Continuing last weeks excerpt on the knowledge of man, Fuller shifts to the knowledge of self and God.
Secondly, Let us try the justness of the remark in respect of the knowledge of ourselves. Self-knowledge is, doubtless, good and of great importance. Without it, whatever else we know, it will turn to but little account; yet this also is accompanied with sorrow. He that knows the most of himself sees most of his own faults and defects. It was by comparing his own mind with the word of God that David exclaimed, “Who can understand his errors? Cleanse thou me from secret faults. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins.” The more we know of ourselves, the worse we shall think of ourselves. We know but little of ourselves at the outset of the Christian life. We see evils in others, and are shocked at them, and are ready to suppose ourselves incapable of any such things; but as the Lord led Israel through the wilderness to humble them, and to prove them, and to know what was in their heart, so he deals with us. We have seen rich men high-minded, and may have thought, if God should give us wealth, how humble and generous we would be with it; we have seen poor men full of envy and discontent, and may have thought, were we in their situation, we would not repine; we have seen men fall in the hour of temptation, and may have joined in heaping censures upon them. If it please God to try us in these ways, it may be to humble us; and the knowledge that we gain may be accompanied with not a little sorrow.
Thirdly, Let us try the justness of the remark in respect of the knowledge of God. No one can suppose but this, in itself, is good, and a source of the highest enjoyment; yet it is no less true that he that increaseth in it increaseth in sorrow.
The more we know of God, the more we shall perceive our contrariety to him. If, like Joshua the high priest, we were clothed with filthy garments, yet, while surrounded with darkness, and in company with others like ourselves, we should be, in a manner, insensible of it; but if brought to the light, and introduced to one who was clothed in white raiment, we should feel the disparity. It is thus that not only those who are strangers to Divine revelation, but those who read it without believing it, have no just sense of sin. It was thus that sin, “by the commandment,” became to the apostle Paul exceedingly sinful; and that the prophet Isaiah, on beholding the glory of God, exclaimed, “Woe is me! for I am undone, because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”
Beside this, the knowledge of God draws upon us the hatred, and frequently the persecutions, of wicked men; which, though we may be supported under them, yet, in themselves, must needs be sources of sorrow: “I have given them thy word,” said our Lord, in committing his disciples to the Father, “and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world even as I am not of the world.”
I add, The knowledge of God will, in some cases, draw upon us the envy of false brethren. If a good man engage in the work of God from the purest principles, and, by the Divine blessing on his diligence and perseverance, make such progress in useful knowledge as to draw upon himself a portion of public admiration, he may be expected soon to become an object of envy. Men shall rise up who will do their utmost to depreciate and eclipse him. “I considered all travail, and every right work, that for this a man is envied of his neighbour. This is also vanity and vexation of spirit.”
Fuller, A. G. (1988). The Sorrow Attending Wisdom and Knowledge, Sermon XXV. The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc. (J. Belcher, Ed.; Vol. 1, pp. 330–331). Sprinkle Publications.