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The reason hereof is, other things may pass, and I may lack them; but on the knowledge of this my life stands. If a man were certainly persuaded of this, he would by all means, with all his getting obtain this. Tell unto a man in the state of death, who is condemned to die, of great earthly matters; he takes no heed, nor cares what you say; he values life more than all. And, if a natural life be so much esteemed; how much ought we more to esteem of a spiritual life? This knowledge is beyond all things to be sought after. You know Christ saith, "This is life eternal to know thee to be the only very God; and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." See, my life stands upon it. So Moses bids the people, "Set your hearts unto all the words which I testify amongst you this day, for it is your life." He shows it is no vain word (too slightly thought of by them), but that on which so near and dear a thing as our life stands upon, and on which all our joy depends. So think you that the knowledge of the truth is an ordinary thing, such as a man may have with a song (as they say). No. It is that on which your everlasting life doth depend. See what the Wiseman saith to this purpose, "Take1 fast hold of instruction; let her not go; keep her, for she is thy life." In this case we must do even as a man who, being cast into a main sea, having a cable let down to him to take hold of, he holds it fast, and will not let it go, because he knows his life depends upon it; a man needs not to bid him hold. So this knowledge of the truth is a cable cast down from heaven unto us, who are in the raging and roaring seas of this world, compassed with sin and death, and we must lay hold for our life, for thereby we attain life. "For whoso findeth me findeth life; and shall obtain favour of the Lord; but he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul. All they that hate me love death." I speak now unto you that have learned and known the truth. It is not to be attained as other things, with ease, it is an high and supernatural thing, and discovered from heaven by his Spirit, illightning and working upon our spirits.
d John, chap. 17. ver. 3.
Prov. chap. 4. ver. 13.
e Deut. chap. 32. ver. 46.
* Prov. chap. 8. ver. 35.
I. To show the miserable and distressed state of those who have not yet the knowledge of the truth: this being a thing of so great importance; and not only a shameful, but also a miserable estate. The apostle imputes the brabling of the Corinthians to want of knowledge and piety; and therefore he tells them, "I say this to your shame; is there not one that is a wise man among you? not one that shall be able to judge betwixt his brethren ?" We see also to this purpose, how Christ takes up Philip for his ignorance. When Philip had said, "Lord show us the Father, and it sufficeth us," Christ answers him, "Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me Philip ?" He is reproved, that in so long habitation, and being with our Saviour, he continues yet so ignorant. And so may we not now say the like of ourselves, when we shall be brought before God at that last day? What can we plead for our ignorance and disobedience, who have had God, and the means so powerfully, and so long a time with us? may we not now tremble and quake to think of our backwardness this way? Look, against whom will the Lord Jesus come at that day? saith the apostle," he shall come in flaming fire, rendering vengeance on them, that know not God, and obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ." See what a fearful thing this is the not knowing of Christ may be a means to put us, at that great day, on his left hand, to be tormented with the devil and his angels for ever. This is a cursed ignorance, which produceth such woful effects; to live thus is a continual (as it were) stabbing of the soul. For this cause also the prophet complains, "my people perish for want of knowledge." Look where you will, and you shall find many places to confirm this. Some object, O God is full of mercy; I will fly unto that-I grant; but what is that to thee? Dost thou think he will be prodigal of his blood for thy good, who esteemest of him no more (nay not so much)
1 Cor. chap. 6. ver. 5.
1 2 Thess. 1. ver. 8.
John, chap. 14. ver. 8, 9.
as of the basest thing of the world? It is a shameful thing to be ignorant now in so great a light.
