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The especial work of the Holy Spirit in the illumination of our minds unto the understanding of the Scripture declared and vindicated — Objections proposed and answered — The nature of the work asserted — Ps. cxix. 18; Eph. i. 18; Luke xxiv. 45, 1 Pet. ii. 9; Col. i. 13, 1 John v. 20, opened and vindicated.
We have, as I suppose, sufficiently confirmed our first general assertion, concerning the necessity of an especial Work of the Holy Ghost in the illumination of our minds, to make us understand the mind of God as revealed in the Scripture.
That which we proceed unto is, to show the especial nature of his work herein; and I shall take occasion thereunto from the consideration of an objection that is laid against the whole of what we affirm, which was touched on before.
For it is said that there is no need of this endeavour. “All men do acknowledge that the aid of the Spirit of God is necessary unto the study and interpretation of the Scripture; and so it is unto all other undertakings that are good and lawful. And herein consists the blessing of God upon man’s own diligence and endeavours. If this be that which is intended, namely, the blessing of God upon our endeavours in the use of means, it is granted; but if any thing else be designed, it is nothing but to take off all industry in the use of means, to reject all helps of reason and learning, which is in the end to reduce into perfect enthusiasms.”
Ans. 1. Whether, by the assignation of his own work unto the Spirit of God, we take away or weaken the use of the other means for the right interpretation of the Scriptures, will be tried when we come unto the examination of those ways and means. At present I shall only say that we establish them; for by assigning unto them their proper place and use, we do manifest their worth and necessity. But those by whom they or any of them are advanced into the place and unto the exclusion of the operation of the Holy Spirit, do destroy them, or render them unacceptable unto God, and useless unto the souls of men. We shall, therefore, manifest that the assignations which we make in this matter unto the Holy Spirit do render all our use of proper means for the fight interpretation of the Scripture in a way of duty indispensably necessary; and the principal reason, so far as I can understand, why some deny the necessity of the work of the Holy Spirit herein is, because they like not those means whose necessary use doth arise from an admission thereof.
But thus it hath fallen out in other things. Those who have declared any thing either of the doctrine or of the power of the grace 162of the gospel have been traduced, as opposing the principles of morality and reason; whereas on their grounds alone their true value can be discovered and their proper use directed. So the apostle, preaching faith in Christ, with righteousness and justification thereby, was accused to have made void the law, whereas without his doctrine the law would have been void, or of no use to the souls of men. So he pleads, Rom. iii. 31, “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.” So to this day, justification by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, and the necessity of our own obedience; the efficacy of divine grace in conversion, and the liberty of our own wills; the stability of God’s promises, and our diligent use of means, — are supposed inconsistent. So it is here also: the necessity of the communication of spiritual light unto our minds to enable us to understand the Scriptures, and the exercise of our own reason in the use of external means, are looked on as irreconcilable. But, as the apostle saith, “Do we make void the law through faith? yea, we establish it;” though he did it not in that place, nor unto those ends that the Jews would have had and used it. So we may say, Do we, by asserting the righteousness of Christ, make void our own obedience; by the efficacy of grace, destroy the liberty of our wills; by the necessity of spiritual illumination, take away the use of reason? yea, we establish them. We do it not, it may be, in such a way or in such a manner as some would fancy, and which would render them all on our part really useless, but in a clear consistency with and proper subserviency unto the work of God’s Spirit and grace.
2. That in particular which lieth before us is, to remove that pretence of some, that we need no other assistance of the Spirit of God for the right understanding of the Scripture but only his blessing in general on our own endeavours. To this end two things are to be inquired into:— (1.) What description is given of this work in the Scripture, and what are the effects of it in our minds in general; (2.) What is the nature of it in particular.
(1.) The work itself is variously expressed in the Scripture; and it is that which, whether we will or no, we must be determined by in things of this kind. And the variety of expression serves both unto the confirmation of its truth and illustration of its nature.
