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if it be rational to suppose that God immediately communicates himself to man in any affair, it is in this. It is rational to suppose that God would reserve that knowledge and wisdom, that is of such a divine and excellent nature, to be bestowed immediately by himself, and that it should not be left in the power of second causes. Spiritual wisdom and grace is the highest and most excellent gift that ever God bestows on any creature : in this the highest excellency and perfection of a rational creature consists. It is also immensely the most important of all divine gifts: it is that wherein man's happiness consists, and on which his everlasting welfare depends. How rational is it to suppose that God, however he has left meaner goods and lower gifts to second causes, and in some sort in their power, yet should reserve this most excellent, divine, and important of all divine communications, in his own hands, to be bestowed immediately by himself, as a thing too great for second causes to be concerned in! is rational to suppose, that this blessing should be immediately from God; for there is no gift or benefit that is in itself so nearly related to the divine nature, there is nothing the creature receives that is so much of God, of his nature, so much a participation of the deity: it is a kind of emanation of God's beauty, and is related to God as the light is to the sun. It is therefore congruous and fit, that when it is given of God, it should be nextly from himself, and by himself, according to his own sovereign will.
It is rational to suppose, that it should be beyond a man's power to obtain this knowledge and light by the mere strength of natural reason; for it is not a thing that belongs to reason, to see the beauty and loveliness of spiritual things; it is not a speculative thing, but depends on the sense of the heart. Reason indeed is necessary in order to it, as it is by reason only that we are become the subjects of the means of it; which means I have already shown to be necessary in order to it, though they have no proper causal in the affair. It is by reason that we become possessed of a notion of those doctrines that are the subject matter of this divine light; and reason may many ways be indirectly and remotely an advantage to it. And reason has also to do in the acts that are immediately consequent on this discovery: a seeing the truth of religion from hence, is by reason; though it be but by one step, and the inference be immediate. So reason has to do in that accepting of, and trusting in Christ, that is consequent on it. But if we take reason strictly, not for the faculty of mental perception in general, but for ratiocination, or a power of inferring by arguments; I say, if we take reason thus, the perceiving of spiritual beauty and excellency no more belongs to reason, than it belongs to the sense of feeling to perceive colors, or to the power of seeing to perceive the sweetness of food. It is out of reason's province to perceive the beauty or loveliness of any thing: such a perception does not belong to that faculty. Reason's work is to perceire truth and not excellency. It is not ratiocination that gives men the perception of the beauty and amiableness of a countenance, though it may be many ways indirectly an advantage to it; yet it is no more reason that immediately perceives it, than it is reason that perceives the sweetness of honey: it depends on the sense of the heart. Reason may determine that a countenance is beautiful to others, it may determine that honey is sweet to others; but it will never give me a perception of its sweetness.
I will conclude with a very brief improvement of what has been said.
First. This doctrine may lead us to reflect on the goodness of God, that has so ordered it, that a saving evidence of the truth of the gospel is such, as is attainable by persons of mean capacities and advantages, as well as those that are of the greatest parts and learning. If the evidence of the gospel depended
only on history, and such reasonings as learned men only are capable of, Lit would be above the reach of far the greatest part of mankind. But persons with but an ordinary degree of knowledge, are capable, without a long and subtile train of reasoning, to see the divine excellency of the things of religion : they are capable of being taught by the Spirit of God, as well as learned men. The evidence that is this way obtained, is vastly better and more satisfying, than all that can be obtained by the arguings of those that are most learned, and greatest masters of reason. And babes are as capable of knowing these things, as the wise and prudent; and they are often hid from these when they are revealed to those. 1 Cor. i. 26, 27, “ For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise inen, after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called. But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world.”
Secondly. This doctrine may well put us upon examining ourselves, whether we have ever had this divine light, that has been described, let into our souls. If there be such a thing indeed, and it be not only a notion or whimsy of persons of weak and distempered brains, then doubtless it is a thing of great importance, whether we have thus been taught by the Spirit of God; whether the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, hath shined unto us, giving us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ; whether we have seen the Son, and believed on him, or have that faith of gospel doctrines that arises from a spiritual sight of Christ.
