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perfection of divine things, together with all that discerning and knowledge of things of religion, that depends upon, and flows from such a sense.
Spiritual understanding consists primarily in a cordial sense, or a sense of heart of that spiritual beauty. I say, a sense of heart ; for it is not speculation merely that is concerned in this kind of understanding; nor can there be a clear distinction made between the two faculties of understanding and will, as acting distinctly and separately, in this matter. When the mind is sensible of the beauty and amiableness of a thing, that implies a sensibleness of delight in the presence of its idea : and this carries in the very nature of it, the sense of the heart; or an effect and impression of the soul of a substance possessed of taste, inclination and will.
There is a distinction to be made between a mere notional understanding, wherein the mind only beholds things in the exercise of a speculative faculty; and the sense of the heart, wherein the mind not only speculates and beholds, but relishes and feels. That sort of knowledge by which a man has a sensible perception of amiableness and loathsomeness, or of sweetness and nauseousness, is not the same sort of knowledge with that, by which he knows what a triangle or a square is. The one is mere speculative knowledge; the other sensible knowledge, in which more than the mere intellect is concerned. The heart is the proper subject of it, or the soul as a being that not only beholds, but has inclination, and is pleased or displeased. And yet there is the nature of instruction in it; as he that has perceived the sweet taste of honey, knows much more about it, than he who has only looked upon and felt it.
The apostle seems to make a distinction between mere speculative and spiritual knowledge, in calling the former the form of knowledge, and of the truth ; Rom. ii. 20. Which hast the form of knowledge, and of the truth in the law. The latter is often represented by relishing, smelling, or tasting; 2 Cor. ii. 14. Now thanks be to God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ Jesus, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge in every place, Matth. xvi. 23. Thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those things that be of men. 1 Pet. ii. 2, 3. As new born babes desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby; if so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious. Cant. i. 3. Because of the savour of thy good ointments, thy name is as ointment poured forth, therefore do the virgins love thee: compared with 1 John ii. 20. But ye have an unction from the holy One, and ye know all things. Spiritual understanding
primarily consists in this sense, or taste of the moral beauty of divine things ; so that no knowledge can be called spiritual, any further than it arises from, and has this
in it. But secondarily, it includes all that discerning and know
. ledge of religious things, which depends upon, and flows from such a sense. When the true beauty and amiableness in divine things, is discovered to the soul, it opens as it were a new world to its view. This shews the glory of all God's perfections, and of every thing appertaining to the divine Being. For, as was observed before, the beauty of all arises from God's moral perfection. This shews the glory of all God's works, both of creation and providence. For it is their special glory, that God's holiness, righteousness, faithfulness, and goodness, are so manifested in them; and without these moral perfections, there would be no glory in that power and skill with which they are wrought. The glorifying of God's moral perfections, is the special end of all the works of God's hands. By this sense of the moral beauty of divine things, is known the sufficiency of Christ as a Mediator : for it is only by the discovery of beauty in the moral perfection of Christ, that the believer is let into the knowledge of the excellency of his person, so as to know any thing more of it than the devils do: and it is only by the knowledge of the excellency of Christ's person, any know his sufficiency as a Mediator; for the latter depends upon, and arises from the former. It is by seeing the excellency of Christ's person, that the saints are made sensible of the preciousness of his blood, and its sufficiency to atone for sin : for therein consists the preciousness of Christ's blood, that it is the blood of so excellent and amiable a person. And on this depends the meritoriousness of his obedience, the sufficiency and prevalence of