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by its convictive power and majesty ; so it is notable, “ The word of God is quick and powerful, &c., and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. iv. 12). Mark what he had said of the word; he proves the properties of the word by the properties of God, that God searcheth all things: God's word is like himself.“
3rdly, It is light in regard of comfort: “Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun” (Eccl. xi. 7), especially to those that have been shut up in darkness and kept in a dungeon. Oh! it is a pleasant thing to behold the light again ! So is the word of God light in this sense, to relieve us in all the dark and gloomy passages of the present life.
1. In outward darkness. When all outward comforts fail and have spent their allowance, the comforts of the word are left; there is enough to support and strengthen our hearts in waiting upon God: “ Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me” (Psalm xxiii. 4). The staff and rod, they are instruments of a shepherd, and Christ is our spi. ritual shepherd; so that this staff and rod are his word and Spirit: they are the instruments of the spiritual shepherd; and this comforts us when we are in the shadow of death: in our crosses, in confusions and difficulties, when we have nothing else left but the promises, this is a reviving to the soul.
2. It is a comfort and refreshing to us in spiritual troubles that arise from the guilt of sin and want of the sense of God's love: “Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light ? let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God” (Isa. I. 10). What shall he do? Shall he compass himself about in his own sparks ? Oh! how miserable are we then! No; but let him depend upon God according to his promise. The word of God is a great part of his name; let him stay his heart upon the word of God, when he walketh in darkness, and seeth no light.
Now, that the word of God is such a light, such a sure and clear direction, I shall (1.) Give a direct proof of it from Scripture. (2.) Some types of it. (3.) Prove it by experience. (4.) By reason.
(1.) For the proof from Scripture, you have the notions of the text: so, “ The commandment is a lamp, and the law is light” (Prov. xvi. 23). It is that which keeps us from stumbling. So, “ We have also a more sure word of prophecy, whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place” (2 Peter i. 19). The world is a dark place. Ay; but now, here is a light that shines in a dark place, and that is the Holy Scripture, the “sure word of prophecy;" it showeth us our way to Heaven, and prevents us from stumbling into Hell.
(2.) To prove it by types. Two types I shall mention: one is Israel being directed by the pillar of a cloud; the other is, the lamp of the sanctuary.
(i.) The type of Israel's being directed by the pillar of the cloud by day, the pillar of fire by night, till they came into the land of Canaan (Exod. xiii. 21): still they moved up and down, hither and thither, as the pillar of cloud and pillar of fire went before them. Thus our whole course is to be ordered by God's direction. See how this type is expressed : “ The pillar of the cloud departed not from them by day, to lead them in the way; neither the pillar of fire by night, to show them light, and the way wherein they should go” (Neh. ix. 19). Mark, when they were in the wilderness, the pillar of cloud and fire showed them the way where they were to go.” This is an emblem of the safe conduct the church may expect from Christ Jesus in all ages. God's pillar departed not from them by night nor day; so, while we are travelling in the wilderness of this our pilgrimage, his word and Spirit are continued to us. When they entered into Canaan, that was a type of Heaven, then this pillar of cloud was removed. It is notable, when Israel passed over Jordan, we do not read the pillar went before them, but the ark of God was carried before them (Josh. xiv.); so, when the church comes to Heaven, the resting-place, then this conduct ceaseth, the word hath no more use; Jesus Christ, as the great shepherd, leads his flock into their everlasting fold.
(ii.) The other type was the lamp of the sanctuary; we read of that, Exod. xxvii. 20, 21. There was a great lamp hung upon the veil, to distinguish the holy of holies from the other part of the tabernacle, and was fed with pure oil olive; and this lamp was prepared and trimmed up by the priest daily. Now, what did this lamp signify ? Mark the application : this pure oil olive signified God's pure word, without the mixture of human traditions; this, hung up in the veil, shined in the church, and every day it was prepared, furnished, set forth by them that are called thereunto for the use of the faithful.
(3.) Let me prove it by experience, that the word is such a sure direction.
(i.) Because natural men have a sense of it, and upon that account fear it: see John iii. 20, 21, “Every one that doeth evil, hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.” Natural men will not come to the word: they fear it as discovering, and therefore never feel it as refreshing. Evil-doers hate the light : they are afraid of the word, lest it should convince them, and discover them to themselves ; therefore they stand off, and shun all means of closing with it. There is such conviction in the heart, a secret jealousy of the searching power that is in the word of God.
(ii.) Godly men do find a great deal of comfort and satisfaction from this light, as to all the doubts and fears of the soul : “ The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes” (Psalm xix. 8). All their scruples vanish: here is an apt and fit doctrine accommodated to the heart of man. A man hath never true and rational delight, till he is fully satisfied in point of religion, till he can have rest for his soul and commodious notions of God. Now, if you would have rest for your souls, here it is the children of God find it (Jer. vi. 16). There is a fair compliance in this doctrine with all those natural principles and engrafted notions within us, concerning God and his will : they find satisfaction in it to conscience, though not to fond curiosity; the one is necessary, the other dangerous and unprofitable. Chris. tians! there is a great deal of difference between these two, satisfying conscience and satisfying curiosity; as much as between quenching the thirst of a sober man, and satisfying the lust and appetite of a drunkard. Here is enough to satisfy conscience, a fair accommodation of excellent truths to a reasonable nature; truths becoming God, truths suiting with the heart of man; and therefore here they find it to be light; that is a sure direction. The wicked feel the discovery of it, and the saints feel the inpression of it.
