Practical Inferences. A superlative degree of Praise and Thankfulness due to God for the revelation of the Gospel. 'Tis not discovered by the Creation. 'Tis above the reach of Natural Reason. The Heathen World is intirely ignorant of it. 'Tis pure Grace that distinguishes one Nation from another, in send∣ing the Gospel. Evangelical Knowledg deserves our most serious study. The Gospel exceeds all con∣templative and practick Sciences. Contemplative in the greatness of its object, and the certainty of its principle. Practick in the excellency of its End, and the efficacy of the Means.
1. WHat a Superlative degree of Praise and Thankfulness is due to God, for revealing his eternal and compassionate Counsel in order to our Salvation. The Fall of Man was so wounding and deadly, that only an Infinite Understanding could find out the means for his Recovery. And if that Mercy which mov'd the Lord to ordain the Re∣medy, had not discover'd it, a thick cloud of Despair had cover'd Mankind, being for ever unable to con∣ceive the way of our Redemption. 'Tis a Mystery which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard,*nor •ath entred into the heart of man to conceive. All Humane Know∣ledg is acquir'd by two sorts of Faculties; the exter∣nal and internal. Of the first, Sight and Hearing are the most spiritual, and convey the knowledge of the most worthy objects. They are the Senses of Discipline, the other three or immerst in matter, Page 108 and are incapable to make such clear discoveries. Besides those impressions that are made on the sen∣ses, we may form some Ideas in the imagination; upon which the mind reflecting may argue and dis∣course: Thus far the light and vigour of the un∣derstanding can only go. So that the Apostle de∣clares that the whole plot of the Gospel was without the compass of our most searching faculties: this will be evident by considering,
1. There was no discovery of it in the Creation: the Voice of the Heavens instruct us concerning the being of God, but not in the secrets of his Will. The oeconomy of Mans Redemption is the merciful design of God, which hath no connection with the existence of the creatures, but depends only upon his good pleasure. 'Tis as impossible to read the Divine Decrees in the Volume of the World, as for the eye to discover a sound, which hath neither Figure, Co∣lour, nor visible motion. Besides, the Glorious Na∣ture of God in three Persons, which is the foundation of this Mysterious Mercy, is not made known by the visible frame of the Universe. 'Tis true in all Exter∣nal Works the three Persons are equally concerned: being of one Essence, they are of one Efficacy, and the Essential perfections of the Deity as they concur, so they are evident in the production of all things. The first motive is Goodness, that which orders and directs is Wisdom:* that which executes is Power. And the several ranks of Creatures, according to their state, reflect an honour on their Author. Things endued with life, declare him to be the fountain of Life, and intellectual creatures represent him to be the Father of Lights. But the personal being as Personal, operating nothing out of the Divine Na∣ture, Page 109 there is no resemblance in the World that ex∣presses the Distinction, Propriety, and Singularity of the Persons, so as to discover them to the humane un∣derstanding. Those deeper Mysteries of the Deity are only made known by the Word of God.
