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The general assertion confirmed with testimonies of the Scripture — Ps. cxix. 18 opened at large — Objections answered — 2 Cor. iii. 13–18, Isa. xxv. 7, explained — Luke xxiv. 44, 45, opened — Eph. i. 17–19 explained and pleaded in confirmation of the truth — Hos. xiv. 9.
The whole of our assertion is comprised in the prayer of the psalmist, Ps. cxix. 18, גַּל־עֵינַי וְאַבּיטָה נִפְלָאוֹת מִתּוֹרָתֶךָ, — “Open thou 128mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.” The same request, for the substance of it, is repeated sundry times in the same psalm, verses 33, 34, etc. Thus he prayed. That it may be esteemed our duty to pray in like manner is the substance of what we plead for. What we pray for from God, that we have not in and of ourselves, as the ancient church constantly pleaded against the Pelagians; and what we pray for according to the mind of God, that we do receive. Wherefore, our discerning, our understanding, of the wonderful things of the law, is not of ourselves; it is that which is given us, that which we receive from God.
But that the force of our argument from this testimony may be the more evident, the words or terms of it must be explained, that we may see whether they be equivalent unto, or of the same signification with, those laid down in our assertion:—
1. That which is the object of the understanding prayed for, that in the knowledge whereof the psalmist would be illuminated, is תּוֹרָה. The word signifies instruction; and being referred unto God, it is his teaching or instruction of us by the revelation of himself, — the same which we intend by the Scripture. When the books of the Old Testament were completed, they were, for distinction’s sake, distributed into תּוֹרָה, כְּתוּבִים, and נְבִאִים, or, the “Law,” the “Psalms,” and the “Prophets,” Luke xxiv. 44. Under that distribution Torah signifies the five books of Moses. But whereas these books of Moses were, as it were, the foundation of all future revelations under the Old Testament, which were given in the explication thereof, all the writings of it are usually called “the Law,” Isa. viii. 20. By the law, therefore, in this place, the psalmist understands all the books that were then given unto the church by revelation for the rule of its faith and obedience. And that by the law, in the psalms, the written law is intended, is evident from the first of them, wherein he is declared blessed who “meditateth therein day and night,” Ps. i. 2; which hath respect unto the command of reading and meditating on the books thereof in that manner, Josh. i. 8. That, therefore, which is intended by this word is the entire revelation of the will of God, given unto the church for the rule of its faith and obedience, — that is, the holy Scripture.
2. In this law there are נִפְלָאוֹת, “wonderful things.” פָּלָא signifies to be “wonderful,” to be “hidden,” to be “great” and “high;” that which men by the use of reason cannot attain unto or understand (hence נִפְלָאוֹת, are things that have such an impression of divine wisdom and power upon them as that they are justly the object of our admiration); that which is too hard for us; as Deut. xvii. 8. כִי יִפָּלֵא מִמְּךָ דָבָר — “If a matter be too hard for thee,” hid from thee. And it is the name whereby the miraculous works of God are 129expressed, Ps. lxxvii. 11, lxxviii. 11. Wherefore, these “wonderful things of the law” are those expressions and effects of divine wisdom in the Scripture which are above the natural reason and understandings of men to find out and comprehend. Such are the mysteries of divine truth in the Scripture, especially because Christ is in them, whose name is פֶּלֶא, or “Wonderful,” Isa. ix. 6; for all the great and marvellous effects of infinite wisdom meet in him. These things and doctrines God calls רֻבֵּו תּוֹרָתִו, Hos. viii. 12: “I have written to him the great things of my law, but they were counted כְּמוֹ זָר, as a strange thing.” Because they were “wonderful” in themselves, they neglected and despised them, as that which was foreign and alien from them, which belonged not unto them. So deal many with the mysteries of the gospel at this day; because they are heavenly, spiritual, in themselves marvellous, hidden, and above the understanding of the natural reason of men, — that is, they are נִפְלָאוֹת, wonderful,” — they reject and despise them as things alien and foreign unto their religion. Wherefore, the “wonderful things” of the Scripture are those mysteries of divine truth, wisdom, and grace, that are revealed and contained therein, with their especial respect unto Jesus Christ.
