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THE CHARACTERS OF THOSE FROM WHOM THE
GOSPEL DOCTRINES ARE HID.
MATTH. xi. 25.
At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Fa
ther, Lord of Heaven and Earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.
HE judgments of God are a great deep. He does not give us a full account of his matters; much less can we by searching find out him to perfection; yet if we carefully attend to what he has revealed, and apply his written word with humility and caution to what passes in ourselves, and around us, we may, by his grace, attain to some considerable satisfaction in things which, at first view, seem hard to be understood. The subject of my text is of this nature. That God should hide things of everlasting consequence from any persons, sounds very harsh ; but I hope, when the words are explained, we shall see that, though he acts as a sovereign in his dispensations, his ways are just, and good, and equal.
We have already made an entrance upon this attempt. Besides some general observations in my first discourse, I endeavoured to show you, in the second, 1. What the things are to which our Lord refers ; 2. When, and in what sense, they are hid. I proceed now to consider,
III. From whom they are hid--the wise and pru
dent. It will, I think, be readily supposed, that the expression does not mean those who are truly so, and in God's account. He esteems none to be wise and prudent but those who are enlightened with his spiritual wisdom, who now serve and love him in Christ. "The "fear of the Lord is the beginning, (or, as the word "likewise signifies, the head or principal part,) of wis"dom*;" and from such as these he hides or keeps back nothing that is profitable for them: on the contrary, that promise is sure, "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him: and he will show them his "covenant t." When our Lord said, "The children "of this world are wiser in their generation than the "children of light t," he did not mean they were so absolutely, for their boasted wisdom is the merest folly, but only that they acted consistently with their own principles. The wise and prudent here are either those who are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight, or those who are generally so reputed by the bulk of mankind. And these two amount to the same for as the natural wisdom of man springs from the same fountain, self, and is confined to the same bounds, the things of time and sense, in all alike, (though there is a variety of pursuits within these limits, as tempers and situations differ,) men are generally prone to approve and applaud those who act upon their own principles.
We may take notice then, (as a key to this inquiry,) that what is accounted wisdom by the world, is not only different from the wisdom of God, but inconsistent with it, and opposite to it. They differ as fire and water, light and darkness; the prevalence of the one
Luke xvi. 8.
Ps. cxi. 10. VOL. II
† Ps. xxv. 14.
necessarily includes the suppression of the other. See this at large insisted on by St. Paul, in the beginning of his first epistle to the Corinthians, the first, second, and third chapters.
Who then are the wise and prudent intended in my text? May the Holy Spirit enable every conscience to make faithful application of what shall be offered upon this head.
1. In the judgment of the world, those are wise and prudent persons who are very thoughtful and diligent about acquiring wealth, especially if their endeavours are crowned with remarkable success. If a man thrives, (as the phrase is,) from small beginnings, and joins house to house, and field to field, so that he has land to call after his own name, and large possessions to leave to his children, how he is applauded, (though at the same time envied,) by the most who know him! I do not deny, that a proper concern and industry in our secular calling is both lawful and our duty; and I allow, that the providence of God does sometimes remarkably prosper those who depend on him in the management of their business; but I make no scruple to affirm, that where this is the main concern, (as some call it,) such wisdom is madness, Such persons are no less idolaters than those who worship stocks and stones. And if the things of God are hid from them, it is surely their own fault; they do not even complain of it as a hardship; they have their choice, their reward, and are satisfied. They are told that these things are in Christ, and there they are content that they should remain; they see no beauty or suitableness in them, they have no desire after him; he might keep his heaven and truths to himself, if they could always have their fill of the world. They are told that
these things are hid in the Scripture, but they have neither leisure nor inclination to search there for them. Their time is taken up with buying and selling, building and planting, &c. Oh, beware of this wisdom! “. What will riches profit you in the day of wrath*, at death or judgment? If you live and die in this spirit, you will bemoan your choice when it is too late.
2. Those are accounted wise and prudent, who think they have found a way to reconcile God and the world together. If a man should attempt to fly, or to walk upon the water, he would be deemed a fool. How is it that this endeavour, which is equally impossible, (and expressly declared so by our Lord,) should be more favourably thought of? The deceitfulness of the heart, and subtilty of Satan, concur in this point. You will have a sort of religion, but then you take care not to carry things too far. You are governed by the fear and regard of men. Something you will do to satisfy conscience, but not too much, lest you hurt your interest, disoblige your friends, or draw on yourselves reproach, or a hard name. I must tell you, from the word of God, your attempt to halve things is an abomination in his sight. Would it not be treason by the law, to pay the king an outward respect, and yet
hold secret correspondence with his enemies? The decisions of the word of God are to the same effect in this instance. “ Love not the world, neither the things that
are in the world. If any man love the world, the s love of the Father is not in him t."
not, that the friendship of the world is enmity with “God? Whosoever, therefore, will be a friend of the “ world, is the enemy of God I.”
“ Know you
* Prov. xi. 14.
+ 1 John ii. 15.
# James iv. 4.
3. A man is deemed wise who has considerable knowledge and curiosity about natural things, and all those subjects which usually bear the name of science: if he can talk of the magnitudes, distances, and motions of the heavenly bodies, can foretel an eclipse, has skill in mathematics, is well read in the history of ancient times, and can inform you what is found in books concerning the folly and wickedness of mankind who lived some thousands of years ago; or if he understands several languages, and can call a thing by twenty different names. It is true, when these attainments are sanctified by grace, they may in some respects have their use. But, in general, the best use a believer will or can make of them, is to lay them down at the foot of the cross. When a man possessed of a large quantity of these pebbles, has his conscience awakened, and his understanding enlightened, he is glad to renounce them all for the pearl of great price, and to adopt the apostle's determination, "to know nothing but Jesus "Christ, and him crucified." This was the effect when the word of God mightily grew and prevailedt. We may at least say, that this kind of wisdom is, for the most part, dangerous and blinding to the soul.
1st, It tends to feed and exalt self, to make a person something in his own eyes. This we are prone enough to by nature. An increase of unsanctified knowledge adds fuel to fire.
2dly, It engrosses the time and thoughts. Our minds are narrow, capable of attending to but few things at once and our span is short, and will hardly admit of many excursions from the main concern. If we were to live to the age of Methuselah, we might pursue some things which at present are highly impro
* 1 Cor. ii. 2.
† Acts xix. 19.