2. 'Tis above the strain and reach of natural Reason to attain to the knowledge of it. There are seminal sparks of the Law in the heart of Man,* some common principles of Piety, Justice, and Charity, without which the World would soon disband, and fall into confusion; but there is not the least pre∣sumption or conjecture of the contrivance of the Go∣spel. Though misery sharpens the mind, and makes it more ingenious to find out wayes of Deliver∣ance, yet here Reason was utterly at a loss. How could it ever enter into the thoughts of the Israelites that by erecting a Brazen Serpent on a Pole, and looking towards it, the wounds made by the Fiery Serpents should be healed. And how could guilty Man find out a way to satisfie Infinite Justice by the Sufferings of a Mediator, and to heal the wounded spirit by believing on him. The most inquiring Rea∣son, could never have thought of the Wonders of the Incarnation, that a Virgin should conceive, and a God be born, nor of the Death of the Prince of Life, and the Resurrection, and Ascension of the Lord of Glory. We may see how impossible it is for the natural understanding to discover the mystery of Redemption, when those that had the highest repu∣tation for wisdom were ignorant of the Creation. The Philosophers were divided in nothing more,* then in their account of the Worlds Original. Some imagin'd it to proceed from Water, others from Fire; some from Order, others from Confusion; some to Page 110 be from Eternity, others in Time. If the Souls eye be so weakned as not to see that Eternal Power, which is so apparent in its effects, much less could it pierce into the Will, and free determinations of God, of which there is not the least intimation or shadow in the things that are made. This Wisdom comes from above and was hidden from Ages,*and Generations. 'Tis called the Mystery of Christ; he is the Object, and Revealer of it. The Mystery of Faith, the disco∣very of which was by pure Revelation.* The Myste∣ry of his Will,* an inviolable Secret till he was pleased to make it known. Were the humane understanding as clear as 'tis corrupt, yet it cannot by the strength of discourse arrive to the knowledge of it. Super∣natural Revelation was necessary to discover it to the Angels. The thoughts of Men are a secret, into which the Creator alone hath right to enter, it being his prerogative to search the heart.*
The Angels conjecture only, from the dispositions of Men, from outward circumstances, from the Images in the Fancy, and from material impressions on the Blood and Spirits, what are the thoughts of the Heart: and much less can they discover the Counsel of God himself.* The Apostle tells us to Principalities and Powers in heavenly places, by the Church the manifold Wisdom of God is made known▪ By the first coming of Christ, and the conversion of the World, the depths of the Divine Wisdom were opened, and there remains much undiscover'd, which his second coming shall gloriously make known. Before the first they understood not the foundation, til the second not the perfection of our recovery. Briefly,* the Spirit that searches the mysterious Counsels of God, is the alone Intelligencer of Heaven, that Page 111 reveals them to the world. And the more to in∣cite us with sincere and humble Thankfulness to acknowledg this invaluable Mercy, it will be useful to reflect on the state of the Heathen world, who are intirely ignorant of this Mystery.
The Apostle describes the case of the Gentiles in such terms as argue it to be extreamly dangerous, if not desperate. Their understandings were darkened, being alienated from the life of God,*through the igno∣rance that is in them. They were without Christ, aliens from the Common-wealth of Israel, strangers from the Covenant of the Promise, without hope. They had no sense of their misery, no expectation, nor desire of Mercy. Not only the barbarous and savage, but the polisht and civiliz'd Nations are called 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, being without the knowledg of the true God, and of a Saviour. Philosophy never made one Believer. And as the want of a Sovereign Remedy exposes a man that hath a mortal Disease to certain ruin; so the single Ignorance of the Gospel leaves men in a state of Perdition. 'Tis true, where the Faculties are not capable, or the Object is not revealed, God doth not impute the want of Knowledg as a crime. But Salvation is obtain'd only by the Covenant of Grace, which is founded in the Satisfaction of the Re∣deemer.* And 'tis by the knowledg of him that he justifies many▪ God would have all men saved by coming to the knowledg of the Truth,* that is the Doctrine of the Gospel, so called in respect of its excellency, being the most profitable that ever was reveal'd. The Infants of Believers are sav'd by special Priviledg, for the merits of Christ, without any appre∣hension of him. But others who are come to the use of Reason, and made partakers of Blessedness by the Page 112 Knowledg of God in Christ. This is Life eternal, to know thee to be the only true God,*and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. The Sun quickens some crea∣tures by its vital Influences, which are buried in the caves of the Earth, and never see the Light. But the Sun of Righteousness illuminates all whom he saves. What degree of Knowledg is necessary of the Dignity of his Person, and the Efficacy of his Mediation, I cannot determine; But that the Heathens, who are absolutely strangers to the only means of our recovery, and do not believe on God reconciled in the Son of his Love, should partake of Saving Mercy; I do not see any thing in the Gospel (which is the revelation of God's Will concerning our Salvation) upon which to build a rational Hope. Indeed if any Heathen were seri∣ously penitent, God is so merciful, that He would rather dispatch an Angel from Heaven, saying, Deliver him from going down into the pit, I have found a ransome, or by some other extraordinary way instruct him in the necessary knowledg of our Saviour, than suffer him to perish to the prejudice of his Mercy. But Repentance as well as Forgive∣ness is purchased & dispenced alone by our Saviour. And that any received this benefit,* who are intirely ignorant of the Benefactor we cannot tell. Now this should raise our esteem of the discriminating favour of God to us.