3. Three things are supposed in the words concerning these “wonderful things:” —
(1.) That they are recorded, laid up, or treasured, in the law or Scripture, and nowhere else, so as that from thence alone are they to be learned and received: “Behold wondrous things out of thy law.” That alone is the sacred παρακαταθήκη, or “repository” of them. There are wondrous things in the works of nature and providence, and much of them is contained in the treasury of reason, wherein it may be discerned; but these are stored in the law only, and nowhere else.
(2.) That it is our duty to behold, to discern, to understand them, to have an inspection into them; and our great privilege when we are enabled so to do. This makes the psalmist pray so frequently, so fervently, that he may have the discerning of them, or come to an acquaintance with them. Those, therefore, by whom they are neglected do both despise their duty and forsake their own mercy.
(3.) That we are not able of ourselves thus to discern them without divine aid and assistance; for the psalmist, who was wiser than the wisest of us, and who had so earnest a desire after these things, yet would not trust unto his own reason, wisdom, ability, and diligence, for the understanding of them, but betakes himself unto God by prayer, acknowledging therein that it is the especial work of God by his Spirit to enable us to understand his mind and will as revealed in the Scripture.
4. There is expressed in the words the act of God towards us, 130whereby he enableth us to behold, discern, and understand the wonderful effects of divine wisdom which are treasured up in the Scripture; which the psalmist prayeth for. This is called his “opening of our eyes:” גַּל־עֵינַי, “Reveal mine eyes, uncover, unveil mine eyes.” There is a light in the word; all truth is light, and sacred truth is sacred light; yea, the word of God is expressly called “light,” Ps. xxxvi. 9, xliii. 3, cxix. 105. But there is by nature a covering, a veil, on the eyes of the understandings of all men, so that they are not able of themselves to behold this light, nor to discern any thing by it in a due manner. With respect hereunto the psalmist prays that God would “reveal his eyes.” Revelare is velamentum levare; “to reveal is to take off the veil or covering.” And this veil is that of our natural darkness, blindness, and ignorance; whereof we have treated elsewhere.
I see not what is wanting unto the explanation or confirmation of the position before laid down. The communication of spiritual light from God is the peculiar work of the Holy Ghost. He is the immediate author of all spiritual illumination. But hereby alone, or by virtue hereof, can we know or understand the mind of God in the Scripture, in such a manner as God requireth us to do; and whosoever hath received the grace of this divine illumination may do so, so far as he is concerned, in point of faith or obedience.
The law is the Scripture, the written word of God. Therein are “wonderful things,” or mysteries of divine wisdom, contained and revealed. To behold these things, is to discern and understand them aright with respect unto our own faith and obedience. This we cannot do without a supernatural act of the Spirit of God upon our minds, enabling them to discern them and understand them; these things are in the text ἀναντιῤῥήτως [“indisputably.”] And we hence farther argue, that which is our duty to pray for spiritual, supernatural aid to enable us to do, that of ourselves we are not able to do without that aid and assistance, at least we may do it by virtue of that aid and assistance; which includes the substance, by just consequence, of what is pleaded for. But such aid it is our duty to pray for, that we may understand aright the revelations of the mind and will of God in the Scriptures, — the only thing to be proved.
There is but one thing which I can foresee that may with any pretence of reason be objected unto this testimony of the psalmist in particular; and this is, that he speaks of the times and writings of the Old Testament. “Now, it is confessed that there was in them a darkness and obscurity, and such as needed new revelations for the understanding of them; but since all things are ‘brought to light by the gospel,’ there is no need of any special aid or assistance of the Holy Spirit, by supernatural illumination, for the understanding 131of them.” In answer hereunto I shall consider the discourse of the apostle wherein he stateth this whole matter: 2 Cor. iii. 13, 14, 16–18, “And not as Moses, which put a veil over his face, that the children of Israel could not steadfastly look to the end of that which is abolished: but their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same veil untaken away, in the reading of the Old Testament; which is done away in Christ … Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord” (or, they be turned unto the Lord) “the veil shall be taken away. Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all with open face behold as in a glass the glory of the Lord.”
