The Fountain of Life 
Sermon 1 Opens the Excellency of the Subject. 
1 COR. 2: 2. 
For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus 
Christ, and him crucified. 
The former verse contains an apology for the plain and familiar 
manner of the apostle's preaching, which was not (as he there tells 
them) with excellency of speech, or of wisdom; i. e. he studied not 
to gratify their curiosity with rhetorical strains, or philosophical 
niceties. In this he gives the reason, "for I determined not to know 
any thing among you, save Jesus Christ," &c. 
    "I determined not to know." The meaning is not, that he simply 
despised, or condemned all other studies and knowledge; but so far 
only as they stand in competition with, or opposition to the study 
and knowledge of Jesus Christ. And it is as if he should say, it is 
my stated, settled judgement; not a hasty, inconsiderate censure, 
but the product and issue of my most serious and exquisite 
enquiries. After I have well weighed the case, turned it round, 
viewed it exactly on every side, balanced all advantages and 
disadvantages, pondered all things, that are fit to come into 
consideration about it; this is the result and final determination, 
that all other knowledge, how profitable, how pleasant soever, is 
not worthy to be named in the same day with the knowledge of Jesus 
Christ. This, therefore, I resolve to make the scope and end of my 
ministry, and the end regulates the mean; such pedantic toys, and 
airy notions as injudicious ears affect, would rather obstruct than 
promote my grand design among you; therefore, wholly waving that 
way, I applied myself to a plain, popular, unaffected dialect, 
fitted rather to pierce the heart, and convince the conscience, than 
to tickle the fancy. This is the scope of the words, in which three 
things fall under consideration; 
    First, The subject matter of his doctrine, to wit, Jesus 
Christ. "I determined to know nothing," i. e. to study nothing 
myself, to teach nothing to you, but "Jesus Christ." Christ shall be 
the centre to which all the lines of my ministry shall be drawn. I 
have spoken and written of many other subjects in my sermons and 
epistles, but it is all reductively the preaching and discovery of 
Jesus Christ: of all the subjects in the world, this is the 
sweetest; if there be any thing on this side heaven, worthy our time 
and studies, this is it. Thus he magnifies his doctrine, from the 
excellency of its subject-matter, accounting all other doctrines but 
airy things, compared with this. 
    Secondly, We have here that special respect or consideration of 
Christ, which he singled out from all the rest of the excellent 
truths of Christ, to spend the main strength of his ministry upon; 
and that is, Christ as crucified: and the rather, because hereby he 
would obviate the vulgar prejudice raised against him upon the 
account of his cross; "For Christ crucified was to the Jews a 
stumbling block, and to the Greeks foolishness," chap. 1: 23. This 
also best suited his end, to draw them on to Christ; as Christ above 
all other subjects, so Christ crucified above all things in Christ. 
There is, therefore, a great emphasis in this word, "and him 
    Thirdly, The manner in which he discoursed this transcendent 
subject to them, is also remarkable; he not only preached Christ 
crucified, but he preached him assiduously and plainly. He preached 
Christ frequently; "and whenever he preached of Christ crucified, he 
preached him in a crucified stile." This is the sum of the words; to 
let them know that his spirit was intent upon this subject, as if he 
neither knew, nor cared to speak of any other. All his sermons were 
so full of Christ, that his hearers might have thought he was 
acquainted with no other doctrine. Hence observe, 
    Doct. That there is no doctrine more excellent in itself or 
more necessary to be preached and, studied, than the doctrine of 
Jesus Christ, and him crucified. 
    ALL other knowledge, how much soever it be magnified in the 
world, is, and ought to be esteemed but dross, in comparison of the 
excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ, Phil. 3: 8. "In him are 
hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge," Col. 2: 3. 
    Eudoxus was so affected with the glory of the sun, that he 
thought he was born only to behold it; much more should a Christian 
judge himself born only to behold and delight in the glory of the 
Lord Jesus. 
    The truth of this proposition will be made out by a double 
consideration of the doctrine of Christ. 
    First, Let it be considered absolutely, and then these lovely 
properties with which it is naturally clothed, will render it 
superior to all other sciences and studies. 
