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it; and another, by strengthening the organs of vision to behold it. Now, without entering into a minute consideration of all these particulars, we may observe, in general, that God's methods of instructing us by his Spirit are somewhat analogous to these; in that he brings home with power to our souls the truths which we hear, and inclines our hearts to embrace them. The telescope, which brings distant objects to our view, and the microscope, which enables us to discern things which are too small to be seen by the naked eye, make no difference whatever either in the objects themselves or in the organs whereby we perceive them: the things themselves, and our faculties also, all remain the same, whether the instruments be used by us or not. there is no difference in the truths which are heard by different persons, or in the capacity of those by whom they are perceived: the difference is in the manner in which the truths are presented to the mind : and if we, by instruments of human contrivance, are able thus to bring to the sight of men things that are invisible to the naked
eye, we may
that God is able to bring home to the souls of men truths which the unassisted mind is unable to apprehend. But I think we may get a juster view of this, by considering how it is that the imperfections of our sight are remedied in common life. When we have an indistinct vision of objects before us, it is for the most part owing to this: through an excess or defect of convexity in our eye, the object before us either falls short of the retina, or goes beyond it: and the use of glasses is, by a suitable medium to bring the object on the retina, that so it may be distinctly impressed thereon, in all its just symmetry and proportions. Now the Spirit of God, by giving to us " an honest and a good heart," imprints upon the tablet of our souls the truths, of which, without his aid, we could have no just perception: and thus we are enabled to understand what others are not able to discern. And thus is fulfilled what St. John has said: “ The spiritual man judgeth all things; yet he himself is judged of no man: for who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ," and therefore are qualified to judge both ourselves and others?. Now, I the rather dwell on this, in order to remove from the minds of objectors the idea that we lay claim to any thing like miraculous inspiration. We do indeed say, that God alone can enable us to discern the things of the Spirits; but we say, also, that he does this through the use of our own faculties, under the direction and influence of his good Spirit: and thus “he reveals to babes and sucklings the things which he has hid from the wise and prudenth."]
f 1 Cor. ii. 15, 16. g 1 Cor. ii. 12.
h Matt. xi. 25.
2. He has an inward experience of the things which he knows
[St. John affirms this very thing: "He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself i;” that is, he has in his soul a distinct perception of those truths which he has received through the medium of his understanding. And this also, I think, may, through a familiar illustration, be made perfectly intelligible to our minds. We know that our senses are given us for the purpose of discerning the distinctive excellencies of every thing around us. It is not sufficient that one faculty alone be brought to bear upon the object that is set before us: we must exercise upon every thing that very faculty which is pre-eminently formed to discover and appreciate its excellence. Suppose we see, for instance, the sun, without feeling its beams; or a flower, without having our smell regaled by its odours; or honey, without tasting its sweetness; or a singing bird, without hearing his melodious notes; it is obvious that we can form but a very inadequate notion of these things, for want of an acquaintance with their chief excellencies: and, in like manner, we can ill judge of a diamond by the touch, when its brilliancy has never been submitted to our sight. It is through the apprehending of every thing by its appropriate sense, that we attain just and adequate perceptions of it. Now the Apostle tells us, that the godly man" has all his senses exercised to discern good and evilk:” and hence it is, that having within himself a perception of them which no other man can enjoy, he possesses also an evidence which no other man can attain. Now this test may be applied to every thing that is of a spiritual nature ; and the perception arising from it is fitly called “a spiritual discernment!:" and by this, I say again,
we understand all things ;” as St. John also has told us; “ Ye have an unction of the Holy One, and ye know all things m." Here is contained all that I have spoken ; namely, the extent of the knowledge possessed by God's people, and the means by which they are enabled to attain it: “We know all things," because God himself is our teacher; and by the unction poured out, that is, by the "eye-salve which he puts upon our eyes," he gives us the actual perception of every thing in our own souls”, and, consequently, the clear and proper understanding of it.] Methinks you are now ready to INQUIRE, 1. How shall I attain this understanding ?
[I answer, Not by mere study, even of the Scriptures themselves; but rather by “seeking after God” in spirit and in truth. This is the particular point suggested in my text :
i 1 John v. 10. k Heb. v. 14. 1 1 Cor. ii. 14. m 1 John ii. 20, 27.
n Rev. iii. 18.
“ They that seek the Lord understand all things.” You will remember what our Lord has said: “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God." This is that which I have spoken of before : it supposes that there is in us that “honest and good heart,” which alone receives the word aright, and alone enables us to "bring forth fruit with patience p." I would not depreciate books of human composition, and still less the Scriptures of truth: but we must never forget, that“ though Paul should plant, and Apollos water, it is God alone that can give the increase 9.” In fact, this is the reason why many hear the Gospel for years without any saving benefit to their souls: they will not humble themselves before God, and seek for mercy through Christ, and give themselves up unreservedly to God; and therefore they remain for ever without any true understanding of the word, and any sweet experience of its power. You must first be melted by it; and then you will be "poured into its mould,” and attain, by means of it, that knowledge of God which is life eternal.] 2. How shall I manifest it to the world ?
