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2. This would be a noble way of spending your time. The Holy Spirit gives the Bereans this epithet, because they diligently employed themselves in this business: Acts xvii. 11, “ These were more noble that those of Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” This is very much the employment of heaven. The inhabitants of that world spend much of their time in searching into the great things of divinity, and endeavoring to acquire knowledge in them, as we are told of the angels, 1 Pet. i. 12, " Which things the angels desire to look into.” This will be very agreeable to what you hope will be your business to all eternity, as you doubtless hope to join in the same employment with the angels of light. Solomon says, Prov. xxv. 2, “ It is the honor of kings to search out a matter;" and certainly, above all others, to search out divine matters. Now if this be the honor even of kings, is it not equally, if not much more, your honor?

3. This is a pleasant way of improving time. Knowledge is pleasant and delightful to intelligent creatures, and above all the knowledge of divine things; for in them are the most excellent truths, and the most beautiful and amiable objects held forth to view. However tedious the labor necessarily attending this business may be, yet the knowledge once obtained will richly requite the pains taken to obtain it. “When wisdom entereth the heart, knowledge is pleasant to the soul,” Prov. ii. 10.

4. This knowledge is exceeding useful in Christian practice. Such as have much knowledge in divinity have great means and advantages for spiritual and saving knowledge; for no means of grace, as was said before, have their effect on the heart, otherwise than by the knowledge they iinpart. The more you have of a rational knowledge of the things of the gospel, the more opportunity will there be, when the Spirit shall be breathed into your heart, to see the excellency of these things, and to taste the sweetness of them. The Heathens, who have no rational knowledge of the things of the gospel, have no opportunity to see the excellency of them; and therefore the more rational knowledge of these things you have, the more opportunity and advantage you have to see the divine excellency and glory of them.

Again, 'The more knowledge you have of divine things, the better will you know your duty; your knowledge will be of great use to direct you as to your duty in particular cases. You will also be the better furnished against the temptations of the devil. For the devil often takes the advantage of persons' ignorance to ply them with temptations which otherwise would have no hold of them.

By having much knowledge, you will be under greater advantages to conduct yourselves with prudence and discretion in your Christian course, and so to live much more to the honor of God and religion. Many who mean well, and are full of a good spirit, yet, for wart of prudence, conduct themselves so as to wound religion. Many have a zeal of God, which doth more hurt than good, because it is not according to knowledge, Rom. x. 2. The reason why many good men behave no better in many instances, is not so much that they want grace, as that they want knowledge.

Besides, an increase of knowledge would be a great help to profitable conversation. It would supply you with matter for conversation when you come together, or when you visit your neighbors : and so you would have less temptation to spend the time in such conversation as tends to your own and others' hurt.

5. Consider the advantages you are under to grow in the knowledge of divinity. We are under far greater advantages to gain much knowledge in di


vinity now, than God's people under the Old Testament, both because the canon of Scripture is so much enlarged since that time, and also because evangelical truths are now so much more plainly revealed. So that common men are now in some respects under advantages to know more of divinity, than the greatest prophets were then. Thus that saying of Christ is in a sense applicable to us, Luke x. 23, 24, “ Blessed are the eyes which see the things which ye

For I tell you, that many prophets and kings have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.” We are in some respects under far greater advantages for gaining knowledge, now in these latter ages of the church, than Christians were formerly; especially by reason of the art of printing, of which God hath given us the benefit, whereby Bibles and other books of divinity are exceedingly multiplied, and persons may now be furnished with helps for the obtaining of Christian knowledge, at a much easier and cheaper rate than they formerly could.

6. We know not what opposition we may meet with in the principles which we hold in divinity. We know that there are many adversaries to the gospel and its truths. If therefore we embrace those truths, we must expect to be attacked by the said adversaries; and unless we be well informed concerning divine things, how shallwe be able to defend ourselves ? Besides, the Apostle Peter enjoins it upon us, always to be ready to give an answer to every man who asketh us a reason of the hope that is in us. But this we cannot expect to do without a considerable knowledge in divine things.

I shall now conclude my discourse with some directions for the acquisition of this knowledge

1. Be assiduous in reading the holy Scriptures. This is the fountain whence all knowledge in divinity must be derived." Therefore let not this treasure lie by you neglected. Every man of common understanding who can read, may, if he please, become well acquainted with the Scriptures. And what an excellent attainment would this be !

