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nary virtue in it; but if it be rationally and well composed, it pleases his reason, and there is an end. And this proceeds from the want of a spiritual, perceiving heart. As for instance, whence is it that a man is so affected with music, that all the passions of his mind and blood in his body is moved at the hearing of it, and the stupid brutes not at all pleased ? but because in man there is a principle of reason concurring with his sense, which discovers that sweetness and harmony in those sounds, that bare sense is not able to discern. Thus it is proportionably between mere reason, and reason joined with a spiritual discernment in respect of spiritual things. And so I have endeavoured in some measure to display the nature of a perceiving heart and an hearing ear. But the truth is, when we have spoke the utmost concerning it that we can, yet those only can know what it is who have it: as he only knows what it is to see, who can see. As the groans, so also the graces of the Spirit are unutterable. Grace is known by its own evidence. It is the white stone shining to him only that does possess it; for a man is no more able to express this work, so as to convey a full notion of it to the mind of him that has it not, than by words and discourse to convey an idea of colours to him who was born blind, or the proper relish of meats to him who has no taste.
II. Whence it is, that without this gift of a perceiving heart, the soul cannot make any improvement of the means of grace. It arises from these two rea
1. From its exceeding impotence and inability to apprehend these things. 2. From its contrariety to them.
1. It cannot close with the means, because of its impotence to apprehend them. Reason attended with the highest improvements of art and endowments of nature, is not able to search into the things of God; it may indeed dive into them so as to drown itself, but never so as to find and apprehend them. For if it be so posed and nonplused, in pursuing the knowledge of natural causes, that the greatest philosophers, after all their search into these things, are forced to sit down in confusion and disagreement; I say, if nature thus falter in earthly things, how will it be able to reach heavenly, between which there is a greater distance than between earth and heaven? If it be also so much to seek in the disquisition of moral truths, that few can agree in stating what is the greatest good, but one says virtue, another pleasure; I say, how then can it be able to comprehend truth spiritual, which as far surpasses the most elevated morality, considered as such, as that transcends the gross dictates of the most swinish sensuality ? Every spiritual truth, as spiritual, so far it is also mysterious. Nature is weak, and feeble, and blind, when it comes to the mysteries of faith ; it never appears so weak, as when, by its own strength, it attempts the understanding of these. Nature prying into spirituals, is like Pompey, an heathen, looking into the ark of God; seeing indeed, but not understanding. There is a certain secret of the Lord, locked up from the view of bare reason; and it is only with them that fear him. See in what a posture of weakness the Spirit presents a natural understanding, John i. 5, The light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not. Let the light shine round about him who is blind, yet the dark
ness, which he carries about him, hinders him from perceiving it. Sooner may a dark room enlighten itself, without the irradiation of a candle or the sun, than a natural understanding work out its own ignorance in matters of faith. The Spirit says expressly, that a man in this state cannot know the things of God, 1 Corinth. ii. 14. There is an impotence rising into an impossibility. Again, in 2 Corinth. iii. 5. We are not sufficient of ourselves to think any thing. A good thought is the lowest strain of piety, but the first step to grace; yet we see it is higher than nature can rise unto. How is a natural understanding towering, and pleasing itself in the ornaments and riches of its own notions! yet represented by the Spirit as poor, and wretched, and blind, and naked. Revel. iii. 17. Come to Nicodemus with a gospelmystery, make it out to him by the most obvious similitudes in nature, yet how is that great doctor void of an heart to perceive, and an ear to hear! Instead of understanding and assenting to it, he will reply upon you, How can these things be? They seem to him absurd, irrational, impossible: and whosoever searches into the great things of the gospel by the bare strength of reason, he will find that, like Nicodemus, he comes to Christ in the dark. Wherefore, if, in the judgment of the Spirit of truth itself, the best of human knowledge, when it ventures upon the things of God, is no more than weakness, insufficiency, and wretched blindness, then for ever let it sit down in its own darkness, and deplore its impotence and inability, and not wonder that it is unable savingly to perceive, hear, or see, the great depths of the gospel. Those expressions usual amongst us, strength of parts, force of reason, since
the ruins of a broken, crippled nature, are solecisms in divinity, no where the language of the scripture. It was Adam's doom to return to the earth, and his soul fell to the ground first. But now that our not perceiving nor discerning the things of God proceeds from the impotence of our own hearts, and not from any obscurity or unfitness to be understood in the things themselves, is apparent, and that from the forementioned John i. 5, where these things are called a light, a shining light, and therefore most easily to be seen, if it was not for our own darkness. The most refined and the sublimest beings are the most intelligible. It is God's nature to dwell in light, but it is our weakness that makes that ligh. inaccessible : 'as the fruit that grows upon the top branches, the highest boughs of all, is the fairest and the sweetest, if we could but reach it.
The great disproportion between our intellect and these things, is the cause that we cannot apprehend them. Every such truth has a brightness to dim, and a largeness to exceed the understanding; as the sun is both too bright and too great for the eye. What master of reason or subtlety is able to unriddle the mysteries of the gospel ? to track the mysterious workings of the Spirit in conviction and conversion? Sooner may we spy out the motions of the wind, from whence it comes and whither it goes; and view the first conception, and observe the growth of an infant in the womb, which the Spirit mentions as a thing impossible; than to comprehend these wonders : things fitter to amaze, than to inform a natural understanding.
2. The second reason why the soul cannot make any saving improvement of the means of grace,
without this special gift of a perceiving heart, is because of its contrariety to these things. And there are two things in the soul, in which this contrariety chiefly consists.
(1.) Carnal corruptions. (2.) Carnal wisdom.
(1.) Concerning the contrariety that arises from carnal corruption, it is expressed in the scripture by the greatest that can be, namely, that contrariety which is between enemies; yea, and such an one as breaks out into an open war: I have a law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and leading me captive into the law of sin, Rom. vii. 23. Paul speaks this in his own person. Now if concupiscence is so strong as to captivate him at some turns, who was truly changed and sanctified, how then will it reign and rage, by a strong opposition of the things of God, in such a person as is yet unchanged and unsanctified ? Concupiscence domineers in most men, and it is lively in the best. As for the seat of it, it is placed in the sensitive part of man, and therefore, according to the regular tenor and state of nature, was made to serve, and to be subject to reason : but we know that since sin entered into the world, it has got the dominion over it; and hence, as from a ruler, we read of its laws, the law of the members. Now there is no such tyrant as a servant, when he steps into dominion. Hereupon the sensitive appetite, with so much fury, commands the whole man to fulfil its lust; it outfaces and tramples upon all the commands of reason to the contrary. Whence we argue for the truth in hand thus : If concupiscence so much opposes the dictates of human reason, which are much inferior