    1st, The knowledge of Jesus Christ is the very marrow and 
kernel of all the scriptures; the scope and centre of all divine 
revelations: both Testaments meet in Christ. The ceremonial law is 
full of Christ, and all the gospel is full of Christ: the blessed 
lines of both Testaments meet in him; and how they both harmonise, 
and sweetly concentre in Jesus Christ, is the chief scope of that 
excellent epistle to the Hebrews, to discover; for we may call that 
epistle the sweet harmony of both Testaments. This argues the 
unspeakable excellency of this doctrine, the knowledge whereof must 
needs therefore be a key to unlock the greatest part of the sacred 
scriptures. For it is in the understanding of scripture, much as it 
is in the knowledge men have in logic and philosophy: if a scholar 
once come to understand the bottom-principle, upon which, as upon 
its hinge, the controversy turns the true knowledge of that 
principle shall carry him through the whole controversy, and furnish 
him with a solution to every argument. Even so the right knowledge 
of Jesus Christ, like a clue, leads you through the whole labyrinth 
of the scriptures. 
    2dly, The knowledge of Jesus Christ is a fundamental knowledge; 
and foundations are most useful, though least seen. The knowledge of 
Christ is fundamental to all graces, duties, comforts, and 
    (1.) It is fundamental to all graces; they all begin in 
knowledge; Col. 3: 10. "The new man is renewed in knowledge." As the 
old, so the new creation begins in light; the opening of the eyes is 
the first work of the Spirit; and as the beginnings of grace, so all 
the after-improvements thereof depend upon this increasing 
knowledge, 2 Pet. 3: 18. "But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of 
our Lord and Saviour." See how these two, grace and knowledge, keep 
equal pace in the soul of a Christian in what degree the one 
increases, the other increases answerable. 
    (2.) The knowledge of Christ is fundamental to all duties; the 
duties, as well as the graces of all Christians, are all founded in 
the knowledge of Christ, Must a Christian believe? That he can never 
do without the knowledge of Christ: faith is so much dependent on 
his knowledge, that it is denominated by it, Isa. 53: 11. "By his 
knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many;" and hence, John 
6: 40, seeing and believing are made the same thing. Would a man 
exercise hope in God? that he can never do without the knowledge of 
Christ, for he is the author of that hope, 1 Pet. 1: 3, he is also 
its object, Heb. 6: 19. its ground-work and support, Col. 1: 27. And 
as you cannot believe or hope, so neither can you pray acceptably 
without a competent degree of this knowledge. The very Heathen could 
say, Non loquendum de Deo sine lumine, i. e. Men must not speak of 
God without light: the true way of conversing with, and enjoying God 
in prayer, is by acting faith on him through a Mediator: so much 
comfort and true excellency there is in it, and no more. O then, how 
indispensable is the knowledge of Christ, to all that do address 
themselves to God in any duty. 
    (3.) It is fundamental to all comforts: all the comforts of 
believers are streams from this fountain. Jesus Christ is the very 
object matter of a believer's joy, Phil. 3: 3. "Our rejoicing is in 
"Christ Jesus." Take away the knowledge of Christ, and a Christian 
is the most sad and melancholy creature in the world: again, let 
Christ but manifest himself, and dart the beams of his light into 
their souls, it will make them kiss the stakes, sing in flames, and 
shout in the pangs of death, as men that divide the spoil. 
    Lastly, This knowledge is fundamental to the eternal happiness 
of souls: as we can perform no duty, enjoy no comfort, so neither 
can we be saved without it, John 17: 3. "This is life eternal, to 
know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent." 
And, if it be life eternal to know Christ, then it is eternal 
damnation to be ignorant of Christ: as Christ is the door that opens 
heaven, so knowledge is the key that opens Christ. The excellent 
gifts, and renowned parts of the moral Heathens, though they 
purchased to them great esteem and honour among men, yet left them 
in a state of perdition, because of this great defect, they were 
ignorant of Christ, 1 Cor. 1: 21. Thus you see how fundamental the 
knowledge of Christ is, essentially necessary to all the graces, 
duties, comforts and happiness of souls. 
    3dly, The knowledge of Christ is profound and large; all other 
sciences are but shadows; this is a boundless, bottomless ocean; no 
creature has a line long enough to fathom the depth of it; there is 
height, length, depth and breadth ascribed to it, Eph. 3: 18, yea, 
it passeth knowledge. There is "a manifold wisdom of God in Christ," 
Eph. 3: 10. It is of many sorts and forms, of many folds and plates: 
it is indeed simple, pure and unmixed with any thing but itself, yet 
it is manifold in degrees, kinds and administrations; though 
something of Christ be unfolded in one age, and something in 
another, yet eternity itself cannot fully unfold him. I see 
something, said Luther, which blessed Austin saw not; and those that 
come after me, will see that which I see not. It is in the studying 
of Christ, as in the planting of a new discovered country; at first 
men sit down by the sea-side, upon the skirts and borders of the 
land; and there they dwell, but by degrees they search farther and 
farther into the heart of the country. Ah, the best of us are yet 
but upon the borders of this vast continent! 
