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2. The knowledge of Jesus Christ is a fundamental knowledge ; and foundations are most useful, though least seen.
It is fundamental to all graces; they all begin in knowledge. "The new man is renewed in knowledge.” Col. 3:10. As the old, so the new creation begins in light; the opening of the eyes is the first work of the Spirit: and as the beginnings of grace, so all its growth depends upon this increasing knowledge; " But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour.” 2 Pet. 3:18. See how these two, grace and knowledge, keep equal pace in the soul of a christian ; in what degree the one increases, the other increases also.
It is fundamental to all duties. The duties, as well as the graces of all christians, are all founded in the knowledge of Christ. Must a christian believe? that he can never do without the knowledge of Christ : faith is so much dependent on his knowledge, that it is denominated by it, "By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many,” Isa. 53:11; and hence, John, 6:40, seeing and believing are made the same thing. Would a man ex. ercise hope in God? that he can never do without the knowledge of Christ, for he is the author of that hope, 1 Pet. 1:3; he is also its object, Heb. 6: 19, its groundwork and support. Col. 1:27. And as you cannot be. lieve or hope, so neither can you pray acceptably without a competent degree of this knowledge. The very heathen could say, Men must not speak of God without light.” The true way of conversing with, and enjoying God in prayer, is by acting faith on him through a Mediator. Oh, then, 'how indispensable is the knowledge of Christ to all who address themselves to God in any duty!
It is fundamental to all comforts : all the comforts of believers are streams from this fountain. Jesus Christ is the very object of a believer's joy;" We rejoice in
Christ Jesus." Phil. 3:3. Take away the knowledge of Christ, and christians would be the most sad and melancholy beings in the world : again, let Christ but manifest himself, and dart the beams of his light into their souls, it will make them kiss the stake, sing in the flames, and shout in the pangs of death, as men that divide the spoil.
This knowledge is fundamental to the eternal happi. ness of souls: as we can perform no duty, enjoy no comfort, so neither can we be saved without it, " This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” John, 17: 3. And if it be life eternal to know Christ, then it is eternal damnation to be ignorant of Christ: as Christ is the door that.opens heaven, so knowledge is the key that opens Christ. The excellent gifts and renowned parts of the moral heathen, though they purchased to them great esteem and honor among men, yet left them in a state of perdition, because of this great defect, that they were ignorant of Christ. 1 Cor. 1:21.
3. The knowledge of Christ is profound and large: all other sciences are but shadows; this is a boundless, bottomless ocean; no creature hath a line long enough to fathom the depth of it; there is height, length, depth, and breadth ascribed to it, Eph. 3 : 18; yea, it passeth knowledge. There is a manifold wisdom of God in Christ. Eph. 3:10. It is indeed simple, pure, and unmixed with any thing but itself, yet it is manifold in degrees, kinds, and administrations. Though something of Christ be unfolded in one age, and something in another, yet eternity itself cannot fully unfold him. I see something, said Luther, which blessed Augustine saw not; and those that come after me, will see that which I see not. It is in the studying of Christ, as in the planting of a new-discovered country; at first men sit down by the sea-side, upon the skirts and borders
of the land, and there they dwell; but by degrees they search further and further into the heart of the country. Ah, the best of us are yet but upon the borders of this vast continent!
4. The study of Jesus Christ is the most noble subject that ever a soul spent itself upon. The angels study this doctrine, and stoop down to look into this deep abyss. What are the truths discovered in Christ, but the
very secrets that from eternity lay hid in the bosom of God? Eph. 3:8, 9. God's heart is opened to men in Christ, John, 1:18; this makes the Gospel such a glorious dispensation, because Christ is so gloriously revealed therein, 2 Cor. 3:9; and the studying of Christ in the Gospel, stamps such a heavenly glory upon the contemplating soul. Verse 18.
5. It is the most sweet and comfortable knowledge. To be studying Jesus Christ, what is it but to be digging among all the veins and springs of comfort ? and the deeper you dig, the more do these springs flow upon you. How are hearts enraptured with the discoveries of Christ in the Gospel! what ecstasies, meltings, transports, do gracious souls meet there!
II. Let us compare this knowledge with all other knowledge.
1. All other knowledge is natural, but this wholly supernatural, "No man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.” Matt. 11:27. The wisest heathen could never make a discovery of Christ by their deepest searches into nature; the most eagle-eyed philosophers were but children in knowledge, compared with the most illiterate christians.
2. Other knowledge is unattainable by many. All the helps and means in the world would never enable some christians to attain the learned arts and languages; men of the brightest parts are most excellent in these;
but here is the mystery and excellency of the knowledge of Christ, that men of most blunt, dull, and con. temptible parts attain, through the teaching of the Spirit, to this knowledge, in which the more acute and ingenious are utterly blind : "I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.” Matt. 11:25. "Ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise." 1 Cor. 1:26, 27.
3. Other knowledge, though you should attain the highest degree of it, would never bring you to heaven, the principal thing, namely Christ, being wanting. Other knowledge is also defective, in the purity of its nature: the learned heathens grew vain in their imaginations, Rom. 1:21; and in its efficacy and influence on the heart and life: they held the truth in unrighteousness: their lusts were stronger than their light, Rom. 1: 18. But this knowledge has most powerful influences, changing souls into its own image, 2 Cor. 3 : 18, and so proves a saving knowledge unto men. 1 Tim. 2:4.
INFERENCE 1. The sufficiency of the doctrine of Christ, to make men wise unto salvation. Paul desired to know nothing else ; and, indeed, nothing else is of absolute necessity to be known. A little of this knowledge, if saving and effectual upon thy heart, will do the soul more service than all the vain speculation and profound parts in which others so much glory. Poor christian, be not dejected, because thou seest thyself outstript and excelled by so many in other parts of knowledge; if thou know Jesus Christ, thou knowest enough to comfort and save thy soul. Many learned philosophers are now in hell, and many illiterate christians in heaven.
2. If there be such excellency in the knowledge of Christ, let it humble all, both saints and sinners, that we have no more of this clear and effectual knowledge in us, notwithstanding the excellent advantages we have had for it. Sinners, concerning you I may sigh, and say with the apostle, "Some have not the knowledge of Christ; I speak this to your shame.” 1 Cor. 15 : 34. This, oh! this is the condemnation. And even for you that are enlightened in this knowledge, how little do you know of Jesus Christ, in comparison of what you might have known of him! What a shame is it, that you should need to be taught the very first truths, 'when for the time you might have been teachers of others!” Heb. 5 : 12–14. "That your ministers cannot speak unto you as spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.” 1 Cor. 3:1, 2. Oh, how much time is spent in other studies, in frivolous reading, vain discourse, worldly employments! how little in the search and study of Jesus Christ !
3. How sad is their condition that have a knowledge of Christ, and yet as to themselves it had been better they had never had it! Many there be that content themselves with a merely speculative, ineffectual, knowledge of him: of such the apostle says, "It had been better for them not to have known.” 2 Pet. 2:21. It serves only to aggravate their sin and misery; for though it be not enough to save them, yet it puts some weak restraints upon sin, which their impetuous lusts breaking down, they are thereby exposed to a greater damnation.
4. This may inform us by what rule to judge both ministers and doctrine. Certainly that is the highest commendation of a minister, to be " an able minister of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit.” 2 Cor. 3:6. He is the best preacher, that can in the most lively and powerful manner display Jesus Christ