[1.] It is declared by opening of our eyes, Ps. cxix. 18; the enlightening of the eyes of our understanding, Eph. i. 18. This opening of our eyes consists in the communication of spiritual light unto our minds by the preaching of the word, as it is declared, Acts xxvi. 17, 18. And the expression, though in part metaphorical, is eminently instructive in the nature of this work; for suppose the nearest and best-disposed proposition of any object unto our bodily eyes, 163with an external light properly suited unto the discovery of it, yet if our eyes be blind, or are closed beyond our own power to open them, we cannot discern it aright. Wherefore, on a supposition of the proposal unto our minds of the divine truths of supernatural revelation, and that in ways and by means suited unto the conveyance of it unto them, which is done in the Scripture and by the ministry of the church, with other outward means, yet without this work of the Spirit of God, called the “opening of our eyes,” we cannot discern it in a due manner. And if this be not intended in this expression, it is no way instructive, but rather suited to lead us into a misunderstanding of what is declared and of our own duty. So it is plainly expressed, Luke xxiv. 45, “Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures.” None, I suppose, will deny but that it is the work of the Spirit of God thus to open our eyes, or to enlighten our understandings; for this wore to deny the express testimonies of the Scripture, and those frequently reiterated. But some say, he doth this by the word only, and the preaching of it. No other work of his, they affirm, is necessary hereunto, or to make us rightly to discern the mind of God in the Scripture, but that it be proposed unto us in a due manner, provided we purge our minds from prejudices and corrupt affections And this is the work of the Spirit, in that he is the author of the Scriptures, which he makes use of for our illumination. And it is granted that the Scripture is the only external means of our illumination; but in these testimonies it is considered only as the object thereof. They express a work of the Spirit or grace of God upon our minds, With respect unto the Scripture as its object: “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.” The law, or the Scripture, with the “wonderful things” contained therein, are the things to be known, to be discovered and understood; but the means enabling us thereunto is an internal work upon our minds themselves, which is plainly expressed in distinction from the things to be known. This is the sum of what we plead: There is an efficacious work of the Spirit of God opening our eyes, enlightening our understandings or minds, to understand the things contained in the Scripture, distinct from the objective proposition of them in the Scripture itself; which the testimonies urged do fully confirm.
[2.] It is expressed as a translation out of darkness into light: “He hath called us out of darkness into his marvellous light,” 1 Pet. ii. 9; “delivered us from the power of darkness,” Col. i. 13; whereby we who were “darkness become light in the Lord,” Eph. v. 8. That in these and the like testimonies, the removal of the inward darkness of our minds, by the communication of spiritual light unto them, and not merely the objective revelation of truth in the Scripture, is 164intended, I have proved at large elsewhere, and therefore shall not again insist thereon.
[3.] It is directly called the giving of us an understanding: “We know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true,” 1 John v. 20. The object of our understanding, or that which we know, is “him that is true.” God himself, even the Father, is primarily intended in this expression, for in the following words there is mention of “his Son Jesus Christ,” who is in like manner said to be “true,” because of his unity in essence with the Father; and, therefore, it is added, “This is the true God.” But we are to know, also, what concerns our being “in him,” and to know him as he is “eternal life.” And these things contain the substance of all evangelical revelations, which, one way or other, depend upon them, and are resolved into them, John xvii. 3. To know the Father, “the only true God,” and the Son as “the true God” also, in the unity of the same essence; to know “that eternal life which was with the Father” as unto the eternal counsel and preparation of it, 1 John i. 2, and is in the Son for its actual communication unto us; and to know our being in him by a participation thereof, — the things we mentioned, — is to know the mind of God as revealed in the Scripture. Especially these things are intended, which are “foolishness” unto corrupted reason, and as such are rejected by it, 1 Cor. i. 23, 24, ii. 14.
And two things we are to inquire into with reference unto this knowledge: — 1st. What we are to have to enable us unto it, and that is an understanding. 2dly. How we come by it: It is given us by the Son of God.
