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the Word aright, or can arrive at the completeness of Christian knowledge and character, remember that you are complete in him; and that too, not according to men's philosophies, nor by their assistance, but just according to God's Word, and by the teaching of God's Spirit. And since in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, and ye are complete in him, as you have been taught, in the Word, and by the Spirit, beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the traditions of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
And here is the first thing to be considered in the warning of this text, as a contrasted point of truth and duty, in opposition to the babblings of science falsely so called; namely, the supremacy and independence of God's Word, and of the Christian in it, under the guidance of the divine Spirit; and the fact that faith in God's Word, and in Christ Jesus as presented there, is the only perfection of huinan reason, the only true philosophy and science. The bringing of the Word of God to the bar of human reason, and the throwing of it upon mere external evidence and philosophy for its support and understanding, were a portion of that leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees, against which our blessed Lord cautioned his disciples. But you can neither believe God's Word, nor have any understanding of it, according to the mere traditions and philosophies of men. You are thrown upon God's Spirit, and if you have not got your theology there, philosophy can never let in one ray of spiritual light upon your soul. You cannot know God's Word, but by the Spirit of God. If the Holy Spirit be in your soul, guiding you into the truth, as the truth's living Interpreter, then you will see and know it; but not otherwise. All true faith is life, not the movement of the understanding merely, but of the heart. Belief in God's Word is life, a thing dependent not upon evidence, but upon the living Spirit. And evidence itself can never be rightly seen and felt, without this life. All living theology, and all power to teach it; all true knowledge of God's Word, and all power in the use of such knowledge, are dependent on God's Spirit, and without the Holy Spirit as the guide and teacher of the soul, philosophy and speculation can do nothing for its light. · Now, divine revelation itself informs us, that this living Spirit and Interpreter of God's Word, even the Spirit of Truth, is a Being whom the world cannot receive (that is, the world unhumbled, unregenerate, unconverted,) because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him. The very pride of men's hearts, in the ignorance and darkness of self-will, prevents their receiving him. And furthermore, the same divine Word informs us, that the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. He must come humbly to God, and beg to be enlightened. In the neglect of that divine Spirit, without his teachings, and without that constant, earnest prayer, which is a habit of life and faith, into which the Holy Spirit always leads the heaven-taught soul, it is impossible to arrive at the truth; and all the knowledge a man boasts in such a case, and all the perfection of philosophy, and all the lights of science and speculation, are but miserable presumption. The soul, in the neglect of prayer, and of God's Spirit, cannot but go astray.
And while she dotes, and dreams that the believes,
And useless as a candle in a skull Hence, it is no wonder that Paul cautioned the world of believers in Christ against pretended philosophic instruction from such sources. Beware lest any man spoil you, through philosophy and vain deceit, after the traditions of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. The moment a man, be he a minister of the Word, or a private Christian, begins to mind tradition and philosophy, instead of Christ, or to mingle up tradition and philosophy as parts of his Christianity, that moment he begins to be spoiled. And when a man undertakes to teach and feed others with philosophy and tradition, instead of the pure milk of the Word in Christ and him crucified, he is not only securing his own starvation, but he is starving others. He feedeth on ashes; a deceived heart hath turned him aside; and curious it is to see how a man, by eating ashes himself, can persuade others also that ashes are good food. This mixture of philosophy with the bread of life, and the strong and frequent warnings against it in God's Word, remind us of the descriptions of a worthless piety in the minor prophets. “Ephraim, he hath mixed himself among the people; Ephraim is a cake not turned.” Paganism and Christianity together, and even that mixture half-baked, have generally constituted the piety of the so-called philosophers of this world. And the great work of philosophy in all ages has been, to spoil the truth. And this, not always because of the badness of the philosophy, or its error, but because of setting it upon the throne, appointing it as judge. But God has determined that there shall nothing occupy the throne of God and reason in man, save only the Lamb that was slain. There shall be a simple faith in him, casting down imaginations, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. Philosophy must ever be the handmaid, not the mistress nor the judge..
And as to progress in theology, there can be no such thing but by experience. Theology itself is a production of life, of the Spirit with the Word, in hearts quickened out of the death of trespasses and sins, and new created in Christ Jesus. And all progress in theology must be the product of life, not of mere learning; for without the inward teachings and life-giving power of the Holy Spirit, men are ever learning, but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth-a phenomenon in modern times most remarkably mani. fested, since the passing away of the first power of the Reformation, in Germany. One such theologian 'as Martin Luther, with the heart in a flame towards God by the divine Spirit, one such living theologian as Jonathan Edwards or John Howe, would be worth all the theological learning and learned men of modern Germany put together.
Philosophy may possibly correct philosophy, but it cannot teach theology. It may grub up stumps, but it can never sow the seed of the Gospel. Philosophy may preoccupy the mind with such error, that · all the power even of a living theology can hardly expel it. But if a nation's theology is made up not out of experience in God's Word by God's Spirit, but mainly out of theory and speculation, if it has been the work of acute intellects without faith, without regeneration, or if such minds have been the main sources of it, it can be worth little or nothing either to teach the truth or contend against error. A vast proportion of what has been called theology in our world has been thus spoiled.
The time consumed in the vanities of mere philosophy, had it been given to spiritual discipline, and to the study of God's Word in God's light, would have made great deeps of living theology for a world to draw upon. But men have often done with God's Word, as foolishly as a band of miners would do before a mountain of gold, if instead of going down into the mines and working, they should speculate at the surface, about the abstract properties and purities of ore, the probable extent of seams, and the geological structure of creation. Just so, men work upon speculative difficulties in God's Word, instead of digging out the gold and using it. Instead of delving in the unsearchable riches of Christ, and coming to him to get rid of sin, they speculate about the origin of sin. Instead of coming to him to see more of his glory, and feel more of the power of his cross, they set up the speculation whether that glory, and the cross itself, be not, simply and merely, a grand, effective, passionate work of art!
