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minds. Death orfuturity may throw some light upon it; but even that will be partial. A perfect comphrehension of it is the prerogative of God only. He only who made all things can comprehend his own designs.
There is, however, a species of wisdom within the province of man; and let him attend to that, as his own proper concern. Unto man he said, The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil it understanding.
From the whole, we see there are three species of wisdom:— The first is the wisdom of this world, which is common among men ;—the next is the wisdom peculiar to God, but to which men too frequently aspire; and the last is the wisdom from above, which is proper to man.
With respect to the first, there is much to admire. The extent to which human ingenuity will go, in accomplishing worldly objects is astonishing. The energies herein exerted are worthy of a better cause. What self-denial, what resolution, what contrivance, what application, what patience, what perseverance! There is scarcely a danger, but men will encounter it; or a difficulty, but they will surmount it. That which strength cannot effect at once, art and application will accomplish by degrees. But alas! the prize for which all these energies are exerted is perishing, and will shortly be of no account. Where then is wisdom: and where it the place of understanding? Surely it is not here!
With respect to the second, it is not Job's friends only that have intruded into things which, they have not seen. "It is well," said a great writer, ** for man to know the length of his tether." Our Saviour was asked, Whether there were few that should be saved? But he refused a direct answer; aqd there are hundreds of questions started in divinity, which T believe Christ and his apostles would have treated in the same manner. 1 have seen attempts to ascertain how God exists in three persons,—how divine predestination consists with human agency and accountableness,—how a pure creature came to entertain the idea of casting off the government of his Creator; and many other things of the kind: but they always seemed to^me to darken counsel with words without knowledge. We find the solution of no such question in the word of God ; and we find Moses warning the Israelites that secret things belong unto the Lord our God; but those things which are revealed, belong unto vs and to our children for ever. We also hear David declaring, Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty; neitlie- do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me. Suruly I have behaved and quieted myself as a child that is weaned of his mother, my soul is even as a weaned child. Let vain men on this account go on to speak of the scriptures as not adapted to " any high perfection in knowledge :"—let them charge the sacred writers, and even their Lord himself, with ignorance ;* but let not serious Christians aim to be wise above what is written. When we see a writer of this description discussing subjects too high for him, and concerning which the scriptures are silent, however we may respect his character or hi? talents, we must need say to him as Job does to the miner, Where is wisdom; and where is the place of understanding? Tt is beyond the limits of thy researches.
The third and last kind of wisdom is that which is proper to man. Unto man he said, The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding. It is practical, and not merely speculative. All speculative knowledge is either in itself injurious, or, through the corruption of the human heart, dangerous: but this directly tends to humble, and so to profit the soul. The very words are of an humbling nature : it is the language of a wise master, to a weak but conceited servant, charging him to keep to that employment which he has set him about, and not to neglect it by interfering in what does not concern him. It is language that abases the pride of science; for in fearing the Lord, and departing from evil, the unlearned and the learned stand upon the same ground. Science, it is true, is in many ways friendly to religion; but to render it truly profitable, it is necessary, that amidst all his acquirements, a man should become a fool that he may be wise. Finally: the language implies that man is so sunk and entangled in evil, that there is work enough for his understanding, during the short space allotted him in this world, to depart from it. Instead of perplexing
* Lindsley's Apology, Chap. II. Priestley on Necessity, p. 133.
himself with things too high for him, let him ask, fVTierewith shall a young man cleanse his way? How is the love of evil to be conquered? What principle is that which will raise my soul from the bondage of corruption? Where is the good way that I may walk in it, and find rest for my soul ? Here is wisdom, and here is the place of understanding, at least that which is proper to man.
ON THE ABUSE OF ALLEGORY IN PREACHING.
After what several able writers have produced of late years upon this practice, particularly the late Dr. Stennet on the Parable of the Sower, it might have been expected that this evil would at least have been considerably diminished. But the misfortune is, those who are most addicted to this way of preaching, seem in general to have very little inclination to read. Whether they deem it unlawful, as involving them in the sin charged upon the prophets, of stealing every one from his neighbour; or, whether they be so enamoured of their own thoughts as to set all others at defiance, I cannot decide; but certain it is, that many.preach as if they had never read or thought upon the subject.