1st. That which we have is διάνοια. This word in all other places of the New Testament doth constantly denote the essential faculty of our souls, which we call understanding, Matt. xxii. 37; Mark xii. 30; Luke x. 27; Eph. i. 18, ii. 3, iv. 18; Col. i. 21; Heb. viii. 10; 1 Pet. i. 13; 2 Pet. iii. 1. And it seems in the Scripture to be distinguished from the mind, by respect unto actual exercise only. The mind in its exercise is our understanding. But it cannot be the natural and essential faculty of our souls that is here intended; for although our natures are corrupted by sin, and not repaired but by Jesus Christ, yet doth not that corruption nor reparation denote the destroying or new creation of this being, or the nature of those faculties, which continue the same in both estates. Wherefore, the understanding here mentioned is no more but a power and ability of mind with respect unto what is proposed unto us, to receive and apprehend it in a due manner. We are not able of ourselves to know him that is true, and the eternal life that is in him, but he hath enabled us thereunto; for this understanding is given us unto that 165end, that we may so know him. Wherefore, whatever is proposed unto us in the gospel, or in any divine revelation, concerning these things, we cannot know them, at least as we ought, unless we have the understanding here mentioned given unto us, for so alone do we come by it.
2dly. It is given us. That a real and effectual communication unto us of the thing said to be given is intended in this word, of giving from God, is evident from every place in the Scripture where it is used. Some contend that God is said to give things unto us when he doth what lies in him that we may enjoy them, though we are never made partakers of them. But the assignation of this way and manner of God’s doing what lieth in him, where the effect designed doth not ensue, not strictly restrained unto outward means, is scandalous, and fit to be exploded out of Christian theology. God says, “What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done?” Isa. v. 4. But the expression hath plainly a double limitation:— (1st.) Unto the use of outward means only, concerning which God speaks in that place, and from which he elsewhere plainly distinguisheth his giving them a new heart and a new spirit, that they shall all know him and be all taught of him. (2dly.) Unto the use of those outward means that were then established, as the only way for the season; for even in respect unto them, he did more for his vineyard when he granted the gospel unto it. But is it possible that any man should think or believe that God cannot really collate grace and mercy on the souls of men when he pleaseth? Is it not as easy with him, on our restoration by Christ, to implant habits of grace in our souls, as it was at first to create us in original rectitude and righteousness? Wherefore, although we may inquire what God doth, and hath done, in this matter, according as he hath revealed it in his word, yet to say that he doth in any thing what lieth in him though the things which he affirms himself to do be not effected, is defective both in truth and piety. When he saith he hath done such a thing, or will do so, for us to say, “No, he hath not done so, or he will not do so; but he hath done, or will do, what lies in him that it may be so, though it never be so, nor have so been,” is to make him altogether like ourselves, But on this ground some pretend that the Son of God is said to have given men understanding, because he hath done what is requisite on his part, in the declaration of the gospel, that we may have it, whether ever we have it or no. But, — (1st.) What he is said to have done, he had at least a design to do; and if he had so, why doth it not take effect? “It is,” they say, “because of the unwillingness of men to turn unto him, and other vicious habits of their minds, which hinder them from receiving instruction.” But ff it be so, then, — [1st.] It is supposed that man also in their 166teachings can give us an understanding as well as the Son of God; for they may teach men the knowledge of the gospel if they are willing to learn, and have no darling lusts or vicious habits of mind to hinder them from learning. [2dly.] Seeing he hath taken this work on himself, and designs its accomplishment, cannot the Son of God by his grace remove those vicious habits of the minds of men, that they may have an understanding of these things? If he cannot, why doth he take that on him which he cannot effect? If he will not, why doth he promise to do that which can never be done without doing what he will not do? and why is he said to do (as he is, according to this interpretation of the words) that which he hath not done, which he will not or cannot do? (2dly.) The giving of an understanding is in this place plainly distinguished from the proposition of the things to be understood; this consists in the doctrine of the gospel, that in an ability to comprehend and know it. (3dly.) Again, the words here used, of giving understanding, may, indeed, express the actings or operations of men towards others, when an external proposal of things to be understood, with the due use of means, is intended; but yet if under their teaching men do not learn or comprehend the things wherein they are instructed by them, they cannot properly be said to have given them an understanding of them, with respect unto their moral operation unto that end, but only to have endeavoured so to do. But when this phrase of speech is used to express a divine operation, which questionless may be really physical, and so absolutely efficacious, to interpret it concerning an endeavour that may or may not succeed is not suitable unto those thoughts that become us concerning divine operations. Nor was there any reason why the apostle should emphatically assign this work unto “the Son of God,” and that as he is “the true God and eternal life,” if no more be intended but a work of the same nature and kind with what a man might do. And if this be the sense of the words, it is from ourselves, and not from the Son of God, that there is any truth in them, as unto the event: for he might do, it seems, what lies in him to give an understanding, and yet no one man in the world ever have an understanding of the nature designed; for if it may be so with any unto whom he is said to give an understanding, as it is professedly with the most, it may be so with all. Not farther to debate these things at present, whereas so excellent a grace and mercy towards the souls of men is here expressly attributed unto the Son of God, as the author of it, — namely, that he gives us an understanding that we may know him which is true, — I cannot think that they interpret the Scripture unto his glory whose exposition of this place consists in nothing but endeavours to prove that indeed he doth not so do.
