Even zeal is no good without knowledge, and he who hurries his footsteps misses the mark.
I. THAT IGNORANCE OF GOD IS FATAL. "This is life eternal, to know God;" and if the knowledge of God is life, what must the ignorance of him be? History and observation only too fully assure us what it is: it is spiritual and moral death; the departure of the soul from all that enlightens and elevates, and its sinking down into grovelling and debasing superstitions. To be without the knowledge of God is simply fatal to the soul of man.
II. THAT IGNORANCE OF OUR HUMAN NATURE IS PERILOUS.
1. Not to know its nobler possibilities is to be without the needful incentive to lofty aspiration and strenuous endeavour.
2. Not to know its weaknesses and its possibilities of evil is to go forward into the midst of bristling dangers, unarmed and undefended.
III. THAT IGNORANCE OF THE WORLD (OF MEN AND THINGS) IS HIGHLY UNDESIRABLE.
1. To study, and thus to be acquainted with nature as God has fashioned it, to be familiar with the ways and with the arts and sciences of man, - is to be braced and strengthened in mind, is to be far better able to understand and to apply the truth of God as revealed in his Word.
2. To be ignorant of all this is to be correspondingly weak and incapable. Knowledge is power, and ignorance is weakness, in every direction. To go on our way through the world, failing to acquire the grasp of fact and truth which intelligent observation and patient study would secure, - this is to leave untouched one large part of the heritage which our heavenly Father is offering to us. There is one particular consequence of ignorance which the wise man specifies; for he reminds us -
IV. THAT PRECIPITANCY IN WORD AND DEED IS POSITIVELY GUILTY. "He that hasteth with his feet sinneth." An unwise and hurtful precipitancy is the natural accompaniment of ignorance. The man who knows only a very little, does not know when he has heard only one-half of all that can be learnt; hence he decides and speaks and acts off hand, without waiting for additional, complementary, or qualifying particulars. And hence he judges falsely and unjustly; hence he act,'s unrighteously and foolishly, and often cruelly; he takes steps which he has laboriously and ignominiously to retrace; he does harm to the very cause which he is most anxious to help. It is the man of wide knowledge and expanded view, it is the large-minded and well informed soul, that bears the best testimony, that does the worthiest and most enduring work, that lives the largest and most enviable life. - C.
I. THE EVILS OF IGNORANCE. The faculties of reason, and judgment, and moral determination, must ever distinguish man from "the beast that perisheth," must for ever constitute the true dignity of human nature; but then faculties and powers are of little value in themselves, and if they be not cultivated and developed, and directed to some specific end. Instruction is to man what culture is to plants. When he is deprived of its aid, his powers will either lie wholly dormant, or that which they bring forth, like the productions of the uncultivated plant, will be wild and worthless. Ignorance "is not good" for man, in regard of his social advancement. To the improvement of the mind all nations owe whatever of social blessing they enjoy. The comforts and conveniences of life, the useful and productive arts, the blessings of law and order and good government, are all derived to us from an elevated condition of the national intelligence. Ignorance may be considered as negative of everything that is good and useful: it is the night of a nation's life, during which it can neither work for itself nor for others. Of all despotisms, the despotism of ignorance is the most tyrannical; its will is the only law it recognises, and it hates the light of reason as the night-bird dreads the sun. Ignorance "is not good" for the cause of national morality and virtue. Virtue can no more exist without a certain amount of knowledge than an animal can exist without life. In proportion as ignorance prevails morality will be destroyed. Ignorance "is not good" for a man's individual happiness. Ignorance is a state in which all the finer feelings of the human soul are locked up, and the subject of it is deprived of some of the purest forms of moral happiness and enjoyment. Right knowledge tends to promote a man's happiness, even with regard to the present state. Such knowledge will be found to have an ulterior effect upon a man's character; it will awaken within him many pure and elevating emotions.
Also that the soul be without knowledge, it is not good.I. THE UTILITY OF KNOWLEDGE IN GENERAL. The extent to which we have the faculty of acquiring knowledge forms the most obvious distinction of our species. As the power of acquiring knowledge is to be ascribed to reason, so the attainment of it mightily strengthens and improves it, and thereby enables it to enrich itself with further acquisitions. Knowledge, in general, expands the mind, exalts the faculties, refines the taste of pleasure, and opens numerous sources of intellectual enjoyment. The moral good of the acquisition of knowledge is chiefly this, that by multiplying the mental resources it has a tendency to exalt the character, and, in some measure, to correct and subdue the taste for gross sensuality. Some think that the instruction of the lower classes will make them dissatisfied with their station in life; and by impairing the habits of subordination, endanger the tranquillity of the state. But, in truth, nothing renders legitimate governments so insecure as extreme ignorance in the people. The true prop of good government is the opinion, the perception, on the part of the subject, of benefits resulting from it. Nothing can produce or maintain that opinion but knowledge. Of tyrannical and unlawful governments, indeed, the support is fear, to which ignorance is as congenial as it is abhorrent from the genius of a free people. Ignorance gives a sort of eternity to prejudice, and perpetuity to error.
II. THE UTILITY OF RELIGIOUS KNOWLEDGE IN PARTICULAR. Religion, on account of its intimate relation to a future state, is every man's proper business, and should be his chief care. The primary truths of religion are of such daily use and necessity, that they form, not the materials of mental luxury, so properly as the food of the mind. Two considerations may suffice to evince the indispensable necessity of Scriptural knowledge.
1. The Scriptures contain an authentic discovery of the way of salvation.
2. Scriptural knowledge is of inestimable value on account of its supplying an infallible rule of life. Of an accountable creature, duty is the concern of every moment, since he is every moment pleasing or displeasing God. Hence the indispensable necessity, to every description of persons, of sound religious instruction, and of an intimate acquaintance with the Scriptures as its genuine source.
(R. Hall, M. A.)
II. THE NATURE AND OBJECTS OF TRUE KNOWLEDGE. It may be questioned whether the term education is understood in the plain, broad, comprehensive sense in which Hooker defined it, by whom it was made to comprehend the cultivation of all the moral, spiritual, immortal powers of man. The knowledge that "it is not good" for the soul to be without, includes a knowledge of Holy Scripture. Through this knowledge we get knowledge of other things — ourselves, redemption, sanctification. Without this knowledge a man cannot be moral, cannot be happy, cannot have peace in this life, cannot have hope for the life to come. "It is not good" that a man should be without knowing what are those remedial agencies which have been provided of God for lifting up his soul from its condition of degradation, and preparing it for endless happiness in the presence of his God.
(Daniel Moore, M. A.)
I. WITH REGARD TO THE INDIVIDUAL HIMSELF.
1. It is not good, because such a state is unhappy and unprofitable. "He that is wise may be profitable unto himself." But how unprofitable is the state of a child growing up without the knowledge of what is necessary to his welfare both in time and through eternity!
2. Such a state is not good, because it is not a safe one. In what an awfully insecure state is the soul that is without the knowledge of God! Any moment the thread of life may be cut asunder, and then shall his desire and expectation perish!
II. IN REGARD TO OTHERS.
1. In regard to God and His work. It is true that "our goodness extendeth not to Him." Our knowledge cannot augment His infinite stores of knowledge. Neither does He need our services. They cannot profit Him, nor add to His perfection and blessedness. But still, in a lower sense, God may be said to need the instruments or agents which He is pleased to make use of in accomplishing His designs. It is manifest that without the knowledge of which I am speaking we cannot be fit instruments in the hands of God for performing His work, for establishing and extending His kingdom through the world.
2. It is not good in regard to our fellow-men. How should he who is without knowledge fulfil the relative and social duties of life, giving to each his due, and benefiting all within his sphere of action?
(T. H. Terry, B. A.)
II. PROVE IN WHAT RESPECT IT IS NOT GOOD THAT THE SOUL BE WITHOUT KNOWLEDGE. The knowledge meant is —
1. The knowledge of God as revealed in His Word.
2. A knowledge of Christ crucified.
3. The knowledge of ourselves as fallen moral beings.
4. The knowledge of our threefold duty to God, to our neighbour, and to ourselves.(1) It is not good for a man's self, whether we consider him as a solitary or a social being.(2) It is not good for others. Man, as even heathen moralists maintain, was made for his fellow-creatures as well as for himself. As causes produce effects, so ignorance produces rudeness, incivility, insubordination, and, too frequently, cunning, dishonesty, cruelty, sensuality, and every evil work. It cannot be good for others that they should be left without knowledge.
(J. W. Niblock, D. D.)
1. If the soul be left without knowledge, it will be unable to detect the false maxims of the world, and of course to avoid the consequences to which they lead.
2. It is not good that the soul be without knowledge, lest we should be contaminated with the noxious errors on religious subjects which prevail so extensively amongst us in the present day.
3. Let the Christian remember that he must not be content with his present attainments.
(Albert Bibby, M. A.)
I. THAT IGNORANCE IS NOT GOOD FOR THE SOUL. "The soul without knowledge is not good." This will appear if we consider three things.
1. That an ignorant soul is exceedingly confined. The mind cannot range beyond what it knows. The more limited its information, the narrower is the scene of its activities. The man of enlarged scientific information has a range over vast continents, whereas the ignorant man is confined within the cell of his senses. Our souls get scope by exploring the unknown. "Knowledge," says Shakespeare, "is the wing on which we fly to heaven."
2. That an ignorant soul is exceedingly benighted. The contracted sphere in which it lives is only lighted with the rushlight of a few crude thoughts. Knowledge is light. The accession of every true idea is a planting of a new star in the mental heavens. The more knowledge, the brighter will sparkle the sky of your being.
3. That an ignorant soul is exceedingly feeble. Exercise and food are as essential to the power of the mind as they are to the power of the body. Knowledge is at once the incentive to exercise it and the aliment to strengthen. "Ignorance," says Johnson, "is mere privation by which nothing can be produced; it is a vacuity in which the soul sits motionless and torpid for want of attraction. And, without knowing why, we always rejoice when we learn, and grieve when we forget." Truly the soul without knowledge is not good. Of what good are limbs without the power of exercise; what good are eyes without light?
II. IGNORANCE IS PERILOUS TO THE SOUL. Ignorance is more than a negative evil, it is a positive curse. The text teaches that ignorance —
1. Exposes to sinful haste. "He that hasteth with his feet sinneth." Men without knowledge are ever in danger of acting incautiously, acting with a reckless haste. As a rule the more ignorant a man is the more hasty he is in his conclusions and steps of conduct. The less informed the mind is the more rapid and reckless in its generalisation. Impulse, not intelligence, is the helmsman of the ignorant soul.
2. It exposes to a perversity of conduct. The foolishness of man perverteth his way. What is foolishness but ignorance? Ignorant men are terribly liable to perversity of conduct in every relation of life, and especially in relation to the great God. The murderers of Christ were ignorant. Paul says, had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
3. It exposes to impiety of feeling. Ignorant men are ever disposed to find fault with God. Ignorance is peevish. It is always fretting. Learn that a nation of ignorant souls is not only a nation of worthless men, but a nation liable to the commission of terrible mistakes and crimes. Men should get knowledge for the sake of becoming useful.
(D. Thomas, D. D.)
Sketches of Four Hundred Sermons.I. A CASE SUPPOSED. "A soul without knowledge." This is not to be understood absolutely. All knowledge is not blessing, nor all ignorance misfortune. The knowledge specified in the text may imply —
1. A knowledge of the works of God in creation. God is known by His works. Their vast magnitude serves to display His power. Their amazing extent shadows forth His immensity. The admirable harmony that prevails among them evidences His wisdom. And the ample provision made for all creatures exhibits His goodness.
2. A knowledge of our particular calling, trade, or profession. No man is obliged to know everything, but every man ought to know what he professes to know.
3. A knowledge of the will of God, as revealed in the Bible. This revelation is so plain that he may run that readeth it; so ample as to embrace the whole of our duty; so repeated that we have precept upon precept; so circumstantial as to mark every description of character, and identify every variety of situation; so impartial as to know no distinction between the monarch and the beggar; and so full and perfect that nothing can be added to it. Our knowledge of the will of God should be Scriptural, spiritual, experimental, and practical.
II. AN AFFIRMATION MADE CONCERNING IT. "It is not good."
1. It is not good, as it does not harmonise with the original purpose of God in the formation of man.
2. It is not good, as it is not commendable.
3. As it is not beneficial.
4. As it is not comfortable.
5. As it is not safe. From this subject let us learn(1) What gratitude is due to God, who hath afforded us such facilities for the acquisition of knowledge.(2) How diligently we should use the means with which God hath favoured us for augmenting our stock of knowledge.(3) Let us commiserate the circumstances of those who are destitute of the means of information.
(Sketches of Four Hundred Sermons.)
1. The human mind is evidently framed for the acquisition of knowledge.
2. A certain degree of knowledge is absolutely necessary to enable men duly to perform their parts in life.
3. Knowledge tends to increase the influence and usefulness of its possessor.
4. It tends to increase the pleasures of life, by opening new sources of innocent enjoyment. If we would give men an education suitable to their character and destinies, we must attend to the cultivation of the heart as well as that of the head. We must make religion a prominent feature in our systems of instruction. Without religion, worldly knowledge, by stimulating the pride and pravity of a corrupt heart, may do much injury. When the foundation of morality and religion is firmly laid, we may proceed with safety to erect the superstructure of human science and general knowledge. But while education may teach men their duty, it cannot enable them to perform it. Religion alone can do that. He who would establish a system of education without making religion the basis of it, is like a man who builds his house upon the sand. He will find the corruptions of human nature too strong for his intellectual barrier. There is no more effectual method of checking the progress of socialism and infidelity than a system of sound, solid, and religious education. Then educate the rising generation, but do so in a sound and Scriptural manner.
(E. B. Were, M. A.)
1. In the personal sense. To man as an individual. Knowledge gives him mental occupation.
2. In a domestic sense. The family circle, or household, is the first and simplest form of society. It is necessary to its well-being that a legitimate authority and a due subordination should exist in it. The duties of a parent cannot be performed without the advantages of knowledge.
3. In a social sense. In reference to the proper discharge of our duties towards friends and neighbours, superiors and inferiors.
4. In a political sense. If we desire to make a man a good member of the state, we must instruct him in the principles on which political society is formed, and by which alone can exist. We must teach him the grounds of moral obligation. And what are those grounds but the truths of religion?
(Geo. Gibbon, M. A.)
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