網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

yet Peter, that heard that voice, telleth us, that, comparatively, we have greater security from and by the word of God, not more sure in itself, but as it is given in evidence to us ; so we have a more sure word of prophecy. A transient voice is more easily mistaken and forgotten, than a standing, authentic record ; therefore we have a more sure ground to rest upon, than ever hath been, or can be, given to sinners, subject to forgetfulness, jealousies, and mistakes. A voice from Heaven, speaking to us by name, might more easily be suspected to be another's than the Lord's voice; as when God called Samuel, he suspected that it was the voice of Eli: therefore, an oracle cannot be so sure, safe, and self-evidencing, as this word of God that he hath commended to us. For, if God should speak to us still from Heaven, how should we be able to distinguish it from delusion, or to know it was a voice from God? Might not Satan cause a voice to be heard in the air, and deceive us? Indeed, the holy men of God that immediately received those voices and oracles, were certified that it was of God, because there was some Divine evidence which did accompany the revelation; and, if there be the same impressions of God upon the written word, we have as much certainty as they; yea, more, as we view the whole revelation of God together, and more deliberately consider the character and signature of God that is stamped upon it. In short, the word, when preached by Christ himself in person, came in upon the hearts of men chiefly by this self-evidencing light; therefore it is said of Christ, that " he taught them as one having authority, and not as the Scribes” (Matt. vii. 29). His hearers were convinced of a sovereign majesty in his speech, proper to the divinity of his person; and, when the officers were sent to apprehend him, there was such an evidence in his doctrine, that they cried out, “Never man spake like this man” (John vii. 46). And still there is the same evidence in his doctrine written; for the voice could add nothing to it, and the writing can take nothing from it. The voice is but a circumstance, the word written not a dead letter, but can sufficiently evidence itself to be of God de jure : it hath the same power still, though, de facto, not always so received and so owned by the sons of men, but only by those that are enlightened by the Spirit to see this evidence. You find by daily experience, every ingenious author leaves an image and impress of his own spirit, the mark of his genius, upon every work that he doth. We can say of an exquisite painting, by some secret art in it, “This is the hand of such a great master.' Now, can it be imagined, that God should put his hand to any work, and leave no signature or impress of it upon that work? It cannot be imagined ; for it must be either because he could not, or because he would not. That God could not, cannot be said without blasphemy. Can men show the wisdom and learning they have attained to in every work, and cannot God, who is the Father of lights and the fountain of wisdom, insinuate such secret marks and notes of his wisdom and Divine authority, into that writing he took care should be penned for the use and comfort of the world, that it might be known to be his? And that he would not, that cannot be believed either. He that is so willing to show man what is good, so willing to reveal himself to the reasonable creature, can we imagine he would so wholly conceal himself that there should be no stamp of himself upon that doctrine, to move our reverence and obedience, but receive it from the testimony of such a church: Therefore, surely there is enough in the word to discover God to be the author. The apostles,

when they went abroad to work faith, all the fruit that they expected from their preaching, was from this self-evidencing light, which was discovered in their doctrine; therefore doth the Apostle say, “ Not handling the word of God deceitfully, but, by manifestation of the truth, commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God" (2 Cor. iv. 2). They did not commend themselves to the consciences of men merely by the miracles which they wrought, though that also was some seal of their commission, and that they were authorised and sent by God to preach those things to the world, but, by the manifestation of the truth, commending themselves to every man's conscience. So the Apostle reckons up many things, “ Approving ourselves as the ministers of God, &c., by the word of truth” (2 Cor. vi. 4, 7). Therefore, certainly, there is somewhat in the truth delivered, that will sufficiently make out itself to be of God; and, when they render the reason why this word was not received, it was not for want of evidence, as if this truth could not sufficiently be known to be of God, but because men were blinded with their lusts and carnal affections; for so he saith, “ If our Gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost; in whom the God of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not," &c. (2 Cor. iv. 3, 4): which shows there is a light in the Gospel by which it can discover itself; and, if this light be hidden from the eyes of men, it is because their minds are blinded by their own lusts and carnal affections. Now, if the certainty of truth will draw affection, certainly those truths which are conveyed in the word of God should gain upon our hearts and draw affection; why? Because these are sublime, supreme, and weighty truths, and come in with a great deal of evidence upon the hearts of men.

2. If goodness can gain the hearts and affections of men, the word of God is good as well as true. There is a double desire in man, a desire of truth and a desire of immortality; to know the truth, and to enjoy the chiefest good : the happiness of the intellect, of the understanding, that lies in the contemplation of truth; and the happiness of the will, in the enjoyment of good. In the state of innocency, this was represented by the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil, to suit these two capacities and desires that were in the heart of man. The tree of life, to suit his desires of happiness; and the tree of knowledge of good and evil, to suit his desires of truth. Under the law, this is set forth by the candlestick and the table of shew-bread; and, in the Gospel, by the sacrament of baptism, which is called an enlightening : “ After ye were illuminated" (Heb. x. 32); that is, after you were baptised; and the Lord's supper. Light and life, they are the two great things man looks after as a reason. able creature, to get more light and then life, that he may enjoy God. Now, we are still at a loss for satisfaction of these desires, until we meet with the word of God, where there is primum verum, the supreme truth; and summum bonum, the chiefest good; and therefore the directions of the word are called true laws and good statutes (Neh. ix. 13). True laws; all words of truth, so to perfect the understandings of men; and good laws, very suitable to their will and inclination, and so bear a full proportion with the desires of a reasonable creature. So, “ This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation” (1 Tim. i. 15). The Gospel is a faithful saying, there is truth to perfect the understanding; and then worthy of the chiefest embraces of our wills and affections. As there is plain, certain, clear truth in the word of God, a satisfaction to the understanding in the view of truth; so there is also a full compliance with the motions of the will which the Scripture offereth. Now, two things there are the Scriptures do reveal which are good for men, and cannot be found elsewhere, and all the world have been puzzled about them, how to find them out. (1.) Reconciliation with God. (2.) Salvation, or eternal happiness.

(1.) Reconciliation with God. This is the grand inquiry of the guilty creature, wherewith God shall be appeased, satisfied, and we reconciled to him, he being offended by our sin (Mic. vi. 8). How justice shall be satis. fied, and men that are obnoxious to the wrath of God, may come to have delightful communion with him, this is the great scruple that troubleth the creature, and all the false religions in the world were invented for the removing and assailing this doubt and scruple, and appeasing the hearts of men as to these fears of Divine justice. Now, we can nowhere be satisfied but in the way of reconciliation and peace, which is tendered by God himself to repenting sinners, through the mediation of Christ Jesus, Natural conscience will make us sensible of sin and wrath, and we have no ransom to pay it; and all other creatures cannot help us, for they are debtors to God for all they have and can do: how, then, shall God be satisfied ? how shall we escape this vengeance? This fear would have remained upon us to all eternity, but that we have relief from the word of God: “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses” (2 Cor. v. 19). There is more glory in these few words, and more of God discovered in them, than there is in all the world. Oh! what a deal of comfort, and what a foundation for the rejoicing of our faith, is there laid in this reconciliation in and by Christ Jesus our Lord. That short sentence discovers more of God's intentions and good will to man, than all the bounty of his providence in and by all the creatures put together. Here was a secret which could never enter into man's heart, nor do we find a syllable of it written in any Heathen book, as to the way of it how it shall be brought about,-a truth so incredible to flesh and blood, that the Prophet, when he speaketh of this wonder, asketh, “ Who hath believed our report?” (Isa. liii. 1.) Who hath believed that he should bear our sorrows, and be wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities, and that the chastisement of our peace should be upon him, and by his stripes we should be healed? Here is the great secret God hath revealed to you in his word. This must needs be a secret in nature; for this was a work which merely proceeded from the free motion of God's will; and therefore, being, not opus naturæ Divinæ, but opus liberi consilii, that work which God did not do by any necessity of nature, but by the free motion of his own will, will never be found out, unless God will discover it himself; for how could any man divine what God purposed in his heart, before he brought it to purpose, until he himself had revealed it? Therefore it is a good word, because it reveals reconciliation by Christ.

(2.) There is something more to draw our hearts to the word ; that is, eternal salvation. We grope and feel about for an immortal good: nature will give us some presages of a state after this world, some kind of guesses: and we are groping and feeling about for an eternal good (Acts xvii. 27). Man, which hath a soul that will not perish, must have some happiness that will last as long as his soul shall last; he would fain be eternally happy. Now, it is the word of God only reveals both the thing, and the way to

God; the thing itself, that there is such a state, and what it is : Christ “hath brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel” (2 Tim. i. 10). It lay in darkness before, hidden under some guesses and representations to the old people of God; but now it is brought to light in the Gospel. Heathens, in their dark notions, did stumble upon the immortality of the soul, which they did rather dream of than understand distinctly : but now, all is open and clear, and God hath manifested to you that there is a rest for the children of God, and a happiness after this life. And also God hath revealed the way how to seek it, and how to attain and get this eternal happiness; therefore the Holy Scriptures are said to be able to make wise to salvation (2 Tim. iii. 15); it doth direct you in this way ; that is wisdom indeed, to be wise to salvation. To be able to turn and wind in the world, to be wise only in the present generation, as the chil. dren of this world are, it is folly rather than wisdom; as when children can set forth their toys, we do not look upon it as any piece of wisdom, but folly. Wisdom lies in fixing a right end, in a choice of fit means, and in a dexterous prosecution of those means for the attainment of this end. Now, the Holy Scriptures make you wise to salvation; that is, to fix upon a right end; for they discover that there is a bappiness that we may fix upon, and they direct us in the way; and then, by mighty and potent methods of reasoning, they quicken and awaken us to look after this business, that we may dexterously pursue it as the great care that lies upon us. Therefore the children of God delight in the word, because this makes them wise to salvation. Here they have a perfect blessedness, and a powerful way of argumentation ; and the soul is quickened to look after these great and everlasting hopes.

