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is necessary to salvation; but till then, till this change, this new creation of the Spirit is wrought in us, the scriptures will be as the words of a book that is sealed, which none can read, neither learned nor unlearned. If men deliver this sealed book to one that is learned, saying, Read this I pray thee; the answer is, I cannot, for it is sealed-that is, the contents of the book is hid from him, as the word of God, in its true spiritual sense and meaning, most certainly is, till the mind and understanding are enlightened from above. And, on the other hand, when the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee, an excuse is as ready, for he saith, I am not learned.

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This is the true character of men in a natural unconverted state; it shows their ignorance in things spiritual : and in respect of true saving knowledge, it puts the learned upon the same footing as the unlearned. To the one, that is, the learned, spiritual truths are often sealed truths; such truths as the wisdom of this world knows nothing of, nor can all the art of man find them out. They are spiritually discerned-they belong to, and proceed from the Spirit of God; and as such the Spirit of God must unfold them to us. No other help can do it; for, as no man knoweth the things of a man save the spirit of man which is in him; even so the things of God knoweth no man but the Spirit of God," that is, He, and he only, knows the things of God, whose nature is changed into that of the pure and holy Jesus; and, whose mind and understanding being spiritually enlightened, is taught of God. Or, as the Apostle expresses it, “he receives the Spirit which is of God, that thereby he may know the things that are freely given to him of God. Which things we speak (says St. Paul) not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth."

In these words two different teachings are mentioned, the one by man's wisdom, the other by the Holy Ghost; and as are the teachings, so are the persons taught the one quite differ. ent from the other. The worldlywise know not God, nor, indeed, are many of them called; whereas those taught by the Spirit know spiritual things-they have a true taste and relish for them; "for the Spirit searcheth all things (says the Apustle), yea, the deep things of God; and God (says he) hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit." Nothing can be more to the purpose than these words (and they are the words of God himself) to show the truth and necessity of an inward teaching; without which all other learning will serve to no purpose, except it be to puff men up with pride and conceit.

Whole systems of philosophy in the head will avail nothing, without the love of God shed abroad in the heart; and if we have not a saving experimental knowledge of Christ, and him crucified, we shall be no better for our knowledge could we know all besides.

The Spirit is the only master to teach us true saving knowledge; he must put to his hand and give the finishing stroke to whatever we do. Nay, all our works must begin, continue, and end in him, they must be tinctured with his purity, and his influence must guide and direct them, and these our works, though thus conducted by the Spirit, must be unto us, not as our righteousness or justification, but as witnesses of our faith, or as so many evidences to attest (for a truth) that Christ is in us.

If men are not taught of the Spirit, whatever depths of human learning they may have besides, it is most certain that things spiritual will be to them as the words of a book that is sealed; they see the outside of the book, but the contents are under eal and cover. So men may be taught arts and sciences, their minds may

be richly stocked with the politest of both natural and acquired accomplishments, and froin childhocd they may be regularly trained up in a plausible appearance of an outside religion. By this kind of education they may become well acquainted with the mode, or manner of worship, they may be daily, constant attenders at it, and, probably, it may be their great pleasure sometimes to hear and talk of the beauty of holiness; but if a real and thorough change is not wrought in their hearts-if the life of holiness is not created within them, nor the power of godliness felt in their souls, all their religion is no better than a hearsay religion, taken up upon the credit of an early formal education. Their fair outward show is only a specious form, and when they talk of the beauty of holiness as though they admired it, it is quite foreign to the spirit or true beauty of holiness; very much like him who admires the beauty of a well bound book, and is pleased with the art of the workman while he knows nothing of the author, nor one word of its contents, because it is sealed. The book he sees, and the title he may probably read upon the back of the book, but not one word can he tell within, till the seal is broken off, and the book opened.

So, and in respect of the word of God (called the Bible, or Book) we see its outside (the bare letter of it), and we know its great titles, that it is called the Word of Life, the Gospel, Good Tidings of great Joy to all People, the Revelation of God's good will towards men, and the like. I say, we may see the letter, or outside of the bible, and may read its great titles, and yet, like a book that is sealed, we shall never come at the true spiritual sense, or meaning, of its deep and holy contents, till Christ, by his Spirit, breaks off the seal, and opens the book to our understanding. Ah! this is the reason, the very reason, why men in a natural uncon

verted state, though of great parts and abilities, are so extremely ignorant in spiritual things.

