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the other hand, the devils, who are masters of arts with respect to their knowledge of the mysteries of iniquity, are as far from happiness as divine felicity can place them. Some indeed read all sorts of authors, in order to obtain the right knowledge of God, and the way of salvation, by human means.
And we may say of them, as a great apostle saith, “ They are ever learning, but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” The star of Jacob can never be found out by a telescope: nor can a saving knowledge of God be obtained by all the lines of practical philosophy. The man into whose heart God shines knows him, but no other: “ For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined into our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ,”. 2 Cor. iv. 6. This is the only revealed way wherein a saving knowledge of God can be attained: philosophical rules are wholly excluded in this matter: "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,” Col. ii. 8.
Cushi. I much admire your assertions. Divine knowledge must be sought with a suppliant knee at a throne of grace; to seek it any
a contempt of the revealed will of God, and an attempt to be wise above what is written. And the further they go to find out God by human means, the deeper they sink into error. To measure divine perfections and divine conduct by human lines, and tracing all from the proper centre down to the bar of depraved and unrenewed reason, is puzzling the human soul in her fallen state, and loading her rationality with a burden, under which she is sure (without divine aid) to sink.
When any child of God meets with a difficult text of scripture, difficult experience or providence, how is his mind burdened until by humble prayer he casts it off, or resolves it into the sovereign will of God! which being done, his faculties resume their usual vigour, and he moves sweetly in his heavenly sphere; and by these things he finds that God lays no more on him than he enables him to bear.
Many have been drowned in error, open profanity, despondency, despair, destruction, and perdition, by attempting the knowledge of Infinite Divinity by human wisdom, instead of submitting human wisdom to that which is divine and infinite: “ Who can find out the Almighty to perfection? it is higher than heaven, and deeper than hell; broader than the earth, and wider than the sea,” Job xi. 7–9. It has puzzled many of the learned naturalists to unfold the mysteries of the thunder, and those strange phenomena the burning mountains. In these things they are just as much at a certainty as in Moore's Almanac are its predictions, from the aspects of the planets, concerning the weather, which, from the best observations that I have made, have hitherto been contrary to the events produced by Providence.
The real believer, when he hath considered his frame, can with humble adoration say with the psalmist, “ I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” And with respect to the works of creation, and all the mysteries of nature, he can admire their Author, and say, “ In wisdom hast thou made them all.”
But to proceed. This was one of the most puzzling trials that ever Prodigalis had met with; for, when the arch enemy had gained an advantage over him, and blinded his understanding, there was not a mystery in the Bible but he put his ‘if' to, and attempted to raise doubts in his mind about. The mystery of the Trinity; the wonderful mystery of our Lord's incarnation and essential divinity; the veracity and authenticity of the Bible; the existence of Jehovah; and even the existence of fallen angels, was not left out of the dreadful dispute; though Prodigalis had sensibly felt the power, and wonderfully seen the workings, of all things then in debate. O how careful should a child of God be to avoid these things! How many have gone limping and halting to their graves, broken in judgment, barren in soul, fruitless in life, and confused in mind, only by reading erroneous books?
This trial effectually cured Prodigalis of that disease. After this he acted like those in the Acts: “And many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds. Many of them also, which used curious arts, brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver: so mightily grew the word of God and prevailed,” Acts xix. 18— 20. Ancient books of curious arts, and modern books of cursed errors, are both of one lineage; all come from one infernal source, and lead to the same infernal end. Embracing of an error is receiving of a lie, and holding of a lie is certain destruction: “And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination or maketh a lie; but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life," Rev. xxi. 27.
Ahimaaz. I have no doubt but that fiery trial cured Prodigalis of that disease. It was with him as it was with the Jews; they were in general doating upon idols until their Babylonish captivity; but the .commandment of the king of Babylon in the plains of Dura, (Dan. iii. 1) was a sufficient purge to cleanse them: at their return Ephraim was heard to say, “What have I to do any more with idols?” Hosea xiy. 8.
Cushi. It was for many months that Prodigalis lay in that confused and bewildered state; and yet, at the same time, never advanced in public one sentence but what was point blank against those errors that his mind was harassed with: but surely nothing but an experience of a work of grace, and the mighty power of God, can ever keep a soul sound in the truth through such strange, mysterious, and confused wanderings. However, it was an humbling lesson to Prodigalis, which none but God and himself knew; and the application of this text sunk him into a very strange frame of mind: “Hear ye, and give ear; be not proud; for the Lord hath spoken. Give glory to the Lord your
God before he cause darkness, and before your feet stumble upon the dark mountains; and while ye look for light he turn it into the shadow of death, and make it gross darkness,” Jer. xiii, 15, 16. Nor was it without a deal of hard wrestling with God in prayer that he got deliverance: God made him feel the binding effects of error, that he might be satisfied with the knowledge of truth, and not launch into the perilous deep of confusion, where there is no anchorage.
The first text that came as a prelude to his deliverance was this: “ They also that erred in spirit shall come to understanding, and they that murmured shall
learn doctrine,” Isa. xxix. 24. The blessed Redeemer appeared again, and set matters to rights both in his conscience and judgment; but yet left him for some years to feel a sensible breach in his spirit, which served as a mark for Satan to cast his darts at. This was to convince him that he had displeased the Lord by curiously diving into the infernal depths of Satan, which Prodigalis was sensible of. Yet in the end it turned out to some good effect. For after this he was very self-diffident; very earnest in cautioning others against error; and saw that nothing but a real experience of the truth, and a living faith in omnipotent power, could ever keep a soul in such a fiery trial. From this time he became a most zealous reprover and opposer of error; which gave disgust to many who were entire strangers to his conflicts, and therefore altogether ignorant of his inward sufferings, and of the wretched bitterness that had been communicated to his mind. Many of his hearers judged him, and condemned his spirit, his zeal, experience, and ministry. But soon after God permitted a few of them to feel the same; which served to quench their love to these ministers of falsehood, and led them to prize the truth the more, and those that are zealous advocates for it; such as these afterwards became his most steadfast and most faithful friends. They began to find and feel the worth of him as an instrument; and were fully persuaded that if God should remove him they would sensibly feel their loss. However, by some of no experience his zeal was condemned as a bad spirit; his levelling the force of truth against errors was called personal reflections; and his close attachment to his own testimony was called singularity: and if, by fol