167[4.] It is expressed by teaching, leading, and guiding into the truth, John vi. 45, xvi. 13, 1 John ii. 20, 27; — the places have been opened before. And two things are supposed in this expression of teaching:— 1st. A mind capable of instruction, leading, and conduct. The nature must be rational, and comprehensive of the means of instruction, which can be so taught. Wherefore, we do not only grant herein the use of the rational faculties of the soul, but require their exercise and utmost improvement. If God teach, we are to learn, and we cannot learn but in the exercise of our minds. And it is in vain pretended that God’s communication of a supernatural ability unto our minds, and our exercise of them in a way of duty, are inconsistent, whereas indeed they are inseparable in all that we are taught of God; for at the same time that he infuseth a gracious ability into our minds, he proposeth the truth unto us whereon that ability is to be exercised. And if these things are inconsistent, the whole real efficacy of God in the souls of men must be denied; which is to despoil him of his sovereignty. But we speak now of natural ability to receive instruction, to be taught, with the exercise of it in learning; for these are supposed in the expression of the communication of a spiritual ability by teaching. 2dly. A teaching suited unto that ability is promised or asserted. Three ways of this teaching are pleaded:— (1st.) That it consists in a θεοπνευστία, an immediate infallible inspiration and afflatus, of the same nature with that of the prophets and apostles of old. But, [1st.] This takes away the distinction between the extraordinary and ordinary gifts of the Spirit, so fully asserted in the Scripture, as we shall elsewhere declare; and if it were so, God did not place in the church “some prophets,” seeing all were so, and were always to be so. [2ndly.] It brings in a neglect of the Scripture, and a levelling it unto the same state and condition with the conceptions of every one that will pretend unto this inspiration. [3dly.] The pretence visibly confutes itself in the manifold mutual contradictions of them that pretend unto it; and would, [4thly.] thereon be a principle, first of confusion, then of infidelity, and so lead unto atheism. [5thly.] The prophets themselves had not the knowledge and understanding of the mind and will of God which we inquire after by their immediate inspirations, which were unto them as the written word unto us, but had it by the same means as we have, 1 Pet. i. 10, 11. Hence they so frequently and fervently prayed for understanding, as we have seen in the instance of David. Wherefore, (2dly.) Some say this teaching consists only in the outward preaching of the word, in the ministry of the church, and other external means of its application unto our minds. But there is not one of the testimonies insisted on wherein this promised teaching of 168God is not distinguished from the proposition of the word in the outward dispensation of it, as hath been proved. Besides, every one that enjoys this teaching, that is, who is taught of God, doth really believe and come to Christ thereby: John vi. 45, “It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me,” saith our blessed Saviour. But it is not thus with all, nor ever was, towards whom the most powerful and cogent means of outward instruction have been or are used. Wherefore, (3dly.) This teaching is an internal work of the Spirit, giving light, wisdom, understanding, unto our minds; [and] so is spoken of and promised in an especial manner, distinct from the outward work of the dispensation of the word, and all the efficacy of it singly considered. One testimony will serve to this purpose, which hath been pleaded and vindicated already. It is by an unction that we are thus taught, 1 John ii. 20, 27. But the unction consists in a real communication of supernatural gifts and graces, whereof supernatural light is that which is peculiarly necessary unto this end. The communication of them all in all fullness unto Jesus Christ, the head of the church, was his unction, Heb. i. 9; Isa. lxi. 1. Wherefore, in the real participation of them in our measure doth our unction, whereby we are taught, consist.