Thirdly. All may hence be exhorted earnestly to seek this spiritual light. To influence and more to it, the following things may be considered.
1. This is the most excellent and divine wisdom that any creature is capable of. It is more excellent than any human learning; it is far more excellent than all the knowledge of the greatest philosophers or statesmen. Yea, the least glimpse of the glory of God in the face of Christ doth more exalt and ennoble the soul, than all the knowledge of those that have the greatest speculative understanding in divinity without grace. This knowledge has the most noble object that is or can be, viz., the divine glory or excellency of God and Christ. The knowledge of these objects is that wherein consists the most excellent knowledge of the angels, yea, of God himself.
2. This knowledge is that which is above all others sweet and joyful. Men have a great deal of pleasure in human knowledge, in studies of natural things; but this is nothing to that joy which arises from this divine light shining into the soul. This light gives a view of those things that are immensely the most exquisitely beautiful, and capable of delighting the eye of the understanding. This spiritual light is the dawning of the light of glory in the heart. There is nothing so powerful as this to support persons in affliction, and to give the mind peace and brightness in this stormy and dark world.
3. This light is such as effectually influences the inclination, and changes the nature of the soul. It assimilates the nature to the divine nature, and changes the soul into an image of the same glory that is beheld. 2 Cor. iii. 18, " But we all with open face, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” This knowledge will wean from the world, and raise the inclination to heavenly things. It will turn the heart to God as the fountain of good, and to choose him for the only portion. This light, and this only, will bring the soul to a saving close with Clirist. It conforms the heart to the gospel, mortifies its enmity and opposition against the scheme of salvation therein revealed : it causes the heart to embrace the joyful tidings, and entirely to adhere to, and acquiesce in the revelation of Christ as our Saviour: it causes the whole soul to VOL. IV.
accord and symphonize with it, admitting it with entire credit and respect, cleaving to it with full inclination and affection; and it effectually disposes the soul to give up itself entirely to Christ.
4. This light, and this only, has its fruit in a universal holiness of life. No merely notional or speculative understanding of the doctrines of religion will ever bring to this. But this light, as it reaches the bottom of the heart, and changes the nature, so it will effectually dispose to a universal obedience. It shows God's worthiness to be obeyed and served. It draws forth the heart in a sincere love to God, which is the only principle of a true, gracious, and universal obedience; and it convinces of the reality of those glorious rewards that God has promised to them that obey him.
TRUE GRACE DISTINGUISHED FROM THE EXPERIENCE OF DEVILS.
James ü. 19.-Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well; the devils aleo believe and
Observe in these words-1. Something that some depend on, as an evidence of their good estate, and acceptance, as the objects of God's favor, viz., a speculative faith, or belief of the doctrines of religion. The great doctrine of the existence of one only God is particularly mentioned ; probably because this was a doctrine wherein especially there was a visible and noted distinction between professing Christians and the heathens, amongst whom the Christians, in those days, were dispersed: and therefore this was what many trusted in, as what recommended them to, or at least was an evidence of, their interest in the great spiritual and eternal privileges, in which real Christians were distinguished from the rest of the world.
2. How much is allowed concerning this faith, viz., that it is a good attainment; “ Thou doest well.” It was good as it was necessary.
This doctrine was one of the fundamnental doctrines of Christianity; and, in some respects, above all others, fundamental. It was necessary to be believed, in order to salvation : and a being without the belief of this doctrine, especially in those that had such advantage to know, as they had, whom the apostle wrote to, would be a great sin, and what would vastly aggravate their damnation. This belief was also good, as it had a good tendency in many respects.