When Moses had received the revelation of the law from God, “his face shone,” Exod. xxxiv. 29; for there were wonderful things contained in that revelation with respect unto Jesus Christ, — he was in them all, and the end of them all. The whole ministry of Moses was but a testimony given unto the things that were afterward to be spoken concerning him, as the apostle declares, Heb. iii. 5.
On the receipt of this revelation “his face shone,” because there was a light, a lustre, a glory, in the things revealed unto him, and by them reflected on his ministry, which was so represented. Nevertheless, this light did not shine immediately into the hearts and minds of the people. They did not see or discern the glorious and “wonderful things” that were in the law; for there was a double veil or covering that hindered them, — one that was put on Moses’ face, another that was on their own hearts. Some dark apprehensions and glances of light they had, but “they could not look steadfastly unto the end of that which was to be abolished;” they could not comprehend the truth concerning Christ, which was the substance and end of the law.
The first veil, that which was on the face of Moses, was the obscurity of the instructions given them, as wrapped up in types, shadows, and dark parables. This they could not see through, so as clearly to discern the “wonderful things” contained in and under them. This veil is quite taken off in the revelation or doctrine of the gospel, wherein “life and immortality are brought to light,” and the wonderful things of the mystery of God in Christ are fully declared and plainly expressed. Herein, therefore, it is acknowledged that there is a great difference between those under the Old Testament and those under the New.
But, saith the apostle, there is another veil, a veil upon the heart. And hereof he declareth two things:— 1. That this veil is done away only in Christ; and, 2. That therefore it is not taken away from any but those who are converted unto God. This is the covering of ignorance, darkness, blindness, that is on men by nature. The former 132veil is taken away by the doctrine of the gospel; this latter is to be removed only by an effectual work of the Spirit of Christ, in the conversion of the souls of men unto God.
And two things do ensue on the removal of this double veil:— 1. That as unto the doctrine itself concerning the mystery of God in Christ, it is no more represented unto us in types, shadows, and dark parables, but in the clear glass of the gospel, whereon the glory of Christ is reflected. Hereby the veil is taken off from the face of Moses. 2. That we have πρόσωπον ἀνακεκαλυμμένον, an “open, uncovered face,” or, as the Syriac reads it, a “revealed eye,” whereby we are enabled to discern the wonderful mysteries of God so revealed. This ensues on the taking away of the second veil of darkness and blindness, which is on the hearts of all by nature.
The removal and destruction of this double veil by the Spirit and grace of the gospel is that which is prophesied of, Isa. xxv. 7, “He will destroy in this mountain the face הַלֹּוט הַלֹּוט, of the covering covered,” or the double veil, “that is on the face of all people, and וְהַמּסֵּכָה הַנְּסוּכָה, the veil veiled over all nations.”
This being the design of the discourse of the apostle, it is evident that although there be a difference between them under the Old Testament and us as to the veil that was on the face of Moses, which is destroyed and removed by the doctrine of the gospel, yet there is none as to the veil which is on the hearts of all by nature, which must be removed by the Holy Spirit, or we cannot “with open face behold the glory of the Lord,” — the thing which the psalmist prayeth for in the place insisted on; that is, that God by his Spirit would more and more renew his mind, and take away his natural darkness and ignorance, that he might be able to behold, perceive, and understand the mind of God as revealed in the Scripture. And if any shall suppose or say, that for their part they need no such especial aid and assistance to enable them to understand the mind of God in the Scripture, which is sufficiently exposed to the common reason of all mankind, I shall only say at present, I am afraid they do not understand those places of Scripture where this aid and assistance is so expressly affirmed to be necessary thereunto.
But the meaning of the psalmist will the better appear if we consider the communication of the grace which he prayed for unto others. This is expressed, Luke xxiv. 45, “Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures;” — a needless work if some men may be believed; but our Lord Jesus Christ thought not so. The truths concerning him were revealed in the Scripture, that is, in the law, and the prophets, and the psalms, verse 44. These they read, these they were instructed in, these were preached unto them every Sabbath-day; and probably they were as 133well skilled in the literal sense of Scripture propositions as those who pretend highest amongst us so to be. Howbeit they could not understand those “wonderful things” in a way of duty, and as they ought to do, until the Lord Christ “opened their understandings” There was needful unto them an immediate gracious act of his divine power on their minds to enable them thereunto; and I cannot yet much value those men’s understanding of the Scripture whose understandings are not opened by the Spirit of Christ.
If we need the opening of our understandings by an act of the power and grace of Christ, that we may understand the Scriptures, then without it we cannot so do, namely, so as to believe and yield obedience, according unto our duty. The consequence is evident; for if we could, there was no need of this act of Christ towards those disciples, who were not destitute of any rational abilities required in us thereunto. And the act of Christ in “opening their understanding” is openly distinguished from the proposition of the doctrine of the Scripture unto them. This was made two ways:— first, In the Scripture itself; secondly, In the oral discourse of our Saviour upon it. Distinct from both these is that act of his whereby he “opened their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures.” Wherefore, nothing but a real internal act of grace, in the illumination of their minds, can be intended thereby; the nature whereof shall be farther explained afterward.
But there is an eminent place that must be pleaded distinctly to this purpose: Eph. i. 17–19, “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe.”
This is the whole of what we would assert, and nothing else. And if men would acquiesce by faith in what is here declared, we [would] need to plead this cause no farther, for the words and expressions of the truth here used are more emphatical unto a spiritual understanding than any others we can find out; and I shall only show in the opening of them how our position and sense are contained in them. And, —1. What the apostle doth here for others, it is unquestionably our duty to do for ourselves. We are, then, to pray that God would enable us by his Spirit to know and understand his mind and will as revealed in the Scripture. This, therefore, without especial aid and assistance from him by his Spirit, we cannot do. And the aid he gives us consists in the effectual illumination of our minds, or the enlightening of the eyes of our understandings. These things are 134plain, and not liable, as I suppose, to any exception; and these are all we plead for. Let them be granted without any other distinctions or limitations but what the Scripture will justify, and there is an end of this difference. But some particular passages in the words may be considered, for the better understanding and farther confirmation of the truth contained therein:—
1. It is a revelation that the apostle prays for, or a Spirit of revelation to be given unto them. This greatly offends some at first hearing, but wholly without cause; for he understands not a new immediate external revelation from God. Believers are not directed to look after such revelations for their guide. Ever since the Scripture was written, the generality of the church was obliged to attend thereunto alone, as their only rule of faith and obedience. And although God reserved unto himself a liberty under the Old Testament, and until the completing of all the books of the New, to add new revelations as he pleased, yet he always bound up the faith and obedience of the present church unto what he had already revealed. And he hath now, by the Spirit of his Son, put an end unto all expectation of any new, of any other revelations, wherein the faith or obedience of the church should be concerned; at least, we take it for granted in this inquiry that infallible inspirations in the discovery of things not before revealed are ceased in the church. Nor do the Papists extend their infallibility thereunto, but only unto things already revealed in the Scripture or tradition. What some among ourselves do ascribe of this nature unto their light, I do not well know, nor shall now inquire.
But there is an internal subjective revelation, whereby no new things are revealed unto our minds, or are not outwardly revealed anew, but our minds are enabled to discern the things that are revealed already. All the things here mentioned by the apostle, which he desires they might understand, were already revealed in the Scriptures of the Old Testament, and the New that were then written, and the infallible declaration of the gospel in the preaching of the apostles. But there was a new work of revelation required in and unto every person that would understand and comprehend these things in a due manner; for ἀποκάλυψις, or “revelation,” is the discovery of any thing, whether by the proposal of it unto us, or the enabling of us to discern it when it is so proposed. In the first sense it is used, Rom. xvi. 25; 2 Cor. xii. 1, 7; Gal. i. 12, ii. 2; — in the latter, Luke ii. 32; Eph. i. 17, 18. As when God opened the eyes of the servant of Elisha, on the prayer of his master, to see the horses and chariots of fire that were round about him, 2 Kings vi. 17; they were not brought thither by the opening of his eyes, only he was enabled to discern them, which before he could not do: or, as 135when any one maketh use of a telescope to behold things afar off, no object is presented unto him but what was really in the same place before; only his visive faculty is assisted to discern them at that distance, which without that assistance it could not reach unto. And the Holy Spirit is here called “The Spirit of revelation” causally, as he is the author or principal efficient cause of it. So in his communication unto the Lord Christ himself, he is called “The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord;” that should “make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord,” Isa. xi. 2, 3.
2. What the psalmist, in the place before insisted on, calleth in general נִפְלָאוֹת, “wonderful things,” the apostle expresseth in particular, and distributes them under sundry heads, as they were more clearly revealed in the gospel. Such are, “The hope of God’s calling,” “The riches of his glory,” and “The exceeding greatness of his power in them that do believe.” These are some of the principal and most important mysteries of the gospel. No other understanding can we have of these things but only as they are revealed therein, or of the revelation of them. And in the manner of his expression he declares these things to be “wonderful,” as the psalmist speaks; for there is in them πλοῦτος τῆς δόξης, “the riches of glory,” — which is beyond our comprehension. So he expressly affirms that it is ἀνεξιχνίαστος, Eph. iii. 8, “past all investigation” or search; the same word that he useth to set forth the ways of God, when his design is to declare them wonderful, or the object of our admiration: Rom. xi. 33, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” And there is in them ὑπερβάλλον μέγεθος, “an exceeding” or inexpressible “greatness of power.”
Such are the things that are proposed unto us in the Scripture. And the principal reason why some men judge it so easy a matter to understand and comprehend by the innate abilities of their own minds the revelations that are made in the word of God unto us, is because they do not apprehend that there is any thing wonderful, or truly great and glorious in them. And, therefore, because they cannot raise their minds unto a comprehension of these mysteries as they are in themselves, they corrupt and debase them to suit them unto their own low, carnal apprehensions: which is the principle that works effectually in the whole of Socinianism; for grant that there are such “wonderful things,” such mysteries, in the gospel as we plead, and the men of that persuasion will not deny but that our minds do stand in need of a heavenly assistance to comprehend them aright, for they deny them for no other reason but because their reason cannot comprehend them.
1363. Concerning these things so revealed in the word, the apostle prays for these Ephesians that they might know them; as also, he expresseth the way whereby alone they might be enabled so to do: Εἰς τὸ εἰδέναι ὑμᾶς, — “That ye might have a sight, perception, or understanding of them.” This he denies a natural man to have, or that he can have; he “cannot know them,” 1 Cor. ii. 14. It is true, it may be said he cannot know them unless they are clearly and fairly proposed unto him; no, nor then neither by the light and power of his own natural faculties. He cannot do so by the use of any outward means alone. It is futilous [vain] to imagine that the apostle intends only that a natural man cannot know things that are never proposed unto him, which is neither weakness nor discommendation; for neither can the spiritual man so know any thing.
Because it is thus with men by nature, therefore doth the apostle so earnestly pray that these Ephesians might be enabled to understand and know these things: and he doth it with an unusual solemnity, invocating the “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory;” which argues both a great intension of spirit in him, and great weight laid upon the matter of his request.
But what reason is there for this earnestness? what is wanting unto these Ephesians? what would he yet have for them? were they not rational men, that had their eyes in their heads as well as others? nay, were not many of them learned men, and skilled in all the “curious arts” of those days? for here it was that so many upon their first conversion burnt their books to the value of “fifty thousand pieces of silver,” Acts xix. 19. Probably they were many of them very knowing in the new and old philosophy. Had they not the Scripture also; that is, all the books of the Old Testament, and those of the New which were then written? Did not the apostle and others preach the doctrine of the gospel unto them, and therein the things which he here mentioneth? He declareth and expressly testifieth that he did, Acts xx. 20, 27. Speaking unto these very persons, that is, the leaders of them, he saith, “I have kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but declared unto you all the counsel of God,” — namely, “what is the hope of his calling, and what the greatness of his power.” Were not these things sufficiently revealed, and clearly proposed unto them? If they were not, it was because the apostle could not so reveal and propose them, or because he would not. If he could not, then he prays that that might be revealed unto them which was not so to him, or that they might learn what he could not teach them; which is foolish and impious to imagine. If he would not, then he prays that they may know that which he would not teach them, but which he could easily have so done; which is equally foolish to suppose. What, therefore, do they yet lack? what 137is yet farther needful that they might know and understand these things? for we must know that we understand no more of the mind of God in the revelations that he makes unto us than we understand of the things themselves that are revealed by him.
I am persuaded that these Ephesians were generally as wise, and some of them as learned, as any in our days, let them have what conceit of themselves they please. Yet grant some of ours but thus much, that they have their wits about them and the use of their reason, and let them have the things of the gospel, or the doctrines of it, rationally proposed unto them, as they are in the Scripture, and they defy the world to think that they yet want any thing to enable them to know and rightly to understand them. “To fancy any thing else to be necessary hereunto is fanatical madness; for what would men have? what should all them? Are not the doctrines of the gospel highly rational? are not the things of it eminently suited unto the reason of mankind? are not the books of the Scripture written in a style and language intelligible? Is there any thing more required unto the understanding of the mind of any author but to conceive the grammatical sense of the words that he useth, and the nature of his propositions and arguings? And although St Paul, as some say, be one of the obscurest writers they ever met with, yet surely by these means some good shift may be made with his writings also. It is, therefore, canting and nonsense, a reproach to reason and Christian religion itself to think that this is not enough to enable men to understand the mind of God in the Scriptures.”
Well, be it so, at present, as unto the highly rational abilities of some persons. It cannot be denied but that the apostle judged it necessary that these Ephesians should have the special aid of the Spirit of God unto this end, which he prayeth for; and we may be excused if we dare not think ourselves better than they, nor to have a sufficiency of learning, wisdom, and reason above others, or less to heed prayers of this nature than they did. And we find that the apostle reneweth his prayer for them again unto the same purpose with great fervency, Eph. iii. 14–19. All the difference ariseth from hence, that the apostle judgeth that over and above the utmost exercise of our natural faculties and abilities, in the use of outward means, that we may know the mind of God in the Scripture, wherein these Ephesians were not wanting, it is necessary that the “eyes of our understanding” should be spiritually opened and “enlightened;” — but other men, it seems, think not so.
But if men should be allowed to suppose that our minds were no way vitiated, depraved, or darkened by the fall, — which supposition is the sole foundation of these assertions, — yet it is most irrational to imagine that we can comprehend and understand the mysteries of 138the gospel without especial spiritual illumination; for the original light and abilities of our minds were not suited or prepared for the receiving and understanding of them, for neither their being nor revelation was consistent with the state of integrity. Wherefore, although our minds should be allowed to be as wise and perspicacious with respect unto that natural knowledge of God and all that belongs unto it which was proposed unto us or necessary for us in the state of nature, yet would it not follow that we are able to discern the mysteries of grace when proposed unto us. The truth is, if our minds be not corrupted or depraved, there is no need of the gospel or its grace; and if they are, we cannot understand the mind of God therein without especial illumination.
But it may be said, “That these things are consistent; for notwithstanding men’s rational abilities and the use of means, yet it is meet that they should both pray for themselves, and that others, whose duty it is, should pray for them also. It is so, that they may be diligent in their inquiries, and obtain the blessing of God upon their diligence. But this doth not prove at all that they are not able of themselves to apprehend and know the mind and things of God in the Scripture, or that any thing is wanting in them or to them which is absolutely necessary thereunto.”
I answer, that on these suppositions there is indeed nothing wanting but that which the apostle moreover prayeth for, which is none of them; and if that be not also requisite unto this end, his prayer is vain and useless. That men be diligent in the discharge of their duty herein, and that they may have the especial blessing of God thereon, are here supposed, and we shall speak unto them afterward. These are not the things that the apostle here prayeth for, but that God would give them the “Spirit of wisdom and revelation, to enlighten the eyes of their understanding,” that they may know them, as shall be immediately declared. And, indeed, I understand not how this prayer can be suited unto the principles of any who deny the necessity of this internal spiritual aid. For they cannot but think it strange to pray for a “Spirit of wisdom and revelation” to be given unto their whole congregations, — which were a dangerous way, fitted to make them wiser than their teachers; and for themselves, besides using diligence, and praying for a blessing on their diligence, they disavow any farther concernment in this matter.
4. The thing in especial prayed for, in order unto the end proposed, is, “that the eyes of our understandings may be enlightened.” This is the same which the psalmist prayeth for in the place before insisted on, that “God would open his eyes;” and it is the internal work of illumination that is intended. Now, although the main force of the argument depends on these words, yet shall I not 139insist here upon them, because I must speak somewhat more in particular unto the nature of this work afterward. Besides, what is that darkness which is here supposed to be on our minds or understandings, what is its nature, efficacy, and power, how it is taken away and removed, what is the nature of that spiritual light which is communicated unto us in and for the removal thereof, I have at large elsewhere declared.148148 See his treatise on the Holy Spirit, book iii. chap iii. vol. iii. of his works. — Ed. All that at present I shall observe from these words is, in general, that there is an especial work of the Spirit of God, in the enlightening the eyes of our understandings, necessary unto our discerning of the mysteries of the gospel in a due manner; which was to be proved.
5. What is declared concerning the author of this work in us, or the principal efficient cause of it, doth farther confirm the same truth; and this is the Holy Spirit, “That he would give unto you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation.” That the Holy Spirit is the immediate author of all supernatural effects and operations in us hath been elsewhere proved at large; and what he is promised or given in the gospel so to effect is not any thing that is in our own power. Wherefore, the ascription of the communication of this ability unto the Holy Ghost is a sufficient evidence that we want it in ourselves. And all things here affirmed concerning the manner of his communication unto us, and his properties as communicated, do evidence the nature and evince the truth of the work ascribed unto him. As for the first, it is by the grant, donation, or free gift of God the Father: Eph. iii. 17, “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, would give unto you.” God is called “The King of glory,” Ps. xxiv. 7, 8, and “The God of glory,” Acts vii. 2, with respect unto his own glorious majesty; but he is “The Father of glory” as he is the eternal spring and cause of all glory unto the church. And these titles are prefixed unto this grant or the request of it, “The God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory,” to intimate that it proceeds from his relation unto us in Christ, with that love and bounty wherein he is the cause of all grace and glory unto us. Wherefore, receiving this Spirit by free donation, as we do, Luke xi. 13, all that we receive from him and by him, we have it by the way of free gift or donation also. Therefore is this ability of understanding the Scripture, and the mysteries of the truth contained therein, a mere free gift of God, which he bestows on whom he will. So our Saviour told his disciples, “It is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom or heaven, but to them” (to others) “it is not given,” Matt. xiii. 11, who yet heard his words and understood the literal sense of the propositions used by him as well as the disciples did. Whoever, therefore, hath this ability to know the 140mysteries of the gospel, he hath it by free gift or donation from God. He hath received it, and may not boast as if it were from himself, and that he had not received it, as the apostle speaks, 1 Cor. iv. 7.
Again, the properties ascribed unto him, as thus communicated for this end, are “wisdom and revelation.”
He is the “Spirit of wisdom.” So in the communication of him in all fullness unto the Lord Jesus Christ, the head of the church, he is called “The Spirit of wisdom and understanding,” Isa. xi. 2, and that because he was to make him of “quick understanding in the fear of the Lord,” verse 3. He is a “Spirit of wisdom” essentially in himself, and casually or efficiently unto others; and these things do mutually demonstrate each other. That he is the cause of all wisdom in others, is a demonstration that he is essentially wise in himself; for “he that planted the ear, shall he not hear? he that formed the eye, shall he not see?” And because he is essentially wise, he must be the author of all wisdom unto others; for all good must come from that which is infinitely, eternally, unchangeably so, James i. 17. He is, therefore, called “The Spirit of wisdom” on both these accounts, — as he is essentially so in himself, and as he is the efficient cause of all wisdom unto others; and it is in the latter way immediately that he is here so termed. And this property is peculiarly ascribed unto him, as thus given unto us to “open our eyes,” with respect unto the work which he is to do; for wisdom is required hereunto, — that wisdom which may deliver us from being really fools ourselves, and from judging the things of God to be folly.