It is granted that this teaching is such as regards our own industry, in the use of means appointed unto this end, that we may know the mind of God in the Scripture; but yet it is such as includes an inward effectual operation of the Holy Spirit, concomitant with the outward means of teaching and learning. When the eunuch read the prophecy of Isaiah, he affirmed he could not understand it unless some one did guide him. Hereon Philip opened the Scripture unto him. But it was the Holy Ghost that opened his heart, that he might understand it; for so he did the heart of Lydia, without which she would not have understood the preaching of Paul, Acts xvi. 14. Wherefore, in our learning, under the conduct or teaching of the Spirit, the utmost diligence in the exercise of our own minds is required of us; and where men are defective herein, they are said to be νωθροὶ ταῖς ἀκοαῖς, Heb. v. 11, “dull in hearing,” or slow in the improvement of the instruction given them. And it is a senseless thing to imagine that men should be diverted from the exercise of the faculties of their minds merely because they are enabled to use them unto good purpose or successfully, which is the effect of this internal teaching.
[5.] It is expressed by shining into our hearts: “God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of 169Jesus Christ,” 2 Cor. iv. 6. Jesus Christ is the “image of the invisible God, the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person;” and that because of the illustrious representation of all divine excellencies that is made both in his person and his mediation. The person of the Father is the eternal fountain of infinitely divine glorious perfections; and they are all communicated unto the Son by eternal generation. In his person absolutely, as the Son of God, they are all of them essentially; in his person as God-man, as vested with his offices, they are substantially, in opposition unto all types and shadows; and in the glass of the gospel they are accidentally, by revelation, — really, but not substantially, for Christ himself is the body, the substance of all. As the image of God, so is he represented unto us in the glass of the gospel; and therein are we called to behold the glory of God in him, 2 Cor. iii. 18. The meaning is, that the truth and doctrine concerning Jesus Christ, his person and mediation, is so delivered and taught in the gospel as that the glory of God is eminently represented thereby; or therein is revealed what we are to know of God, his mind and his will, as he is declared by and in Jesus Christ. But why is it, then, that all do not thus behold “the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” unto whom the gospel is preached? or whence is it that all unto whom the gospel is preached or declared do not apprehend and understand the truth, and reality, and glory, of the things revealed or proposed? — that is, why do they not understand the mind and will of God as revealed in the gospel? The apostle assigneth two reasons hereof: 1st. From what hindereth it in many; 2dly. From what is necessary unto any that so they may do:—
1st. The first is the efficacy of the temptations and suggestions of Satan, whereby their minds are filled with prejudices against the gospel and the doctrine of it. Being blinded hereby, they can see nothing of beauty and glory in it, and so certainly do not apprehend it aright: 2 Cor. iv. 4, “The god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” This is acknowledged by all to be an obstacle against the right understanding of the gospel. Unless the mind be freed from such prejudices as are the effects of such blinding efficacy of the suggestions of Satan, men cannot attain unto the true knowledge of the mind of God therein. How these prejudices are removed we shall show afterward. But if the mind be free, or freed from them, then it is supposed by some that there is need of no more but the due exercise of its faculties with diligence for that end, nor is any thing else required thereunto. It is true, in the ordinary dispensation of divine grace, this is required of us; but the apostle adds, —
1702dly. That there must, moreover, be a divine light shining into our hearts, to enable us hereunto; — at least, he doth so that this was granted unto them who then did believe; and if we have it not as well as they, I fear we do not believe in the same manner as they did. Wherefore, although there be in the gospel and the doctrine of it an illustrious representation of the glory of God in Christ, yet are we not able of ourselves to discern it, until the Holy Spirit by an act of his almighty power do irradiate our minds, and implant a light in them suited thereunto. He that doth not behold “the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” in the gospel doth not understand the mind and will of God as revealed therein in a due manner. I suppose this will be granted, seeing both these things are but one and the same, diversely expressed. But this of ourselves we cannot do; for there is an internal work of God upon our minds necessary thereunto. This also is expressed in the words. It is his shining into our hearts, to give the light of this knowledge unto us. There is a light in the gospel, “the light of the glorious gospel of Christ,” 2 Cor. iv. 4; but there must be a light also in our hearts, or we cannot discern it. And this is no natural light, or a light that is common unto all; but it is a light that, in a way of grace, is given unto them that do believe. And it is wrought in us by the same kind of efficiency as God created light with at the beginning of the world, — namely, by a productive act of power. It is evident, therefore, that the light in our hearts which God communicates unto us, that we may have the true knowledge of his mind and will in the gospel, is distinct from that light of truth which is in the gospel itself. The one is subjective, the other is objective only; the one is wrought in us, the other is proposed unto us; the one is an act of divine power in us, the other an act of divine grace and mercy towards us.
