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known only by a sense of their divine excellency, which contains in it more than a simple knowledge, even an approbation of the heart. Those who have written upon the powers of the soul, have represented "that whereby we receive ideas of beauty and harmony, as having all the characters of a sense, an eternal sense.” And Mr. Ecking, after all that he says against a principle of grace in the heart antecedently to believing, allows that "we must have a spiritual principle before we can discern divine beauties." But the very essence of scriptural knowledge consists in the discernment of divine beauties, or the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. To speak of faith in Christ antecedent to this, is only to speak at random. The reason given why the gospel report was not believed is, that in the esteem of men, the Messiah had no form or comeliness in him, nor beauty, that they should desire him. To say we must have a spiritual principle before we can discern divine beauties, is therefore the same thing, in effect, as to say, we must have a spiritual principle before we can believe the gospel.
I will close this letter by an extract from President Edwards's Treatise on the Affections, not merely as showing his judgment, but as containing what I consider a clear, scriptural, and satisfactory statement of the nature of spiritual knowledge.
"If the scriptures are of any use to teach us any thing, there is such a thing as a spiritual supernatural understanding of divine things, that is peculiar to the saints, and which those who are not saints have nothing of. It is certainly a kind of understanding, apprehending, or discerning of divine things, that natural men have nothing of, which the Apostle'speaks of, 1 Cor. ii. 14. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him; neither can they know them, because they are spiritually discerned. It is certainly a kind of seeing or discerning spiritual things peculiar to the saints, which is spoken of, 1 John iii. 6. Whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither know him, 3 John 2. He that doeth evil hath not seen God. And John vi. 40. This is the will of him that sent me, that every one that seeth the son, and believeth on him may have everlasting life. Chap. xiv. 19. The world seeth me no more, but ye see me.
* Chamber's Dictionary, Art. Sense.
+ Essays p. 67.
Chap. xvii 3. This is eternal life, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent. Matt. xi. 27. No man knoweth the Son, but the Father, neither knoweth any man the Father but the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him. John xii. 45. He that seeth me, seeth him that sent me. Psa. ix. 10. They that know thy name will put their trust in thee. Phil. iii. 8. I count all things loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord. Verse 10. That I may know him. And innumerable other places there are all over the Bible, which show the same. And that there is such a thing as an understanding of divine things, which in its nature and kind is wholly different from all knowledge that natural men have, is evident from this, that there is an understanding of divine things which the scripture calls spiritual understanding; Col. i. 9. We do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will, in all wisdom and spiritual understanding. It has already been shown that that which is spiritual, is the ordinary use of the word in the New Testament, is entirely different, in nature and kind, from all which natural men are, or can be the subjects of.
"From hence it may be surely referred, wherein spiritual understanding consists. For if there be in the saints a kind of apprehension or perception, which is, in its nature, perfectly diverse from all that natural men have, or that it is possible they should have, till they have a new nature; it must consist in their having a certain kind of ideas or sensations of mind, which are simply diverse from all that is, or can be, in the minds of natural men. And that is the same thing as to say, that it consists in the sensations of a new spiritual sense, which the souls of natural men have not; as is evident by what has been before, once and again observed. But I have already shown what that new spiritual sense is, which the saints have given them in regeneration, and what is the object of it. I have shown that the immediate object of it is the supreme beauty and excellency of the nature of divine things as they are in themselves. And this is agreeable to the scripture The Apostle very plainly teaches, that the great things discovered by spiritual light, and understood by spiritual
knowledge, is the glory of divine things, 2 Cor. iv. 3, 4. But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them; together with verse 6. For God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ: and Chap. iii. 18. But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the spirit of the Lord. And it must needs be so, for, as has been before observed, the scripture often teaches that all true religion summarily consists in the love of divine things. And therefore that kind of understanding of knowledge which is the proper foundation of true religion, must be the knowledge of the loveliness of divine things. For doubtless that knowledge which is the proper foundation of love, is the knowledge of loveliness. What that beauty or loveliness of divine things is, which is the proper and immediate object of a spiritual sense of mind, was showed under the last head insisted on, viz. that it is the beauty of their moral perfection. Therefore it is in the view or sense of this, that spiritual understanding does more immediately and primarily consist. And indeed it is plain it can be nothing else; for (as has been shown) there is nothing pertaining to divine things besides the beauty of their moral excellency, and those properties and qualities of divine things which this beauty is the foundation of, but what natural men and devils can see and know, and will know fully and clearly to all eternity.