2. Content not yourselves with only a cursory reading, without regarding the sense. This is an ill way of reading, to which, however, many accustom themselves all their days. When you read, observe what you read. Observe how things come in. Take notice of the drift of the discourse, and compare one Scripture with another. For the Scripture, by the harmony of the different parts of it, casts great light upon itself. We are expressly directed by Christ to search the Scriptures, which evidently intends something more than a mere cursory reading. And use means to find out the meaning of the Scripture. When you have it explained in the preaching of the word, take notice of it; and if at any time a Scripture that you did not understand be cleared up to your satisfaction, mark it, lay it up, and if possible remember it.

3. Procure, and diligently use other books which may help you to grow in this knowledge. There are many excellent books extant, which might greatly forward you in this knowledge, and afford you a very profitable and pleasant cntertainment in your leisure hours

. There is doubtless a great defect in many, that through a lothness to be at a little expense, they furnish themselves with no more helps of this nature. They have a few books indeed, which now and then on Sabbath days they read; but they have had them so long, and read them so often, that they are weary of them, and it is now become a dull story, a mere task to read them.

4. Improve conversation with others to this end. How much might persons promote each other's knowledge in divine things, if they would improve


conversation as they might; if men that are ignorant were not ashamed to o show their ignorance, and were willing to learn of others; if those that have 17 knowledge would communicate it, without pride and ostentation; and if all

were more disposed to enter on such conversation as would be for their mutual edification and instruction.

5. Seek not to grow in knowledge chiefly for the sake of applause, and to enable you to dispute with others; but seek it for the benefit of your souls, and in order to practice. If applause be your end, you will not be so likely to be led to the knowledge of the truth, but may justly, as often is the case of those who are proud of their knowledge, be led into error to your own perdition. This being your end, if you should obtain much rational knowledge, it would not be likely to be of any benefit to you, but would puff you up with pride: 1 Cor. viii, 1,“ Knowledge puffeth up.'

6. Seek to God, that he would direct you, and bless you, in this pursuit after knowledge. This is the apostle's direction, James i. 5: “ If any man lack wisdom, let him ask it of God, who giveth to all liberally, and upbraideth not.” God is the fountain of all divine knowledge. Prov. ii. 6, “ The Lord giveth wisdom : out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding." Labor to be sensible of your own blindness and ignorance, and your need of the help of God, lest you be led into error, instead of true knowledge. 1 Cor. iii. 18,*“ If any man would be wise, let him become a fool, that he may be wise."

8. Practice according to what knowledge you have. This will be the way to know more. The Psalmist warmly recommends this way of seeking knowledge in divinity, from his own experience: Psal. cxix. 100, "I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts.” Christ also recommends the same: John vii. 17, " If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.”



Psalm xciv. 8-11.-- Understand, ye brutish among the people : and ye fools, when will ye be wise !

He that planted the ear, shall he not hear? He that formed the eye, shall be not see? He that chas. tiscth the heathen, shall not he correct? He that teacheth man knowledge, shall not he know? The Lord knoweth the thoughts of man that they are vanity.*


Introductory Observations. In these words the following particulars are to be observed. (1.) A certain spiritual disease charged on some persons, viz., darkness, and blindness of mind, appearing in their ignorance and folly. (2.) The great degree of this disease: so as to render the subjects of it fools. Ye fools, when will ye be uise ? And so as to reduce them to a degree of brutishness. Ye brulish among the people. This ignorance and folly were to such a degree, as to render men like beasts. (3.) The obstinacy of this disease : expressed in that interrogation, When will ye be wise? Their blindness and folly were not only very great; but deeply rooted and established, resisting all manner of cure. (4.) of what nature this blindness is. It is especially in things pertaining to God. They were strangely ignorant of his perfections, like beasts: and had foolish notions of him, as though he did not see, nor know; and as though he would not execute justice, by chastising and punishing wicked men. (5.) The unreasonableness and sottishness of the notion they had of God, that he did not hear, did not observe their reproaches of him and his people, is shown by observing that he planted the ear. It is very unreasonable to suppose that he, who gave power of perceiving words to others, should not perceive them himself. And the sottishness of their being insensible of God's all-seeing eye, and particularly of his seeing their wicked actions, appears, in that God is the being who formed the eye, and gave others a power of seeing. The sottishness of their apprehension of God, as though he did not know what they did, is argued from his being the fountain and original of all knowledge. The unreasonableness of their expecting to escape God's just chastisements and judgments for sin, is set forth by his chastising even the heathen, who did not sin against that light, or against so great mercies, as the wicked in Israel did ; nor had ever made such a profession as they. (6.) We may observe, that this dreadful disease is ascribed to mankind in general. The Lord lenoweth the thoughts of man, that they are vanity. The psalmist had been setting forth the vanity and unreasonableness of the thoughts of some of the children of men; and immediately upon it he observes, that this vanity and foolishness of thought is common and natural to mankind

