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sense; so a man may know what is said concerning God and Christ, and sin and grace, the vanity of the creature, the excellency of Heaven, and have yet no saving knowledge of these things; and therefore the Scripture useth the expression that they oversee in seeing, as “hearing ye shall hear, and not understand; seeing ye shall see, and not perceive'' (Acts xxviii. 26). Though truths are never so plainly delivered, never so powerfully pressed ; and though they are capable to understand the words, yet they do not take in the truth into their hearts, so as to profit by it. So Deut. xxix. 2, 4, “Ye have seen, yet ye have not a heart to see.' Most will declaim against the vanity of the creature, the evil of sin; but they do not see with an affective heart-piercing light; they have on them the veil of spiritual ignorance.
2. The veil of carnal knowledge and wisdom, that puffeth up (1. Cor. viii. 1, 2), by which seeing not, we think we see. This is a great hinderance to the entertaining of the word. So Christ telleth the Pharisees who were conceited of their own knowledge : “For judgment am I come into this world, that they which see not, might see; and they which see, might be made blind” (John ix. 39). The Pharisees who were the rabbies of the age, the most seeing and learned men of that time. Carnal men are puffed up with a conceit of their own abilities, and so are obstructed by them from profiting by the Gospel
3. The veil of prejudice and corrupt affections. The passions of the mind, love and fear, desire and anger, hinder us from judging aright in things of God. Our hearts are overcast with strong affections to the world, and so cannot clearly judge either of practical truths, or of the controversies of the age. Not of practical truths ; when Christ had taught that they could not serve “God and mammon;" it is said," and the Pharisees also who were coretous, heard all these things: and they derided him.” (Luke xvi. 14). Holy, mortifying truths are unpleasing to a carnal ear, though they be represented with never so much evidence. How will men distinguish themselves out of their duty! They shift, and stretch, and turn, and wind hither and thither, and prove truth to be no truth, rather than part with their lusts. So present truths, as the Apostle calls them, (2 Peter. i. 12), when the dust of interest is raised, are not discerned. The orthodoxy of the word is usually an age too short. “ The god of this world hath blinded their minds” (2 Cor. iv. 4).
4. The veil of carnal sense: “He that lacketh these things, is blind, and cannot see afar off” (2 Peter. i. 9). There are so many mists and clouds in the lower world, that men cannot out-see time, and without the prospective of faith have a sight of eternity. Nature is shortsighted, so inured to present things, that we receive no light concerning things to come. These are the scales that are upon our eyes.
2ndly, There is an infusion of light, without which men of excellent wit and sharp understanding in other things, are stark blind in the things of God. What this light is, will appear by the degrees of knowledge, and the uses of this light.
I. The degrees of knowledge.
(1.) In some there is a simple nescience, both of terms or notions, and things: as in those that have not a revelation, or have not regarded it, when the revelation is made. As the Gentiles that have not a revelation, “Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of
their hearts" (Eph. iv. 18). Or rude and ignorant Christians, that have not the advantage of education, so as to understand the notions in which the doctrine of God is propounded, “Whom shall he teach knowledge ? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine ? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts; for precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little and there a little" (Isa. xxviii, 9, 10). So sottish and brutish are some, that a man had need teach them as he teacheth little children, letter after letter, and line after line ; little good done.
(2.) In others there is a grammatical knowledge, but not a spiritual; a repeating things by rote, a talking of all that a Christian enjoyeth.
(3.) Besides the grammatical knowledge, there is a dogmatical knowledge, when the truths of the word are not only understood, but begin to settle into an opinion that we bustle for in the world. An opinionative receiving of the truth, is different from a saving receiving of the truth. Many are orthodox, or have so much judgment and knowledge, as to hold the truth strictly, but the heart is not possessed with the life and power of it. Those are intended in Rom. ii. 20: “ An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which have the form of knowledge, and of the truth in the law.” And such are described 2 Tim. iii. 5 : “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof." It is not to be imagined that this is always in design, though many times carnal men swim with the stream, and take up with the opinions that are current in their age ; but also out of conviction of judgment, there is somewhat of conscience in it. A sound judgment is a different thing from a sound heart. The truths of Gnd have great evidence with them; and therefore a rational man being helped with some common work of the Spirit, may close with them, though they have no experience of the power and prevailing influence of them.
(4.) Besides this dogmatical knowledge by which we see round about the compass of truths revealed in the word; there is a gracious illumination, when men are taught so, as drawn to God (John vi. 41, 45), and they do so understand Christ's doctrine, as to apply and make a right use of it; such a knowledge as is called not only sight but taste, “If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious” (1 Peter ii. 3); and a feeling of what we understand : “ And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge, and in all judgment” (Phil. i. 9). This sense and experimental knowledge is that which the saints seek after.
II. The uses of this spiritual illumination. And,
Ist, A clear sight of the truths of God, Others have but a hearsay knowledge gathered out of books, and sermons, and the common report which is made of Christ; but he that is divinely enlightened, drinks of the fountain, and so his draught is more fresh and sweet; they do not talk of things by rote after others, but are they written upon their hearts : “ I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts” (Heb. viii. 10); and so groweth more intimate, and satisfactory, and moving upon them.
2dly, An applicative sight,---not only knowledge, but prudence, “I wisdom dwell with prudence" (Prov. viii. 12). Wisdom is the knowledge of principles, prudence is an ability to apply them to our comfort and use, that we may know it for our good (Job v. 27). Many are right in gene, rals; but the Spirit doth not only reveal the truths of the Gospel, but applieth those truths to awaken the conscience that was asleep in sin. Many men that are unrenewed, may be stored with general truths concerning the misery of man, redemption by Christ, the privileges of a Christian ; but they do not reflect the light of these truths upon themselves, so as to consider their own case; and so it serveth rather for matter of opinion and discourse, than for life and conversation; it is not directive.
3dly, An affective sight. “When wisdom entereth into thine heart" (Prov. ii. 10), which is the seat of affections, it stirs up in the soul answerable motions to every truth: whereas when truths rest in empty, barren notions, without feeling, and an answerable touch upon the heart, the knowledge of them is like a winter's sun, that shineth, but warmeth not ; the misery of man is not affective, and doctrines of redemption by Christ, are apprehended without any joy and relish,
4thly, A transforming sight. “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 by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor. iii. 18). It is a light that is both directive and persuasive. A man may hear the gospel vouws the law įvayteniūs. The Apostle prefereth the Gospel above the law in the fore-mentioned place, for comfortableness, perspicuity, efficacy, &c.
5thly, It is a light that prevaileth over our lusts and interests; such a light as hath fire in it to destroy lusts : “He that saith I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar” (1 John ii. 4). A true knowledge and sight of God, is able to bridle lusts, and purify the conscience. Therefore it is said, “He that doeth evil, hath not seen God” (3 John 11); hath not a true sight, whatever speculations he may have about the nature of God. Other light doth not check and control viscious desires ; reason is not restored to its dominion; the reputed wise men of the world “held the truth in unrighteousness” (Rom. i. 18). Truth may talk its fill, but can do nothing; as a man that is bound hand and foot, may rave and evaporate his passions, but cannot relieve himself from the oppressor, or the force that he is under.
Secondly, Reasons that show the necessity of this work.
1. Spiritual blindness is natural to us, as that man that was blind from his birth (John ix. 1). We are not all born blind in body, but all in mind. By tasting the tree of knowledge, all Adam's sons have lost their knowledge. Satan hath brought a greater shame upon us, than Nahash the Ammonite would have brought upon the men of Jabesh Gilead, in putting out their right eyes. The eye of the soul is put out, so we cannot see the light that shineth in the word. By the fall we lost the true and perfect light of reason, but retain the pride of reason. It is no small part of our blindness, that we cannot endure to hear of it: “ Thou sayest I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing : and knowest not thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked" (Rev. iii, 17). Man desireth to be thought sinful rather than weak; and will sooner own a wickedness in morals, than a weakness in intellectuals. Men are dishonest out of choice, and therefore think there is more of liberty and bravery in it; but to be simple argueth imperfection. “ Vain man would be wise, though man be born like a wild ass's colt” (Job xi. 12); not only for untamedness and affectation of liberty, but for rudeness and grossness of conceit; yet man would be accounted wise. The Pharisees took it ill that Christ charged them with blindness, “ Are we blind also ?” (John vii. 41.) We all affect the reputation of wisdom, more than the reality ; that is the reason why we are so touchy in point of error; we can easier brook a sin reproved, than an error taxed. Till we have spiritual eye-salve, we do not know it, and will not hear of this blindness (Rev. iii. 17). It is a degree of spiritual knowledge to know that we know nothing.
2. Observe how much spiritual blindness is worse than bodily; those that are under bodily blindness are glad of a remedy, glad of a guide.
(1.) Glad of a remedy. How feelingly doth that man speak, Mark x. 15, “What wilt thou that I should do unto thee? The blind man said unto him, Lord, that I might receive my sight.” Those that are blind spiritually, are not for a remedy, not only ignorant, but unteachable, and so their blindness groweth upon them; to their natural, there is an adventitious blindness. If we cannot keep out the light, we rage against it.