From what has been said, therefore, we come necessarily to this conclusion, concerning that wherein spiritual understanding consists; viz. that it consists in a sense of the heart, of the su preme beauty and sweetness of the holiness or moral perfection of divine things, together with all that discerning and knowledge of things of religion, that depends upon, and flows from such a
Spiritual understanding consists primarily in a sense of heart of that spiritual beauty. I say, a sense of heart; for it is not
speculation merely that is concerned in this kind of understanding; nor can there be a clear distinction made between the two faculties of understanding and will, as acting distinctly and separately, in this matter. When the mind is sensible of the sweet beauty and amiableness of a thing, that implies a sensibleness of sweetness and delight in the presence of the idea of it and this sensibleness of the amiableness, or delightfulness of beauty, carries in the very nature of it, the sense of the heart; or an effect and impression the soul is the subject of, as a substance possessed of taste, inclination and will.
"There is a distinction to be made between a mere notional understanding, wherein the mind only beholds things in the exercise of a speculative faculty; and, the sense of the heart, wherein - the mind does not only speculate and behold, but relishes and feels. That sort of knowledge by which a man has a sensible perception of amiableness and loathsomeness, or of sweetness and nauseousness, is not just the same sort of knowledge with that by which he knows what a triangle is, and what a square is. The one is mere speculative knowledge; the other sensible knowledge; in which more than the mere intellect is concerned; the heart is the proper subject of it, or the soul as a being that not only beholds, but has inclination, and is pleased or displeased. And yet there is the nature of instruction in it; as he that has perceived the sweet taste of honey, knows much more about it, than he who has only looked upon, and felt of it.
"The Apostle seems to make a distinction between mere speculative knowledge of the things of religion, and spiritual knowledge, in calling that the form of knowledge, and of the truth; Rom. ii. 20. Which hast the form of knowledge, and of the truth in the law." The latter is often represented by relishing, smelling or tasting; 2 Cor. ii. 14. Now thanks be to God, who always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge in every place. Matt. xvi. 23. Thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men. 1 Pet. ii. 2, 3. As new-born babes desire the sincere milk of the word that ye may grow thereby, if so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious. Cant. i. 3. Because of the savour of thy good ointments, thy
name is as ointment poured forth; therefore do the virgins love thee; compared with 1 John ii. 20. But ye have an unction from the holy one, and ye know all things.
66 Spiritual understanding primarily consists in this sense, or taste of the moral beauty of divine things; so that no knowledge can be called spiritual, any further than it arises from this, and has this in it. But secondarily, it includes all that discerning and knowledge of things of religion which depends upon, and flows from such a sense. When the true beauty and amiableness of the holiness, or true moral good that is in divine things, is discovered to the soul, it as it were opens a new world to its view. This shows the glory of all the perfections of God, and of every thing appertaining to the Divine Being: for, as was observed before, the beauty of all arises from God's moral perfection. This shows the glory of all God's works, both of creation and providence : for it is the special glory of them, that God's holiness, righteousness, faithfulness, and goodness, are so manifested in them and without these moral perfections there would be no glory in that power and skill with which they are wrought. The glorifying of God's moral perfections is the special end of all the works of God's hands. By this sense of the moral beauty of divine things, is understood the sufficiency of Christ as a mediator: for it is only by the discovery of the beauty of the moral perfection of Christ, that the believer is let into the knowledge of the excellency of his person, so as to know any thing more of it than the devils do: and it is only by the knowledge of the excellency of Christ's person, that any know his sufficiency as a mediator; for the latter depends upon, and arises from the former. It is by seeing the excellency of Christ's person, that the saints are made sensible of the preciousness of his blood, and its sufficiency to atone for sin : for therein consist the preciousness of Christ's blood, that it is the blood of so excellent and amiable a person. And on this depends the meritoriousness of his obedience, and sufficiency and prevalence of his intercession. By this sight of the moral beauty of divine things, is seen the beauty of the way of salvation by Christ : for that consists in the beauty of the moral perfections of God, which wonderfully shines forth in every step of this method of