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CHRISTIAN KNOWLEDGE, &c. &c;
HEBREWS V. 12.
For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again, which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.
THESE words are a complaint which the apostle makes against the Christian Hebrews, for their want of such proficiency in the knowledge of the doctrines and mysteries of religion, as might have been expected of them. The apostle complains, that they had not made that progress in their acquaintance with the things taught in the oracles of God which they ought to have made. And he means to reprove them, not merely for their deficiency in spiritual and experimental knowledge of divine things, but for their deficiency in a doctrinal acquaintance with the principles of religion, and the truths of Christian divinity; as is evident by the manner in which the apostle introduces this reproof. The occasion of his introducing it is this: in the next verse but one preceding, he mentions Christ as being "called of God an high priest after the order of Melchizedec." In the Old Testament, the oracles of God, Melchizedec was held forth as an eminent type of Christ; and the account we there have of him contains many gospel mysteries. These mysteries the apostle was willing to point out to the Christian Hebrews; but he apprehended, that through their weakness in knowledge, they would not understand him and therefore breaks off for the present from saying any thing about Melchizedec, thus, (ver. 11.) "Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered; seeing ye are all dall of hearing;" ¿e.
there are many things concerning Melchizedec which contain wonderful gospel mysteries, and which I would take notice of to you, were it not that I am afraid, that through your dulness, and backwardness in understanding these things, you would only be puzzled and confounded by my discourse, and so receive no benefit and that it would be too hard for you, as meat that is too strong.
Then come in the words of the text: "For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as need of milk, and not of strong meat :" As much as to say, indeed it might have been expected of you, that you should have known enough of the holy scriptures, to be able to understand and digest such mysteries: but it is not so with you. The apostle speaks of their proficiency in such knowledge as is conveyed by human teaching: as appears by that expression, "When for the time ye ought to be teachers;" which includes not only a practical and experimental, but also a doctrinal knowledge of the truths and mysteries of religion,
Again, the apostle speaks of such knowledge, whereby Christians are enabled to understand things in divinity which are more abstruse and difficult to be understood, and which require great skill in things of this nature. This is more fully expressed in the two next verses: "For every one that useth milk, is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who, by reason of use, have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil." It is such knowledge, that proficiency in it shall carry persons beyond the first principles of religion. As here, "Ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God." Therefore the apostle, in the beginning of the next chapter advises them, "to leave the first principles of the doctrine of Christ, and to go on unto perfection."
We may observe that the fault of this defect appears, in that they had not made proficiency according to their time.-For the time, they ought to have been teachers. As they were Christians, their business was to learn and gain Christian knowledge. They were scholars in the school of Christ; and if they had improved their time in learning as they ought to have done, they might by the time when the apostle wrote, have been fit to be teachers in this school. To whatever business any one is devoted, it may be expected that his perfection in it shall be answerable to the time he has had to learn and perfect himself.Christians should not always remain babes, but should grow in Christian knowledge; and leaving the food of babes, they shall learn to digest strong meat.
DOCTRINE. Every Christian should make a business of endeavouring to grow in knowledge in divinity.-This is indeed esteemed the business of divines and ministers; it is commonly thought to be their work, by the study of the scriptures, and other instructive books, to gain knowledge, and most seem to think that it may be left to them, as what belongeth not to others. But if the apostle had entertained this notion, he would never have blamed the Christian Hebrews for not having acquired knowledge enough to be teachers. Or if he had thought, that this concerned Christians in general only as a thing by the bye, and that their time should not in a considerable measure be taken up with this business; he never would have so much blamed them, that their proficiency in knowledge had not been answerable to the time which they had had to learn.
In handling this subject, I shall show-what is intended by divinity--what kind of knowledge in divinity is intended-why knowledge in divinity is necessary.
And why all Christians should make a business of endeavouring to grow in this knowledge.
What is intended by Divinity, as the Object of Christian Knowledge.
VARIOUS definitions have been given of this subject by those who have treated on it. I shall not now stand to inquire which, according to the rules of art, is the most accurate definition; but shall so define or describe it, as I think has the greatest tendency to convey a proper notion of it. It is that science or doctrine which comprehends all those truths and rules which concern the great business of religion.
There are various kinds of arts and sciences taught and learned in the schools, which are conversant about various objects; about the works of nature in general, as philosophy; or the visible heavens, as astronomy; of the sea, as navigation; of the earth, as geography; of the body of man, as physic and anatomy; of the soul of man, with regard to its natural powers and qualities, as logic and pneumatology; or about human government, as politics and jurisprudence. But one science or kind of knowledge and doctrine, is above all the rest; as it treats concerning God and the great business of religion. Divinity is not learned, as other sciences, merely by the improvement of man's natural reason, but is taught by God himself