(2.) Glad of a guide : as Elymas the sorcerer, when he was stricken blind, looked about for some body to lead him by the hand (Acts xiii. 11). But the blind world cannot endure to be directed; or the blind lead the blind, and both fall into the ditch. He that prophesieth of strong wine, is the teacher of this people, saith the prophet. Men love those that gratify their lusts and humours; let one come soundly, and declare the counsel and will of God to them, he is distasted.
3. We cannot help ourselves out of this misery without God's help. Our incapacity is best understood by opening that noted place: “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him : neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. ii. 14). Let us a little open that place, äv9pw roS toxikos, the souly man, that is a man considered in his pure naturals. Jude 19, fuxicoi, aveva un éxOVTES, “sensual, having not the Spirit.” However, he useth the best word by which a natural man can be described ; he doth not say, sáprikol, not only those that are brutish and depraved by vicious habits, but take nature in its excellency, soul-light, in its highest splendour and perfection, though the man be not absolutly given up to vile affections. Well, it is said of him that he neither doth nor can receive the things of God, où obxetai, and où dúvarai yvūval. The tà toŨ II vɛvuaros the of the Spirit, are such truths as depend upon mere revelation, and are above reach and knowledge of nature. There are od tô Ocz, “things of God," that may be known by a natural light. “ That which may be known of God, is manifest in them, for God hath showed it unto them" (Rom. i. 19). But tà toù II veúparoc, things revealed in the word, though a natural man be able to understand the phrases and sentences, and be able to discourse of them, yet he wanted faith, and a spiritual sense and relish of them. They are folly to him. It noteth the utter contempt of spiritual things by a carnal heart, who looketh upon redemption by Christ cruci. fied, with the consequent benefits, as things frivolous and vain. Paul at Athens was accounted a babbler (Acts xvii. 18). The same disposition is still in natural men; for though these truths, by the prescription and con. sent of many ages, have now obtained veneration and credit; yet carefully to observe them, to live to the tenor of them, whatever hazards and
inconveniencies we are exposed to in the world, are still counted foolish. Mark, for greater emphasis it is uwpia “ folly,” as carnal wisdom is ëxopa “ enmity against God," Rom. viii. 7. Neither can he know them ; it is out of sloth, and opposition, and moral impotency, as it is said : “ The carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can it be” (Rom. viii. 7). Reason is a short and defective light, not only actually ignorant, but unable to conceive of them. It is not only through negligence he doth not, but through weakness he cannot. Take mere nature in itself, and like plants neglected, it soon runs wild. As the nations barbarous, and not polished with arts and civility, have more of the beast than the man in them: “ But what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves" (Jude 10). Suppose they use the spectacles of art, and the natural light of reason be helped by industry and learning, yet how erroneous in things of religion ! “ When they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were they thankful, but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened,” &c. (Rom. i. 21). The most civil nations were most foolish in matters of worship; and many placed fevers, and human passions, and every paltry thing, among the gods. The Scythians worshipped thunder, the Persians the sun; the most stupid and blockish nations seemed most wise in the choice of their gods ; others were given up to more gross supersitions. All the arts in the world could not fully repair the ruins of the fall. The Heathens invented logic for polishing reason; grammar and rhetoric for language; for government, and as a help to human society, laws; for bodily necessities, physic; for mollifying and charming the passions, so far as concerned human conversation, ethics ; for families and private societies, economics; but for the soul and religious concernments, how blind and foolish were they! Nay, go higher; suppose, besides the spectacles of art, nature be furnished with the glass of the word, yet " The light shined in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not” (John i. 5). We see how great scholars are defective in the most useful and practical points. Nicodemus, a teacher in Israel, was ignorant of regeneration (John iïi. 10). They always err in one point or another. And in these things of moment, if they get an opinion, and a dogmatical faith, and have an exact model and frame of truth, yet as long as they are carnal and unregenerate, how much doth a plain, good Christian exceed them in lively affection, and serious practice. And whilst they are disputing of the nature and offices of Christ, and the nature of justification and sanctification, others enjoy what they speak of, and have a greater relish and savour, and power of these truths upon their hearts. For it ever was a truth, and ever will be, “ They that are after the flesh, do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit, the things of the Spirit” (Rom. viii. 5). Nature can go no further than itself, than a fleshy inclination moveth it. They have not this transforming light, and that sense of religion which is prevalent over lusts and worldly interests.
The next reason is, “ because they must be spiritually discerned :" that is, to know them inwardly, throughly, and with some relish and savour, there must be a higher light, there must be a cognation and proportion between the object and the faculty. Divine things must be seen by a divine light, and spiritual things by a spiritual light. Sense, which is ihe light of beasts, cannot trace the workings or flights of reason in her