Other ways there are whereby this operation of the Holy Spirit in the illumination of our minds is expressed. The instances given and testimonies considered are sufficient unto our purpose. That which we are in the proof of is, that there is more required unto a useful apprehension and understanding of the mind of God in the Scripture than the mere objective proposal of it unto us, and our diligent use of outward means to come to the knowledge of it; which yet, as we shall show, is from the Holy Spirit also. And as the denial hereof doth, by just consequence, make void the principal means whereby we may come unto such an understanding, — namely, frequent and fervent prayers for the aid and assistance of the Holy Spirit, — so no tolerable account can be given of the mind of God and the meaning of the Scripture in the places insisted on. And certainly if we cannot understand the way and manner of the operation of the Holy Spirit herein, it were much better to captivate our 171understanding unto the obedience of faith than to wrest and pervert the Scripture, or debase the spiritual sense of it unto a compliance with our conceptions and apprehensions. But as we have herein the suffrage of them that do believe, in their own experience, who both value and acknowledge this grace and privilege unto the glory of God; so we have multiplied instances of such as, being destitute of that skill which should enable them to make use of sundry external means, which are in their proper place of great advantage, who yet, by virtue of this divine teaching, are wise in the things of God beyond what some others with all their skill can attain unto.
(2.) Moreover, the effect of this work of the Holy Spirit on the minds of men doth evidence of what nature it is, And this, also, is variously expressed; as, —
[1.] It is called light: “Ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord,” Eph. v. 8. The introduction of light into the mind is the proper effect of illumination. Men in their natural estate are said to be darkness, the abstract for the concrete, to express how deeply the mind is affected with it; for, as our Saviour saith, “If the light that is in thee be darkness” (as it is in them who are “darkness”), “how great is that darkness!” Matt. vi. 23. And because men are subject to mistake herein, and to suppose themselves, with the Pharisees, to see when they are blind, he gives that caution, “Take heed therefore that the light which is in thee be not darkness,” Luke xi. 35; for men are very apt to please themselves with the working and improvement of their natural light, which yet, in the issue, with respect unto spiritual things, will prove but darkness, And while they are under the power of this darkness, — that is, while their minds are deeply affected with their natural ignorance, — they cannot perceive spiritual things, 1 Cor. ii. 14, no, not when they are most evidently proposed unto them; for although “the light shineth in darkness,” or casteth out its beams in the evidence and glory of spiritual truth, yet “the darkness comprehendeth it not,” John i. 5. But by this work of the Holy Spirit we are made “light in the Lord.” Light in the mind is a spiritual ability to discern and know spiritual things, as is declared, 2 Cor. iv. 6. This is bestowed upon us and communicated unto us by the Holy Spirit. There is a real difference between light and darkness; and it is our minds that are affected with them, Luke xi. 35. The removal of the one and the introduction of the other are things not absolutely in our own power; he who is “darkness” cannot make himself “light in the Lord.” Whatever he may do in way of disposition or preparation, in way of duty and diligence, in the utmost improvement of the natural faculties of his mind (which no man will ever rise unto who is under the power 172of this darkness, because of the insuperable prejudices and corrupt affections that it fills the mind withal), yet the introduction of this light is an act of Him who openeth the eyes of our understandings and shines into our hearts. Without this light no man can understand the Scripture as he ought; and I shall not contend about what they see or behold who are in darkness.
