Page images
PDF
EPUB

strangers, and unrelated to it: rejected the blandishments of sense; macerated themselves with unwearied studies, for this pleasure; making the ease and health of their bodies, to give place to the content and satisfaction of their minds ! But how much intuition hath the advantage, above this way of knowledge, may be seen in these two obvious respects.

First. It is a more facile way of knowing. Here is no need of a busy search, a tiresome indagation, (the difficulty whereof makes the more slothful, rather trust than try) a chaining together of consequences. The soul hath its clothing (its vestment of light) upon as cheap terms as the lilies theirs ; doth neither toil nor spin for it: and yet Solomon, in all the glory of his famed wisdom, was not arrayed like it. This knowledge saves the expense of study ; is instantaneous, not successive. The soul now sees more, at one view, in a moment, than before in a lise's time : as a man hath a speedier, and more grateful prospect of a pleasant country, by placing himself in some commodious station, that commands the whole region, than by travelling through it. It is no pains to look upon what offers itself to my eye. Where there is a continued series of consequences, that lie naturally connected, the soul pleasingly observes this continuity ; but views the whole frame, the whole length of the line, at once (so far as its limited capacity can extend)

and needs not discuss every particle, severally, in this series of truths, and proceed gradatim, from the knowledge of one truth to another; in which case only one, at once, would be present to its view. It sees things that are connected, not because they are so : atque ut homini sedenti ad ripum fluminis, sola aqua presens est quæ ei hoc temporis punctulo observatur ; eidem vero homini, totum flumen presens esset, si supra summam aeris regionem erectus, uno aspectu fontem et ostium fluminis posset aspicere: Ita oculo Dei, sc, as a man, conveniently placed in some eminent station, may possibly see, at one view, all the successive parts of a gliding stream : but he that sits by the water's side, not changing his place, sees the same parts, only because they succeed ; and these that pass, make way for them that follow, to come under his eye : so doth a learned man describe the unsuccessive knowledge of God; of which the glorified souls way of knowing, is an imitation; as the very words seeing and beholding (which it is so frequently set forth by in scripture) do naturally import. Yet that, as to them, all ratiocination shall be excluded that state, I see no reason to admit; though with God it can have no place. And as he is reckoned to live a pleasanter life, that

Nonnulli tædio investigandæ veritatis, cuilibet opinioni potius ignavi succumbunt; quam in exploranda veritate, pertinaci diligentia, perseverare volunt: there are some men who from the difficulty of investigating truth, indolently fall in with any sentiment proposed to them, rather than persevere in the research with a determined diligence. Min : Felix Oct. 9.

[ocr errors]

spends upon a plentiful estate; than he that gets his bread by the sweat of his brows: so this more easy way of knowing, must needs be reckoned more pleasing. This knowledge is as Jacob's venison, not hunted for but brought to hand. The race is not here to the swift. The unlearned ideot knows as much as the profoundest Rabbi (at least with as much satisfaction ;) and all arms are of an equal size; or are content with their own measure.

Secondly. It is more certain. For what do we use to reckon so certain as what we see with our eyes? Better (even in this respect) is the sight of the eyes, than the wandering of the desire. While here, the mind is carried, with most earnest desire, to pursue knowledge, it very often mistakes its way, and miserably wanders. In our most wary ratiocinations, we many times shoot at rovers : but when we know by this vision, our mark is immediately presented to our eye. We are in danger to be imposed upon by delusive appearances of things. We look through no fallacious mediums, are held in no suspense ; puzzled with no doubts, whether such consequences will hold, such conclusions be rightly inferred; and so are not retarded from giving a present unwavering assent. Here are no perplexing intricacies, no dubious hallucinations, or uncertain guesses. We see things, as they are, by a simple and undeceiving light, with both subjective, and objective certainty, being secure both from doubt, and error.