    4thly, The study of Jesus Christ is the most noble subject that 
ever a soul spent itself upon; those that rack and torture their 
brains upon other studies, like children, weary themselves at a low 
game; the eagle plays at the sun itself. The angels study this 
doctrine, and stoop down to look into this deep abyss. What are the 
truths discovered in Christ, but the very secrets that from eternity 
lay hid in the bosom of God? Eph. 3: 8, 9. God's heart is opened to 
men in Christ, John 1: 18. This makes the gospel such a glorious 
dispensation, because Christ is so gloriously revealed therein, 2 
Cor. 3: 9. and the studying of Christ in the gospel, stamps such a 
heavenly glory upon the contemplating soul, ver. 18. 
    5thly, It is the most sweet and comfortable knowledge; to be 
studying Jesus Christ, what is it but to be digging among all the 
veins and springs of comfort? And the deeper you dig, the more do 
these springs flow upon you. How are hearts ravished with the 
discoveries of Christ in the gospel? what ecstasies, meltings, 
transports, do gracious souls meet there? Doubtless, Philip's 
ecstasy, John 1: 25. "eurekamen Iesoun", "We have found Jesus," was 
far beyond that of Archimedes. A believer could sit from morning to 
night, to hear discourses of Christ; "His mouth is most sweet", 
Cant. 5: 16. 
    Secondly, Let us compare this knowledge with all other 
knowledge, and thereby the excellency of it will farther appear. 
    1. All other knowledge is natural, but this wholly 
supernatural, Mat. 11: 27. "No man knoweth the Son, but the Father", 
neither knoweth any the Father, save the Son, and he to whom soever 
the Son will reveal him." The wisest Heathens could never make a 
discovery of Christ by their deepest searches into nature; the most 
eagle-eyed philosophers were but children in knowledge, compared 
with the most illiterate Christians. 
    2. Other knowledge is unattainable by many. All the helps and 
means in the world would never enable some Christians to attain the 
learned arts and languages; men of the best wits, and most pregnant 
parts, are most excellent in these; but here is the mystery and 
excellency of the knowledge of Christ, that men of most blunt, dull 
and contemptible parts attain, through the teaching of the Spirit, 
to this knowledge, in which the more acute and ingenious are utterly 
blind. Mat. 11: 25, "I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and 
earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, 
and hast revealed them unto babes." 1 Cor. 1: 26, 27. "You see your 
calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not 
many mighty, not many noble are called: but God has chosen the 
foolish things of the world, to confound the wise," &c. 
    3. Other knowledge, though you should attain the highest degree 
of it, would never bring you to heaven, being defective and lame 
both in the integrity of parts, the principal thing, viz. Christ, 
being wanting; and in the purity of its nature: for the knowing 
Heathens grew vain in their imaginations, Rom. 1: 21, and in the 
efficacy and influence of it on the heart and life, They held the 
truth in unrighteousness; their lusts were stronger than their 
light, Rom. 1: 18. But this knowledge has potent influences, 
changing souls, into its own image, 2 Cor. 3: 18, and so proves a 
saving knowledge unto men, 1 Tim. 2: 4. And thus I have in a few 
particulars pointed out the transcendence of the knowledge of 
    The use of all this I shall give you in a few inferences, on 
which I shall not enlarge, the whole being only preliminary to the 
doctrine of Christ; only for the present I shall hence infer, 
    Inference 1. 
    The sufficiency of the doctrine of Christ, to make men wise 
unto salvation. Paul desired to know nothing else; and, indeed, 
nothing else is of absolute necessity to be known. A little of this 
knowledge, if saving and effectual upon thy heart, will do thy soul 
more service, than all the vain speculation and profound parts that 
others so much glory in. Poor Christian, be not dejected, because 
thou sees thyself out-stript and excelled by so many in other parts 
of knowledge; if thou know Jesus Christ, thou knowest enough to 
comfort and save thy soul. Many learned philosophers are now in 
hell, and many illiterate Christians in heaven. 
    Inference 2. 
