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XXXIII. ON KNOWLEDGE AND WISDOM.
What can be more agreeable to the dictates of true wisdom, than that a creature should love and obey its Creator, when that creature is endued with faculties capable of loving and obeying the Author of its existence? The reverse of this constitutes the grossest impiety.
No man of reflection, however carried away by his passions, or perverted in his views of divine revelation, can help allowing, that to love the supreme good, is the truest wisdom, and to obey the supreme governor, the highest duty.
Yet men, who pass for philosophers who can unfold the beauties of nature, and even expatiate on the charms of virtue ; not unfrequently are the slaves of sensual pleasure, and enemies to the Gospel of Christ: thus proving, that human knowledge however refined, can never reduce the rebel state of the affections to the love and fear of God; or convert the wild, tumultuous passions, to spiritual order and peace.
Men may talk wisely about worldly matters ; for our blessed Lord hath declared, that “ the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light;" but the wisest worldly character can never, by any natural effort of the understanding, think and act wisely about spiritual and eternal things.
Orthodox notions of the truth may indeed be imbibed, whilst the heart continues under the influence of evil ; for we read of persons,“ holding the truth in unrighteousness." But true wisdom consists not in the bare knowledge of what is good, but in reducing that knowledge to practice. Thus, I may know that it is my duty to love and obey God; but I am only wise, when I really do love and obey him.
If I had to cross a river in winter, which was fru 'en over ; and were told, that owing to a current in the middle of the stream, the ice would be too weak to bear my weight; this knowledge would only prove beneficial, in case I had wisdom enough to desist from the hazardous attempt. Should I, after this knowledge of the state of the ice, still persist in crossing the river, my conduct would be termed temerity; and if drowned, men would condemn my folly. This distinction runs through all the transactions of political, civil, and commercial life. The truth is too obvious to need further illustration. It must therefore be apparent, that
“Knowledge and wisdom, far from being one,
“ Have oft-times no connection.” Job, with beautiful clearness, points out to us the nature of true wisdom. It is not the knowledge of natural objects; neither can created things impart it. “ The depth saith, it is not in me; and the sea saith, it is not in me.” “God understandeth the way thereof, and he knoweth the place thereof." “ Únto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding."
There is in all men a natural desire after happiness. All are anxiously in quest of it. The inquiry is, “ Who will shew us any good ?"
Man, having lost his way through the fall, is now stumbling upon the dark mountains of vanity, in search of that treasure, which he never can find in earthly things. He wants to be happy. To obtain this blessing, he is willing to forego many present enjoyments.
Some brave the billows of the ocean. Others dare the cannon's mouth. Multitudes rise early, and late take rest, and eat the bread of carefulness, in order to accumulate those golden stores, which
they fondly hope will purchase happiness. Riches perchance increase, but cares and vexatious anxieties grow up together with them.
Happiness, like a Hying phantom, still eludes their eager grasp, till compelled at length to give up the chase, they exclaim with Solomon: “All is vanity and vexation of spirit.”
Here we may ask: why is man thus restless after an imaginary good? why does every possession lose its value, and every enjoyment its zest, whilst that certain something, still desired, yet unpossessed, fastens on the mind, and renders all other earthly pleasures comparatively insipid ?
Is it not, that man was originally created for nobler ends, than those which he is now pursuing? He resembles a noble temple in ruins. We see the fragments of ancient grandeur; but they are so mutilated and destroyed, that no feeling is excited but that of pain, whilst viewing the desolation.
The Gospel, like a guardian angel, points out to man the way to happiness. Here he may know how to obtain felicity; and here, through grace, he may be made wise unto salvation.
Is he anxious to be rich? The Gospel unfolds to his view the unsearchable riches; whilst the Spirit is freely offered to enable him, like the wise merchantman in the parable, to sell all and buy this treasure.
Is he thirsting after glory? The Gospel reveals to him that honour which cometh from God only; and that glory which is prepared for the righteous in a future world.
Is he desirous to obtain a name? The Gospel assures him that, if a believer, his name is written in heaven ; for the righteous shall be had in everlasting remembrance.
Is he panting after pleasure? The Gospel tells him of joy unspeakable; of a peace which passeth understanding; of rivers of pleasure which flow at God's right hand for evermore.
Thus the Gospel of grace discovers to fallen man, not only the nature of true happiness, but the way to obtain it. It shews him the source of all misery :
-THE FALL OF OUR FIRST PARENTS ;—and conducts him to the fountain of all blessedness :-GOD MANIFEST IN THE FLESH.
Through faith in this gracious deliverer, the soul is saved from the guilt and power of sin. The world and all its vanities, like the retiring tide, recedes from the heart; whilst the joys of God's salvation flow in, and fill the soul with substantial and satisfying delights.
The sinner thus made wise unto salvation by the eternal Spirit, finds the way of peace, and becomes at length, what worldlings never can be truly happy.
O blessed Jesus! thou in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, make me wise unto salvation. Preserve me from being satisfied with the false glare of human knowledge, which possesses only the name, but nothing of the qualities of wisdom.
Come, O! divine Redeemer, with all thy full salvation, into my longing heart. Without thee, I cannot be happy. (With thee, I cannot be miserable. The world may smile, but if thou frownest, I must be wretched. The world may frown, but if thou smilest, I am blessed. Let me no longer seek my comforts from creatures, however fair and excellent. “ All my fresh springs are in thee.” Be thou my all in all, in adverse days and pleasant seasons. 0! let thy grace be in me as a well of water, springing up into everlasting life. Then I shall be holy and happy. All will be serene within, the sweet presage of eternal rest!
Touch'd by the power of love divine,
Too long, alas ! a wand'ring sheep,
Thou art my refuge and my rest,
0! may I never from thee roam ;
XXXIV. ON PASSIVE IMPRESSIONS AND ACTIV
It is very important to distinguish rightly between passive impressions and active habits.
We are continually liable to receive impressions of one kind or another. Impressions of love and aversion; joy and grief; hope and fear.
A pleasing representation of a person produces a favourable impression upon the mind, bordering upon love. How common to hear it said : “ your description makes me quite love him." And yet, this is often but a mere impression. The description and the feeling are soon lost in the succeeding objects which crowd upon the mind. Thus
many persons are deeply impressed by awful representations of the day of judgment and the