Men are often exceedingly hampered by their philosophy, made hesitating, fearful, and incredulous. And the importance of a right mental philosophy, a mental philosophy of spiritual and not materializing tendencies, can hardly be overrated. A false philosophy may come, telling you that you can have no idea of eternity, but that of time multiplied, and no idea of God, but that of an infinitely enlarged man, and no idea of duty, but that of expediency; and if you should set up this philosophy, as your guide or judge in the application of divine truth, you would be mightily weakened in the presentation of eternity, of God, and of duty to the mind. Your only philosophy in such a case, even supposing you know no other system of human philosophy than the one thus palmed upon you, ought to be that of faith in God, and in God's Word. That, and that alone, carries you high and dry over all conflicting systems of philosophy and science, the Word of God being addressed directly
to the human conscience in precisely the same way, whether that conscience lie in the bosom of the philosopher or the fool.
But indeed we are all fools until the Word of God, by the Spirit of God, humbles us, and makes us wise. That is for us the real philosophy of heaven, the highest wisdom of earth, the profoundest exercise of the human intellect, to bow in self-denial and humility before God. If any man among you will be wise, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.
A man educated in a false philosophy in regard to the will, or any part of our spiritual being, if he sets up that philosophy as his judge of divine truth is sure to go wrong. Some of the greatest minds ever created in our world have stumbled in God's Word over the logs laid down by such a false philosophy, at the threshold of some of the clearest truths revealed for our guidance. Nor can this evil be cured by the conflict of an opposite philosophy, but only by compelling philosophy to take its place as the servant and not the master, the learner, and not the judge. A good philosophy as well as a bad one may lead the mind astray, may cause the soul to stumble, if it set up to be the judge, either of the truths of God's Word, or the workings of God's Spirit. Your philosophies and your speculations must be put by themselves, whatever question you are raising, when you come to ask, what does God tell you in the Scriptures ? But speculative men are unwilling to put their own theories and philosophical speculations at the feet of Christ. Men often use their systems of philosophy, just as we use blinders on our horses, so that they may see only straight forward. They put on their philosophy, tighten the reins, crack the whip, and away ; and no side view or object is noticed, or permitted to interfere. Their philosophy, like a dark lantern, permits them to see only what is straight before it, only what they please to have it shine upon.
Now all regard to philosophy, in the application of God's Word, is injurious, and very likely to weaken the power of it. It ought to come, just what it is, supreme from God, sharper than any twoedged sword, sweeping all before it. You have no questions to ask of philosophy, and if philosophy puts questions to you, and you have a passage from God's Word that answers them, that decides the matter; if not, the difficulties raised by philosophy have no more to do with your application of God's Word, than the question how the meat got into a walnut-shell has to do with your eating it. In the use of the Scriptures, you are to have no philosophy but faith, and with that you are to apply God's Word to the conscience, without any care for philosophy, be it what it may.
There is nothing further to be said where God has spoken. If you believe in the law of God as his Word, it is to you supreme, decisive, whoever, or whatever may be brought against it. If you do not believe in God's Word, it is to you as worthless as philosophy itself; nay, it is to you the greatest lie the universe ever be
held. But, indeed, if you do not believe in God's Word, you fling yourself the lie in the face of your Maker ; for he has declared that whoever believeth not the record God hath given us of his Son, hath made God a liar. So decisive and despotic is the obligation of belief, when God has spoken; and so independent and self-evi. denced is God's Word, like his own attribute of self-existence.
Therefore, you are to run careering through all men's opinions, with God's Word, no matter what you go over. In executing God's commission in the application of divine truth, you need take no more notice of the panoply of philosophy, with which men may have armed themselves, than the chariot of paternal Deity took notice of the shields and helms, and helmed heads, over which it rode in victory. God's Word has God's authority, not yours, nor philosophy's, nor is it to be put under philosophy's jurisdiction, nor cut, nor squared, nor quartered, according to philosophy's measurement, nor graduated according to philosophy's fluctuating vagaries or imagined discoveries.
You are to preach God's Word with God's authority. If you do, from the heart, in simple faith, God will honor you. If you do not, but are afraid, and think you must first consult philosophy, whether what God says is to be plainly spoken and admitted, then philosophy itself, in the end, will dishonor you. He that exalts God's Word, God's Word will exalt him. And no matter whom you have to deal with, be it a body of philosophers themselves, fresh from the cobwebs of their chambers, or be it the mass of common minds; the Word of God is the same thing for all, and nothing else will have power. The foolishness of preaching pleases God, and whether it pleases men or not, nothing else will move them, will conquer them. A man like John Bunyan, preaching God's Word, without any philosophy, or knowledge of any, nay, perhaps not knowing the meaning of the word philosophy; a man preaching thus, from deep, powerful, all-quickening, all-mastering experience, even among the Germans themselves, would have mighty power. There might be those so entrenched behind their atheistic philosophic systems, or so entangled in them, that there would be no breaking through; but over multitudes such preaching would have irresistible power. And such a preacher would have no more power, nor so much, over the philosophers, even if he could attack them on their own chosen ground, with the clashings of the newest, truest, and best philosophies in existence. So Paul preached among the Jews, Greeks, and Romans, utterly heedless of their many-colored, manifold, and many-armed philosophies, whatever they might be. What did he care for them? Had he wished, or had he chosen, or had God so chosen for him, he could have made as great and learned a hubbub as any of them, with Greek, Roman, Jewish, and Oriental philosophies. But he went at them with only the story of the cross, Jesus Christ and him crucified, simply that; nothing else. It was the story of the cross, not of the man without