[If“God have given you an understanding to know him"," shew it, not by a fond conceit of your own attainments, or a contemptuous spurning of others as blind and carnal but by a holy life and conversation, such as none but those who are taught of God can maintain. If you know more than others, you should be prepared to answer that question, “ What do ye more than others 8?” “The tree must be known by its fruit :" and, if you have received a superior illumination in your mind, you must "walk worthy of that high distinction," and "shine as lights in a dark world." If the Lord, by his Spirit, have written his law upon your hearts, then must you shew forth that law in your lives, and be in the world as “ epistles of Christ, known and read of all ment."] o John vii. 17. p Luke viii. 15.
91 Cor. iii. 5-7. r 1 John v. 20. s Matt. v. 47.
t 2 Cor. iii. 2.
DCCCXVI. ADVANTAGES OF THE RICH AND OF THE POOR COMPARED. Prov. xxviii. 11. The rich man is wise in his own conceit; but
the poor that hath understanding searcheth him out. PROVERBS are, for the most part, very obscure: they are intended to convey an abundance of instruction in a small space: and the truths contained in them are almost always such as escape the observation of unthinking men, and such as militate against their most received opinions. That the rich have greatly the advantage of the poor in reference to knowledge in general, must be confessed: for they have leisure, which the poor cannot command; and instruction, which the poor cannot obtain. Hence it is generally supposed that the rich have the same advantage in reference to divine knowledge. But this is by no means true. On the contrary, the poor have, in reference to divine knowledge, the advantage of them. And this is what Solomon affirms, in the words before us: “ The rich man is wise in his own conceit; but the poor that hath understanding searcheth him out."
In support of Solomon's assertion, I will shew, I. That the poor have really the advantage of the rich
in reference to divine knowledge-Elihu, intending to criminate Job, observed, “Great men are not always wisea." And if this be true in relation to the affairs of this world, much more is it so in reference to the concerns of eternity. Nor indeed are the poor always wise in this respect; yet have they, on the whole, the advantage of the rich.
1. They had the advantage in the days of old
[Look at those who received the testimony of our blessed Lord. It was said with a kind of triumph, “ Have any of the rulers and of the Pharisees believed on him b?” Whereas we are told, on the other hand, that “the common people heard him gladly." And such was also the experience of the Apostles: it was chiefly amongst the poor that their ministry was attended with success; as St. Paul observes: “ Ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are; that no flesh should glory in his presenced.”] 2. They have also the advantage at this day
[It was to be one mark of the Messiah's advent, that “ to the poor the Gospel should be preached.” By them, too, was the Gospel to be received, whilst by the rich it should be rejected and despised. Nor did our blessed Lord merely affirm this, but he accounted it a fit subject of praise and thanksgiving: “I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes?!" And now look around, and see if it be not thus at this day. Who are they that value the Gospel? Who are they that attend it, wherever it is preached with effect? Some, indeed, there are of the wise and rich; but very few in comparison; so few, that if a man of wealth and learning shew a decided love to the Gospel, he is regarded almost as a phenomenon; and that, too, no less by the Church than by the world itself. The great mass of religious people are of the poorer class; so that at this day, no less than in the apostolic age, when that appeal of the Apostle James is made to us, “Hearken, my beloved brethren, hath not God chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he has promised to them that love him ?” there is but one answer that can be given to it: we must say, It is even so; it is from among the poor, and not from amongst the rich, that God has formed his Church: it is “ of unhewn stones that his altar is made h;” and “ of these very stones that he has raised up children to Abraham'."]
a Job xxxii. 9. b John vii. 48. c Mark xii. 37. d 1 Cor. i. 26-29. e Matt. xi. 5.
Seeing, then, that what we have asserted is an unquestionable fact, let us, II. Account for it
We might be satisfied with referring it, as our blessed Lord does, to the sovereign will of God: “Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight”,” should be quite sufficient for us. But we may trace the fact to natural causes. The rich, from the very circumstance of their elevation in society, are under considerable disadvantages, beyond what are experienced by the poor :
1. They are more blinded by prejudice
[Into the minds of the higher orders of society prejudices are instilled from their earliest infancy. Religious people are kept at a distance from them; religious books are taken out of their hands; and religious sentiments are branded with every epithet that can render them odious. For one word that would lead them to God, a hundred are spoken to draw them from him. Let them betray a love to earthly things, and no one will offer a sentiment to turn them from such an evil way: but
f Matt. xi. 25, 26. 8 Jam. ii. 5. h Exod. xx. 25. i Matt. iii. 9.
k Matt. xi. 26.