If St. John's rule be good, that no man truly knows Christ but he that keepeth his commandments, it is much to be suspected that many of us which pretend to light, have a thick and gloomy darkness within overspreading our souls. There be now many large volumes and discourses written concerning Christ, thousands of controversies discussed, infinite problems determined concerning his divinity, humanity, union of both together; and what not? So that our bookish Christians, that have all their religion in writings and papers, think they are now completely furnished with all kind of knowledge concerning Christ; and when they see all their leaves lying about them, they think they have a goodly stock of knowledge and truth, and cannot possibly miss of the way to Heaven; as if religion were nothing but a little book-craft, a mere paper-skill. But if St. John's rule here be good, we must not judge of our knowing of Christ by our skill in books and papers, but by our keeping of it his commandments. And that I fear will discover many of us (notwithstanding all this light which we boast of round about us) to have nothing but Egyptian darkness within upon our hearts. The vulgar sort think that they know Christ enough, out of their creeds and catechisms and confessions of faith: and if they have but acquainted themselves with these, and like parrots conned the words of them, they doubt not but that they are sufficiently instructed in all the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven. Many of the more learned, if they can but wrangle and dispute about Christ, imagine themselves to be grown great proficients in the school of Christ. The greatest part of the world, whether learned or unlearned, think that there is no need of purging and purifying of their hearts, for the right knowledge of Christ and his Gospel.
Master of Clare Hall, Cambridge, 1647
For him, who, seeking faith by virtue, strives
To yield entire submission to the law of conscience.
More Articles by This Author James Allen
James Allen was a little-known philosophical writer and poet. He is best recognized for his book, As a Man Thinketh. Allen wrote about complex subjects such as faith, destiny, love, patience, and religion but had the unique ability of explaining these subjects clearly and in a way that is easy to understand. He often wrote about cause and effect, sowing and reaping, as well as overcoming sadness, sorrow, and grief. For more information on the life of James Allen, click here.