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You see what our Saviour saith, “If any man will do his will he shall know of the doctrine.” A man must know the will of God or he shall never do it. It is not the despiser, nor the curious disputer, that shall come unto the knowledge of this truth, but the submitter. A man must captivate his reason and understanding, and give, as it were, a blind obedience unto the word; and then a man shall come to know it. To know the word a man must first yield unto it, to be ruled by it ; the first knowledge of the truth is, to bring a man on, and lead him further and further still, until he be in truth, yea truth in him, and he transformed into the image thereof; so continuing and going on therein, still reaching for that which is before; thus continuing in his word, we shall know the truth (as our Saviour speaks), and the truth shall make us free.
The reason hereof is, because, as in human sciences, it is not the discourse of one in ordering a battle, that will make wise men trust a man the more to order it; but they will put the business to men of skill, who have adventured their lives in the choake of a battle, and have had experience trained up in the war. So there is an introductory kind of knowledge by learning, which will not serve the turn; which though a man have, yet he is but a novice all the while. But when a man continues therein, it comes to be an experimental knowledge; as that of a general in ordering of a battle, whose experience doth it. So this is a matter of practice, as we see, “ Beholdt the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding.” This fear of God is not a discursive knowledge, but it is the well ordering of all. So saith the prophet: “ The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all they that do his commandments; his praise endureth for ever.” Mark, hath not a man a good knowledge who is able to repeat a sermon well, and speak well ? No, if there be no more; a good understanding have all they that do his command
Job, chap. 28. ver. 28.
• John, chap. 7. ver. 17. u Psalm 111. ver. 10.
ments. When a man doth practise his knowledge, this is the thing. Compare Proverbs, chap. 2. ver. 6. with Proverbs, chap. 2. ver. 10. Observe, as this a thing which comes from God particularly, so he useth not to give it to those who care not for him. He saith there, “ When wisdom entereth into thy heart, and knowledge is pleasant to thy soul, discretion shall preserve thee.” So saith the prophet : “ Whaty man is he that feareth the Lord ? him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose.” To whom will God, think you, give this knowledge ? Not to profane persons, blasphemers, idle persons, who will not labour for it. Will he give, and convert these precious things to such ? But what man is he that feareth the Lord ? him shall he teach in the way, that he shall choose ? And so he saith, “ The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him, and he will show them his covenant." Mark; there are certain secrets in regeneration, not communicated unto all, but unto such as fear him. Therefore the prophet David prays unto the Lord, to open his eyes, that he might behold wondrous things out of his law. Many there be who find not these wondrous things in the word; yea, and
many wise men there are, who will not believe that they can be assured of salvation, or that any man can be assured thereof. These never tasted what wonderful things are revealed in the word, unto those that fear God; for to be assured to be in Christ, and to be with Christ for ever, it is not to every one.
His secret is with, and revealed unto, them that fear him. I believe easily such men cannot believe this. So you see there is a knowledge which leads a man unto this freedom, which must be sealed by a long tract of time, when a man must wait and knock at the gates of wisdom for entrance.
The use hereof is,
1. First : men must not marvel that the greatest clerks are not the soundest divines; such who think themselves princely and stately fellows. It is not for want of wit, but
1 Ibid, verse 14.
y Psalm 25. ver. 12. à Psalm 119. ver. 18.
