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which are of little concern in human life; and it very
little alters the case as to our temporal or spiritual interests, whether we know them or not. Philosophers differ about them, some being of one opinion, and others of another. And while they are engaged in warm disputes about them, others may well leave them to dispute among themselves, without troubling their heads much about them; it being of little concern to them whether the one or the other be in the right.—But it is not thus in matters of divinity. The doctrines of this nearly concern every one. They are about those things which relate to every man's eternal salvation and happiness. The common people cannot say, Let us leave these matters to ministers and divines; let them dispute them out among themselves as they can; they concern not us: For they are of infinite importance to every man. Those doctines which relate to the essence, attributes, and subsistencies of God, concern all; as it is of infinite importance to common people, as well as to ministers, to know what kind of being God is. For he is the Being who hath made us all, “ in whom we live, and move, and have our being ;” who is the Lord of all; the Being to whom we are all accountable; is the last end of our being, and the only fountain of our happiness.
The doctrines also which relate to Jesus Christ and his mediation, his incarnation, his life and death, his resurrection and ascension, his sitting at the right hand of the Father, bis satisfaction and intercession, infinitely concern common people as well as divines. They stand in as much need of this Saviour, and of an interest in his person and offices, and the things which he hath done and suffered, as ministers and divines. The same may be said of the doctrines wbich relate to the manner of a sinner's justification, or the way in which he becomes interested in the mediation of Christ. They equally concern all; for all stand in equal necessity of justification before God. That eternal condemnation, to which we are all natually exposed, is equally dreadful. So with respect to those doctrines which relate to the work of the Spirit of God on the heart, in the application of redemption in our effectual calling and sanctification, all are equally concerned in them. There is no doctrine of divinity whatever, which doth not some way or other concern the eternal interest of every Christian.
4. We may argue in favour of the same position, from the great things which God hath done in order to give us instruction in these things. As to other sciences, he hath left us to ourselves, to the light of our own reason. But divine things being of infinitely greater importance to us, he hath not left us to an uncertain guide; but hath himself given us a revelation of the truth in these matters, and hath done very great
things to convey and confirm it to us; raising up many prophets in different ages, immediately inspiring them with his Holy Spirit, and confirming their doctrine with innumerable miracles or wonderful works out of the established course of nature. Yea, he raised up a succession of prophets, which was upheld for several ages.
It was very much for this end that God separated the people of Israel, in so wonderful a manner, from all other people, and kept them separate ; that to them he might commit the oracles of God, and that from thein they might be communicated to the world. He bath also often sent angels to bring divine instructions to men; and bath often himself appeared in miraculous symbols or representations of his presence : and now in these last days bath sent his own Son into the world, to be his great prophet, to teach us divine truth, Heb. i. 1, &c. God hath given us a book of divine instructions, which contains the sum of divinity. Now, these things hath God done, not only for the instruction of ministers and men of learning; but for the instruction of all men, of all sorts, learned and unlearned, men, women, and children. And certainly if God doth such great things to teach us, we ought to do something to learn.
God giving instructions to men in these things, is not a business by the bye; but what he hath undertaken and prosecuted in a course of great and wonderful dispensations, as an affair in which his heart hath been greatly engaged; which is sometimes in Scripture signified by the expression of God's rising early to teach us, and to send us prophets and teachers. Jer. vii. 25. “ Since that day that your fathers came forth out of the land of Egypt, unto this day, I have even sent unto you all my servants the prophets, daily rising up early, and sending them." And ver. 13. “I spake unto you, rising up early, and speaking.” This is a figurative speech, signifying, that God bath done this as a business of great importance, in which he took great care, and had his heart much engaged; because persons are wont to rise early to prosecute such business as they are earnestly engaged in.-If God hath been so engaged in teaching, certainly we should not be negligent in learning; but should make growing in knowledge a great part of the business of our lives.
5. It may be argued from the abundance of the instructions which God hath given us, from the largeness of that book which God hath given to teach us divinity, and from the great variety that is therein contained. Much was taught by Moses of old, which we have transmitted down to us; after that, other books were from time to time added; much is taught us by David and Solomon; and many and excellent are the instructions communicated by the prophets ; Yet God did not
think all this enough, but after this sent Christ and his apostles, by whom there is added a great and excellent treasure to that holy book, which is to be our rule in the study of this important subject.
This book was written for the use of all; all are directed to search the scriptures, John v. 39. “ Search the scriptures, for in them ye think ye bave eternal life; and they are they that testify of me;" and Isa. xxxiv. 16. “ Seek ye out of the book of the Lord, and read.” They that read and understand are pronounced blessed, Rev. i. S. « Blessed is he that readeth, and they that understand the words of this prophecy.” If this be true of that particular book of the Revelation, much more is it true of the Bible in general. Nor is it to be believed that God would have given instructions in such abundance, if he had intended that receiving instruction should be only a bye concern with us.