II. This is against another sort of men, who bless themselves in their formality not to be grossly ignorant. Yet they value not the truth at an high rate, they will not bestow one hour in a day, in searching of it, to leave any worldly thing undone for this; yea (which is more lamentable) they not only make the search of this truth their least care; but also think all that time lost, which is spent that way. What shall I say? Thus to prefer the world before heaven, and set up the search of earthly things so in our hearts (which will bring but dolor, grief, and main sorrows in the end); is not this to proclaim thyself another Esau, to prefer thy present lusts before this truth? for this is most certain, and look unto it. So far as we prefer the search of the truth before all things, with purpose of heart to live accordingly, so far are we brought into the liberty of God's children, which shall make us free if we continue in the truth. But if a man give Christ no entertainment, but hand over head go on, and put all to the last, that man is in a woful state, without hope of freedom if he continues so. You shall have some, if they may have Christ with ease, they could be content to have him; or if he would so work upon them, that they might go about the work of repentance with ease, why then they would go about it. But yet they will not take Mary's part so seriously to put that in the first place, without which all is nothing, being with Martha troubled about many things. They dare not trust God in temporal things, as though godliness had not the promise above earthly things, yea and of all things with Christ. But howsoever it is clear, the knowledge of the truth is a most excellent thing, and the ignorance thereof is damned: it is heinous, and a bad sign in a professor to prefer anything before it. Yea it is the glory of a Christian to increase in this knowledge every day, "Thus saith the Lord, let not the wise man glory in his wisdom; neither let the mighty man glory in his might; neither let the rich man glory in his riches; but let him that glorieth
Luke, chap. 10. ver. 42.
n Jer. chap. 9. ver. 23.
glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me." As in riches a man is not content to have no more than to keep a man from starving; but also he desires to have for bounty and liberality for others, so much more must we in spiritual things desire and strive to be rich in them; as the apostle exhorts us, "Let the word of God dwell in you richly, in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another." We must not seek (as some sluggards do for their ease) the least measure of the knowledge of Christ, which may save a man; this is to be poor in Christ always. But if a man desire Christ truly, he will be more covetous of the riches of this knowledge than any earthly minded man can be of the things of this world. Now I come to the second point.
When and how this knowledge is attained.
It is not gotten so soon as a man (upon hearing the word preached) hath a flash of remorse at a sermon, upon which he doth fall out in commendation of the preacher, and sermon, admiring the power of the word; but then (as Christ's speech is), when we continue in his word, are we his disciples indeed, and shall know the truth. They knew his word before, and were instructed in some generals; and yet were far short of practice, and of that which they were to have. Therefore he shows them the way to come by it is, by continuing in his word. Whence we observe, there is a kind of knowledge which is not attained by our first hearing of the word; but by adhering and sticking close unto it, so as it may dwell in us, and we continue therein. It is not enough to assent at first, and approve goodness. This knowledge is attained with much industry, pains, time, and labour, when a man hath, as it were riveted this knowledge in himself (as one will drive in a nail fast), and sure to remain, being transformed into the image thereof. This is the next point, if a man would have this knowledge, which is so precious, which shall make him a freeman; he must (as St. James speaketh), "receiver with meekness the ingrafted word, which is able to save our souls." It is not every
• Col. chap. 3. ver. 16.
P James, chap. 1. ver. 21.
4 Prov. chap. 2. ver. 1.
knowledge, nor every word will do it, but this ingrafted word. In which the apostle shows them, as though he had said, if you will conform yourselves to what I exhort you, and lay away lets, which hinder you from obedience, you shall attain to such a knowledge as the worldlings think is not in the world. Thus you see, a man must continue and stick unto it, if he would be freed by this knowledge. For this, see what the Wiseman saith: "My son, if thou wilt receive my words and hide my commandments with thee, so that thou incline thy ear to wisdom, and apply thy heart unto understanding; yea if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; if thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; then shall thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God." As though he should say, you see understanding is not a thing may be had every where. No, God keeps it in his own hands, till we beg for it, as St. James tells us: "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God who giveth unto all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him." Thus you see, a man must seek for it. At first, when with ease we attain to know many things, then one would think we had knowledge. But I say no, as in the Proverbs you have heard. It is a treasure, and men must dig and sweat to find out a treasure; a man must seek and dig deep to find it out, and then seek again. When a man hath received the word and hid it, then he must do more; sell all that he hath to purchase it; let all fall that he may have it. So that this true knowledge in the first receiving it puts a man on to search further into those depths of knowledge, which ravish the soul. It stands not in the brain; you shall have many wonderful curious to know much, and converse with the learned, they never can be satisfied. But let me tell thee, unless thou practise that it descend into thy heart, it shall but increase thy condemnation, that thou, who knowest so much of thy Master's will, and doest so little, mayest be beat with many stripes.
r James, chap. 1. ver. 5.