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itself, a useful spring of knowledge, but it may become unlawful, when we desire to know what cannot be known, or what is not necessary for us to know. How improper it is, we may easily learn from our Lord's conduct towards such as were curious. Thus, when he was asked, "Are there few that be saved?" instead of gratifying them he says, "Strive to enter in at the strait gate."* When Pilate, probably from the same motive, asked "What is truth?" he gave him no answer. When Peter said, "Lord, and what shall this man do?" he said, "What is that to thee? Follow thou me." Be cautious, therefore, of indulging a vain curiosity, and that as to a variety of subjects. God himself is great and unsearchable distract not yourself as to the essence of his nature; for touching the Almighty, we cannot find him out. He is the high and lofty One, that inhabiteth eternity, and no man hath seen him at any time, nor can see him and live. His providences are mysterious: be not curious to know, till he himself shall make it clear. Do not attempt to be beforehand with him. It is like going from the sun to increase your light. Wait his time. What thou knowest not now, thou shalt know hereafter. Be not over curious and anxious to know all his word at once, and especially those prophecies which time alone can explain. This is a great fault with some. They are so eager to know what is meant by the obscurer parts of scripture, that they never
*Luke xiii. 23, 24.
† John xviii. 38.
John xxi. 21, 22.
put in practice the plainer precepts of it."* Beware too of a vain curiosity in reading other books. Do not affect superior knowledge; nor be desirous of entering into every curious question that fancy may propose. Avoid also curiosity concerning the affairs of others. The apostle says, "Study to be quiet, and do your own business." We ought certainly to help others as much as we can: relationship, circumstances, our own interest, duty, all require this. But to invade another man's office, to pry into his affairs, to pass our opinion without being called upon, to attempt to influence, controul, or teach them, to talk continually about them, is highly reprehensible; and we may say to such, as one in ancient time said, Why, (said he, to one who, seeing him carry a covered basket, and asked him what was in it) why dost thou seek to know, when thou seest it is covered, that thou mayest not know?" Watch, then, against this spirit, and remember the command of the Saviour, "Follow me.” Draw off your attention from the creature to imbibe his Spirit; attend to his doctrine, imitate his conduct. How much more edifying and satisfactory is this, than to be losing so much time in looking at the affairs of others! Indeed, he who gives himself up to this inquisitive, curious disposition, will find much to do. He will always be abroad surveying others; never at home looking at himself. What this man has, how another man lives, which way this person will take, what mode ano
ther adopts, and a thousand such questions, will so occupy and fill the mind, as to leave no room for things of greater importance. Alas! what pride, envy, forwardness, jealousy, are at the bottom of all this; and how often does it end in misrepresentation, discord, and trouble! Have we not all enough to do at home? And have we not a thousand questions to ask ourselves rather than others? What! are our concerns so little, as to need no attention? the affairs of our immortal souls so trifling, as to demand no enquiry? Can we throw away time by wholesale in busying ourselves about others, and reserve none for our own interests? Let us be ashamed of such conduct. Let us be severe upon ourselves; mind our own work, and leave our neighbours to mind theirs.
Again, beware of a captious, irritable, disputatious spirit. It is for you rather to learn than to dispute. Controversy may sometimes be useful; but then it is for the strong, and not for the weak. To engage too early in disputations will take off your mind from the pursuit of more important things, and spoil, perhaps, the sweetness of that fellowship which you should keep up with the saints. I do not mean that you should not examine truth for yourself; that you should believe whatever is imposed upon you; that you should never exercise your own powers:* no; on the contrary, it is your duty to search accurately, to avail yourself of every argument, to gain clear perceptions, and furnish yourself with every possible mean of understanding and defending the
*See chap. i. p. 5.
truth. But this cannot be done in a day: it is a work of time, and requires much application and thought. Many young professors, who, feeling the influence of divine things upon their own hearts, and from warm impressions, have imagined they could easily enter into the lists with their antagonists. They have therefore ventured boldly to attack them, but have soon found such subtilties, objections, and apparent strength of argument, as have proved too much for them; and they have been glad to make a retreat, leaving the enemy to glory, and afforded him fresh occasions to strengthen himself in his ignorance, infidelity, or disobedience. All this has been disgraceful, arising from the imprudence of this young soldier, who, had he waited a little longer to have gained strength, to have learnt his exercise, to have increased his knowledge, would have been more able to defend the truth and gain the conquest.
Some are naturally of a reasoning, argumentative turn. If this should be your peculiarity, see to it, that you do not pride yourself in it. Let not the love of triumph, but of truth, be the main object. Remember, that a disputatious person is generally a disagreeable one. A love of contradiction, a cavil for a word, a violent contest for a quibble, an assumption of a dictatorial spirit, a contentious wrangling for non-essentials, render some so much the objects of aversion, that if it be known that such are to make part of the company, others will gladly stay away rather than be tormented for an hour by such unhappy beings. Whenever, therefore, you hold a controversy, watch against such a spirit as this: and if you must argue, let it be with modesty, good-nature,
softness of voice; and in the midst of all, remember, how little you yet know; that it becomes you to be docile, and never to be offended with faith. ful reproof. You will have every day reason to lament over ignorance; and the higher you advance on the mount of knowledge, the wider the prospects, the more vast the objects will appear to your view.
Endeavour, under the divine blessing, to maintain a meek and patient spirit. This is of great price in the sight of God. Anger is troublesome, discordant, dishonourable, cruel, dangerous, and renders us more like furies than rational beings. But for a christian to indulge in anger, is to contradict his principles and profession, and to violate those sacred injunctions which he takes for the rules of his spirit and conduct.* It is in vain for any to say, It is constitutional, it cannot be helped, it is soon over, nothing evil is intended. "These," says an ingenious writer," are arguments for pardoning a bull or a mastiff, but shall never reconcile me to an intellectual savage. He is ready to do the very next moment something that he can never repair; and has nothing to plead in his own defence, but that he is apt to do mischief as fast as he can. "" Grace, indeed, does not eradicate our natural tempers; but it is saying little to its honour, if it does not curb them. A fiery, passionate, resentful, impatient, hectoring christian is a strange contradiction. It is said of the late Rev. Mr. Clark, of Chesham Bois, that when one observed to him that there was a good deal in a per
* See Rom. xii. 9 to 21. Eph. iv. 26, 31, 32.