« AnteriorContinuar »
ry reflection upon the most important truths; 'tis not a fleeting, rambling, irregular, and desultory meditation of them that will possess us wjth such a kind of knowledge. To imprint a truth in lively notions upon our minds, to digest it into twurishment and strength, and make it mix it self with all our affections and all our at~lions> it is necenary that we dwell upon it with constancy and delight. And accordingly we find, that excellent and elevated fouls, both under the Old Jestament and the New, have been daily, nay, almost hourly conversant in the Book of God: they have been passionately devoted to thsstudy of it, and delighted more in it, than in treasures or honours, than in the most profitable employments or engaging diverfions of Jife. 'Tis this kind of meditation on God, on Jesus, the world, and our selves, that can alone acquaint us thoroughly with each: 'tis this kind of meditation on death and judgment, heaven and hell, that can ztftfyfo #j wife unto salvation.
Thesum of all that I have said on this rule amounts to this: that illumination is not to be attained without labour and travel. \t js indeed the gift of God: but such a one as he will never bestow, but upon those who ask, and seek, and knock. Divine bounty and human industry do here very well accord: the Spirit os God generally nerally>/«jthem together; and his boldness and impiety in man to go about to divide them, Prov. ii. 4, 5, 6. If thou seekest her as Jiher, and se archest for her as hid treasures; then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord giveth wisdom; out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding. Nor will any one surely think it much to devote his time and labour to the attainment of illumination. For what is there that can more justly challenge, or better deserve both? Can pleasures There is none but what flows from wisdom, that is either pure, great, or lasting. Can bufiness? What business can be of greater importance, than what secures ourjalvation, our eternity? Wisdom then is the principal thing, therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting, get understanding, Prov. iv. 7. for without this, the most desirable possessions veA pleasures of life are but cheats and illusions, mischiefs and snares. For the turning away of the fimple shall stay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them, Prov. i. 32.
3. That we act conformable to those measures of light which we have attained. The more spiritualwe grow, the fitter we are. for the residence of God's Spirit, and the more capable of his influences. The more we subdue all inordinate affections, the clearer does the understanding grow, and the O 4 more
more absolute its authority: The grace of God, if it be complied with and obeyed, while it renders us more like God, renders us more dear to him too: and one favour, if it be not our own fault, qualifies us for another. 'Whoever shall observe the scriptures, will find that holiness and illumination advance with equal steps, and grow up by the fame degrees of maturity: that as we pass on from the infancy to the manhood of virtue, so do we from the first rudiments of •wisdom to the heights and mysteries of it. But on the other hand, lust obscures and eclipses the light within : fin depraves and corrupts our principles: and while we renounce our virtue, we quench or chase away the Spirit: Into a malicious soul wisdomshall not enter; nor dwell in the body that is subject unto fin : for the holy spirit of discipline will flee deceit, and remove from thoughts that are without understanding', 'and will not abide when unrighteousness co~ meth in, Wisd. i. 4, 5.
4. We must frequently and constantly address our selves to God by prayer, for the illumination of his grace. There is nothing that we do not receive from above: and if the most inconfiderable things be the gift of God, from what fountain but from him can we expect illumination? The raptures of poets, the wisdom of law-givers, the noblest pieces of philosophy, and indeed
- > - all
sM heroic and extraordinary performances were by the Pagans themselves generally attributed to a divine inspiration. And the Old Testament ascribes a transcendent skill even in arts and trades to the Spirit of God. It is not therefore to be wondered at, if illumination be attributed to Him in the New. Wisdom and understanding are essential parts ofsanSlity; and therefore must proceed from the sanctifying Spirit. We must therefore constantly look up to God, and depend upon Him for illumination; we must earnestly pray in the words of St. Paul, That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, would give unto us the spirit of wisdom and revelation, Eph. i. 17- This dependance upon God, in expectation of his blesstng on our search after knowledge, puts the mind into the best dispofition and frame to attain it; because it naturally frees and disengages it from those passtons, prejudices, and distractions, which otherwise entangle and disturb it, and render it incapable of raised, sedate, and coherent thoughts. But what is more than this, there are repeated and express promises made it; Ib that it can never fail of success: Ask, and it shall be given you, seek, and ye shall find, knock} and it shall be opened to you. The reason of which is added; If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children', how much
more JhattyourFather which is in heaven give good things (or as it is Lukexi. the Holy Spirit) to them that ask him? Mat. vii- 7,11. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ajk of Godt that giveth to all men liber ally', and upbraidethnot; and it shall be given him, Jam. i. 5., nor do I doubt but every good man has these promises verified to him, There are sudden suggestions, unexpected manifestations, extraordinary elevations of mind, which are never to be accounted for, but by a divine principle. Nor does this doctrine of spiritual illumination or irradiation in the least diminish the power and excellence of the gospel of Christ, no more than the instruction of the gospel does supersede that of the Spirit. For we must not think that the Spirit does now reveal any new truth of general use or importance; since the canon of scripture would on this supposal be but a defective rule of faith and manTiers. But,strst, The Spirit may assist us in making a fuller discovery of the sense of scripture. Secondly, The Spirit may help us to form clearer and distincter notions of those things we have yet but an imperfect and general knowledge of; and to fix and imprint them in more lasting, as well as more legible characters in our minds: or it may recall to our remembrance such thi»gs as are obliterated and forgotten: