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advantages which tend to our improvement in beavenly wisdom, are a trust of the most important kind; and therefore the guilt of neglecting or abusing these must be of the deepest nature. But let us hear what may be said in opposition to this. Every objection that can be stated may be resolved into one or other of these twoeither that Christianity is not worthy of our study; or that, from its incomprebensible nature, it is impossible to make any considerable progress in the knowledge of it. To maintain the first of these, is in fact to deny the divinity of our holy religion ; for certainly a revelation proceeding from infinite wisdom, with this merciful intention, to direct wandering sinners to everlasting and unspeakable felicity, must be allowed to deserve all the time and attention we can possibly bestow on it. As to the second objection, relating to the mysterious nature of Christianity, it must partly be admitted, but in no sense that will apply to the point in question. There are indeed doctrines taught in it far surpassing the extent of our understandings, which must be received with the obedience of faith, resting on this solid principle of reason, that they are revealed by him who cannot lie. But though there are deep and inscrutable mysteries in Christianity, it is far from being mysterious in all its parts. Its discoveries of the moral character of God, and of his gracious purposes toward the human race; its precepts, promises, and sanctions; and its general influence upon human conduct, present the noblest and most improving subject of coutemplation, in which the faculties of man can be engaged. In these a well formed mind will taste a pleasure and satisfaction far beyond what all the treasures of science and pbilosophy can bestow. It is true, that even in this study, certain difficul. ties will at first be experienced; but shall it form an objection to the pursuit of heavenly wisdom, that it bears an analogy to every improvement of which the human mind is susceptible? Where is the valuable advantage that is to be acquired without patience, method, and application? Shall we expect to become masters of religious truth, with less diligence and application than we bestow on the most trifling science, or the meanest mechanic art? I mean not that it is either necessary or possible for every private Christian to attain a thorough knowledge of theology. The leisure and the capacities of men are so different, that an equal progress in divine knowledge cannot be supposed in every individual. This much, however, may be reasonably required and expected, that persons soliciting the outward privileges of religion, should know the great truths to which these privileges refer-should be able to tell what benefit they expect from them-should be able to shew some fruit of all the instructions they receive. Yet how often is even this moderate expectation disappointed ? How many are there to be found in this land of gospel light, almost as ignorant of Jesus and his religion, as those who never heard his name? How deep must be their shame, how heavy their condemnation, when at last it shall

appear in what manner their time has been employed? This will stop the mouths of all ignorant Christians, and expose their vain apologies, when their consciences, awa. kened by the dawn of an everlasting day, shall reproach them with the hours, days, and months, in which they fatigued themselves with vice and folly, instead of stu. dying bow to become wise unto salvation. The

II. observation from the text was, That those who are not careful to add to their knowledge, are in danger of losing what they have already acquired.

This was the very case of the Hebrews. They had

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not been at due pains to increase their knowledge, ia consequence of which neglect, they were even decayed in their former attainments. “ Ye are become such,” says the Apostle, “as have need of milk, and not of strong meat." He does not say, Ye are still in the condition of babes; but ye are returned or shrunk back again to that condition, thereby plainly intimating that there had been a time when the case was otherwise with them.

And as this proposition is well founded in the text, so it is sufficiently supported both by reason and experience. Our own observation, if we have not been extremely inattentive, cannot fail to furnish us with instances similar to what is here recorded. The truth is, a comprehensive knowledge of the whole, in all its connexions, is the only security for the distinct knowledge, or remembrance of any one part. Nothing is so difficult as to retain the rudiments of any science, unless we par. sue them to their proper use, and discover their subser. viency to the general scheme to which they belong.

Let a man be introduced to the view of a complete piece of machinery, without being acquainted with the general purpose it is intended to accomplish; let him sur. vey every part of it with the most minute attention, and labour to imprint the idea of each as deeply as possible in his mind; yet if he fall short of comprehending the intention of the whole, all that he has seen will be equal. ly useless to himself and to mankind. His observations, unconnected with any leading principle, will float with. out method or application in his mind; or if they have any effect, it will be only to make bim rash and petu. lant in bazarding opinions on a subject which he imperfectly understands.

Our pursuit of religious knowledge, under the disad

vantages of our present dark and degenerate state, may be compared to a person swimming against the current, who has no other way to maintain bis advantage but by pressing forward. Our faculties, by disuse, contract a rust, a disability either for discerning or pursuing those things that are excellent. Hence the Apostle says, at the 14th verse, “ Strong meat is for those who, by reason of use, bave their senses exercised to discern between good and evil;" thereby intimating, that the mind must be kept in constant exercise, otherwise we may lose the faculty of distinguishing between things the most widely different. But this is not all: A person who stops short in his pursuit of religious truth, plainly discovers that he has lost that relish which alone imprints it in deep and lasting characters on the mind. It is well known how slowly we imbibe, and how quickly we forget, those parts of learning which we study with reluctance. No man will be careful to preserve a matter about which he is become indifferent, especially if this cannot be done without much labour and attention. Ac. cordingly, it is never supposed in Scripture, that we should remit our application to make farther progress, through a lazy satisfaction with our present attainments. No saint ever set such an example of indolent self.con. tentment. “ I count all things but loss,” said the apos. tle Paul, “ for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord; for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith ; that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; if by any means

I might altain unto the resurrection of the dead: not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect; but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended; but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." The

III. and last observation from the text was, That without a proper acquaintance with the plain principles of religion, men are utterly unfit for receiving doctrines of a bigher and more speculative nature.

This is the precise argument of the text, and needs only to be mentioned to force our assent. It is saying nothing more strange, than that a person, in order to be able to read, must first know letters; a proposition so plain and obvious, that it would be ridiculous to attempt a formal proof of it. The operations of grace, as well as those of nature, are, for the most part, gradual. Miraculous gifts indeed have been enjoyed, and miracu. lous progress hath been made in divine knowledge, beyond what the common use of means could have produced; but these have been rare instances for special purposes in Providence, and are by no means to be ex. pected in the common course of things. lf, therefore, we aspire to eminent knowledge in religion, we must begin by cultivating distinct apprehensions of its first principles. Nothing has been of more prejudice to Christianity, than the premature indigested reasonings of novices, about its more speculative doctrines, before they have been well established in its great and fundamental articles. Hence have arisen all those odious names with which particular sects have stigmatized one another,

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