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Christi. Sermo quo instituuntur rudes in Christo. We say, “ the principles of the doctrine of Christ," I fear somewhai improperly. For the principles of the doctrine of Christ indefinitely, must include all, at least the most principal of those which are so. 'O royos, 'the word," that is, the word preached; so : Doyos, is frequently used, 1 Cor. i. 18. And the name Christ, is not taken here personally, neither efficiently, as though of Christ,' should be whereof Christ is the author,' nor objectively concerning Christ ; but it is taken metonymically for the doctrine of the gospel, and the profession of that religion which was taught by him So that the word of Christ is no more but the doctrine of the gospel as preached and taught. containeth a limitation of this doctrine with respect to some parts of it. That is, those which men usually and ordinarily were first instructed in, and which from their own nature it was necessary that so they should be. These are here called the word of the beginning of Christ.' And what these doctrines are, the apostle declares particularly in the end of this verse, and in the next, where we shall inquire into them. They are the same with the “ first principles of the oracles of God," whereof mention was made before. Having declared what for the present he would omit and pass by, although there was some appearance of a necessity to the contrary, the apostle expresseth what his present design in general was, and what was ihe end which therein he aimed at. Now this was that, not being retarded by the repetition or re-inculcation of the things which he would therefore omit, they might, he in teaching, they in learning, go on to perfection. And two things must be considered. 1. The end intended. 2. The manner of pressing towards it.
The end is us TNI TEMELOTITA, “ unto perfection.” Todsotns, perfection, that is, such a knowledge of the mysterious and sublime doctrines of the gospel, as those who were completely initiated, and throughly instructed, were partakers of. Of this he Says, σοφιαν λαλεμεν εν τοις τελειοις, 1 Cor. ii. 6. “ we speak wisdom among the perfect,” or declare the deep mysteries of the gospel, the wisdom of God in a mystery, to them that are capable of them. It is then a perfection that the apostle aims at, but such as comes under a double limitation. 1. From the nature of the thing itself. It is only an intellectual perfection, a perfection of the mind in knowledge, that is intended. And this may be where there is not a moral, gracious, sinless perfection. Yea, men may have great light in their minds, whilst their wills and affections are very much depraved, and their lives unreformed. 2. It is a comparative, and not an absolute perfection. An absolute perfection in the comprehension of the whole mystery of God in Christ, is not by us attainable in this life. The apostle denies it concerning himself, Phil. iii. 12. But such a degree and measure as God is pleased to communicate to believers in the ordinary use of means, is that which is intended. See Eph. iv. 12, 13. Take therefore the perfection here aimed at, objectively, and it is the more sublime mysteries of the gospel which it expresseth ; take it subjectively, it is such a clear per. ception of them, especially of those which concern the person
and offices of Christ, and particularly his priesthood, as grown believers do usually attain to.
The manner of arriving at this end, he expresseth by Prewpusta, and in this word is the rhetorical communication mentioned. For either he ascribes that to himself with them, which belong. ed only to them; or that to them which belonged only to him; or what belonged to them both, but in a different way; namely, to him in teaching, to them in learning. “Let us be carried on.
The word is emphatical, intimating such a kind of progress as a ship makes when it is under sail
. “ Let us bę carried on,” that is, with the full bent of our minds and affections, with the utmost endeavours of our whole souls. We have abode long enough by the shore, let us now hoist our sails and launch forth into the deep. And we may hence learn,
Obs. III. That it is a necessary duty of the dispensers of the gospel, to excite their hearers, by all pressing considerations, to make a progress in the knowledge of the truth.—Thus dealeth our apostle with these Hebrews. He would not have them always stand at the porch, but enter into the sanctuary, and behold the hidden glories of the house of God. Elsewhere he complains of them who are always learning, that is, in the way of it, under the means of it, but yet by reason of their negligence and carelessness in the application of their minds to them, do never come, og EFIZYNIOWY odnosices, 2 Tim. jii. 7..to a clear knowledge, and acknowledgment of the truth.' And in the same spirit he complains of his Corinthians, for their want of proticiency in spiritual things, so that he was forced in his dealing with them to dwell still on the rudiments of religion, 1 Cor. üi. 1, 2. In all his epistles, he is continually as it were pressing this on the churches, that they should labour to" grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ," and that they might do so, was the principal matter of his prayers for them, Eph. iii. 14-19. i 16-19. Col. ii. 1, 2. And they are utter strangers to his spirit and example who are careless in this matter, especially such as persuade, and even compet others so to be. Wherefore this duty is necessary to dispensers of the gospel on sundry accounts.
1. Because their hearers do greatly need the exercise of it. They are apt to be slothful and weary ; many begin to run well, but are quickly ready to faint. There is no reckoning
up the occasions hereof, they are so many and various. Weariness of the flesh; self-conceit of having attained what is sufficient, perhaps more than others ; curiosity and itching ears in attending to novelties ; dislike of that holiness and fruitfulness of life, which an increase of knowledge openly tends to; mispending time on the one hand, or covetousness of time for the occasions of life on the other; any prevailing corruption ot mind or affections ; the difficulty that is in coming to the knowledge of the truth in a due manner, making the sluggard cry, “ There is a lion in the streets ;” with other things innumerable, are ready and able to retard, hinder and discourage men in their progress.