3. What is implicitly denied concerning it, viz., that it is any evidence of a person's being in a state of salvation. The whole context shows this to be the design of the apostle in the words: and it is particularly manifest by the conclusion of the verse ; which is,
4. The thing observable in the words, viz., the argument by which the apostle proves, that this is no sign of a state of grace, viz., that it is found in the devils
. They believe that there is one God, and that he is a boly, sin-hating God; and that he is a God of truth, and will fulfil his threatenings, by which he has denounced future judgments, and a great increase of misery on them; and that he is an Almighty God, and able to execute his threatened vengeance upon them.
Therefore the doctrine I infer from the words, to make the subject of my present discourse, is this:
Nothing in the mind of man, that is of the same nature with what the devils experience, or are the subjects of, is any sure sign of saving grace.
If there be any thing that the devils have, or find in themselves, which is an evidence of the saving grace of the Spirit of God, then the apostle's argument is not good ; which is plainly this: that which is in the devils, or which they do, is no certain evidence of grace. But the devils believe that there is one God. Therefore, thy believing that there is one God, is no sure evidence that thou art gracious. So that the whole foundation of the apostle's argument, lies in that proposition; that which is in the devils, is no certain sign of grace.
Nevertheless, I shall mention two or three further reasons, or arguments, of the truth of this doctrine.
I The devils have no degree of holiness; and therefore those things which
are nothing beyond what they are the subjects of, cannot be holy experiences.
The devil once was holy; but when he fell he lost all his holiness, and became perfectly wicked. He is the greatest sinner, and, in some sense, the father of all sin. John viii. 44, “ Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth; because there was no truth in him : when he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own; for he is a liar, and the father of it.” 1 John ü. 8, “He that committeth sin is of the devil, for the devil sinneth from the beginning.” He is spoken of as, by way of eminence, “THE WICKED ONE.” So Matt. xiii. 19, “ Then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart.” Verse 38, “ The tares are the children of the wicked one.” 1 John ii. 13, I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one." Chap. iii. 12, “ Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one." Chap. v. 18, “Whosoever is born of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.” So the devils are called evil spirits, unclean spirits, powers of darkness, rulers of the darkness of the world, and wickedness itself. Eph. vi. 12, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood ; but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness iu high places.”
Therefore, surely, those things which the minds of devils are the subjects of, can have nothing of the nature of true holiness in them. The knowledge, and understanding which they have of the things of God and religion, cannot be of the nature of divine and holy light, nor any knowledge that is merely of the same kind. No such impressions as are made on their hearts can be of a spiritual nature. That kind of sense which they have of divine things, however great, cannot be a holy sense. Such affections as move their hearts, however powerful, cannot be holy affections. If there be no holiness in them, as they are in the devil, there can be no holiness in them as they are in man; unless something be added to them beyond what is in them, or they are in the devil. And if any thing be added to them, then they are not the same things; but are something beyond what devils are the subjects of; which is contrary to the supposition; for the proposition which I am upon, is, that those things which are of the same nature, and nothing beyond what devils are the subjects of, cannot be holy experiences. It is not the subject that makes the affection or experience, or quality, holy; but it is the quality that makes the subject holy.
And if those qualities and experiences which the devils are the subjects of, have nothing of the nature of holiness in them, then they can be no certain signs that persons who have them are holy or gracious. There is no certain sign of true grace, but those things which are spiritual and gracious. It is God's image, that is, his seal and mark, the stamp by which those that are his are known. But that which has nothing of the nature of holiness, has nothing of this image. That which is a sure sign of grace, must either be something which has the nature and essence of grace, or is flowing from, or some way belonging to its essence. For that which distinguishes things one from another, is their essence, or something appertaining to their essence; and therefore, that which is sometimes found wholly without the essence of holiness or grace, can be no essential, sure, or distinguishing mark of grace.
II. The devils are not only absolutely without all true holiness, but they are not so much as the subjects of any common grace.
If any should imagine that some things may be signs of grace which are not grace itself, or which have nothing of the nature and essence of grace and holi