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pure, and an imitator of God.' Now this human knowledge cannot attain unto; so that in respect of its insufficiency, it cannot make us happy.
2. If you consider its malignancy against the truths of God, either against the sublimity of the gospel, or against the simplicity of it; it will appear, that it cannot render a man wise.
(1.) If you consider that malignancy that there is in human knowledge against the sublimity of the gospel. Those truths which reason cannot comprehend, it will vot embrace. Hence we find, that the Socinians reject several of the fundamentals of christianity, because they are above the flight of our reason. We read of the philosophers, Acts 17. 32. that “they mocked at the resurrection :” and we read of Julian, that he did upbraid christians as persons that were captives to a blind belief. Such kind of truths carnal reason in its elevations opposeth.
(2.) And the simplicity of the gospel human knowledge is opposite and repugnant to, and is malignant against it. Thus we read, that the doctrine of Christ was esteemed foolishness by the wise men of the world, because it was not conveyed to them in the blandishments of rhetoric, and because the very matter of the gospel was such, as their pride and lust would not stoop unto. Experience tells us, that the gospel is above natural, and against corrupt reason. Now since human knowledge (when it is alone without the fear of God) is thus malignant, since it puts sin into armour (as I may so speak) certainly this can never render a man truly wise.
(3.) Consider its vicinity to corruption; when it is in its lustre, it then draws near to its period; that death that doth attend a person, will bury all his learning in the same grave with him. Intellectual differences shall shortly cease, and then moral differences shall take place; one moment shall equal the learned and the unlearned, the knowing and ignorant person, they shal at last stand upon equal ground, but then good and bad men shall be differenced for ever. Now since death so suddenly approacheth, certainly this cannot be that which maketh us wise.
The naked theery, or speculation of divine truths, not suficient to make a
man wise. Sinful craft is folly.
FROM hence I shall draw this conclusion also, that the naked theory, or speculation of divine truths, is not sufficient to make a man wise. If knowledge be only confined to the brain, if it be a naked illumination, if there be only a model of divine truths in thy head, without the fear of God, thou mayest have a curious knowledge, but thou wantest a saving knowledge. Now that I may show this the more clearly to you, I will lay dowu this rule, and so measure the bare knowledge of divine things by it; all knowledge of what nature soever, is to be valued according to the end for which it is. Now the knowledge of divine things hath a double end, the glory of God and the rest of the soul and its salvation; the bare knowledge of divine things without an answerable practice, is defective in these two ends, where it is separated from the fear of God; and this I shall evince and evidence to you.
1. For the glory of God, our Saviour hath told us, that his Father is such an husbandman, as esteems himself glorified in the fruits of our obedience. That person that is able to draw a map of the divinity to us, that can deduce one attribute from another in the divine essence; this man unless he doth practise what he knows, he glorifies God no more than a painter doth him whose picture he draws: God is not glorified in lifeless painted words, but in our works, when we bear his image and are conformed to his law; when we are renewed in our minds; as towardly children reflect a glory upon their parents, by expressing their persons and imitating their virtues ; so doth a soul that fears God. The devils that are intelligent essences, know
more by the subtilty of their natures than any man in this life, - yet are far distant from glorifying of God. And in this respect,
the smallest degree of practical knowledge is infinitely more valuable than the greatest measure of that which is merely terminated in speculation. Take a christian that trembles at God's word, that looks heaven-ward, this man doth understand more or better of divine truths, than the most subtle schoolmen, than the greatest Rabbins in the world. To give it you by instance, as a husbandman who knows what part of his ground is fit for meadow, what part is fit for pasture, and what part is fit for corn; although this man doth not know how to survey his ground, or how to draw an exact platform of it, yet he shall bring more advantage from this ground to the owner of it, than the most skilful mathematician that is able to survey it exactly, according to the rules of art, but wants knowledge in the tillage and manuring of it: so that christian which reduceth his knowledge to practice by a holy life, reflects a greater glory upon God, than the most exact and skilful person in the points of divinity without the fear of God; therefore certainly the naked illumination of divine truths cannot make a man wise.