Very little observation will convince us, that the preachers with whom this practice mostly prevails, are of the lower sort with respect to seriousness and good sense, however high they may affect to soar in their notions. Of such characters I have but little hope. But as some godly men are, I believe, too much infected with this disease, if the Editor will indulge me with two or three pages in the magazine, I will expostulate with one of them on the causes and consequences of his conduct.
Let me entreat you then, my friend, to consider, in the first place, whether, when you turn plain historical facts into allegory, you treat the word of God with becoming reverence? Can you seriously think the scriptures to be a book of riddles and conundrums ? and that a Christian minister is properly employed in giving scope to his fancy, in order to discover their solution? 1 have been asked the meaning of certain passages of scripture ; and when I have answered according to what appeared to be the scope of the sacred writer, it has been said, "Yes, that may be the literal meaning; but what is the spiritual meaning of it? as though every part of scripture had a spiritual, that is, a hidden, or allegorical meaning, besides its obvious one. That s«me parts of scripture are allegorical,—that some prophecies have a double reference,— and that the principle suggested by many a passage may be applied to other things besides what is immediately intended, there is no doubt: but this is very different from the practice to which I allude. All scripture is profitable in some way; some for doctrine, some for reproof, some for correction, and some for instruction in righteousness: but all is not to be turned into allegory. If we must play, let it be with things of less consequence than the word of the eternal God!
Secondly: Consider whether the motive that stimulates you to such a manner of treating the sacred oracles, be any other than vanity? If you preached to a people possessed of any thing like good sense, they would consider it as perverting the word of God, and whipping it into froth. Instead of applauding you,they would be unable to endure it. But if your people be ignorant, such things will please them; and they may gaze, and admire, and smile, and say one to another, it may be in your hearing too, 'Well, what a man! Who would have thought that he would have found so much gospel in that text?' Ah very true: who indeed? But what would the apostle Paul say? Are ye not carnal? Is it for a man of God to "court a grin when he should woo a soul V For shame! desist from such folly, or lay aside the Christian ministry! You are commanded to feed the church, of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood: but it is not every thing pleasing to a people that feeds them in the sense of the Apostle. He did not mean to direct the Epbesian elders to feed men's fancies, and still less their prejudices; but their spiritual desires: and this is accomplished only by administering to them the words of truth and soberness.. If your preaching be such as God approves, and if you study to show yourself approved of him, it will lead the people to admire yonr Saviour rather than you, and render him the topic of their conversation.
Thirdly: Consider whether both you and your people be not in danger of mistaking this spiritualizing passion, for spirituality of mind and a being led into the deep things of God? There are few objects at a greater distance than the effervescence of a vain imagination, and that holy and humble spirit by which spiritual things are discerned; yet the one is often mistaken for the other. The preacher dreams of deep discoveries: and the people wonder to hear them: but what saith the scriptures? The prophet that hath only a dream must tell his dream; but he that hath God's word, let him speak it faithfully : for what is the chaff" to the wheat t
Finally: Consider the consequences which must follow from this practice. If an unbeliever come into your assembly, and find you arraying Cnristianity in this fancy-dress, is it likely he should be convinced of all,—and, the secrets of his heart being made manifest, fall down and worship God, and report that God is among you, and that of a truth? If he hear you treat of the historical parts of scripture, as meaning something very different from what they appear to mean, will he not say, you are mad, a>d be furnished with a handle for representing religion itself as void of truth and good sense? Or if he hear you interpret the miracles which Christ wrought in proof of his Mes.iahship, of that tSinnge which is now wrought in the minds of sinners by the Spirit of God, will he not say, that you yourselves appear to consider the whole as a string of fables, and are employed in finding out the morals of them?
But perhaps you are seldom attended by men of this description. Be it so; what, think you, must be the effect of such preaching on professing Christians, either nominal or real? The former will either fall asleep under it, as something which does not con