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man to eat of the Fruit of the Tree, was SER M. its appearing defirable to make one wife. VI. What is here meant particularly by the Knowledge of Good and Evil, the Scripture does not directly explain to us. That it was not the Knowledge of any particular fort of Good and Evil, is evident; For fince the Understanding of our First Parents, as all their other Faculties were much more perfect before than after the Fall, it is evident they could not but have a perfect Knowledge of all natural Good and Evil, and a right Understanding concerning the Nature of all moral Good and Evil; excepting only the experimental Knowledge of both these forts of Evil, which it is impoffible to fuppofe could be a Temptation. It remains therefore that the Knowledge of Good and Evil, with which our First Parents were tempted, was not the Knowledge of any particular things, but fome particular kind or manner of knowing them: Poffibly a Defire of foreknowing things to come; or fome other fuch fort of Knowledge, as in the present state and circumstances of their Nature they were not capable of attaining. 3dly and laftly,
ER M. lastly, A Defire of Knowledge not regulated and limited by the Rules before fet down, is very apt to put men upon unlawful practices, to attain what they fo defire. For that which is not to be attained but by finful and unwarrantable practices, the Defire of it cannot but be also finful. What remains therefore, is by way of inference to apply what hath been faid; and, by giving forne particular inftances, to reduce to practice what has been difcourfed in general, concerning our Defire of Knowledge and the Limitations of it.
AND I, From what has been said, it follows, that the vain Defire of knowing beforehand things to come, is fuch a Defire of the Knowledge of fecret things, as is not permitted us by the prefent circumstances and condition of our Nature, or by the Word of God. It is the peculiar Attribute of God, and not communicable to any finite Being, to foreknow all things that ball be, before they come to pass; and therefore the Prophet, when he would expofe the Vanity of worshiping Idols or falfe Gods, chal
lenges them to foretel future Events; Let S ER M• them bring forth their strong reafons, and fhew us what shall happen; show the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that ye are Gods: If. xli. 22 and 23. Yet because the Power of Beings fuperiour to us, is great and unknown; vain and fuperftitious men have therefore in All Ages been too apt to be feduced with Imaginations of the poffibility of fuch Discoveries. In the times of Heathen Darkness and Ignorance, the Devil by giving fometimes doubtful and ambiguous Answers, which to be fure fhould be interpreted to the trueft fenfe, which way foever the Event might happen to determine it; and fometimes by giving fuch dark and obfcure Oracles, as, though no man could make any sense of them, yet they infenfibly filled mens minds with an awful refpect and veneration for the Author of them; by thefe means, I fay, the Devil enflaved the Gentile World, and kept them in a conftant course of Idolatry. Or, if most of these things were, as is probable enough, only the Frauds of wicked and profane men, to impofe upon the
SERM. Ignorant; yet ftill the Event was much VI. the fame, in abufing their Credulity and
unjustifiable Defire of Knowledge, to confirm them in their Idolatrous Practices. The Jews, who by the Knowledge of the true God and the Difcovery of his Will made to them in the Law, were in a great measure freed from the bondage of such Superftitions; yet whenever they fell away from God, and began to neglect his Worship and diftruft his Providence, one inftance of their Difobedience presently was, having recourse to unlawful ways of Inquiry after Knowledge. Thus when the Lord would not answer Saul becaufe of his Difobedience, immediately he betakes himself to a Method, which Mofes tells the Ifraelites was one of thofe Abominations, because of which the Lord thy God doth drive the Nations out from before thee; For thefe Nations, which thou shalt poffefs, hearkened unto Obfervers of times, and unto Diviners, Deut. xviii. 10. And among Chriftians it is obfervable, that those always who have leaft Knowledge of God, and leaft Truft in his Providence, and leaft Understanding in the true System and
Powers of Nature, have the greatest Con- SER M. fidence in groundless Pretences and un- VI. warrantable Methods of purfuing Knowledge. It matters not, that the Pretences to fupernatural ways of knowing things, are commonly mere Cheat and Fraud; it is a degree of this Sin, if Encouragement be given to fuch falfe Pretences. And to pretend to know things by the Stars, which introduces Fatality and deftroys Religion; is not much different from pretending to know them by Arts that have worfe Names.
2dly, FROM what hath been said it follows, that a Defire of prying into the hidden and unrevealed Decrees, Counfels, and Purposes of God, and defiring to impose upon Others our Opinions concerning them; is alfo fuch a Defire of the knowledge of fecret things, as is not permitted us by the Law of our Nature, or by the Word of God. The measure of our Knowledge of divine things, is That revelation which God has been pleased to make to us in his holy Scripture; This, we can never ftudy with too much care and exactnefs; But whatever pretends to