    If there be such excellency in the knowledge of Christ, let it 
humble all, both saints and sinners, that we have no more of this 
clear and effectual knowledge in us, notwithstanding the excellent 
advantages we have had for it. Sinners, concerning you I may sigh 
and say with the apostle, 1 Cor. 15: 34. "Some have not the 
knowledge of Christ, I speak this to your shame". This, O this is 
the condemnation. And even for you that are enlightened in this 
knowledge, how little do you know of Jesus Christ, in comparison of 
what you might have known of him? What a shame is it, that you 
should need to be taught the very first truths, "when for the time 
you might have been teachers of others?" Heb. 5: 12, 13, 14. "That 
your ministers cannot speak unto you as spiritual, but as unto 
carnal, even as unto babes in Christ," 1 Cor. 3: 1, 2. O how much 
time is spent in other studies, in vain discourses, frivolous 
pamphlets, worldly employments? How little is the search and study 
of Jesus Christ. 
    Inference 3. 
    How sad is their condition that have a knowledge of Christ, and 
yet as to themselves it had been better they had never had it! Many 
there be that content themselves with an unpractical, ineffectual, 
and merely notional knowledge of him; of whom the apostle saith, "It 
had been better for them not to have known," 2 Pet. 2: 21. It serves 
only to aggravate sin and misery; for though it be not enough to 
save them, yet it puts some weak restraints upon sin, which their 
impetuous lusts breaking down, exposes them thereby to a greater 
    Inference 4. 
    Fourthly, This may inform us by what rule to judge both 
ministers and doctrine. Certainly that is the highest commendation 
of a minister, to be an able minister of the New Testament; not of 
the letter, but of the Spirit, 2 Cor. 3: 6. He is the best artist, 
that can most lively and powerfully display Jesus Christ before the 
people, evidently setting him forth as crucified among them; and 
that is the best sermon, that is most full of Christ, not of art and 
language. I know that a holy dialect well becometh Christ's 
ministers, they should not be rude and careless in language or 
method; but surely the excellency of a sermon lies not in that, but 
in the plainest discoveries and liveliest applications of Jesus 
    Inference 5. 
    Let all that mind the honour of religion, or the peace and 
comfort of their own souls, wholly sequester and apply themselves to 
the study of Jesus Christ, and him crucified. Wherefore spend we 
ourselves upon other studies, when all excellency, sweetness, and 
desirableness is concentered in this one? Jesus Christ is fairer 
than the children of men, the chiefest among ten thousands, "as the 
apple-tree among the trees of the wood;" Quae faciunt divisa beatum, 
in hoc mixta fluunt. These things which singly ravish and delight 
the souls of men, are all found conjunctly in Christ. O what a 
blessed Christ is this! whom to know is eternal life. From the 
knowledge of Jesus Christ do bud forth all the fruits of comfort, 
and that for all seasons and conditions. Hence Rev. 22: 2, he is 
called "the tree of life, which bears twelve manner of fruits, and 
yields its fruit every month; and the very leaves of this tree are 
for healing." In Christ souls have, (1.) All necessaries for food 
and physic. (2.) All varieties of fruits, twelve manner of fruits; a 
distinct sweetness in this, in that, and in the other attribute, 
promise, ordinance. (3.) In him are these fruits at all times, he 
bears fruit every month; there is precious fruit in Jesus Christ, 
even in the black month; winter fruits as well as summer fruits. O 
then study Christ, study to know him more extensively. There be many 
excellent things in Christ, that the most eagle-eyed believer has 
not yet seen: Ah! 'tis pity that any thing of Christ should lie hid 
from his people. Study to know Christ more intensively, to get the 
experimental taste and lively power of his knowledge upon your 
hearts and affections: This is the knowledge that carries all the 
sweetness and comfort in it. Christian, I dare appeal to thy 
experience, whether the experimental taste of Jesus Christ, in 
ordinances and duties, has not a higher and sweeter relish than any 
created enjoyment thou ever tasted in this world? O then separate, 
devote, and wholly give thyself, thy time, thy strength to this most 
sweet transcendent study. 
    Inference 6. 
    Lastly, Let me close the whole with a double caution; one to 
ourselves, who by our callings and professions are the ministers of 
Christ; another to those that sit under the doctrine of Christ 
    First, If this doctrine be the most excellent, necessary, 
fundamental, profound, noble, and comfortable doctrine, let us then 
take heed lest, while we study to be exact in other things, we be 
found ignorant in this. Ye know it is ignominious, by the common 
suffrage of the civilised world, for any man to be unacquainted with 
his own calling, or not to attend the proper business of it: it is 
our calling, as the Bridegroom's friends, to woo and win souls to 
Christ, to set him forth to the people as crucified among them, Gal. 