his intercession. By this sight of moral beauty, is seen the beauty of salvation by Christ: for that consists in the beauty of God's moral perfections, which wonderfully shines forth in every step of this method of salvation. By this is seen the fitness and suitableness of this way; which consists in its tendency to deliver us from sin and hell, and to bring us to happiness. For true happiness consists in the possession and enjoyment of moral good, in a way sweetly agreeing with God's moral perfections. And in the way being so contrived as to attain these ends, consists the excellent wisdom of that way. By this is seen the excellency of the word of God. Take away all the moral beauty and sweetness in the word, and the Bible is left wholly a dead letter, a dry, lifeless, tasteless thing. By this is seen the true foundation of our duty, the worthiness of God to be so esteemed, honoured, loved, submitted to, and served, as he requires of us, and the amiableness of the duties themselves required. And by this is seen the true evil of sin ; for be who sees the beauty of holiness, must necessarily see the hatefulness of sin, its contrary. By this men understand the true glory of heaven, which consists in the beauty and happiness contained in holiness. By this is seen the amiableness and happiness of saints and angels. He that sees the beauty of holiness, or true moral good, sees the greatest and most important thing in the world, which is the fulness of all things, without which all the world is empty, yea, worse than nothing. Unless this is seen, nothing is seen that is worth the seeing ; for there is no other true excellency or beauty. Unless this be understood, nothing is understood worthy the exercise of the noble faculty of understanding. This is the beauty of the Godhead, the divinity of divinity (if I may so speak,) the good of the infinite fountain of good. Without this, God himself (if that were possible) would be an infinite evil, we ourselves had better never have been ; and there had better have been no being. He therefore in effect knows nothing, that knows not this; his knowledge is but the shadow of knowledge, or the form of knowledge, as the apostle calls it. Well therefore may the scripture represent those who are destitute of that spiritual sense, by which is perceived the beauty of holiness, as totally blind, deaf, and senseless, yea, dead. And well may regeneration, in which this divine sense is given to the soul by its Creator, be represented as opening the blind eyes, raising the dead, and bringing a person into a new world. For if what has been said be considered, it will be manifest, that when a person has this sense and knowledge given him, he will view nothing as he did before ; though before he knew all things after the flesh, yet henceforth he will know them so no more; and he is become a new creature, old things are passed away, behold all things are become new; (2 Cor. v. 16, 17.)
Besides, there arises from this sense of spiritual beauty, all true experimental knowledge of religion, which is of itself as it were a new world of knowledge. He that sees not the beauty of holiness, knows not what one of the graces of God's Spirit is, he is destitute of any conception of gracious exercises of soul, holy comforts and delights, and eflects of the saving influences of the Spirit of God on the heart. He is ignorant of the greatest works of God, the most important and glorious effects of his power upon the creature; he is wholly ignorant of the saints as saints, and knows not what they are ; and in effect is wholly ignorant of the spiritual world. Thus, it plainly appears, that God implanting a spiritual, supernatural sense, makes a great change in a man. And were it not for the very imperfect degree in which this sense is commonly given at first, or the small degree of this glorious light that first dawns upon the soul; the change made by this spiritual opening of the eyes in conversion, would be much greater, and more remarkable every way, than if a man born blind should have the sense of seeing imparted to him at once, in the midst of the clear light of the sun, discovering a world of visible objects. For though sight be more noble than any of the other external senses, yet this spiritual sense is infinitely more noble, and the object infinitely more important.--This is that knowledge of divine things from whence all truly gracious affections proceed; by which therefore all aflections are to be tried. Those affections that arise wholly from any other kind of knowledge, or do result from any other kind of apprehensions, are vain*.