What a flood of Errors and Miseries cover'd the Earth, when the Grace of God that brings Salvation first appeared. The Deluge was universal, and so was the Destruction. Those that were most re∣nowned for Wisdom, the Philosophers of Greece, and the Orators of Rome, were swallowed up, only Page 113 the Church of Christ is triumphant over the mer∣ciless waters. When Noah from the top of the Mountain saw the sad remains of that dreadful Inun∣dation, what a lively sense of Joy possest his breast? As Misery is heightened, so Happiness is set off by comparison:* Not that there is any regular content to see the destruction of others; but the sense of our own preservation from a common ruine,* raises our joy to its highest elevation. The first work of Noah after his deliverance was to build an Altar on which to offer the Sacrifices of Thanksgiving to his Pre∣server. We should imitate his Example.
How many Nations unknown to our world remain in the Darkness, and Shadow of Death, now the Day-spring from on High hath visited us. This special Favour calls for special Thankfulness. Were there any qualities in us to encline God to prefer us before others, it would lessen our esteem of the Benefit. But this distinguishing Mercy is one of those free Acts of God, for which there is no reason in the objects on which they are exercised.* St. Au∣stin calls it, Profundum Crucis. As the lowest part of the Cross is under ground unseen, but the upper part is exposed to sight: So the effects of Divine Predestination, the fruits of the Cross, are visible, but the Reasons are not within our view. When God divided the world, and chose Israel for his Heri∣tage to receive the Promise of the Messiah, and left the rest in thick and disconsolate darkness, there was no apparent cause of this inequality; for they all sprang from the same corrupt root, and equally deserv'd a final rejection▪ There was no singular good in them, nor transcendent evil in others. The unaccountable Pleasure of God was the sole motive Page 114 of the different Dispensation. Our Saviour breaks forth in an extasie of Joy, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of Heaven and Earth,*that thou hast hid these things from the wise & prudent, and revealed them unto babes; even so Father▪ for so it seemed good in thy sight. 'Tis the Prerogative of God to reveal the secrets of the Kingdom to whom he pleases.* 'Tis an act of pure Grace, putting a difference between one Na∣tion and another, with the same liberty, as in the Creation of the same indigested matter He form'd the Earth, the dregs of the Universe, and the Sun and Stars the ornaments of the Heavens, and the glory of the visible World. How can we reflect on our Spiritual Obligations to Divine Grace without a rapture of Soul? The corruption of Nature was universal, our Ignorance as perverse, and our Man∣ners as profane as of other Nations, and we had been condemn'd to an eternal Night, if the Light of Life had not graciously shin'd upon us. This should warm our hearts in affectionate acknowledg∣ments to God, Who hath made known to us the riches of the glory of this mystery amongst the Gentiles;* and with that revelation the concomitant power of the Spirit, to translate us from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of his dear Son. If the Publication of the Law by the Ministry of Angels to the Israelites were such a Priviledg that 'tis reckon'd their peculiar Treasure: He hath shewed his Statutes unto Israel;*He hath not dealt so with any Nation; What is the revelation of the Gospel by the Son of God Himself? For al∣though the Law is obscured and defaced since the Fall, yet there are some ingrafted Notions of it in the humane Nature, but there is not the least suspi∣tion of the Gospel. The Law discovers our Mise∣ry, Page 115 but the Gospel alone shews the way to be deli∣vered from it. If an Advantage so great and so pre∣cious doth not touch our hearts; and in possessing it with joy, we are not sensible of the engagements the Father of Mercies hath laid upon us, we shall be the ungratefullest wretches in the world.