3: 1, to present him in all his attractive excellencies, that all 
hearts may be ravished with his beauty, and charmed into his arms by 
love: we must also be able to defend the truths of Christ against 
undermining heretics, to instil his knowledge into the ignorant, to 
answer the cases and scruples of poor doubting Christians. How many 
intricate knots have we to untie? What pains, what skill is 
requisite for such as are employed about our work? And shall we 
spend our precious time in frivolous controversies, philosophical 
niceties, dry and barren scholastic notions? Shall we study every 
thing but Christ? Revolve all volumes but the sacred ones? What is 
observed even of Bellarmine, that he turned with loathing from 
school divinity, because it wanted the sweet juice of piety, may be 
convictive to many among us, who are often too much in love with 
worse employment than what he is said to loathe. O let the knowledge 
of Christ dwell richly in us. 
    Secondly, Let us see that our knowledge of Christ be not a 
powerless, barren, unpractical knowledge: O that, in its passage 
from our understanding to our lips, it might powerfully melt, 
sweeten, and ravish our hearts! Remember, brethren, a holy calling 
never saved any man, without a holy heart; if our tongues only be 
sanctified, our whole man must be damned. "We and our people must be 
judged by the same gospel, and stand at the same bar, and be 
sentenced to the same terms, and dealt with as severely as any other 
men: We cannot think to be saved by our clergy, or to come off with 
a Legit ut clericus, when there is wanting the Credit et vixit ut 
Christianus; as an eminent Divine speaks. O let the keepers of the 
vineyard look to, and keep their own vineyard: we have a heaven to 
win or lose, as well as others. 
    Thirdly, Let us take heed that we withhold not our knowledge of 
Christ in unrighteousness from the people. O that our lips may 
disperse knowledge and feed many. Let us take heed of the napkin, 
remembering the day of account is at hand. Remember, I beseech you, 
the relations wherein you stand, and the obligations resulting 
thence: Remember, the great Shepherd gave himself for, and gave you 
to the flock; your time, your gifts are not yours, but God's; 
remember the pinching wants of souls, who are perishing for want of 
Christ; and if their tongues do not, yet their necessities do 
bespeak us, as they did Joseph, Gen. 47: 15. "Wherefore should we 
die in thy presence? Give us food, that we may live and not die." 
Even the sea monsters draw forth their breasts to their young ones, 
and shall we be cruel! Cruel to souls! Did Christ not think it too 
much to sweat blood, yea, to die for them? And shall we think it 
much to watch, study, preach, pray, and do what we can for their 
salvation? O let the same mind be in you which was also in Christ! 
    Secondly, To the people that sit under the doctrine of Christ 
daily, and have the light of his knowledge shining round about them. 
    First, Take heed ye do not reject and despise this light. This 
may be done two ways: First, When you despise the means of knowledge 
by slight and low esteems of it. Surely, if you thus reject 
knowledge, God will reject you for it, Hos. 4: 6. It is a despising 
of the richest gift that ever Christ gave to the church; and however 
it be a contempt and slight that begins low, and seems only to vent 
itself upon the weak parts, in artificial discourses, and untaking 
tones and gestures of the speakers; yet, believe it, it is a daring 
sin that flies higher than you are aware, Luke 10: 16 "He that 
despiseth you, despiseth me; and he that despiseth me, despiseth him 
that sent me". Secondly, You despise the knowledge of Christ, When 
you despise the directions and loving constraints of that knowledge; 
when you refuse to be guided by your knowledge, your light and your 
lusts contest and struggle within you. O it is sad when your lusts 
master your light. You sin not as the heathens sin, who know not 
God; but when you sin, you must slight and put by the notices of 
your own consciences, and offer violence to your own convictions. 
And what sad work will this make in your souls? How soon will it lay 
your consciences waste? 
    Secondly, Take heed that you rest not satisfied with that 
knowledge of Christ you have attained, but grow on towards 
perfection. It is the pride and ignorance of many professors, when 
they have got a few raw and undigested notions, to swell with 
self-conceit of their excellent attainments. And it is the sin, even 
of the best of saints, when they see (veritas in profundo) how deep 
the knowledge of Christ lies, and what pains they must take to dig 
for it, to throw by the shovel of duty, and cry, Dig we cannot. To 
your work, Christians, to your work; let not your candle go out: 
sequester yourselves to this study, look what intercourses, and 
correspondence are betwixt the two world; what communion soever God 
and souls maintain, it is in this way; count all, therefore, but 
dross in comparison of that excellency which is in the knowledge of 
Jesus Christ. 

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