33. ON KNOWLEDGE AND
What can be more agreeable to the dictates of true wisdom, than that a
creature should love and obey its Creator, when that creature is endued with
faculties capable of loving and obeying the Author of its existence? The
reverse of this constitutes the grossest impiety. No man of reflection,
however carried away by his passions, or perverted in his views of divine
revelation, can help allowing, that to love the supreme good, is the truest
wisdom; and to obey the supreme governor, the highest duty.
Yet men, who pass for philosophers, who can unfold the beauties of nature,
and even expatiate on the charms of virtue, not infrequently are the slaves
of sensual pleasure, and enemies to the Gospel of Christ: thus proving, that
human knowledge, however refined, can never reduce the rebel state of the
affections to the love and fear of God; or convert the wild, tumultuous
passions to spiritual order and peace.
Men may talk wisely about worldly matters; for our blessed Lord has
declared, that "the children of this world are in their generation wiser
than the children of light;" but the wisest worldly character can never, by
any natural effort of the understanding, think and act wisely about
spiritual and eternal things.
Orthodox notions of the truth may indeed be imbibed, while the heart
continues under the influence of evil; for we read of people "holding the
truth in unrighteousness." But true wisdom consists not in the bare
knowledge of what is good, but in reducing that knowledge to practice. Thus,
I may know that it is my duty to love and obey God; but I am only wise, when
I really do love and obey him.
If I had to cross a river in winter, which was frozen over, and were told,
that, owing to a current in the middle of the stream, the ice would be too
weak to bear my weight; this knowledge would only prove beneficial, in case
I had wisdom enough to desist from the hazardous attempt. Should I, after
this knowledge of the state of the ice, still persist in crossing the river,
my conduct would be termed recklessness; and, if drowned, men would condemn
my folly. This distinction runs through all the transactions of political,
civil, and commercial life. The truth is too obvious to need further
illustration; it must therefore be apparent, that "Knowledge and wisdom, far
from being one, Have oftentimes no connection."
Job, with beautiful clearness, points out to us the nature of true wisdom.
It is not the knowledge of natural objects; neither can created things
impart it. "The depth says, It is not in me; and the sea says, It is not in
me." "God understands the way thereof, and he knows the place thereof."
"Unto man he said, Behold the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to
depart from evil is understanding."
There is in all men a natural desire after happiness. All are anxiously in
quest of it. The inquiry is, "Who will show us any good?"
Man, having lost his way through the fall, is now stumbling upon the dark
mountains of vanity, in search of that treasure, which he never can find in
earthly things. He needs to be happy. To obtain this blessing, he is willing
to forego many present enjoyments.
Some brave the billows of the ocean; others dare the cannon's mouth;
multitudes rise early, and late take rest, and eat the bread of carefulness,
in order to accumulate those golden stores, which they fondly hope will
purchase happiness. Riches perchance increase, but cares and vexatious
anxieties grow up together with them. Happiness, like a flying phantom,
still eludes their eager grasp, until, compelled at length to give up the
chase, they exclaim with Solomon, "All is vanity and vexation of spirit."
Here we may ask, why is man thus restless after an imaginary good? why does
every possession lose its value, and every enjoyment its zest, while that
certain something, still desired, yet unpossessed, fastens on the mind, and
renders all other earthly pleasures comparatively insipid?
Is it not that man was originally created for nobler ends, than those which
he is now pursuing? He resembles a noble temple in ruins. We see the
fragments of ancient grandeur; but they are so mutilated and destroyed, that
no feeling is excited but that of pain, while viewing the desolation.
The Gospel, like a guardian angel, points out to man the way to happiness.
Here he may know how to obtain felicity; and here, through grace, he may be
made wise unto salvation.
Is he anxious to be rich? The Gospel unfolds to his view the unsearchable
riches; while the Spirit is freely offered, to enable him, like the wise
merchantman in the parable, to sell all and buy this treasure.
Is he thirsting after glory? The Gospel reveals to him that honor which
comes from God only; and that glory which is prepared for the righteous in a
Is he desirous to obtain a name? The Gospel assures him that, if a believer,
his name is written in heaven; for the righteous shall be had in everlasting
Is he panting after pleasure? The Gospel tells him of joy unspeakable; of a
peace which passes understanding; of rivers of pleasure, which flow at God's
right hand for evermore.
Thus the Gospel of grace discovers to fallen man, not only the nature of
true happiness, but the way to obtain it. It shows him the source of all
misery—the fall of our first parents; and conducts him to the fountain of
all blessedness—God manifest in the flesh.
Through faith in this gracious deliverer, the soul is saved from the guilt
and power of sin. The world and all its vanities, like the retiring tide,
recede from the heart; while the joys of God's salvation flow in, and fill
the soul with substantial and satisfying delights. The sinner made thus wise
unto salvation by the eternal Spirit, finds the way of peace, and becomes at
length—what worldlings can never be—truly happy.
Oh blessed Jesus! you in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and
knowledge, make me wise unto salvation. Preserve me from being satisfied
with the false glare of human knowledge, which possesses only the name, but
nothing of the qualities of wisdom.
Come, Oh divine Redeemer, with all your full salvation, into my longing
heart. Without you, I cannot be happy; with you, I cannot be miserable. The
world may smile; but if you frown, I must be wretched. The world may frown;
but if you smile, I am blessed. Let me no longer seek my comforts from
creatures, however fair and excellent. "All my fresh springs are in you."
Oh, be my all in all, in adverse days and pleasant seasons. Oh! let your
grace be in me as a well of water, springing up into everlasting life. Then
I shall be holy and happy. All will be serene within, the sweet presage of
Touched by the power of love divine,
To you, my gracious Lord, I come;
Your Spirit speaks—I hear the call:
Dear Savior, make my heart your home.
Too long, alas! a wandering sheep,
Far from your blessed fold I strayed;
But now my hopes on you are fixed;
On you my grateful soul is staid.
You are my refuge and my rest,
Sweet peace in you I now may find;
The richest streams of heavenly grace,
To soothe and calm my troubled mind.
Oh! may I never from you roam;
Or feel a single wish to stray;
Since you have led my wandering feet
To Christ, the true, the living way.