2. This incomprehensible Mystery is worthy of our most serious thoughts and study, that we may arrive to a fuller knowledge of it. And to incite us, it will be fit to consider those excellencies, which will render it most desirable. Knowledge is a quality so eminent, that it truly enobles one Spirit above another. As Reason is the singular Ornament of the humane Nature, whereby it excels the Bruits, so in proportion Knowledge, which is the perfection of the Understanding, raises those who are posses∣sors of it, above others that want it. The Testimony of Solomon confirms this,*Then I saw that Wisdom ex∣cells Folly as far as Light excelleth Darkness. And ac∣cording to the nature and quality of the Knowledge, such is the advantage it brings to us. Now the Do∣ctrine of the Gospel excels the most noble Sciences, as well contemplative as practick: it excels the con∣templative in the sublimity of the object, and in the certainty of its Principle.
1. In the sublimity and greatness of the Object: and it is no less then the highest design of the eter∣nal Wisdom, the most glorious work of the great God. In the Creation his foot-steps appear, in our Redemption his Image: In the Law his Justice and Holiness, but in the Gospel all his Perfections shine forth in their brightest luster. The bare theory of this inriches the mind, and the contemplation of it affects the Soul, that is conversant about it, with the highest admiration and the most sincere and lasting delight.
Page 116*1. It affects the Soul with the highest admirati∣on. The strongest Spirits cannot comprehend its just greatness: the understanding sinks under the weight of Glory. The Apostle who had seen the light of Heaven, and had such knowledg as never any man before; yet upon considering one part of the Divine Wisdom, breaks forth in astonishment, Oh the depth of the riches of the Wisdom and Knowledg of God! how unsearchable are his Decrees, and his waies past finding out! 'Tis fit when we have spent the strength of our minds in the consideration of this excelling object, and are at the end of our subtilty, to supply the defects of our Understandings with Admiration. As the Psalmist expresses himself, Lord, how wonderful are thy thoughts to us-ward! The Angels adore this glorious Mystery with an humble Reverence.* The admiration that is caused by it, is a principal delight of the Mind: 'Tis true, the wonder that proceeds from Ignorance (when the cause of some visible effect is not known) is the imperfection and torment of the spirit, but that which ariseth from the knowledg of those things which are most above our conception and our hope, is the highest advancement of our Minds, and brings the greatest satisfaction to the Soul. Now the contri∣vance of our Redemption, was infinitely above the •light of Reason,* and our expectation. When the Lord turned the captivity of Sion, they were as in a dream: The way of accomplishing it was so incre∣dible, that it seem'd rather the picture of Fancy, than a real Deliverance. And there is far greater reason that the rescuing of us from the Powers of Hell, and the restoring us to Liberty and Glory by Christ, should raise our wonder.
*The Gospel is called a marvellous Light, upon the Page 117 account of the objects it discovers. But such a perverse judgment is in men, that they neglect those things which deserve the highest admiration, and spend their wonder on meaner things. Art is more admir'd than Nature: a counterfeit Eye of Christal, which hath neither sight nor motion, than the living Eye, the Sun of the little world, that directs the whole Man. And the effects of Nature are more admir'd, than the sublime and supernatural works of Grace. Yet these infinitely exceed the other. The World is the work of Gods hand, but the Go∣spel is his plot, and the chiefest of all his waies. What a combination of Wonders is there in the great Mystery of Godliness? That He who fills Heaven and Earth should be confin'd to the Virgins Womb; that Life should die, and being dead revive; that Mercy should triumph without any disparage∣ment to Justice: these are Miracles that transcend all that is done in Nature.
And this appears by the judgment of God him∣self, who best knows the excellency of his own works. For whereas upon the finishing the first Creation, he ordain'd the Seventh Day, that rea∣sonable Creatures might more solemnly ascribe to him the Glory of his Attributes, which are visible in the things that are made; he hath upon the com∣pleating our Redemtion, by the rising of Christ from the Dead, made the First-Day Sacred for his Ser∣vice and Praise, there being the clearest illustration of his Perfections in that Blessed Work. God is more pleased in the contemplation of the new World, than of the old. The latter by its extraordinary Magnificence hath lessen'd the dignity of the former, as the greater Light obscures the less. Therefore the Page 118Sabbath is changed into the Lords-Day. And what a just reproach is it to Man that he should be inob∣servant and unaffected with this glorious Mercy, wherein he may alwaies find new cause of Admira∣tion.*O Lord, how great are thy Works! and thy Thoughts how deep! a brutish man knoweth not, neither doth a fool understand this. The admiring of any other thing in comparison of this Mystery, is the effect of Inconsideration, or Infidelity.