It is to be considered, that all those abundant instructions which are contained in the scriptures were written that they might be understood; otherwise they are not instructions. That which is not given that the learner may understand it, is not given for the learner's instruction; and unless we endeavour to grow in the knowledge of divinity, a very great part of those instructions will to us be in vain ; for we can receive benefit by no more of the scriptures than we understand. We have reason to bless God that he hath given us such various and plentiful instruction in bis word ; but we shall be bypocritical in so doing, if we after all content ourselves with but little of this instruction,
When God hath opened a very large treasure before us, for the supply of our wants, and we thank him that he hath given us so much; if at the same time we be willing to remain destitute of the greatest part of it, because we are too lazy to gather it, this will not shew the sincerity of our thankfulness. We are now under much greater advantages to acquire knowledge in divinity, than the people of God were of old, because since that time the canon of scripture is much increased. But if we be negligent of our advantages, we may be never the better for them, and may remain with as little knowledge as they.
6. However diligently we apply ourselves, there is room enough to increase our knowledge in divine truth. None have this excuse to make for not diligently applying themselves to gain knowledge in divinity, that they already know all ; nor can they make this excuse, that they have no need diligently to apply themselves, in order to know all that is to be known. None can excuse themselves for want of business in which to employ themselves. There is room enough to employ ourselyes for ever in this divine science, with the utmost appli.
cation. Those who have applied themselves most closely, have studied the longest, and have made the greatest attainments in this knowledge, know but little of what is to be known. The subject is inexhaustible. That Divine Being, who is the main subject of this science, is infinite, and there is no end to the glory of his perfections. His works at the same time are wonderful, and cannot be found out to perfection ; especially the work of redemption, about which the science of divinity is chiefly conversant, is full of unsearchable wonders.
The word of God, which is given for our instruction in divinity, contains enough in it to employ us to the end of our lives, and then we shall leave enough uninvestigated to employ the heads of the ablest divines to the end of the world. The Psalmist found an end to the things that are human; but he could never find an end to what is contained in the word of God: Psal. cxix. 96. “I have seen an end to all perfection; but thy command is exceeding broad." There is enough in this divine science to employ the understandings of saints and angels to all eternity.
7. It doubtless concerns every one to endeavour to excel in the knowledge of things which pertain to his profession, or principal calling. If it concerns men to excel in any thing, or in any wisdom or knowledge at all, it certainly concerns them to excel in the affairs of their main profession and work. But the calling and work of every Christian is to live to God. This is said to be his high calling, Phil. iii. 14. This is the business, and, if I may so speak, the trade of a Christian, his main work, and indeed should be bis only work. No business should be done by a Christian, but as it is some way or other a part of this. Therefore certainly the Christian sbould endeavour to be well acquainted with those things which belong to this work, that he may fulfil it, and be thoroughly furnished to
It becomes one who is called to be a soldier, to excel in the art of war. It becomes a mariner to excel in the art of navigation. It becomes a physician to excel in the knowledge of those things which pertain to the art of physic. So it becomes all such as profess to be Christians, and to devote themselves to the practice of Christianity, to endeavour to excel in the knowledge of divinity.
8. It may be argued hence, that God hath appointed an order of men for this end, to assist persons in gaining knowledge in these things. He hath appointed them to be teachers, 1 Cor. xii. 28; and God hath set some in the church; first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers: Eph. iv. 11, 12. “ He gave some, apostles; some, prophets; some, evangelists; some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” If God hath set them to be teachers, making that their business, then he hath made it their business to impart knowledge. But what kind of knowledge not the knowledge of philosophy, or of human laws, or of mechanical arts, but of divinity.
If God have made it the business of some to be teachers, it will follow, that he hath made it the business of others to be learners; for teachers and learners are correlates, one of which was neyer intended to be without the other. God hath never made it the duty of some to take pains to teach those who are not obliged to take pains to learn. He hath not commanded ministers to spend themselves, in order to impart knowledge to those who are not obliged to apply themselves to receive it.
The name by which Christians are commonly called in the New Testament is disciples, the signification of wbich word is scholars or learners. All Christians are put into the school of Christ, wbere their business is to learn, or receive knowledge from Christ, their common master and teacher, and from those inferior teachers appointed by him to instruct in his name.
9. God hath in the scriptures plainly revealed it to be his will, that all Christians should diligently endeavour to excel in the knowledge of divine things. It is the revealed will of God, that Christians should not only have some knowledge of things of this nature, but that they should be enriched with all knowledge: 1 Cor. i. 4,5. “ I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God that is given you by Jesus Christ, that in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge." So the apostle earnestly prayed, that the Christian Philippians might abound more and more, not only in love, but in Christian knowledge ; Phil. i. 9. “ And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge, and in all judgment.” So the apostle Peter advises to "give all diligence to add to faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge,” ? Pet. i. 5; and the apostle Paul, in the next chapter to that wherein is the text, counsels the Christian Hebrews' leaving the first principles of the doctrine of Christ, to go on to perfection. He would by no means have them always to rest only in those fundamental doctrines of repentance, and faith, and the resurrection from the dead, and the eternal judgment, in which they were instructed when baptized, at their first initiation in Christianity. (See Heb. vi. &c.)