From what has been said may be learned, wherein the most essential difference lies between that light or understanding which is given by the common influences of the Spirit of God, on the hearts of natural men, and that saring instruction which is given to the saints. The latter primarily and most essentially lies in beholding the holy beauty of divine things : which is the only true moral good, and to which the soul of fallen man is by nature totally blind. The former consists only in a further understanding, through the assistance of natural principles, of those things which men may know, in some measure, by the ordinary exercise of their faculties; it is only the knowledge of those things pertaining to religion, which are natural. Thus for instance, in awakenings and convictions of conscience in natural men, the Spirit of God gives no knowledge of true moral beauty, but only assists the mind to a clearer idea of the guilt of sin, or its relation to punishment, and its connexion with the evil of suffering, (without any sight of its true moral evil, or odiousness as sin,) and a clearer idea of the natural perfections of God, wherein consists, not his boly beauty and glory, but his awful and terrible greatness. It is a clear sight of this, that will fully awaken the consciences of wicked men at the day of judgment, without any spiritual light. And it is a lesser degree of the same, that awakens the consciences of natural men, without spiritual light, in this world. The same discoveries are in some measure given in the conscience of an awakened sinner in this world, which will be given more fully at the day of judgment. The same kind of apprehension, in a lesser degree, makes awakened sinners in this world sensible of the dreadful guilt of sin against so great and terrible a God, and of its amazing punishment-and fills them with fearful apprehensions of divine wrath-that will thoroughly convince all wicked men, of the infinitely dreadful nature and guilt of sin, and astonish them with apprehensions of wrath, when Christ shall come in the glory of his power and majesty, and every eye shall see him, and all the kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. And in those common illuminations which are sometimes given to natural men, exciting in them some kind of religious desire, love and joy, the mind is only assisted to a clearer apprehension of the natural good that is in divine things. Thus sometimes, under common illuminations, men are raised with the ideas of the natural good that is in heaven; as its outward glory, its ease, its honour and advancement, being there the objects of the high favour of God, and the great respect of men and angels, &c. So there are many things exhibited in the gospel, concerning God and Christ, and the way of salvation, that have a natural good in them, which suits the natural principle of self-love. Thus in that great goodness of God to sinners, and the wonderful dying love of Christ, there is a natural good, which all men love, as they love themselves; as well as a spiritual and holy beauty, which is seen only by the regenerate. Therefore there are many things appertaining to the word of God's grace delivered in the gospel, which may cause natural men, when they hear it, anon with joy to receive it. All that love which natural men have to God and Christ, Christian virtues, and good men, is not from any sight of the amiableness, or true moral excellency of these things; but only for the sake of the natural good there is in them. All natural men's hatred of sin, is as much from principles of nature, as their hatred of a tiger for bis rapaciousness, or their aversion to a serpent for his poison and hurtfulness. Their love of Christian virtue, is from no higher principle than their love of a man's good nature, which appears amiable to natural men; but no otherwise than silver and gold appears amiable in the eyes of a merchant, or than the blackness of the soil is beautiful in the eyes of the farmer.
* * Take heed of contenting yourselves with every kind of knowledge. Do not worship every image of your own heads; especially you that fall short of truth, or the knowledge of it. For when you have some, there may be yet that wanting which may make you sincere. There are many men of great knowledge, able to teach themselves, and others too: and yet their hearts are unsound. How comes this to pass? Is it because they have so much liglit? No: but because they want much. And therefore content not yourselves with every knowledge. There is some knowledge which men hive by the light of nature, (which leaves them without excuse) from the book of creation; some by power of education ; some by the light of the law, whereby men know their sin and evils; some by the letter of the gospel ; and so men may know much, and speak well ; and so in see. ing, see not : some by the Spirit, and may see much, so as to prophesy in Christ's Dame, and yet bid depart, Matth. vii. Now there is a light of glory, whereby the elect see things in another manner; to tell you how, they cannot-it is the beginping of light in heaven: and the same Spirit that fills Christ, filling their minds, that they know, by this annointing, all things; which is ever you have, you must become babes and fools in your own eyes. God will never write his law in your minds, until all the scribblings of it are blotted out. Account all your knowledge loss for the gaining of this. It is sad to see many a man pleasing himself in his own dreaming delusions ; yet the poor creature in seeing, sees not: which is God's heavy curse upon men under greatest means, and which lays all waste and desolate."-(Shepard's Parable, Part I. p. 147.)
From what has been said it appears, that spiritual understanding does not consist in any new doctrinal knowledge, or in having suggested to the mind any new proposition, not before read or heard of: for it is plain, that this suggesting of new propositions, is a thing entirely diverse from giving the mind a new taste