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no salvation. There can be no love to Jesus without it; and if no love, no salvation. Indeed, we may see how necessary it is, by the pains which Satan takes to prevent the attainment of it; for he, as the god of this world, hath blinded the eyes of men, lest they should get this knowledge by the gospel. On the other hand, we learn its necessity from Christ's zeal to extend the word of salvation ; for God our Saviour “will have all men (that is, all sorts of men) to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” 1 Tim. ii. 4. Observe, They must have the knowledge of the truth, in order to their being saved.
2. It is the most heavenly kind of knowledge.Every good gift comes down from God; but this especially. He who first created light in the world, “shines into the heart of man.” It is the Holy Spirit who takes the things of Christ, and shows them unto us. It is written in the prophets, and daily fulfilled in the church, “All thy children shall be taught of God." The Spirit of God is the great Teacher but he teaches by the word. “To expect that the Spirit will teach you without the word, is rank enthusiasm, --as great madness as to hope to see, without eyes : and to expect that the word will teach you without the Spirit, is as great an absurdity as to pretend to see without light.” God has joined the word and the Spirit together; and “let no man put them asunder.” We read of having “ the eyes of our understanding enlightened;" (Eph. i. 18,) and we read also of - Christ's opening the understanding of his disciples that they might understand the Scriptures.” It therefore becomes every one, who wishes for this heavenly knowledge, to pray with David, “ O Lord, open mine eyes, that I may see wondrous things out of thy law !"
3. It is the most useful kind of knowledge. Every kind of knowledge is useful in its place; for it is to the mind what light is to the eyes; but this knowledge exceeds all other in its blessed effects. What was it
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that made so vast an alteration in the heathen world, so that from beasts and devils they became holy saints and children of God ? It was the Gospel which opened “ their eyes, and turned them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God.” Hereby thousands and thousands escape the pollutions of the world. In this consists much of our regeneration; for the new man is “ renewed in knowledge, after the image of him that created him." (Col. iii. 10.) And this renewing work is carried on by the same means; “ beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, we are transformed into the same image, from glory to glory.” As the face of Moses got a heavenly lustre by converse with God, so by the clear view of Christ's glory, in the looking-glass of the Gospel, we ourselves obtain something of his own amiable and holy likeness. Oh, the excellency of the knowledge of Christ, which makes us like Christ! and, depend upon it, the more you know him, the more you will be like him.
This knowledge will humble the soul. Other knowledge puffeth up. The rays of the sun, which show its own glory, discover the uncleanness of a room into which they shine; so this excellent knowledge at once makes manifest the glory of Christ, and the deformity of the sinner. Isaiah, upon beholding Christ, the Lord of Hosts, cries out, “Woe is me! I am unclean." Job also exclaims, “Behold I am vile !” and John fell at his glorious Saviour's feet, as one dead.
We observed before, that this knowledge is connected with faith : “ they that know thy name will put their trust in thee." It would be arrant folly to trust a stranger with our all; but the knowledge of Christ encourages the soul to confide in him. “In whom ye trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth," saith St. Paul to the Ephesians. None can trust him till they know him; and whoever knows him aright, will trust him. Well may we trust him, when we consider his almighty power, his infinite love, his divine righteousness, and his perfect faithfulness. In the view of these, Paul, in the prospect of death, could say, “ I know whom I have believed ; and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him, against that day.” If we had a thousand souls, we might safely trust Jesus with them all.
4. This knowledge is, of all others, the most pleasant. Knowledge, in general, is grateful to the mind : and yet some kinds of knowledge are painful. Solomon says, “In much wisdom is much grief; and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.” Eccl. i. 18. There must be a great deal of pains to get it, and a great deal of care to keep it: the more we know, the more we see remains to be known; and the inore we perceive of the folly, madness, and misery of men. But there are no such inconveniencies attending this knowledge ; it is more easily attained ; and he that increaseth it, increaseth his joy at the same time. “I rejoice at thy word,” saith the Psalmist,“ as he that findeth great spoil.” “The law of thy mouth is to me better than gold or silver.” “Thy word was found of me, and I did eat it: and it was the joy and rejoicing of my heart.” What support does the afflicted Christian find in the Gospel of Christ !-he may say, “ Thy statutes have been my song in the days of my pilgrimage.” Hear Paul and Silas singing aloud at midnight in the jail of Philippi; it was the knowledge of Christ that made them sing; and thousands of dying believers have rejoiced in Christ amidst the pains of dissolving nature, and even in the flames of martyrdom! How excellent then is the knowledge of Christ !
APPLICATION. Is the knowledge of Christ so.excellent, then. Do we possess it? St. Paul said to the Corinthians, “Some of you have not the knowledge of God: I speak it to your shame;" and a shame indeed it is, for those who have the means of knowledge to remain destitute of it. And it is more than a shame: it is a sin, and a
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sin of the most fatal kind; it keeps us from the exercise of repentance, faith, love, and obedience : yea, our Lord makes it the grand cause of final ruin : “ This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men have loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil.”
Oh, think of this, while opportunity remains to obtain the knowledge of Christ. Seek it in the means of his appointment. “If any man lack wisdom, let him ask it of God.” Seek it earnestly; according to the divine direction, (Prov. iii. 3, 4.) “If thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; if thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasure, then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God; for the Lord giveth wisdom ; he layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous.”
And Oh, what cause have they for thankfulness who have obtained this “ sound wisdom !” this most excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ! You cannot have a greater cause for joy. Christ himself gives you joy of it. “Blessed are your eyes, for they see.” On a like occasion “ Jesus rejoiced, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them to babes; even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight.” You have greater cause for joy and praise than if you had got the knowledge of all languages, arts, and sciences; these might make you famous among men ; but their advantage would be dropped in the grave. A very learned man once said on his dying bed, “I have spent my life in laborious triflings.” He only is truly wise who is “ wise to salvation.” In this excellent knowledge you are allowed to glory; for “ thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might; let not the rich man glory in his riches; but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me,”' &c. Oh, be thankful to Him who hath called you out of darkness into this marvellous light.
But while you are thankful for it, do not be proud of it. The wisest know but little of what is to be known. “ Follow on to know the Lord.” “Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of Christ.” Read the word, and meditate on it day and night : pray over it, and pray for the Spirit to lead you into all truth. And while you praise him with your lips, remember also to praise him with your lives. Let it not be said, “What do you more than others ?" But prove the superior excellency of your knowledge by the superior excellency of your conduct ;"for ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord : walk as children of light, proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.” Believers are appointed to be the lights of the world, and much of their duty is comprehended in one word—SHINE! “Let yourlight,” says our Saviour, shine, and “shine before men” too; that is not for bidden; yea, it is commanded ; but it is thus commanded, “ Let your light so shine before men, that they, seeing your good works (yourselves as little as may be-your works more than yourselves, as the sun giving us light, will scarcely suffer us to look upon itself ) may glorify_Whom? You ? No; but your Father who is in Heaven.” Let your light shine ; it is given for that purpose; but let it always shine to the glory of the Father of lights. Thus may you be filled with the knowledge of his will, in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God, until you see him, no more “ through a glass darkly, but face to face;' until you know, even as also you are known.
Now, unto God, the Father of lights,- to Jesus Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, and to the Holy Spirit of truth, be all glory, by every enlightened mind in heaven and earth, for ever and ever. Amen.