It is a known maxim, that the mind determines according to evidence; therefore it is, their evidence being carnal, sensual, and after the wisdom of the world, that men, in a natural state, draw such false conclusions concerning things spiritual. And in this great aflair, both learned and unlearned are pretty much the same; for, while the learned and unlearned speak of the things of the Spirit as the words of a book that is sealed, if you ask the unlearned, saying, tell me, I pray thee, what these things mean, they will answer and say, I cannot, for I am not learned. Here, the vulgar, or common people among the unconverted, excuse their ignorance of things spiritual, by intimating as though nothing could comprehend them but the narrow circle of human learning. By this means they, in fact, shut out Christ from their souls, not considering how much he delights to dwell with the humble, in their heart, though there may not be the knowledge of one single letter in the head. For (as St. Paul says, 1 Cor. i. 27)" God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are."

Now, this method that God thus chooses whereby to make known his Son to poor despised men and women, looked upon in the eyes of the world as foolish, weak, base, and contempti ble, is to let us know that his grace is free, and that he gives it to whom, after what manner, and at what time soever he pleases; That no flesh should glory (be puffed up with their own accomplishments) in his pre

sence.

But of him (says the Apostle speaking to the despised servants

of God) are ye in Christ Jesus (that is, though of themselves they were illiterate, weak, base, and contemptible in the eyes of the worldly-wise, yet God of his free love was pleased to give them a true saving knowledge of Christ, and him crucified, (called being in Christ Jesus) who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption. That according as it is written, he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord."

From these words, it is plain to a demonstration, that God is no admirer of worldly accomplishments, either natural or acquired that he pays no regard to riches or grandeur -and that his grace is not at all confined to any sect, person, or party whatever; but that he gives it to whom he pleases, considering no qualification so much as that of a meek, humble, and teachable heart heart thoroughly convinced of sin, and made feelingly sensible that nothing but the blood of Christ can heal it.

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Such a knowledge of ourselves is the great inlet through which the knowledge of a crucified Jesus, and all the comforts of the Spirit, flow to the soul; agreeable to which, in the Visitation of the Sick, our church prays most fervently for the sick person, that God would make him "know and feel (in his heart) that there is none other name under heaven given to man, in whom, and through whom, he may receive health and salvation, but only the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Our church seemeth as though she was afraid some of her children should rest in a civilised form of godliness, or that they should take up and content themselves with a mere head-knowledge of Christ, having no inward sense, or want, of him in their hearts; therefore it is she so fervently prays for the sick person, not only that he may know Christ, but also that he may feel in his heart his

great want of him, like a person struck to the heart by some sudden bad news, who feels the want of that ease, comfort, and satisfaction which he lost by the surprise. This, I believe, is what few will deny; for who, almost of this congregation, but at some time or other, have bad their spirit sunk and shaken by bad news, melancholy accidents, sudden deaths, or the like? Why, then, can't we believe the reality, I had almost said the necessity, of an inward sense or feeling of our great want of Christ? Such a thing, doubtless, there is; ay, and that deep inward sense of our wants is the way to Christ-it is the very beginning of all the happiness we expect in heaven. Without this knowledge of our want of Christ, all human learning, all other knowledge whatever, is no better than florid nonsense, and polite foolishness.

Not to have a true inward sense of our great want of Christ is that which seals up and hides the word of God from the heart-it keeps us ignorant of the threats and promises therein contained-it makes us to understand them no otherwise than, as it were, by hearsay, or, as when a man reads a piece of history, and is the fatal cause why so many rest satisfied in a mere form, or show of godliness. The life and spirit of religion are to them like the words of a book that is sealed; and, being thus in the dark, they regard neither threats nor promises,. They cannot apply the promises of the gospel, because they have never felt in their hearts the power of Christ to salvation. This sinks their spirits in distress, it fills the bed of sickness with gloomy thoughts, gives them a frightful view of eternity, and makes death so amazingly dreadful, they cannot hear the bare mention of it, but it goes like a sword through their soul.

And, as are the promises of the gospel to the unawakened, not to be applied, but, like the words of a book that is sealed; so are the threats

of the gospel.

The law never yet came home and close to their consciences they have never felt in their hearts its condemning power, nor with what force it comes against sin; they, therefore, know not the terror of the Lord, but hang out, as it were, a flag of defiance against all the threats of heaven. A form of godliness is the strength of their hopes they trust in the fair outside of a plausible show; and, having never seen their corruptions, and, of consequence, their great want of Christ, they don't much dispute, but the performance of duties will carry them safe to heaven.

Thus the unawakened, learned and unlearned, according to their different turns of mind, are all of them guessing at the way to heaven-like a man with a book in his hand that is sealed guessing at the contents what they should be. This is a sacred truth, a truth of God's speaking, though it may seem strange in our ears. For.