2. It produces the most sincere and lasting plea∣sure. As the taste is to meat, to allure us to feed for the support of our bodies; that is delight to Know∣ledge, to excite the mind to seek after it. But its vast capacity can never be satisfied with the know∣ledge of inferior things. The pleasure is more in the acquisition, than in the possession of it. For the mind is diverted in the search, but having attained to that knowledge which cannot fill the rational appe∣tite, 'tis disgusted with the fruits of its travel, and seeks some other object to relieve its langour. From hence it is, that variety is the spring of delight, and pleasure is the product of novelty. We find the plea∣sure of the first taste in learning something new, is alwayes most sensible. The most elegant compositi∣ons, and excellent discourses, which ravisht at the first reading, yet repeated often are nauseous and irksome. The exercise of the mind on an object fully known, is unprofitable, and therefore tedious: where∣as by turning the thoughts on something else, it may acquire new knowledge. But the Apostle tells us that the Mystery of our Redemption contains all the Treasures of Wisdom and Knowledge, to intimate their excellence,* and abundance: the unsearchable riches of Grace are laid up in it. There is infinite va∣riety Page 119 and perpetual matter for the inquiry of the most excellent understanding: no created reason is able to reach its height or sound its depths: by the con∣tinual study, and increase in the knowledge of it, the mind enjoys a persevering pleasure, that far exceeds the short vehemence of sensual delights.
2. It excels other Sciences in the certainty of its Principle; which is divine Revelation. Humane Sciences are built upon uncertain maximes, which being admitted with precipitation, and not confirm'd by sufficient Experiments, the Mind can never fully acquiesce in them. Those Doctrines which were esteemed in one Age, the vanity of them is disco∣vered in another. Modern Philosophy discards the Antient. But the Doctrine of Salvation is the Word of Truth, its original is from Heaven, it bears the characters and marks of its Divine descent. 'Tis confirmed by the Demonstration of the Spirit, and of Power. 'Tis alwaies the same,* unchangeable as God the Author, and Christ the Object of it, who is the same yesterday, to day, and for ever. And the knowledg which the sincere and enlightned Mind hath of it, is not uncertain opinion, but a clear,* solid and firm apprehension. 'Tis a Contemplation of the Glory of God with open face.* This appears by the effects it produces in those that have received the true tincture of it in their Souls, they despise all things which carnal Men admire, in comparison of this inestimable Treasure.
2. The Doctrine of the Gospel exceeds all practic Sciences in the excellency of its end, and the effica∣cy of the means to obtain it.
The end of it is, The Supreme Happiness of Man: the restoring of him to the Innocence and Page 120 Excellency of his first state. And the means are appointed by infinite Wisdom, so that the most in∣superable obstacles are removed: and these are the Justice of God that condemns the guilty, and that strong and obstinate aversion which is in corrupted man from true Felicity. Here is a Mediator re∣veal'd,* who is able to save to the uttermost: who hath quencht the Wrath of God by the Blood of his Di∣vine Sacrifice: who hath expiated Sin by the value of his Death, and purifies the Soul by the vertue of his Life, that it may consent to its own Salvation. No less than a Divine Power could perform this work. From hence the superlative excellency of Evangelical Knowledg doth arise: all other Knowledg is unprofi∣table without it, and that alone can make us perfectly blessed;*This is Life eternal, to know thee, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent. I will briefly consider how ineffectual all other Knowledge is, whether Natural, Political, or Moral, to recover us from our Misery.
