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“Be not deceived; for God is not mocked. All are not Israel that are of Israel. He is not a Jew that is one outwardly. There are many that are called by the name of Israel, which swear by the naine of the Lord, and make inention of the God of Israel; but not in truth, nor in righteousness.” Like the Pharisees, you may pray long, and fast oft; and like them, you may be a generation of vipers, and never escape the damnation of heli.
“Their lifted eyes salute the skies,
O how often is this picture presented in real life! God, I thank thee that I am not as other men, or even as this publican. Would that thou wert more like him! Thy corrupt heart corrupts all the fair forms of thy devotion, and thou art still in the gall of bitterness, and the bonds of iniquity. The hope of formalists is the offspring of a deceived and a wicked heart. It is an affront to the majesty of heaven; it is a violation of the laws of his empire; it gives the lie to the Author of Eternal Truth. Hence the state of formalists is full of danger. T'hey are singularly prone to cherish their deception. They are taken in their own craftiness. They flatter themselves in their own eyes, till their iniquity be found to be hateful. They rest in a hope that will at last bite like a serpent, and sting like an adder.
SPECULATIVE KNOWLEDGE is no less deficient in the testimony which it bears to Christian Character, than visible morality or the form of religion. Neither is conclusive.
Speculative knowledge is by no means to be undervalued. Ignorance, in most cases, is far from being venial; error is always more or less sintul.
It is of serious importance that the opinions of men be forined; and formed upon the principles of the unerring standard. There can be no spiritual knowledge, where there is no speculative knowledge. God cannot be loved, where he is not known. Truth is the natural aliment of all gracious affections. But though there can be no spiritual knowledge where there is no speculative knowledge; there may be much speculative knowledge where there is no spiritual knowledge. Though the want of speculative knowledge may be decisively against you; the possession of it is not necessarily in your favor.
We have only to open our eyes to discern the fact that very wicked men are sometimes orthodox in their sentiments. Wicked niella as well as good men, arc endowed witli perception, reason, and conscience. And they are as capable of applying these faculties in
peflecting upon moral objects, as upon natural objects. They are not only capable of understanding the truth, but often do understand it with accuracy. How many have you seen who were thoroughly versed in the scriptures; who had correct theoretical views of the character of God—the character of man-the character and offices of Christ of the necessity, nature and cause of regeneration; who comprehended a connected system of theology, and were distinguished: champions for the faith, who were, notwithstanding all this, strangers to the religion of the beart! Thou believest there is one God: Thou dost well. The DEVILS also believe and tremble. Satan himself was once an Angel of Light. There is no more studious observer of the cliaracter and designs of God, than the Great Adversary of both. There is no greater proficient in theological truth, than the father of lies. “There is no want of orthodoxy even in hell."
For the existence of this fact, we are not at a loss for satisfactory reasons. Speculative kuowledge has its seat in the head; vital religion in the heart. There is no moral goodness in the simple assent of the understanding to truth. We receive, and compound, and compare ideas, whether we wish to do it or not. When we see the evidence of a proposition to be clear, we cannot withhold our assent to it, while we may hate the trath we receive, and love the error we reject.
Beside, there is nothing in the nature of speculative knowledge to produce holy affection. The twilight of reason and conscience. and the clear sunshine of the Gospel, are in themselves, alike unadapted to the causation of holiness, All the light of eternity breaking in upon the understanding of the natural man, cannot create one spark of holy love, You may follow the natural man through every possible degree of instruction; and though his head will be better, his heart will be worse It is irrational to suppose, that a clear view of an object that is bated will produce love to the object. If, when the character and truth of God are partially seen, they are the objects of hatred; when clearly seen, they will become the objects of malignity. The understanding, therefore, may be enlightened, while the heart remains perfectly vitiated.
Far be it from us, by these remarks, to exclude from our theology the doctrine of Divine Illumination. The scriptural view of this doctrine will go far toward enabling us to distinguish between those who in truth know God, and those who glorify him not as God. In this great work, the heart, the moral disposition, is changed, and not the head. Without this spiritual illumination, the soul will be forever shrouded in darkness that may be felt. The souls of the sanctified bad for ever remained without form and void; totally disordered; a mere moral claus; merged in shades of thickest darkness-had not
that God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, shined INTO THEIR HEARTS to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ. This is a kind of knowledge, however, which is far above mere intellectual speculation. It is not immediately the object of intellectual speculation; but of gracious affections. This is a kind of knowledge which is both of divine original, and divine nature. This is the knowledge that edifieth; all other puffeth up. The essential difference between that knowledge which is, and that which is not conclusive evidence of Christian Character, lies in this: The object of the 'one, is the agreement of the several parts of a theological proposition: the object of the other is moral beauty, the intrinsic loveliness of God and divine things. The sinner sees and hates; the saint sees and loves. The prophecy of Esaias is fulfilled in the experience of thousands: Hearing they shall hear, and not understand; and seeing they shall see and not PERCEIVE. Something more is necessary to make a man a Christian, besides the enlightening of the natural understanding. Beware of the hope that is built on no firmer basis than a just speculative view of the doctrines of the Gospel!