The vision of all, all that God has revealed to his prophets, or Christ by the Holy Ghost to his apostles concerning the great work of redemption, is become to the unconverted like the words of a book that is sealed, which if we deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee, and tell me the meaning of a new creature, born of the Spirit as well as of water, justified freely by grace, not of works, walking in the Spirit, renewed in the spirit of our mind, and putting on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Crying by the Spirit, Abba, Father. An unction from the holy one: or by what means the anointing we receive from him teacheth us of all things. Being one with Christ, and Christ with us. Opening the door of our hearts to Christ that he may come in, and sup, and dwell within us, or the like; I say, if we deliver the word of God to one that is learned, and not spiritually enlightened, saying, Read

this, I pray thee, and tell me the meaning, not glossed over, but the true meaning of these scripture passages, he saith, I cannot, for the book is sealed. He is ashamed to confess his spiritual ignorance, therefore, he don't say he cannot tell, but he saith it is sealed-the book is sealed. And the better to disguise his ignorance, he guesses at those sayings of the Holy Spirit, and gravely calls them a regular conversation, a moral good behaviour, waiting upon ordinances, pious resolutions, sincere endeavours, or the like, as though man, of himself, was able to do these things.

By these means the unlearned are still kept ignorant of, and made quite easy in their unconverted state. And if one ask them a question concerning things spiritual, they answer and say, they are not learned. So that the word of God is to these a strange language—an unknown tongue: while to the learned and not enlightened it is a sealed book.

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But when the Lord brings the law home close to the heart, sin, like the long settled sediment when disturbed, will begin to rise; it will awaken the benumbed sleepy conscience, and fill the once drowsy mind with the most cutting and uneasy thoughts. It will shew the sinner to himself, what corruption is in his heart, what uncleanliness in his soul; it will give him an awakening sense of his great want of Christ, and will make him know and feel," as our church says, that there is no other name, than the name of Jesus, whereby he can be saved, and that nothing but his precious blood can make him clean." The poor sinner will then long for a saving interest in that precious blood; and the stronger his convictions, the stronger will be his desires after it. The very mention of that blood will strike his soul with a pleasing grief, and fill him with a mixture of hope, fear and shame.

At some times his soul will cry out, Even so, come Lord Jesus. At

other times the cry will be changed into that mournful tone, Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord, Ah, poor soul! he would gladly open the door of his heart to let in his dear Christ, but his fears arising from a remembrance of his past life prevent him; they fix him between hope and despair, not knowing what to do, whether to keep out Christ or to let him in; till at last, is applied to his soul those sweet words of his dear Master, Come unto me all ye that labour, and are heavy laden, and I will give you

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This encourages the poor sinner to open his heart, though with a weak trembling hand; and as Christ is entering in (may I use the expression) see the poor sinner how humbly he receives his God, with wet eyes and bended knees, not daring to look up, but begging mercy in those words of the humble leper, "Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean." And, oh the gracious answer of Christ to this humble petition! "I will, be thou clean." May the Lord speak the same to every soul here. To this the Spirit sets his seal. we are sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which" says the Apostle, "is the earnest of our inheritance in the saints." And having thus received the seal of the Spirit in his sanctifying gifts and graces, or, as the Apostle calls it Eph. i. 18., "the eyes of the poor sinner's understanding being enlightened, he begins to know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints," and what is the exceeding greatness of God's power towards him, the greatness, the freeness of that power, in changing and renewing the heart, and in cleansing, purging, and sanctifying the whole man throughout, soul and body.

Then begins the happy change from nature to grace, or, as the prophet says a little after my text,

"the eyes of the blind (the spiritually blind) then begin to see out of obscurity and out of darkness," that is, the Spirit will give them light. As our church prays, the Spirit will lighten their darkness. And the seal of carnal security, being thus broken off by the Spirit, the book, or word of God, becomes a new book, and its contents, as much as are necessary to salvation, are all savingly known. The new birth is comfortably experienced, the new creature plainly seen in a holy life, and the power of godliness sensibly felt in the inner man. "All old things are past away (the old will, old affections and desires, the former conversation, old companions, amusements, or the like, are done away), behold, all things are become new." The man is become a new man. and his nature so thoroughly changed into that of the pure and holy Jesus, that one may perceive for a truth, as our church says in her communion service, that he dwells in Christ, and Christ in him; that he is one with Christ, and Christ with him. To his great joy and comfort, the Spirit beareth witness with his spirit that he is a child of God; testifying to him at the same time, that that act of love is merely from free grace, and not from any, the least merit of his.

No, they who are spiritually enlightened see nothing in themselves, out of Christ, but death and judgment; which makes them know how to value their dear Christ in the comforts of his spirit. They plead his merits, and are found in his righteous

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