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“ stumbling-block before their face,” so that God would not be inquired of by them. And so it is with multitudes in the present day. They are in their hearts devoted to some favourite object of pursuit, to some theory or opinion which they cannot relinquish; and they consequently enter upon the research with almost a certainty of failure.
But, perhaps, the force of our Lord's maxim in the text will be still more sensibly felt, by considering it in its negative as well as its affirmative sense ; as if it were said, (which indeed is implied in the terms of the proposition,)“ if any man will not do " his will, he shall not know of the doc
trine, whether it be of God.”
The moral qualities comprised in the character of a sound and faithful interpreter of the Word, have been already enumerated. The dispositions repugnant to that character, are carelessness, indifference to truth, indolence, rashness, a spirit of scepticism and self-conceit, perti
Ezek. xiy, 4.
nacity in retaining opinions hastily taken up, love of novelty, and a proneness to abandon what is sanctioned by long established authority and well tried experience. . It is easy to perceive how these dispositions must operate on the intellectual powers, in preventing the full and free exercise of the faculties most necessary to be called forth in such disquisitions, and in diminishing the desire of such attainments as can give any reasonable hope of success.
In a word, that which we understand by the term, docility, or an aptitude to receive instruction, is the first requisite towards the acquisition of Scriptural knowledge. The mind ought to be unbiassed by any thing that would lead it astray from the simple truth, and disposed to “lay aside every weight"” which may retard its progress. In this consists the willingness, to which is held out the promise of such a knowledge of the Divine word as cannot otherwise be obtained.
We are not to wonder, then, if instances
oftentimes occur, where splendid talents and rare acquirements are employed in the service of Error, and even in endeavouring to subvert the fundamental truths of Revealed' Religion. These are, in themselves, no security against error.
On the contrary, when not controled by a powerful sense of duty, they rather incite to bold and hazardous speculations, by the vanity and self-confidence they are wont to create. Caution therefore is necessary, lest we be dazzled and led astray by genius and learning thus mischievously employed. For to this subject is our Lord's saying especially applicable, “ He that exalteth him“self shall be abased, and he that hum“ bleth himself shall be exalted.". That profound submission, that prostration of heart and mind, which desires instantly to receive and obey whatever comes from God, is the sentiment which best befits the inquirer after sacred truth. Hence, both in the general defence of Christianity, and in the successful interpretation of its
» Luke xiv, ll.
essential doctrines, none have more signally distinguished themselves, than they who to a grasp of intellect above their fellows have united the profoundest reverence and humility, in exploring the depths of heavenly wisdom.
Caution however is necessary, on the other hand, that we do not hastily impute either moral or intellectual defects, in every ordinary case of erroneous persuasion. To lay these to the charge of the multitudes who are merely followers of specious heresies, and who, from early habits of education, or other untoward cir: cumstances scarcely under their control, have pertinaciously adhered to thein; would be a precipitate, if not uncharitable, censure. Perhaps too it may not unreasonably be questioned, whether, in some instances, Heresiarchs themselves have not been rather misled by weak and erroneous judgment, than by deliberate and intentional opposition to the Divine will. The errors of such persons might, perhaps, have been rectified, under more auspicious circumstances. The question, therefore,
whether, in any particular cases, heresy be wilful, or ignorance invincible, should be regarded as of too momentous a nature to be lightly treated, and not always capable of being peremptorily decided by human authority.
But the more necessary these cautions may be, respecting particular points of controversy, or the personal characters of the parties engaged in them ; the greater necessity will exist, for vigilance in. guarding ourselves against any disposition that tends to darken the understanding and betray it into error. Here our Lord's admonition in the text demands the most profound consideration, as a fundamental maxim on which all consistency and correct knowledge of religion must depend. With Solomon's exhortation to the same effect, the subject may, therefore, now be closed. My son, if thou wilt receive
my words, and hide my commandments “ with thee, so that thou incline thine " ear to wisdom, and apply thine heart “ to understanding; yea, if thou criest “ after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice