JE: How to Acquire Christian Knowledge

1. Be assiduous in reading the Holy Scriptures. This is the fountain whence all knowledge in divinity must be derived. Therefore, let not this treasure lie by you neglected. Every person of common understanding who can read, may, if he or she pleases, become well acquainted with the Scriptures. And what an excellent attainment would this be!

2. Content not yourselves with only a cursory reading, without regarding the sense. When you read, observe what you read. Observe how things come in. Take notice of the drift of the discourse, and compare one scripture with another. For the Scripture, by the harmony of its different parts, casts great light upon itself.–We are expressly directed by Christ, to search the Scriptures, which evidently intends something more than a mere cursory reading. And, use means to find out the meaning of the Scripture. When you have it explained in the preaching of the word, take notice of it; and if at any time a scripture that you did not understand be cleared up to your satisfaction, mark it, lay it up, and if possible remember it.

3. Obtain, and diligently use, other books which may help you grow in this knowledge. There are many excellent books available, which might greatly forward you in this knowledge, and afford you a very profitable and pleasant entertainment in your leisure hours.

4. Improve conversation with others to this end. How much might persons promote each other’s knowledge in divine things, if they would improve conversation as they might; if men that are ignorant were not ashamed to show their ignorance, and were willing to learn from others; if those that have knowledge would communicate it, without pride and ostentation; and if all were more disposed to enter on such conversation as would be for their mutual edification and instruction.

5. Seek not to grow in knowledge chiefly for the sake of applause, and to enable you to dispute with others; but seek it for the benefit of your souls, and for the purpose of practice.–If applause be your end, you will not be so likely to be led to the knowledge of the truth, but may justly, as often is the case of those who are proud of their knowledge, be led into error to your own destruction. This being your end, if you should obtain much rational knowledge, it would not be likely to be of any benefit to you, but would puff you up with pride: “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” (1Cor 8.1).

6. Seek God, that he would direct you, and bless you, in this pursuit after knowledge. This is the apostle’s direction, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1.5). God is the fountain of all divine knowledge: “For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Prov 2.6). Labor to be sensible of your own blindness and ignorance, and your need of God’s help, lest you be led into error, instead of true knowledge: “If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise” (1Cor 3.18).

7. Put into practice the knowledge you have acquired. This will be the way to know more. The psalmist warmly recommends this way of seeking knowledge in divine truth, from his own experience: “I understand more than the aged, because I keep your precepts” (Ps 119.100). Christ himself also recommends the same: “If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority” (Jn 7.17).

From Jonathan Edwards’ discourse, entitled

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