3. The doctrines of the word are profound truths: “Thy testimonies are wonderful, therefore doth my soul keep them” (Psalm cxix. 120). They are remote from vulgar and ordinary knowledge. The word of God is not only called a doctrine according to godliness (1 Tim. vi. 3), but a “mystery of godliness” (1 Tim. iii. 16). Since the fall, there is a curiosity of knowledge, a desire whereby man not only seeks what is true and good, but what is rare and profound. We have no need to run to other books: true depth, and true profoundness, is to be found in the word of God; there are wonders in God's law, if we had eyes to see them : “ Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law” (Psalm cxix. 18); things, indeed, so profound and so mysterious, that the angels desire to pry into them (1 Pet. i. 12). Those spirits that live in the blessed vision and constant fruition of God, yet they did find a depth of wisdom in salvation by Christ, such a ravishing mystery, that they curiously are taken up in the study of it, and they delight in the view of those things which are commended to us for our study: “ To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places, might be known by the church the mani. fold wisdom of God” (Eph. iii. 10). God's word is a glass wherein those glorious creatures do, as in a mirror, behold his wisdom, and are in some sort bettered by it. The state of angels is a happy state; but it is finite, capable of being improved, and bettered, and that by the doctrine of the Holy Scriptures. Well then, such are the depths and various excellences of the word of God, that the saints know not how more pleasantly and contentedly to spend their thoughts and time, than in the search and view of those truths, where such notable mysteries are revealed about the nature of God, creation, providence, the story of man's fall, redemption by Christ, the way to true happiness, and the like: both the grounds of faith and rules of practice are all such as are above the pitch of human understand. ing. Natural reason cannot find them out; and, now they are revealed by God, the mind doth not fully apprehend them.

3rdly, The use of Scripture; the ends for which God hath appointed it, and the uses for which it was given.

1. To increase the knowledge of God. Now, the saints would know more of God, and better their notions of him; as Moses's great request to God is, ' Tell me thy name;' when he learned that, “Show me thy glory:” he would fain know more of God. So the saints would desire to know more of God; therefore the word is dear and precious to them, because it discovers so much of God. This is their property, they “ follow on to know the Lord” (Hos. vi. 3). They do not content themselves with their first and infant notions, but aspire to know him more and more; for their love, fear, and trust, and all, doth depend upon the knowledge of God. If we had more knowledge of God, we should love him more, and trust him more: “They that know thy name, will put their trust in thee” (Psalm ix. 10). We know God but as men, born blind, know the fire; they know there is such a thing as fire, for they feel it warm them; but what it is, they know not. So, that there is a God, we know; but what he is, we know little ; and indeed, we can never search him out to perfection; a finite creature can never fully comprehend that which is infinite. The saints are following on to know the Lord; they desire to know more and more; and there is no such means to discover God to them as this way.

2. The use of the word is to convert the soul, and to bring it home to God: “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul” (Psalm xix. 7).

There is the perfection of God's word, it is God's instrument for converting of souls, or turning of them back to him again; for conversion, take it in its whole latitude, compriseth this, to humble us, to cleanse us, to bind up our broken hearts. Because of all these uses, the children of God love his word. It serves,

(1.) To humble us for sin: “Is not my word like as a fire? saith the Lord, and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?" (Jer. xxii. 29.) He appeals to it as things that we may find by experience, that the word of God is not only a hammer to break, but a fire to melt. As a battered vessel, when it is to be new formed, must be melted, that it may be capable of this new form; so no such way to melt the heart, and make it capable of God's purpose, as the word of God; no such thing to break the heart ; no such terrors and agonies like those the word works, to melt the heart, to make it pliable to God's use ; no such thing as the word of God to affect us for sin, for sin as it is a breach of God's law, or an offence to God.

(2.) It hath this use, to cleanse the heart, and subdue it to the obedience of Christ : “ Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word” (Psalm cxix. 9). Young men, who more stubborn and boisterous than they, that are carried on with great strength and fervour in the very heat of their rebellion against God? Well, the word of God can cleanse the heart of a young man. As Plato saith of youth, that it is such a beast as will not easily come to hand. Now, for cicurating and taming this beast, for the captivating those rebellious affections in youth, and cleansing and working out the filthiness that is in us, nothing like the word; and it is by these spiritual weapons, that every thought is brought

« 上一頁繼續 »