of grace in the heart, that such do not profit the people. “ They run, saith the Lord, but I have not sent them ; therefore they profit not my people.” A man must first put off all his own conceits, and cry unto God for it, or he cannot profit himself or others. If a man turn a little learning into practice, God will give more, and teach a man strange things beyond his imagination. But if a man go on in knowledge and learning, and is not transformed into the image thereof, God doth justly to give that man no more. Yea (which is worse) to give a man over to a lying spirit, to be led by vanity, and so fall into that dangerous disease of hardness of heart, which is worse than the plagues of Egypt, as we may seeb. There is showed the cause of the inundation of Popery ; because they walked not according to the knowledge, God gave them over unto blindness and hardness of heart. Mark; some there are who have such a belief of the truth which sanctifieth them; others have pleasure in unrighteousness, not continuing in his word; it is just with God to give such a man over to be damned; to cast him off from the knowledge of the truth, and to let him believe lies ; because he received not the love of the truth, that he might be saved, “therefore such a one shall take pleasure in unrighteousness, and be damned.” If I did see a Papist showing himself a notorious wicked man, I would not begin to convert that man by dissuading him from Popery; but I would set myself to reprove his sin, and for to convince him of that; for when a man sets himself against God's word, it is a hard matter to reclaim such a man. There are precepts not to murder, lie, commit adultery, steal, and the like; for a man now to set himself against God in these, it is a wicked thing. The apostle compares such men to “ Jannese and Jambres, who do resist the truth, men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith.” These men were great magicians then, who did resist Moses. Moses was learneder than they in all the learning of the Egyptians; Moses did convince them, and beat them at their own weapons. Why was their rage set against him? They were men of corrupt hearts and minds. It is not possible that such should turn to God, unless they might be persuaded to leave their sin. Andd the apostle sets out seducers, and shows such men should come in the latter days, false teachers, who should bring in damnable heresies, by whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. Such he describes to have eyes full of adultery, who cannot cease from sin, beguiling unstable souls, having an heart exercised with covetous practices ; cursed children. And then he adds”, that whilst they promise men liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption. As though the apostle should have said, there will come false prophets among you, saying they can untie you from your sins; believe them not; such men are very rake-hells, such men, who rebel against the truth, will you have them to be your guides, who will guide you and themselves into destruction ? So the apostle Jude saith, “ These speak evil of those things they know not; but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those they corrupt themselves.” You shall have a Papist speak the most bitter things against the truth; why ? They speak evil of those things they know not. They know not what they do. They did not walk and glorify God according unto their knowledge; but had pleasure in unrighteousness; and therefore they now are barred of the truth, this being the way to bring men to speak evil of those things they know not. A man must continue and abide in a lesser known truth, ere he can attain to know a greater and more excellent truth.
b 2 Thess. chap. 2. ver. 11.
< 2 Tim. chap. 3. ver. 8.
2. Secondly ; hence learn we the necessity of this point. A man must continue in this word, or else he shall get nothing by it. There is a coming to the word not common, which makes one still to abide in the truth. As 6. The elder unto the elect lady, whom I love in the truth, and not I only, but also all they that have known the truth; For the truth's sake, which dwelleth in us, and shall be with us for ever.” There is a truth which is
d 2 Pet. chap. 2. ver. 14.
ė Ibid. verse 19.
rooted in one, that one would part with a hundred lives ere they let it go. This he speaks of here, “ for the truth's sake, which dwelleth in us, and shall be with us for ever." This is such a truth so rooted, that bring all tortures, or a thousand deaths, a man will not part with it. We must all labour therefore, not to despise the truth, or to sit down contented with a small measure thereof; but strive to attain to this higher strain, to be transformed into it, that we may shine forth as lights unto others. Till a man come to this pitch, I may say truly he knows nothing as he ought to know. For this see 1 John, chap. 2. ver. 3. “And hereby know we, that we know him, if we keep his command
He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” So the apostles bids them add to their faith virtue, and to their virtue knowledge, and to their knowledge temperance, and to temperance patience, and to patience godliness, and to godliness brotherly-kindness, and to brotherly-kindness charity : for, if these things be in you, and abound, they will make you, that you shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Mark; there is a barren knowledge, like the heath in the wilderness, which is good for nothing, scarce for the fire, which is in the brain only. Then there is a fruitful knowledge, which abounds in piety, in the brain, heart, and whole powers of the soul. He saith ; if you shall go on and increase, you shall be more and more sanctified. A fruitless faith and knowledge doth but help a man on unto damnation, and maketh his reckoning so much the heavier at that great day. But saith the apostle, “Heh that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins."
Now what this knowledge is, which brings forth such excellent things, you have seen.
I should now come to show the effects thereof: which is here set down. The truth shall make them free. They bragged they were Abraham's children, and never in bondage unto any man.
8 2 Pet. chap. 1. ver. 5.
h Ibid. ver. 9.