The most exact insight into Natural things leaves the Mind blind and poor, ignorant of Happiness, and the way to it. Solomon who had an extraordinary mea∣sure of Natural Knowledg, and was able to set a just price upon it, tels us that the increase of knowledg was attended with proportionable degrees of sorrow. For the more a man knows,* the more he discerns the insuffici∣ency of that knowledg to supply his defects, and sa∣tisfie his desires. He was therefore weary of his Wis∣dom, as well as of his Folly. The Devils know more than the profoundest Philosophers, yet their Knowledge doth not alleviate their Torments. 'Tis so far from di∣recting how to escape misery, that it will more expose to it, by enlarging the Faculties, and making them more capable of Torment. 'Tis the observation of St. Page 121Ambrose, that when God discovered the Creation of the World to Moses, He did not inform him of the greatness of the Heavens, the number of the Stars, their Aspects and Influences; whether they derive their light from the Sun, or have it inherent in their own bodies; from whence Eclipses are caused; how the Rainbow is painted; how the Winds fly in the Air, or the causes of the ebbing and flowing of the Sea; but so much as might be a foundation of Faith and Obedience, and left the rest,*Quasi marcescentis sapientiae vanitates, as the vanities of perishing wisdom. The most knowing Philosopher though encompast with these sparks, yet if ignorant of the Redeemer,*shall lie down in sorrow for ever.
And as natural, so political Knowledge in order to the governing of Kingdoms and States, hath no power to confer happiness upon man. It concerns not his main interest, 'tis terminated within the com∣pass of this short life, and provides not for Death, and Eternity. The Wisdom of the World is folly in a disguise, a specious Ignorance, which although it may secure the temporal state, yet it leaves us naked and exposed to Spiritual enemies which war against the Soul. And all the moral knowledg which is trea∣sur'd up in the Books of the Heathens, is insufficient to restore man to his original integrity and felicity. Reason sees that Man is ignorant, and guilty, mor∣tal, and miserable, that he is transported with vain passions, and tormented with accusations of Consci∣ence, but it could not redress these evils. Corrupt Nature is like an imperfect Building that lies in rub∣bish, the imperfection is visible, but not the way how to finish it, for through ignorance of the first design, e∣very one follows his own fancy, whereas when the Ar∣chitect Page 122 comes to finish his own project, it appears regular and beautiful. Thus the various directions of Philosophers to recover fallen Man out of his ruines, and to raise him to his first state, were vain. Some glimmerings they had, that the happiness of the reasonable nature consisted in its union with God, but in order to this, they propounded such means as were not only ineffectual, but opposit. Such is the pride and folly of carnal wisdom, that to bring God and Man together, it advances Man, and depresses God. The Stoicks ascribed to their Wise∣man those prerogatives whereby he equall'd their Su∣preme God.* They made him the architect of his own vertue and felicity, and to vie with Jupiter himself, to be one of his Peers. Others reduced the Gods to live like Men, and Men like Beasts, by placing happiness in sensual pleasures. Thus instead of cu∣ring, they fomented the hereditary, and principal Diseases of mankind, Pride, and Concupiscence, which at first caus'd the separation of man from God, and infinitely increas'd the distance between them. For what sins are more contrary to the Majesty and Purity of God than Pride, which robs him of his Excellency; and carnal lust, which turns a man into a beast. Besides, all their inventions to expiate sin, to appease the Deity and make him favorable, to calme the Conscience, were frivolous and unprofita∣ble. And their most generous principles, and accu∣rate Precepts, were short of that purity and perfecti∣on werewith moral duties are to be perform'd to God and men. Briefly, they wasted their Candle in vain, in searching for the way to true happiness. But God who created Man for the enjoyment of himself, hath happily accomplisht his eternal Decree, by the work Page 123 of our Redemption, wherein his own Glory is most visible. And the Gospel which reveals this to us, humbles whom it justifies, and comforts those that were condemned: it abases more then the Law, but without dispair, and advances more then Nature could, but without presumption. The Mediator takes away the guilt of our old sins, and our inclination to new sins: we are not only pardoned but preferred, made Heirs of God, joynt-Heirs with Christ.* For these reasons the Apostle sets so high a value upon the Heavenly Doctrine, that reveals a Saviour to the undone World.*He desired to know nothing but Jesus Christ, and him Crucified. He despised all Pharisaical and Philosophical Learning in comparison of the Excel∣lency of the Knowledge of Christ Jesus.* Other know∣ledge swells the mind and increases the esteem of our selves, this gives us a sincere view of our state. It discovers our misery in its causes and the Almighty Mercy that saves us. Other knowledge inlightens the understanding, without changing the heart, but this inspires us with the love of God, with the hatred of sin, and makes us truly better. In seeking after other knowledge, the mind is perplext by endless inquiries: here 'tis at rest, as the wavering Needle is fixt when turn'd to its beloved Star. Ignorance of other things may be without any real damage to us; for we may be directed by the skilful how to preserve Life and Estate.* But this Knowledge is absolutely necessary to Justifie, Sanctifie, and Save us. All o∣ther knowledge is useless at the hour of death, then the richest stock of Learning is lost, the vessel being split wherein the treasure was laid; but this Pearl of inestimable price, as 'tis the ornament of our prospe∣rity, so 'tis the support of our adversity: A little Page 124 ray of this is infinitely more desirable, then the light of all humane Sciences in their lustre and perfection.
