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fear the Lord. The Root; that is to fay,S E ^ M. the first Ground and Principle, the first Capacity and Disposition to receive Religious Truths; that which makes the Mind susceptible and apt to apprehend them; that which makes them easy and plea&nt to be understood. For Wisdom Wisd. vi. goeth about, seeking such as are worthy of6'17'1*' ter; she sheweth herself favourably unto them in the Ways, and meet et h them in every thought: For the very true Beginning
of her, is the defre of Discipline; And
whoso feeketh her early, Jhall have no great travel, for he Jhall find her fitting at his Doors.
Further; as a virtuous Disposition of Mind is the best preparative for beginning the Study of Religion; so Practise and Experience in the course of a Virtuous Life and in the Obedience of God's Commands, is in continuance the best informs tion and perpetual improvement of a man'& Understanding and Judgment in the Knowledge of Divine Truths. He that keepeth the Law os the Lord, getteth the Understanding thereof fays the wife San, of Sirach; and the perfection of the Fear of the Lord, is Wisdom, Ecclus. xxi. 11. £... D 3 vit
Sirm.w'/ men understand not judgment; but they ", that seek the Lord, understand all things, Frov. xxviii. 5. He that practises what he knows, improves his Knowledge con~ tinually by that Practise; and by Actions, even mote than by Speculation and Study, is the Understanding of practical Truths inlarged. In the common Affairs of the present Life, 'tis obvious that Men of Business, Experience and Diligence, are generally much better Judges in their, proper Employments, than Others who for Parts and Learning may perhaps in other respects be esteemed much superior. And so it is likewise in Matters of Religion. Not the Wife and Crafty, not the learned and profound, not the subtle Arguers in Speculation and Dispute, are the best Instructors in the Duty of a Christian; but, in these matters, rather the mouth of the Just, (fays Solomsn^) bringeth forth Wifi. domt and the Lips of the Righteous bmv what is accept able i Prov. x. 31, 32, There; is a Spirit and a Life in the Discourse of a Righteous Man, proceeding from the Sin-* cerity of an Upright Heart; which no Skill nor Art can imitate. There is a, Knowledge and Discernment arising from.
virtuous. virtuous Practises which another manSErM; cannot learn from him that has it, but by going himself and doing likewise. The '^^^ Pure in Heart see God here, as well as hereafter, after another manner, than visions and profane Philosophers argue about him. And as, with regard to worldly Employments, men of Parts and. Learning can dispute and contend about them, without understanding them; but Those only are truly slcilful, who have exercised themselves in the Pra&ije of the particular Imployments: So in Religion, there is no man truly wife and knowing, but he that has lived like a Christian, instead of disputing about it. When some of the Jews, moved with the Wisdom and Excellency of our Saviour's Discourses, believed on him by a sudden Impulse of unexperienced Affection; our Saviour, knowing the Weakness of the Ground of their Faith, said unto them, If'
ye continue in my Word, then ye flail
know the Truth, and the Truth fiall make you free, St Joh. viii. 31 j free, from the slavery of unreasonable Lusts and Passions j free, from the Darkness of Ignorance and Errors. The Wise shall understand,
S E R M. On the contrary, in the Nature of Fitious Inclinations, and in the Practise of
^"V"^ all Wickedness, there is something necessarily repugnant, something that in the na-> tare of things will be a hindrance and impediment to a right Understanding in matters of Religion; None of the Wicked shall understand, A vitious Disposition blinds mens Eyes, corrupts their Principles, and subverts their Judgment; it causes, that men have Eyes and fee not, Ears, and hear not, Understandings and yet do net understand. They become vain in their Imaginations, as St Paul exprenes it, Rom, i. 21. and their sooliflj heart is darkened. They have a reprobate mind, Rom, i. 28. The Word in the original signifies, an injudicious mind-, a mind despoiled of its right Judgment, and of its natural Power of discerning. They have, as the fame Apostle elsewhere elegandy describes
Eph iv. them, their Under/landings darkned,—be
,8- cause of the Blindness of their Hearts. A Person in this state; the natural man, as St Paul calls him; (so we render the Word, 1 Cor. ii. 14. but it ought to be translated, the Sensual man;) a man wholly taken up with the Cares and Pleasurej of the present Life y such a one recehethS z R M. not the things of the Spirit of God, he underjlands them not, has no relish of them for they are foolishness unto him j neither can he know them, because they are Jpiritually discerned: spiritually discerned j i. e. discerned by 'Those only, who have Faculties to discern them with; by Those, whose Minds are not blinded with the Love of Wickedness. St 'John gives us an emphatical Instance of This in one particular Vice, that of Hatred or Malice; which whosoever is addicted to, he tells us is no more capable of understanding the Doctrine of the Gospel, that Doctrine of Love and univerfal Charity, than a man whose Eyes are stiut, is able to discern the Light: He that bateth bis Brother, is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knowcth not whither he goeth, because that Darkness has blinded his Eyes, 1 Joh. ii. 1 (. No Words can express in a more lively and emphatical manner, than this Description does, the incredible stupidity of such Christians as think they do God good Service by persecuting one another, and expect to propagate the peaceable and charitable