« PreviousContinue »
tical knowledge of divinity, is of the greatest importance ; for a speculative knowledge of it, without a spiritual knowledge, is in vain and to no purpose, but to make our condemnation the greater. Yet a speculative knowledge is also of infinite importance in this respect, that without it we can have no spiritual or practical knowledge ; as may be shown by and by.
I have already shown, that the apostle speaks not only of a spiritual knowledge, but of such knowledge as can be acquired, and communicated from one to another. Yet it is not to be thought, that he means this exclusively of the other. But he would have the Christian Hebrews seek the one, in order to the other. Therefore the former is first and most directly intended; it is intended that Christians should, by reading and other proper means, seek a good rational knowledge of the things of divinity. The latter is more indirectly intended, since it is to be sought by the other, as its end....But I proceed to the
III. Thing proposed, viz. 'fo show the usefulness and necessity of knowledge in divinity.
1. There is no other way by which any means of grace whatsoever can be of any benefit, but by knowledge. All teaching is in vain, without learning. Therefore the preaching of the gospel would be wholly to no purpose, if it conveyed no knowledge to the mind. There is an order of men whom Christ has appointed on purpose to be teachers in his church. They are to teach the things of divinity. But they teach in vain, if no knowledge in these things is gained by their teaching. It is impossible that their teaching and preaching should be a mean of grace, or of any good in the hearts of their hearers, any otherwise than by knowledge imparted to the understanding. Otherwise it would be of as much benefit to the auditory, if the minister should preach in some unknown tongue.
All the difference is, that preaching in a known tongue conveys something to the understanding, which preaching in an unknown tongue doth not. On this account, such preaching must be unprofitable. Men in such Vol. VIII.
things receive nothing, when they understand nothing; and are not at all edified, unless some knowledge be conveyed; agreeably to the apostle's arguing in 1 Cor xiv. 2....6.
No speech can be any mean of grace, but by conveying knowledge. Otherwise the speech is as much lost as if there had been no man there, and he that spoke, had spoken only into the air ; as it follows in the passage just quoted, verse 6... 10. He that doth not understand, can receive no faith, nor any other grace ; for God deals with man as with a ra. tional creature ; and when faith is in exercise, it is not about something he knows not what. Therefore hearing is abso-. lutely necessary to faith ; because hearing is necessary to un.. derstanding, Rom. x, 14. “How shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard ?"
So there can be no love without knowledge. It is not ac. cording to the nature of the human soul, to love an object which is entirely un nown. The heart cannot be set upon an. object of which there is no idea in the understanding. The reasons which induce the soul to love, must first be understood, before they can have a reasonable influence on the heart.
God hath given us the Bible, which is a book of instruc-, tions. But this book can be of nó manner of profit to us, any otherwise than as it conveys some nowledge to the mind : It can profit us no more than if it were written in the Chinese or Tartarian language, of which we know not one word.
So the sacraments of the gospel can have a proper effect no other way, than by conveying some knowledge. They represent certain things by visible signs. And what is the end of signs, but to convey some knowledge of the things signified ? Such is the nature of man, that nothing can come at the heart, but through the door of the understanding : And there can be no spiritual knowledge of that of which there is not first a rational nowledge. It is impossible that any one should see the truth or excellency of any doctrine of the gospel, who knows not what that doctrine is. A man cannot see the wonderful excellency and love of Christ in doing such and
such things for sinners, unless his understanding be first informed how those things were done. He cannot have a taste of the sweetness and divine excellency of such and sucb things contained in divinity, unless he first have a notion that there are such and such things.
2. Without knowledge in divinity, none would differ from the most ignorant and barbarous Heathens. The Heathens remain in gross Heathenish darkness, because they are not instructed, and have not obtained the knowledge of the truths of divinity. So if we live under the preaching of the gospel, this will make us to differ from them, only by conveying to us more knowledge of the things of divinity.