• This Treatise is a posthumous work, collected from the author's papers. They were drawn up by him in the form of three short sermons, in his usual way of preparation for the puipit; but were by no means finished in a manner fit for the public eye. It is presuined, therefore, thai the present form is much more suitable to the nature of the subject, ihan that in which they appeared in the Glasgow edition (1785) of Eighteen Sermons, connected with the Author's Life, by Dr. Hopkins.

This plan has been occasionally adopted respecring some other courses of sermons, especially posthu. mous ones ; which we have been encouraged to do by several judicious friends, who are well acquainted with the author's writings. And we own, it is no small inducement in our view, to edit them in this manner in a standard edition, they are much more likely to do good at a future period. A tract may be reprinted with much greater probability of acceptance and success, ihan the same in the form of sermons, un finished by the author, with divisions, transitions, &c., to which the generality of readers are unaccus tomed.-W.

From these particulars we may fairly deduce the following doctrinal observation : that there is an extreme and brutish blindness in things of religion, ohich naturally possesses the hearts of mankind.—This doctrine is not to be understood as any reflection on the capacity of the human nature; for God hath made nan with a noble and excellent capacity. The blindness I speak of, is not a nerely negative ignorance ; such as in trees and stones, that know nothing. They have no faculties of understanding and perception, whereby they should be capable of any knowledge. And inferior animals, though they have sensitive perception, are not capable of any intellectual views. There is no fault to be found with man's natural faculties. God has given men faculties truly noble and excellent ; well capable of true wisdom and divine knowledge. Nor is the blindness I speak of like the ignorance of a new-born infant; which arises from want of necessary opportunity to exert these faculties.

The blindness that is in the heart of man, which is spoken of in the text and doctrine, is neither for want of faculties nor opportunity to know, but from some positive cause. There is a principle in his heart, of such a blinding and besotting nature, that it hinders the exercises of his faculties about the things of religion; exercises for which God has made him well capable, and for which he gives him abundant opportunity.

In order to make it appear, that such an extreme brutish blindness, with respect to the things of religion, does naturally possess the hearts of men, I shall show how this is manifest in those things that appear in men's open profession; and how it is manifest in those things that are found by inward experience, and are visible in men's practice.


Man's natural blindness in Religion, manifested by those things which appear

in men's open profession. I would now show, how it is manifest that there is a sottish and brutish blindness in the hearts of men in the things of religion, by those things which appear in men's open profession.

1. It appears in the grossness of that ignorance and those delusions, which bave appeared among mankind. Man has faculties given him whereby he is well capable of inferring the being of the Creator from the creatures. The invisible things of God are very plainly and clearly to be seen by the things that are made; and the perfections of the Divine Being, his eternal power and Godhead, are very manifest in the works of his hands. And yet grossly absurd notions concerning the Godhead have prevailed in the world. Instead of acknowledging and worshipping the true God, they have fallen off to the worship of idols. Instead of acknowledging the one only true God, they have made a multitude of deities. Instead of worshipping a God, who is an almighty, infinite, all-wise, an:1 Holy Spirit, they have worshipped the hosts of heaven, the sun, moon, and stars ; and the works of their own hands, images of gold and silver, brass and iron, wood and stone; gods that can neither hear, nor see, nos walk, nor speak, nor do, nor know any thing. Some in the shape of men, others in the shape of oxen and calves; some in the shape of serpents, others of fishes, &c.

The sottishness of men in thus worshipping the lifeless images which they themselves have made, is elegantly and forcibly represented by the prophet Isaiah. “The smith with the tongs both worketh in the coals, and fashioneth it with hammers, and worketh it with the strength of his arms. Yea, he is VOL. IV.


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