2. This cannot save the soul and bring it to its rest. Bare knowledge can never reach to heaven; it must be accompanied with the fear of God, and with other graces, 2 Pet. 1. 8. “ for if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that you shall neither be barren, nor unfruitful,” &c. That knowledge is barren that is without solid and saving grace. Take a man that is able to delineate to you a system of divinity, that hath in his head the most sublime notions; yet if this man hath not the fear of God, that knowledge is no more able to satisfy his soul, than the picture of a great feast is able to satisfy the appetite of one that is almost starved with hunger; this can never render a man happy. We read of Dives when he was in hell, he had a heaven and a blessedness in his eye, but they did him no good; so it is here. It is just with such a person as with an ignorant physician, though possibly he may know the shape and the colour of an herb as it is set down in an herbal, yet he neither knows its virtue nor its operation, nor how to prepare it for a medicine: so many persons among us, who know in general what the truths of religion are; as to their practice, as to the virtue and operation of them, they are utterly strangers. Psal. 95. 10. there is a notable expression, " it is a people that do err in their hearis, and they have not known my ways.” A strange expression, that the Israelites should not know the ways of God, who had received instructions miraculously from heaven; the meaning of it I conceive to be this, this people do err in their hearts, and they have not my ways in their hearts) they had such a knowledge of God's ways, as a man hath of a country by a map, but they had not the experimental knowledge of God's ways. Now you know a person that is to walk into a strange country, it is far better for him to have a beaten path, and the directions of an ordinary traveller, than to have the most accurate geographical description of it, and he shall sooner come to his journey's end; so that person that desires to attain everlasting rest, let him walk in the steps of those before him that have attained the place, and let him experience those truths they have practised in the fear of God, and so he shall attain it. So that in respect of the glory of God, and the rest of the soul, it is not the bare knowledge of divine truths that can make us wise : but let me annex
3. A third thing, which is this, the bare knowledge of divine truths is so far from attaining this double end, that where it is disjoined from the fear of God, it aggravates the ruin of a person; and therefore this can never render a man wise. This knowledge will light a man to a brighter damnation. There are many persons that are right in their opinions, but have vile af, fections ; and the knowledge of these persons will increase their sorrow; they are like the Ethiopians that have a bright eye in a dark body, so they have much knowledge while they walk in the ways of sin: but in conclusion, this knowledge of theirs will be like a talent of gold to a man that is in the sea, it will drown him the sooner, and sink him the deeper; so it is here, their knowledge of divine things will sink them deeper in the wrath of God, an ignorant wretch shall have a cooler hell than these sublimated christians that are without the fear of the Lord. The sum is this, put it thus to yourselves; what a folly is it for men to be disputing of religion and heaven, while others that are less knowing surprise it, like that person that was gazing on the moon till he fell into a pit, or as a lark that flies up into heaven for a time, but at last falls into the net of the fowler. Thus it is with many men.
This consideration, that the fear of God is wisdom, shows unto us the falseness of that sinful craft which is so much used in the world ; when men design by the slight of brain to overreach their neighbours, and this they esteem their glory. There are many among us that live according to that hell-bred proverb, that plain dealing is a jewel, but he that useth it shall die a beggar;' I confess, if this proverb were true, it is a wonder, since we have so many dishonest men among us, that so many die beggars : but know thus much, that that person that employs his understanding to deceive his neighbour, that person which doth affect the glory of acuteness in the ways of sin, doth but the more conform himself to the devil, who is a spirit of great knowledge, but of greater wickedness. Happy are those souls that do not enter into sin's secrets; I will only say thus much to these persons, those that now employ their parts in the ways of sin, God will hereafter employ his wisdom to contrive a punishment for them; and when the infinite wisdom of God shall contrive a punishment, and the infinite power of God inflict it, there will be a proportionable recompence for all their guilt. So much to discover those several sorts and degrees of false wisdoms that are in the world.
An exhortation to beware of those sins which quench the grace of God's
fear, by way of defect.
LET us from hence ;-be persuaded to beware of those sins which quench this grace of God's fear ;-excited to the cherishing of this grace in our hearts. Beware of those sins which quench this grace, and those fall under a double consideration, either; those sins which by way of defect quench this grace; or those sins which by way of excess, do likewise exterminate this grace out of the soul,