There is a wisdom required hereunto: “Who is wise, and he shall understand these things? prudent, and he shall know them? for the ways of the Lord are right, and the just shall walk in them: but the transgressors shall fall therein,” Hos. xiv. 9. Want of this wisdom is the cause that wicked men take offence at and dislike the ways of God, because they do not, spiritually understand them, and so cast themselves into destruction. And it is of the same things that the prophet affirms, that “none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand,” Dan. xii. 10. And it is called “The wisdom of the just,” Luke i. 17.
This wisdom is not in us by nature. Men are naturally “wise in their own conceit;” which if continued in is a hopeless frame of mind, Prov. xxvi. 12: and in nothing doth it more evidence itself than in apprehensions of their own ability to comprehend spiritual things, and in their contempt of what they do not so as folly, 1 Cor. i. 18, 23. And with respect hereunto doth the apostle give that advice unto us as our duty, “Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, 141that he may be wise,” 1 Cor. iii. 18. This is a matter wherein men are very apt to deceive themselves, even to conceit themselves wise, and to trust thereunto in the things of God; whereof alone he there treats. Whereas, therefore, the especial promise of God is, to teach the meek and the humble, there is nothing that sets men at a greater distance from divine instruction than a proud conceit of their own wisdom, wit, parts, and abilities. Wherefore, this wisdom, which is the daughter of natural darkness and the mother of proud spiritual ignorance, the Spirit of wisdom freeth the minds of believers from, in the way that shall be afterward declared; and therein is he unto us a “Spirit of wisdom.” Moreover, he gives us that “wisdom which is from above,” which we are directed to “ask of God,” James i. 5. Without this wisdom, which he works in us, no man can understand the wisdom of God in the mystery of the gospel; whoso is thus made wise shall understand these things, and none else. There is, therefore, a gift of spiritual wisdom and understanding necessary hereunto, that we may discern the “wonderful things” that are in the word of God. To whom this is not given, they know not the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. Let men please or pride themselves whilst they will in their own wisdom and learning, and explode the consideration of these things in our inquiries after the mind of God, the meanest believer who hath received this wisdom from above, according unto the measure of the gift of Christ, knoweth more of the mind of God in a due manner than they do.
When our Lord Jesus Christ affirmed that he came into the world “that they which see not might see,” or to communicate spiritual, saving light unto the minds of men, the Pharisees, who had great apprehensions of their own wisdom and understanding in the law, replied with scorn, “Are we blind also?” John ix. 39, 40. It proved no otherwise, and that to their eternal ruin. Yet do I not judge all them to be practically blind who do not doctrinally own the receiving of this wisdom and light from above; for although we make not ourselves to differ from others, nor have any thing in a way of spiritual ability but what we have received, yet are some apt to glory as if they had not received, as the apostle intimates, 1 Cor. iv. 7. Wherefore, the Holy Spirit, as given unto us, is said to be a “Spirit of wisdom,” because he maketh us wise, or worketh wisdom in us. This wisdom we have not of ourselves; for to suppose it, renders the word of God of none effect. And this spiritual wisdom, thus to be bestowed upon us, thus to be wrought in us, is necessary, that we may know the mysteries of the gospel, or understand the mind of God therein; which is all that we plead for.
I have insisted the longer upon this testimony, because the whole of what we assert in general, in the nature, causes, and effects of it, 142is fully declared therein. And this was the way whereby they of old came to understand divine revelations, or the mind of God as revealed in the Scripture. If others, who seem to scorn all mention of the teaching of the Holy Ghost, have found out a course more expedite unto the same end, it is what I understand not nor do desire to participate in.
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