The expulsion of spiritual darkness out of our minds, and the introduction of spiritual light into them, — a work so great that they who were “darkness,” whose “light was darkness,” are made “light in the Lord” thereby, — is an effect of the immediate power of the Spirit of God. To ascribe other low and metaphorical senses unto the words is to corrupt the Scripture and to deny the testimony of God; for this light he produceth in us by the same power and the same man-net of operation whereby he brought light out of darkness at the creation of all things. But by this way and means it is that we attain the “knowledge of God in the face of Jesus Christ,” or the revelation of his mind and will in the gospel.
[2.] It is called understanding. So the psalmist prays, “Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law,” Ps. cxix. 34. So the apostle speaks to Timothy, “Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things,” 2 Tim. ii. 7. Besides his own consideration of what was proposed unto him, which includes the due and diligent use of all outward means, it was moreover necessary that God should give him understanding by an inward effectual work of his Spirit, that he might comprehend the things wherein he was instructed. And the desire hereof, as of that without which there can be no saving knowledge of the word, nor advantage by it, the psalmist expresseth emphatically with great fervency of spirit: Ps. cxix. 144, “The righteousness of thy testimonies is everlasting: give me understanding, and I shall live.” Without this he knew that he could have no benefit by the everlasting righteousness of the testimonies of God. All understanding, indeed, however it be abused by the most, is the work and effect of the Holy Ghost; for “the inspiration of the Almighty giveth understanding,” Job xxxii. 8. So is this spiritual understanding in an especial manner. And in this “understanding” both the ability of our minds and the due exercise of it is included. And this one consideration, that the saints of God have with so much earnestness prayed that God would give them understanding in his mind and will as revealed in the word, with his reiterated promises that he would so do, is of more weight with me than all the disputes of men to the contrary. And there is no farther argument necessary to prove that men do not understand the mind of God in the Scripture in a due manner, than their supposal and confidence that so they can do without the communication of a spiritual 173understanding unto them by the Holy Spirit of God, which is so contrary unto the plain, express testimonies thereof.
[3.] It is called wisdom; for by this work on the minds of men they are rendered “wise unto salvation.” So the apostle prays for the Colossians, “that God would fill them with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding,” chap. i. 9. These things may be the same, and the latter exegetical of the former. If there be a difference, “wisdom” respects things in general, in their whole system and complex; “understanding” respects particulars as they are to be reduced unto practice. Wherefore, the “spiritual understanding” which the apostle prays for respects the mind of God in especial or particular places of the Scripture; and “wisdom” is a skill and ability in the comprehension of the whole system of his counsel as revealed therein. He who is thus made wise, and he alone, can understand the things of God as he ought, Dan. xii. 10; Hos. xiv. 9; Ps. cvii. 43. Although men may bear themselves high on their learning, their natural abilities, their fruitful inventions, tenacious memories, various fancies, plausibility of expression, with long study and endeavours, things good and praise-worthy in their kind and order; yet unless they are thus made wise by the Spirit of God, they will scarce attain a due acquaintance with his mind and will; — for this effect of that work is also expressly called “knowledge,” Col. i. 9; 2 Cor. iv. 6; Eph. i. 17; Col. iii. 10. Wherefore, without it we cannot have that which is properly so called.
This is the second thing designed in this discourse. In the first it was proved in general that there is an effectual operation of the Spirit of God on the minds of men, enabling them to perceive and understand the supernatural revelations of the Scripture when proposed unto them; and in the second is declared what is the nature of that work, and what are the effects of it on our minds. Both of them have I treated merely from Scripture testimony; for in vain shall we seek to any other way or means for what we ought to apprehend and believe herein. Neither is the force of these testimonies to be eluded by any distinctions or evasions whatever, Nor, whilst the authority of the Scripture is allowed, can any men more effectually evidence the weakness and depravation of their reason than by contending that in the exercise of it they can understand the mind and will of God as revealed therein, without the especial aid and illumination of the Spirit of God; nor can any man on that supposition, with any wisdom or consistency in his own principles, make use in a way of duty of the principal means whereby we may so understand them, as will afterward more fully appear.
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