And if there be none to excite, warn and admonish them, to discover the variety of the pretences whereby men in this matter deceive themselves, to lay open the snares and dangers which hereby they cast themselves into, to remind them of the excellency of the things of the gospel, and of the knowledge of them, which are proposed before them, it cannot be but that by these means, their spiritual condition will be prejudiced, if not their souls ruined. Yea, sometimes men are so captivated under the power of these temptations and seductions, and are furnished with such pleas in the defence of their own sloth and negligence, as that they must be dealt wisely and gently withal, in admonitions concerning them, lest they be provoked or discouraged. Hence, our apostle having dealt effectually with these Hebrews about these things, shuts up his discourse with that blessed expression of love and condescension towards them, chap. xiii. 22. “I beseech you, brethren, suffer the word of exhortation," avsyte Je. So bear with it, as that which, however it may be contrary to your present inclinations, yet proceeds out of tender love to your souls, and hath no other end but your spiritual advantage. Neither ought this to abate herein the endeavours of faithful ministers, but only give them farther oecasion to stir up and exercise their prudence and diligence.
2. The advantages which professors have by a progress in the knowledge of spiritual things, makes it a necessary duty unto them who are obliged in all things to watch for the good of their souls, to stir them up and lead them on therein. And these advantages also present themselves in so much variety, that they cannot be here recounted. Mention may be made of some few in a way of instance. As, 1. Hereon in a way of an effectual means, depends the security of men from seduction into heresies, noisome and noxious errors. Of what sort are they whom we see seduced every day? Are they not persons who either are brutishly ignorant of the very nature of Christian religion, and the first principles of it, with which sort the Papists fill the rolls of their converts; or such as having obtained a little superficial knowledge and confidence therein, without ever laying a firm foundation, or carrying on an orderly superstruction thereon in wisdom and obedience; which sort of men fill up the assemblies of the Quakers? The foundation of God standeth sure at all times: God knoweth who are, his, and he will so preserve his elect, as to render their total seduction impossible. But in an ordinary way, it will be very difficult in such a time as this, wherein seducers abound, false doctrines are divulged, and speciously obtruded, wherein there are so many wolves abroad in sheep's clothing, and so great an opposition is on all hands made to the truth of the gospel, for any to hold out firm and unshaken to the end, if their minds be not inlaid and fortified with a sound well-grounded knowledge of the mysteries of the gospel. It is the teaching of the Spirit, the unction of the Holy One, whereby we know all necessary truths, that must preserve us in such a season, I John ii. 27. 2. Proportionable to our growth in knowledge, will be our increase in holiness and obedience. If this at any time fall out otherwise, it is from the sins and wickedness of the persons in whom it is : in the nature of the things themselves, they thus depend on one another. See Eph. iv. 21-24. Rom. xii. 2. That ignorance is the mother of devotion, is a maxim that came from hell to fetch the souls of men, and carried back multitudes with it, where let it abide. Now the reason why the improvement of knowledge, doth tend to the improvement of holiness and obedience, is because faith acts itself on Christ only in and by the things which we know, whereby spiritual strength is derived to us, and we are enabled unto them. 3. Usefulness in the church, to our families, and amongst all men, depends hereon. This needs no other confirmation than what the experience of every man will suggest to him. And if I should design to go over but the principal advantages which we attain, or may attain, in the growth of spiritual light and knowledge, there is not any thing wherein our faith or obedience is concerned, nothing that belongs to our graces, duties, or communion with God, in them or by them, nothing wherein we are concerned in temptations, afflictions or consolation, but might justly be called in to give testimony thereunto. If therefore the ministers of the gospel bave any care for, or any love to the souls of their hearers ; if they understand any thing of the nature, of the office and work which they have taken on themselves, or the account they must one day give of the discharge of it; they cannot but esteem it among the most necessary duties incumbent on them. to excite, provoke, persuade, and carry on those who are under their charge, towards the perfection before described.
There is therefore nothing, in the whole combination against Christ and the gospel, which is found in the Papacy, of a more
pernicious nature and tendency, than is the design of keeping the people in ignorance. So far are they from promoting the knowledge of Christ in the members of their communion, that they endeavour by all means to obstruct it. For not to mention their numerous errors and heresies, every one whereof is a diversion from the truth, and a hinderance from coming to an acquaintance with it, they do directly keep from them the use of those means, whereby alone its knowledge may be attained. What else means their prohibition of the people from reading the Scripture in a language which they understand ? The most expeditious course for the rendering all the streams unuseful, is by stopping of the fountain. And whereas all means of the increase of knowledge are but emanations from the Scripture, the prohibition of the use thereof doth effectually evacuate them all. Was this spirit in our apostle ? Had he this design? It is evident to all how openly and frequently he expresseth himself to the contrary. And to his example ought we to conform ourselves. Whatever other occasion of writing he had, the principal subject of his epistles, is constantly the increase of lighi and knowledge in the churches, which he knew to be so necessary for them. We
We may therefore add, Obs. IV. The case of that people is deplorable and dangerous, whose teachers are not able to carry them on in the knowledge of the mysteries of the gospel. - The key of knowledge may be taken away by ignorance as well as malice. And so it is with many. And when knowledge is perished from the lips of them who should preserve it, the people must perish for want of that knowledge, Hos. iv. 6. Matt. xv. 14.
Obs. V. In our progress towards an increase in knowledge, we ought to go on with diligence and the full bent of our wills and affections.-I intend hereby to express the sense of piepila. It is of a passive signification, denoting the effect ; let us be acted, carried on;' but it includes the active use of means for the producing that effect. And the duties on our part intended may be reduced to these heads.
1. Diligence in an application to the use of the best means for this end, Hos. vi. 3. Those that would be carried on towards perfection, must not be careless, or regardless of opportunities of instruction, nor be detained from them by sloth or vanity, nor diverted by the businesses and occasions of this world. Both industry in their pursuit, and choice in the preferring of them before secular advantages and avocations, are required hereunto.
2. Intention of mind in the attending to them. Such personu are neither to be careless of them, nor careless under them. There are some who will take no small pains to enjoy the means of instruction, and will scarce miss an opportunity that they Vol. V.