[2.] Faith. How magnificent things doth scripture speak of this grace! which the experience also of such as have been wont to live by it (that is to make it the governing principle of their lives) doth abundantly confirm. How clear are its apprehensions ! it is the feyxo5 (Heb. 11. 1.) evidence of things not seen : how sweet its enjoyments! whom not seeing ye love; and though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice, with joy unspeakable, and full of glory. 1. Pet. 1. 8. Even the heathen theology hath magnified it above knowledge, “What is it (saith one) that unites us with the self-goodness, and so joins us thereto, that it quiets or gives rest to all our actions and motions? I will express it in one word; it is faith itself, which unspeakably and after a hidden manner, doth unite and conjoin happy souls with the self-good. For ( saith he) it concerns us not, either in a way of science, και γνωρικώς, έδε ατελώς, αλλ' επίδοντας έαυτές τω θειώ φωτί, &c. or with any imperfection, to inquire after the good; but to behold ourselves in the divine light, and so shutting our eyes, to be placed in the unknown and secret unity of beings. Proclus in Plat. Theol. And a later writer (Picus Mirand.) gives us this, as a conclusion from that former author, that as faith, which is credulity, is below science; so that faith, which is truly so called, is, super-substantially, above science and intelligence, immediately uniting us to God. But it is evident, intuitive knowledge far exceeds even faith also.

this way

First, It is more distinct and clear. Faith is taking a thing upon report; (Isa. 53. 1.) Who hath believed our report? And they are more general, languid apprehensions, we have of things

Faith enters at the ear; it comes by hearing. Rom. 10. 17. And if we compare the perceptions of those two exterdal senses, that of hearing, and sight : the latter is unspeakably more clear and satisfying. He that hath knowledge of a foreign country, only by report of another, hath very indistinct apprehensions of it, in comparison of him who hath travelled it himself. While the queen of Sheba only heard of Solomon's glory, she could not satisfy herself, without an airofia the sight of her own eye; and when she saw it, she saith, the one half was not told her of what she now beheld. The ear more slowly and gradually receives, and the tongue more defectively expresses to another, an account of things : than one's ocular inspection would take it in. But, as to the excellency of this intuitive knowledge above faith ; the comparison lies not, between knowing by the ministry of a more noble sense, and a less noble; but knowing by dependance on a less noble, and without dependance upon any at all. When God hath been pleased to afford discoveries, in that way of vision, to men in the body, (his prophets, &c.) he hath usually bound up their senses, by sleep, or trances; sense hath had no part or lot in this inatter; unto believing it must necessarily concur.

Secondly. More effective. What we see, even with our external eye, much more powerfully moves our heart, than what we only give credit to, upon hearsay. The queen of Sheba much admired, no doubt, Solomon's famed splendor, and magnificence, while she only heard of it; but when she saw it, it puts her into an ecstacy; it ravished away her soul; she had no more spirit, &c. What would the sight of the divine glory do, if God did not strengthen with all might : were there not as well glorious power to support, as powerful glory to transform! Job had heard of God, by the hearing of the ear, but when once his eye saw him, (whether that were by the appearance of any sensible glory: which is probable enough, for it is said, the Lord answered him out of the whirlwind: or whether by a more immediate revelation, it is less-material) what work did it make in his soul ! The devils believe, and tremble; so impressive are the pre-apprehensions of judgment to come, and the consequents thereof, with them; yet their present torment, thence, is no torment, in comparison (“ art thou come to torment us before the time ?") of what they expect. Let wicked men consider this, (they will have their intuition in hell too ;) were your belief, and terror thereupon, with reference to the eternal judgment, and the impendent wrath of God, equal to what the devils themselves have, upon the same account; actual sensation will make you more exceed yourselves in point of misery, than the devils do now exceed

9

VOL. I.

you. There is, no doubt, a proportionable difference between the impressions of present faith, and future vision with holy souls. Now, not seeing, yet believing, they rejoice, with joy unspeakable. Their present joy cannot be spoken; their future then cannot be thought ! Experience daily tells us; how greatly, sensible, present objects have the advantage upon us, beyond those that are spiritual and distant, though infinitely more excellent and important. When the tables are turned, the now sensible things disappear; a new scene of things invisible and eternal, is immediately presented to our view; when the excellency of the objects, the disposedness of the subjects, the nature of the act, shall all multiply the advantages, on this part, how affective will this vision be, beyond what we have ever found the faint apprehensions of our so much disadvantaged faith to amount to; a kind message from an indulgent father, to his far-distant son, informing of his welfare, and yet continuing love, will much affect; but the sight of his father's face, will even transport, and overcome him with joy.

