« AnteriorContinuar »
Of illlumination. I. The dstinguisshing characters of illuminating truths, i. They purify us. 2. They nourish andjlrengthen us. 3. They delight us. 4. They procure us a glorious reward. II. The nature of illuminating knowledge. 1. // must be deeply rooted. 2. It must be distinci and clear. 3. It mast be thoroughly concocted.
§. i.XTf THA T it is. It happens in the VV P°int of illumination, as it does in that of happiness: ah* men, at first hearing, form in general an agreeable and pleasing notion of it; all men admire and love it; but few have any distinct and true understanding of thole things which 'tis made up of. AU men conceive illumination to be a state of light and knowledge\ as they do happiness to be a state of pleasure: but are as little agreed in particular, wherein consists the light or knowledge which makes the one, as wherein consists the pleasure that makes the other. The lust and passion of some, the superstition and prejudice of others; curiosity and confidence, weakness and design, enthusiasm and fancy, embroil and perplex all things. However, every honest man hath a clue, by which he may escape out of this labyrinth. Thefcripture shines with bright and gracious beams
throughthroughout all this darkness: and, if we will attend to it, we cannot wander into any dangerous mistake. This describes the state or illumination very plainly to us, calling it sometimes wisdom, sometimes knowledge and under/landing; sometimes faith, sometimes the jpirit of wisdom and revelation. Next, it acquaints us with the design and end of it; namely, to convert us from the power of Satan to the service of the living God, to purify and sanctify us, to enable us to approve the holy, acceptable, and perseSl will of God, and, in one word, to make us wise unto salvation. Nay, it proceeds further, and points out to us particularly the truths, in the knowledge of which illumination consists. Thus the Old Testament reckons wisdom to be, sometimes the knowledge of God, sometimes the knowledge of his law, sometimes the understanding of proverbs and parables; these containing as it were the foul of moral instruction, and wrapping up in a few and lively words, whatever the experience of the aged, or the observation of men of the most piercing judgment, thought best deserved to be transmitted to posterity. But all this amounts to the fame thing, and all the descriptions of wisdom in the Old Testament may be summed up into that one, Job xxvi i. 28. Behold, tie fear of the Lord7 that is wisdom, and to depart
from evil is understanding. The New 'testament tells us, this is life eternal, to know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou has sent: that Christ is the way, the truth and the life: that in him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge: that true understanding consists in knowing the will of God; which will is our santiif cation. And when St. Paul understands by wisdom, as sometimes he does, the penetrating into the ipirit and mystery, the depths and recesses of the Old Testament, and discovering th6 great defign of man's redemption, carried on through all the ages of the world, and through a wife variety of dispensations, this alters not the notion of illumination; for this does not point out to us any new dr different truths; but only regards one peculiar way of explaining, or establishing and confirming the great Christian doctrines. To conclude; we may easily learn what sort of knowledge the Spirit of God recommends to us above all other, from those petitions which St. Paul puts up for the Ephefians and Colosstans. For theformer he prays thus; that the God of our Lord Jefiis Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him; the eyes of your un~ derstanding being enlightened, that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the
saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of bis power to us-ward, who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which be wrought in Christ, when he raised him
from the dead, and set him at his own right band in the heavenly places, &c. Eph. i. 17, 18, 19, 20; For the latter thus: that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will, in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleafing, being fruitful in every good work, and increafing in the knowledge of God, Col. i. 9, 10. If from these and the like texts we form a general idea of illumination, it will be this: illumination is a jlate of knowledge, consisting in the abolishing or relinquishing those errors, which deprave and pervert our affections, and undermine and supplant the empire and authority of reason; and in entertaining and embracing those truths, which purify the one, and restore and establish the other: and all this in order to entitle us to the favour of God, and a blessed eternity. I might conteat' my self with this general delineation of illumination: but because this is a subject from which we cannot but reap so much pleasure and advantage, as will abundantly requite whatever labour can be bestowed upon it; I will proceed to 3
fuller discovery of it, if I can.
L 4 Illumi
Illumination then being estate of knowledge, and the object of this knowledge being truth, 'tis plain, that in order to form a just and distinct notion of illumination, it will be necessary to enquire into two things: First, What kind of truths; and next, what kind of knowledge of these truths, constitutes illumination.
i. Of the /rw/^i which illuminate: we have many noble characters in the OldTef tament and the New, which distinguish these from truths of an inferior nature: all which are, I think, comprized by Solomon in very few words; Prov xxiv. 13, 14. My Jon, faith he, eat thou fyoney, because it is good; and the honey-comb, which is sweet to thy taste; so shall the knowledge of wisdom be unto thy soul, when thou has found it; then there shall be a reward, and thy expectation Jhall not be cut off. Solomon here, as is very usual with inspired writers, does compare spiritual with corporeal things, or illustrates the one by the other. He tells us, that what honey is to the body, that wisdom is to the soul: and recommending the former from two incomparable properties, its ministring to health and pleasurc, he recommends the latter from advantages, which bear indeed some resemblance; but are as much superior to these, as thejoul is to the body. Myson, eat thou honey, because it is good; \. e. because