« PreviousContinue »
fear the Lord. The Root ; that is to say, S E RM.
II. the first Ground and Principle, the first Capacity and Disposition to receive Religious Truths ; that which makes the Mind susceptible and apt to apprehend them; that which makes them easy and pleasant to be understood. For Wisdom Wird. vi. goeth about, seeking such as are worthy op 16,17,14: ber; she jhewetb berself favourably unto tbem in the Ways, and meeteth them in every thought: For the very true Beginning of ber, is the desire of Discipline ; And wbofo feeketb her early, shall bave no great travel, for be shall find ber fitting at bis Doors.
FURTHER ; as a virtuous Disposition of Mind is the best preparative for beginning the Study of Religion ; so Practise and Experience in the course of a Virtuous Life and in the Obedience of God's Commands, is in continuance the best information and perpetual improvement of a man's Understanding and Judgment in the Knowledge of Divine Truths. He that keepeth the Law of the Lord, getteth the Understanding thereof, says the wise Son of Sirach; and the perfection of the Fear of the Lord, is Wisdom, Eccluf. xxi. II. E
Ser M.vil men understand not judgment; but they II. that seek the Lord, understand all things,
Prov. xxviii. 5. He that practises what he knows, improves his Knowledge continually by that Practise; and by Actions, even more than by Speculation and Study, is the Understanding of practical Truths inlarged. In the common Affairs of the present Life, 'tis obvious that Men of Business, Experience and Diligence, are generally much better Judges in their proper Employments, than Others who for Parts and Learning may perhaps in other respects be esteemed much superior. And so it is likewise in Matters of Religion. Not the Wise and Crafty, not the learned and profound, not the fubtle Arguers in Speculation and Dispute, are the best InAtructors in the Duty of a Christian; but, in these matters, ' rather the mouth of tbe Just, (says Solomon,) bringetb forth Wif dom, and the Lips of the Righteous know: what is acceptable, Prov. x. 31, 32. There is a Spirit and a Life in the Discourse of Righteous Man, proceeding from the Sincerity of an Upright Heart; which no Skill nor Art can imitate. There is a Knowledge and Discernment arising from
virtuous Practises which another man serM? cannot learn from him that has it, but II. by going himself and doing likewise. The Pure in Heart fee God bere, as well as hereafter, after another manner, than vi. tious and profane Philosophers argue about him. And as, with regard to worldly - Employments, men of Parts and Learning can dispute and contendabout them, without understanding them; but Those only are truly skilful, who have exercised themselves in the Pra&tife of the particular Imployments : So in Religion, there is no man truly wise and knowing, but he that has lived like a Christian, instead of difputing about it. When some of the Jews, moved with the Wisdom and Excellency of our Saviour's Discourses, believed on him by a sudden Impulse of unexperienced Affection ; our Saviour, knowing the Weakness of the Ground of their Faith, said unto them, If Je continue in
Word, thenye shall know the Truth, and the Truth mall make you free, St Joh. viii. 31; free, from the Slavery of unreasonable Lufts and Pallions ; free, from the Darkness of Ignorance and Errors. The Wife shall understand.
SERM. On the contrary, in the Nature of Vio
tious Inclinations, and in the Practise of
same Apostlę elsewhere elegantly describes Eph iv. them, their Understandings darkned, -be
cause of the Blindness of their Hearts. A Person in this state ; the natural man, as St. Paut calls him ; (fo: we render the Word, "I Cor. ii. 14. but it ought to be translated, the Sensual man;) a man wholly taken up with the Cares and Pleasures
of the present Life ; such a one receiveth Ser M. not the things of the Spirit of God, he un
II. derstands them not; has no relish of them
; for they are foolishness unto him ; neither can be know them, because they are fpiritually difcerned ; spiritually discerned ; i. e. discerned by Those only, who have Faculties to discern them with ; by Tboje, whole Minds are not blinded with the Love of Wickedness. St John gives us an emphatical Instance of This in one particular Vicę, that of Hatred or Malice which whosoever is addicted to, he tells us is no more capable of une derstanding the Doctrine of the Gospel, that Doctrine of Love and universal Charity, than a man
than a man whose Eyes are shut, is able to discern the Light: He that hateth bis Brother, is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not wbither be goeth, because that Darkness bas blinded bis Eyes, 1 Joh. ii, 11. No Words can express in a more lively and emphatical manner, than this Description does, the incredible stupidity of such Christians as think they do God good Service by persecuting one another, and expect to propagate the peaceable and charitable