But further consider this intuition a little more particularly and absolutely in itself. So, you may take this somewhat distincter account of it, in some few particulars, corresponding to those, by which the object (the glory to be beheld,) was lately characterized. It will be a vigorous, efficacious, intuition; as that which it beholds is the most excellent, even the divine, glory. Such an object cannot be beheld, but with an eye full of lively vigor; a sparkling, a radiant eye : a weak eye would be struck blind, would fail, and be closed up at the first glance. We must suppose, then, this vision to be accompanied with the highest vitality, the strongest energy, a mighty plenitude of spirit and power no less than the divine : nothing but the divine power can sufficiently fortify the soul to behold divine glory. When the apostle speaks only of his desire of glory, he that hath wrought us to this selfsame thing (saith he) is God, he that hath moulded us, suitably framed us (as the word signifieth) for this thing, is God: it is the work of a Deity to make a soul desire glory : certainly then, it is his work to give the power of beholding it. And by how much the more of power, so much the more of pleasure in this vision. Weak sight would afford but languid joy: but when the whole soul, animated with divine power and life, shall seat itself in the eye; when it shall be as it were, all eye, (as one said of God, whom now it perfectly imitates) and be wholly intent upon vision ; apply itself thereto with all its might, as its only business ; (S. Hieronym;) what satisfying joys doth it now taste ! renewed by every repeated view! how doth it now, as it were, prey upon glory; as the eye of the eagle upon the beams of the sun! We meet with the expression of aures bibulæ ; thirsty ears ; here will be oculi bibuli, thirsty eyes : a soul ready to drink in glory at the eye. If vision be by

intromission, what attractive eyes are here, drawing in glory, seeding upon glory? If by extramission, what piercing darting eyes, sending forth the soul at every look to embrace the glorious object.

There is great power that now attends realizing thoughts of God: whether it appear in the consequent working of the soul directly towards God; or by way of reflection upon itself. If directly towards God; how mightily is he admired!“Who is a God like unto thee?" If by reflection upon our own sin, and vileness; how deeply doth it humble !-"Now mine eye seeth thee, therefore I abhor myself-Woe is me, I am undone,-Mine eyes have seen the Lord of glory.” If by way of reflection, upon our interest in him, or relation to him; how mightily doth it support and comfort! “I will look to the Lord—my God will hear me.” Mic. 7. 7. How full of rich sense is that scripture, They looked to him and were lightened ! Psal. 34. 5. One look clothed them with light, cast a glory upon their souls, filled them with life and joy ; it was but a thought, the cast of an eye, and they were as full as hearts could hold. Oh the power then of these heavenly visions ! when we dwell in the views of that transforming glory ——This will be a comprehensive intuition; as its object is entire glory. I mean comparatively, not absolutely comprehensive. More of the divine glory will be comprehended, unspeakably, than before. It is called, we know by the schoolmen, the knowledge of comprehensors, in contradiction to that of viators. We shall better be able to discern the divine excellencies together; have much more adequate conceptions ; a fuller, and more complete notion of God: we shall see him as he is. It is too much observable, how in our present state, we are prejudiced by our partial conceptions of him; and what an inequality they cause in the temper of our spirits. For wicked men, the very notion they have of God, proves fatal to their souls, or is of a most destructive tendency ; because they comprehend not together what God hath revealed of himself. Most usually, they confine those few thoughts of God they have, only to his mercy; and that exclusively, as to his holiness and justice; hence their vain and mad presumption. The notion of an unholy (or a not-holy, and not-just) God, what wickedness would it not induce? “ Thou thoughtest I was altogether such a one as thyself :” a God after their own hearts; then the reins are let loose. More rarely, when the conscience of guilt hath arrested the self-condemned wretch, God is thought of, under no other notion, than of an irreconcilable enemy and avenger; as one thirsting after the blood of souls, and that will admit of no atonement. So without all pretence, and so flatly contrary to all his discoveries of himself, do men dare to affix to him black and horrid characters, forged only out of the radicated and inveterate hatred of their own hearts against him, (that never take

« PreviousContinue »