A man may be theologically knowing and spiritually ignorant.
It can never of itself help us to the knowledge of divine things. A man with treasures of other knowledge in his head may have, and often have, hearts insensible of the beauty of God and excellency of Christ. It may make a man higher, by head and shoulders, than other men, but never make him like to God. The highest intellectuals, without those saving apprehensions, are but peacocks’ feathers with black feet; they can no more purify the soul than the blood of bulls and goats could atone our sins. The understanding the intricacies of nature, and the most ingenious mysteries in the world, and a connection of all the most useful worldly sciences, cannot advantage our spiritual and eternal happiness, because the things themselves which are the objects of that knowledge cannot do it. The knowledge of a thing cannot do more than the thing known can do. If the bowels of nature and moral truth were as open to any of us as they are to the highest angel, nay, had we an understanding of all divine as well as human mysteries, without this affectionate knowledge it would render us just nothing: 1 Cor. 13:2, ‘Though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have no charity, I am nothing.’ Of no account before God. A man may be theologically knowing and spiritually ignorant. Nicodemus was none of the lowest sect, a pharisee, nor of the lowest form among them, a ruler among them, had the knowledge of the law above the vulgar, yet was ignorant of the design of the Messiah, and the mystery of the new birth. A man may be excellent in the grammar of the Scripture, yet not understand the spiritual sense of it. As a man may have so much Latin as to construe a physician’s bill, and tell the names of the plants mentioned in it, yet understand nothing of the particular virtues of those plants, or have any pleasure in the contemplation of them, so we may discourse of God, and the perfections of God, and the intendments of the great things of Christ, without a sense of them. Though this be a good preparatory to a spiritual knowledge, yet it is insufficient of itself without some further addition. It doth not heal the soul’s eye, nor chase away the spiritual darkness. ‘In much wisdom is much grief,’ Eccles. 1:18. In this wisdom only there is the choicest pleasure.
Charnock, S. (1864–1866). The Complete Works of Stephen Charnock (Vol. 4, p. 69). Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; W. Robertson; G. Herbert.
- Let us delight in the knowledge of Christ crucified, and be often in the thoughts and study of him. Study Christ, not only as living, but dying; not as breathing in our air, but suffering in our stead; know him as a victim, which is the way to know him as a conqueror. Christ as crucified is the great object of faith.
- Theology has two parts: the first, of God; the second, of His works.
- Faith is the master-wheel, it sets all the other graces a-running.
- If God be an incomparable God, then incomparable service and worship is due to him.
- There is no death of sin without the death of Christ.