts and sciences, oriental customs, history, chronology, &c. receive light from the Bible, so a knowledge of them helps us to a better understanding of that blessed book. There is an extent of wisdom and learning in the scriptures, which every fresh degree of knowledge enables us still farther to penetrate and explore to our own edification, and the good of all around us. Brevity is throughout connected with inexhaustible fulness. One of the highest ends of knowledge is to lay open the riches of scripture for our full use and enjoyment. Beauties, and excellencies, and advantages, which the ignorant cannot discern, are enjoyed by the intelligent Christian. Christians ought not therefore to be satisfied with a mere sufficiency of knowledge for salvation. Even good people are apt indolently to say of many important views of Christian Theology, “Let us leave these things to divines, and employ ourselves in the simple views, and practical duties of the gospel.' But the proper end for which our powers were given, was the attainment of the knowledge of God. In this is a field of infinite extent and most interesting research to all Christians according to their capabilities of improvement. And after having occupied themselves to the fullest extent of their
powers and opportunities, and with growing interest in every stage of their progress, they will still leave enough in this deep and inexhaustible subject for the investigation of all the schools of the ablest theologians, to the end of the world. The different parts of truth are thus connected, harmonized, and illustrated. of Scripture throws light upon another. They must all be known and compared. Comparing spiritual
OF EVERY KIND.
things with spiritual, is the right use of that wisdom which the Holy Ghost teacheth. It has a further use as A GUARD AGAINST ERROR
There are always multiplied and opposing schemes, opinions, and systems, floating all around us, and though the spiritual perception which is the result of Divine teaching, will keep a Christian clear of ruinous error, yet he may be surprized and brought into great mistakes, and inislead others, and endure much sorrow from want of that better information which more knowledge would have given him. By knowledge he will acquire firmness and stability of character, so as not to be shaken in mind, and moved ut wi every wind of doctrine.
In every age, he will see the evils which errors have produced, the fruits and blessings of truth, and thus be preserved from hastily adopting novelties at first sight plausible and attractive. This indeed supposes piety, and humility, otherwise, learning as we have seen, may be the fruitful source of error. Another right application of Theology is TO MAKE
True it is, that the danger of any acqui.. sítion, and especially of one so valuable as divine knowledge is, that of self-elation ; but its right and proper improvement is humility ; its just effect is lowliness of mind. Seeing thow pure, and holy, and glorious God is, how spiritual his law, how rich his grace, how fallen, and peedy, and ruined man by nature is, we possess the very elements of that genuine humility which the Saviour pronounces to be blessed. Who, with a Christian mind, can look back on past ages and survey the multiplied errors of past days, and notice how the very best and the greatest of men have in some point or other failed, without learning
many lessons of diffidence and self-distrust. The more we know, the more we shall see there is to be known, and we shall be astonished at our confidence on points in past years, where now we see far more darkness than we were then vare of. If any man thinketh that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know. True wisdom and humility go together--with the lowly is wisdom. And how inestimable the value of real humility. A friend of Andrew Fuller's, to whom he had made heavy complaints of himself, wrote thus, and he deeply valued the letter, God Almighty keep us from ever being great men, or rather from thinking ourselves 'so! Oh, it requires numberless miracles to get any man to heaven ; perhaps I might say, especially a minister. You will do as long as you feel vile, and foolish, and weak. I had rather preach at your funeral, than live to see you good, and wise, and great, and strong in your own estimation.'1
The RIGHT DIRECTION OF OUR ACQUIREMENTS is another important part of the use of knowledge. It is obvious that excellent men have failed, by a misdirection of their talents to such subjects as they were not competent to discuss. Erasmus was invaluable as an agent in the advancement of literature, and exposing the folly and wickedness of the Monks; but when he attacked Luther, and the principles of the Reformation, he was out of his province. Bishop Bull, in defence of the divinity of Christ, brings the vast stores of antiquity which he had acquired powerfully to bear against the opponents
1 See Ryland's Life of Fuller,