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the nature of the subject itself, as from the statę of mind peculiar to him, for whom the solution seems chiefly wanted; namely, the feeble believer. For as has been observed in a former paper, the object to be discerned and distinguished is so minute; the discerning faculty so dim and unaccustomed to its office; and the counterfeits so plausible; that it is hardly possible to render the distinction so plain, and marked, as to give the desired satisfaction. Indeed it seems to be the Lord's purpose, that the reality of grace should ordinarily be ascertained only by increase; and, as he requires us to" press, forward,” and “
give diligence to make our calling and election “ sure;" so he seldom allows the comfortable privilege of assurance to be attained or enjoyed in any
other The scriptural discussion however of such subjects cannot fail of being useful in various ways; especially by cautioning persons under serious impressions, against being imposed on by Satan with a counterfeit conversion, and a destructive confidence; and by forming the judgment, encouraging the diligence, and awakening the vigilance of true converts, in their first setting out; as well as by obviating prejudices, and removing stumblingblocks. Should I therefore fail of giving full satisfaction to Fervidus, I hope some good may arise from the following observations, on a subject which has for many years exceedingly occu. pied my thoughts, and engaged my most serious attention.
There are three distinct questions proposed by Fervidus.
I. “May not an unregenerate man know a great deal speculatively about the spirituality of the law of God?” The word speculatively is carefully to be adverted to; for both in the scriptures, and in the writings of many eminent divines on this subject, many things are spoken of the incapacity of the natural man to know spiritual things; which ought indisputably to be interpreted of spiritual knowledge; but are often explained of speculative knowledge, to the unspeakable prejudice of the cause of God. This premised, I observe, that an unregenerate man is capable of knowing speculatively or scientifically any subject in divinity, in proportion to his capacity, opportunity, or application; as well as in other sciences. Let a man of great abilities be induced by prospect of reputation, or worldly advantages; or by a fatal mistake of the form of “knowledge” for a saving religion, to turn his studies into that channel; and with every advantage afforded, let him closely apply himself, and he will arrive at great eminence in theology as a science, as well upon the Calvinistical, or Orthodox scheme, as any other. Consequently he will be able to state more exactly, to distinguish more accurately, and to dispute more acutely about any given subject, where speculation, not experience, is concerned, than most of the real children of God; who are destitute of such abilities, and have not time, or opportunity for such information, or application.
According to St. Paul, if a man have the knowledge of all mysteries, and the gifts of prophecy and miracles, and have not love, he is nothing. And Christ declares that many of those, who have actually prophesied and cast out devils in his name, will be ordered to depart from him as workers of iniquity, whom he never knew. And, in fact, every age has produced persons, whose knowledge and gifts have not only rivalled, but eclipsed, those of the most illustrious servants of God; and even imposed upon them; and whose detected wickedness, and awful catastrophes, have shewn whose children they were. Thus Ahithophel imposed on David; Judas on the apostles; and Demas on St. Paul. And the false teachers at Corinth, and other places, so dazzled the minds of the primitive christians, that they even undermined the authority of the apostles themselves, and alienated the minds of the people from them, which they never could have done, without much real, as well as much pretended knowledge. Nay, it is undeniable, however mysterious, that, besides that knowledge attainable by ordinary means, the Spirit of God hath often communicated superna
tural knowledge, and other gifts to unregenerate men; and how far he may do so still, it is not for us to determine. But without taking this into the account, it will, I suppose, be allowed that Satan possesses as large a share of doctrinal knowledge as any believer upon earth, and could, if permitted and inclined, discourse as eloquently and acutely on religious subjects.
There is evidently mentioned in scripture a two-fold knowledge: The one is spoken of in degrading language. “ Knowledge puffethup;" the latter in the highest terms:
" This is eternal “ life to know thee, the only true God, and Jesus
Christ whom thou hast sent." The former is attainable, in any degree, by a natural man; the latter, in the least degree, is the effect of regeneration, and inseparably connected with eternal life. Suffice it now to say that the difference is pot so much in the things known, as in the manner of knowing them, and the effects produced thereby.
An unregenerate man may understand speculatively the strictness and extent of the law of God, as requiring perfect love, and taking cognizance of the thoughts and intents of the heart. By arguments, which he cannot answer or evade, he may be constrained to allow the reasonableness and equity of the precept, and the justice of its awful sanction : as this confession was extorted from Pharaoh, “ The Lord is righteous, and I and
my people are wicked.” Whether this be pro
perly what is meant by the word spirituality, I will not positively decide : But this is enough for
my present purpose; and leads me to another question.
II. May not an unregenerate man be led to strive against sins of the heart, in consequence of this knowledge?'
When a man seriously apprehends that he must either part with his sins, or endure everlasting, misery for them; as long as this conviction continues, the fear of such a punishment, joined to some hope of escaping it, and obtaining eternal happiness, must influence him both to abstain, from the sin he loves, and practise the duty he hạtes. And if he understand that delighting his fancy with speculative indulgence may provoke God to cast him into hell, he will for a time put a, force upon himself, and strive to repress sivful desires, and to abstain from even ideal pleasure. If he also has a notional acquaintance with those dispositions, and affections, which the law of God forbids or requires; he will, under the present impression, disallow the one, and endeavour to excite the other. But this state of mind is too unnatural to be durable. The whole. current of his inclinations vehemently sets one way;
the whole vigour of his exertions is pressing the other. way: And Horace said truly, and doubtless experimentally, Naturam expellas furcâ, tamen usque.