3. If man have no knowledge of these things, the faculty of reason in him will be wholly in vain. The faculty of reason and understanding was given for actual understanding and knowledge. If a man have no actual knowledge, the faculty or capacity of knowing is of no use to him. And if he have actual knowledge, yet if he be destitute of the knowledge of those things which are the last end of his being, and for the sake of the knowledge of which he had more understanding given him than the beasts; then still his faculty of reason is in vain ; he might as well have been a beast, as a man with this knowledge. But the things of divinity are the things to know which we had the faculiy of reason given us. They are the things which appertain to the end of our being, and to the great business for which we are made. Therefore a man cannot have bis-faculty of understanding to any purpose, any further than he hath knowledge of the things of divinity.
So that this kind of knowledge is absolutely necessary. Other kinds of knowledge may be very useful. Some other sciences, such as astronomy, and natural philosophy, and geography, may be very excellent in their kind. But the knowledge of this divine science is infinitely more useful and important than that of all other sciences whatever,
IV. I come now to the fourth, and principal thing proposed under the doctrine, viz, to give the reasons why all Christians should make a business of endeavoring to grow in the knowledge of divinity. This implies two things.
1. That Christians ought not to content them: elves with such degrees of knowledge in divinity as they have already oba tained. It should not satisfy them, that they know as much as is absolutely necessary to salvation, but should seek to make progress.
2. That this endeavoring to make progress in such knowledge ought not to be attended to as a thing by the by, but all Christians should make a business of it: They should look upon it as a part of their daily business, and no small part of it neither. It should be attended to as a considerable part of the work of their high calling. The reason of both these may appear in the following things.
(1.) Our business should doubtless much consist in employing those faculties, by which we are distinguished from the beasts, about those things which are the main end of those faculties. The reason why we have faculties superior to those of the brutes given us; is, that we are indeed designed for a superior employment. That which the Creator intended should be our main employment, is something above what he intended the beasts for, and therefore hath given us superior powers. Therefore, without doubt, it should be a considerable part of our business to improve those superior faculties. But the faculty by which we are chiefly distinguished from the brutes, is the faculty of understanding. It follows then, that we should make it our chief business to improve this facuity, and should by no means prosecute it as a business by the by. For us to make the improvement of this faculty a business by the by, is in effect for us to make the faculty of understanding itself a by faculty, if I may so speak, a faculty of less importance than others; whereas indeed it is the highest faculty we have.
But we cannot make a business of the improvement of our intellectual faculty, any otherwise thun by making a business of improving ourselves in actual understanding and knowl. edge. So that those who make not this very niuch their bus. iness; but instead of improving their understanding to acquire knowledge, are chiefly devoted to their inferior powers, to provide where withal to please their senses, and gratify their aniinal appetites, and so rather make their understnding a servant to their inferior powers, than their inferior powers servänts to their understanding; not only behavethemselves in a manner not becoming Christians, but also act as if they had forgotten that they are men, and that God hath set them above the brutes, by giving them understanding.
God hath given to man some things in common with the brutes, as his outward senses, his bodily appetites, a capacity of bodily pleasure and pain, and other animal faculties : And some things he hath given him superior to the brutes, the chief of which is a faculty of understanding and reason. Now God never gave man those faculties whereby he is above the brutes, to be subject to those which he hath in common with the brutes. This would be great confusion, and equivalent to making man to be a servant to the beasts. On the contrary, he has given those inferior powers to be employed in subserviency to man's understanding; and therefore it must be a great part of man's principal business, to improve his understanding by acquiring knowledge. If so, then it will follow, that it should be a main part of his business to improve his understanding in acquiring divine knowledge, or the knowledge of the things of divinity; for the knowledge of these things is the principal end of this faculty. God gave man the faculty of understanding, chiefly, that he might understand divine things.
The wiser Heathens were sensible that the main business of man was the improvement and exercise of his understanding. But they were in the dark, as they knew not the object about which the understanding should chiefly be employed. That science which many of them thought should chiefly employ the understanding, was philosophy; and accordingly they made it their chief business to study it. But we who enjoy the light of the gospel are more happy ; we are not left, as to this particular, in the dark. God hath told us about what