And what an amazing folly is it, that men who are possest with an earnest passion of knowing, should waste their time and strength in searching after these things, the knowledge of which can't remove those evils which oppress them, and be careless of the saving knowledge of the Gospel. Were there no other rea∣son to diminish the esteem of earthly knowledge, but the difficulty of its acquisition, that error often sur∣prises those who are searching after truth, this might check our intemperate pursuit of it. Sin hath not only shortned our understandings, but our lives, that we cannot arrive to the perfect discovery of inferior things. But suppose that one by his vast mind should comprehend all created things, from the Centre of the Earth to the Circumference of the Heavens, and were not savingly inlighten'd in the Mystery of our Redemption, with all his knowledge he would be a prey to Satan, and increase the triumphs of Hell. The Historian upbraids the Roman luxury,* that with so much cost and hazzard they should send to foreign parts, for Trees that were beautiful but barren, and produc'd a shadow only without fruit. With greater reason we may wonder that men should with the ex∣pence of their precious hours purchase barren curio∣sities, which are unprofitable to their last end. How can a condemned Criminal, who is in suspence be∣tween Life and Death, attend to study the secrets of Nature and Art, when all his thoughts are taken up how to prevent the execution of the Sentence? and 'tis no less than a prodigy of madness, that men who have but a short and uncertain space allowed them to escape the wrath to come, should rack their Page 125 brains in studying things impertinent to salvation, and neglect the Knowledg of a Redeemer. Especi∣ally when there is so clear a Revelation of him? The righteousness of Faith doth not command us to ascend to the Heavens,*or descend into the deep to make a discovery of it, but the Word is nigh us that discovers the certain way to a happy immortallity. Seneca a Philosopher,* and a Courtier, valued his being in the world only upon this account, that he might contemplate the Starry Heaven.* He only saw the visible beauty of the Firmament, but was ig∣norant of the Glory within it, and of the way that leads to it, yet to our shame he speaks, that the sight of it made him despise the Earth, and without the con∣templation of the Celestial bodies, he esteem'd his continuance in the World not the life of a Man, but the toil of a Beast. But what transports had he been in, if he had been acquainted with the contrivance of our Redemption, the admirable order of its parts, and the beauty that results from the composition of the whole.*But we that with open face may in the Glass of the Gospel behold the Glory of the Lord, turn away our eyes from it to vanity. Here the complaint is more just, Ad sapientiam quis accedit? quis dignam judicat nisi quam in transitu noverit? we content our selves with slight and transient glances, but do not seriously and fixedly consider this blessed design of God, upon which the beginning of our happiness in this, and the perfection of it in the next life is built. Let us provoke our selves by the example of the Angels who are not concern'd in this Redemption as Page 126 man is, for they continued in their fidelity to their Creator, and were alwayes happy in his favour; and where there is no alienation between parties, recon∣cilement is unnecessary; yet they are Students with us in the same Book, and unite all their powers in the contemplation of this mystery: they are repre∣sented stooping to pry into these secrets,* to signifie their delight in what they know, and their desire to advance in the knowledge of them. With what in∣tention then should we study the Gospel, who are the Subject and end of it.