(ii.) We have this external and outward experience to assure us of our rule and light that shines in the word of God, because those that go against this light and direction do sensibly miscarry, and are sure to split themselves upon some rock or other. Our first parent, Adam, when he hearkened to the voice of the serpent rather than the voice of the Lord, destroyed himself, and all his posterity. As long as he obeyed the word of God, he remained in a blessed estate in paradise; but, when he gave heed to other counsels, he was cast out of paradise, and rendered liable to many sorrows; yea, eternal death. So all that walk in the imagination of their own hearts, and have not light from the word, they presently run themselves into sundry mischiefs. The young Prophet is an instance of this (1 Kings xiii. 21). To go to particular instances, would be innumerable; every day's experience will furnish us with enough of this. They that will not take the light of God's word, stumble upon dark moun. tains; for God hath owned his word to a tittle, owned both the tables : “ The wrath of God is revealed from Heaven,” &c. (Rom. i. 18); from Heaven, by the effects of his wrath. If men be ungodly and unrighteous, they are punished; nay, not only in the general, but in particular: “For, if the word spoken by angels was steadfast ;" why? For "every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward” (Heb. ii. 2). By every transgression, he means a sin of omission; by every disobedience, a sin of commission. And, as he will do so for sins against the law, so sins against the Gospel; that place where the Gospel was first propounded, smarted for the neglect of it: “ Wrath is come upon them to the uttermost” for despising the Gospel (1 Thess. ü. 13). And still God secures the certainty of our direction by new judgments; those that will go contrary to the word, turn aside to paths of their own, they perish in their devices.
(4.) Let me prove it by reasons, that certainly the word must needs be light; that is, a clear and sure direction: I prove it from the author, the instruments, and penmen, and from the ends why God hath given the word.
(i.) From the author of it, it is God's word. Everything that comes from God hath some resemblance of his majesty: “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John i. 5): his word is light. If God would give us anything to direct us, it must needs be clear and sure, it must bave light. As at first God gave reason to direct man, “ The life was the light of men” (John i. 4); as it came from God, before it was weakened by the fall, it was a full direction, it discovered its author; and now, since the fall, still it discovers its author. Conscience, which remains with us, it is called “the candle of the Lord" (Prov. xx. 27). From a glorious sun, now it is dwindled to a candle; yet it is called “the candle of the Lord ;" it is a candle lighted by God himself. The understanding and conscience, that is privy to our most secret motions, thoughts, and actions, though it may be maimed and lessened by sin, it is sensible of some distinction between good and evil, and acts God's part in the soul, sometimes condemning, sometimes approving, accusing and excusing by turns (Rom. ii. 15). But, alas! if we were only left to this light, we should be for ever miserable. The light of reason is too short for us now; and there is a double reason : partly, because, our chief good and last end being altered by sin, we shall strangely mistake things, if we weigh them in the balance of the flesh, which we seek to please. Now, our chief good is altered; or, rather, we are apt to mistake it : all our business is to please the flesh, and to gratify lust and appetite (Psalm xlix. 12). Therefore go to a man led by carnal and unsanctified reason, he shall put light for darkness, and darkness for light; good for eril, and evil for good (Isa. v. 20). He shall confound the names and natures of things, so miserably grope in the dark, and not find out the way to true happiness; either stumbling, dashing his foot against a stone, or wander out of the way in a maze of a thousand uncertainties. Therefore it is a blessed thing not to be left to this candle of reason, the light within us; for that will not guide us: but God hath drawn a straight line for us to Heaven, which, if we follow, we cannot miss. Again, partly, because man's condition since the fall is such, that he needs a supernatural remedy ; before he can be happy, he needs a Redeemer. Now, the gift of a Redeemer, depending upon the free grace of God, cannot be found out by natural light; for that can only judge of things necessary, and not of such things as depend upon the arbitrary love of God; therefore this light cannot guide. Well then, because the candle of the Lord that is within us, is not enough to direct us, God hath set up a lamp in the sanctuary to give us light, and to guide us in the pursuit of true happiness; and that is the Scripture. Now, if they hare God for their author, surely they must needs be clear and full; for nothing indited by his Spirit can be dark, confused, and inconveniently expressed, either with respect to the things revealed, or to the persons to whom this revelation is made. For, if God should speak darkly (here is my argument), especially in necessary things, it is either because God could not speak otherwise, or would not. The former is direct blasphemy: he that made the eye, cannot he see? and he that made the mouth, cannot he speak plainly and intelligibly to his people, so as to be understood by them? And ihe latter cannot be said, that God would not; for that is contrary to his goodness and love to mankind: “Good and upright is the Lord; therefore will he teach sinners in the way” (Psalm xxv. 8). If this be true, that God is a just, good God, he will teach us plainly: the Psalmist infers it, he is just, and will not lead us wrong: he is an upright God, and he is a good God; and therefore, though we have fallen from the state of our creation, though the candle of the Lord burn dim in our hearts since the fall, yet he is a good God, therefore he will show us the way. Now, it is not to be imagined that there should not be light in the word of God, that that should be dark, confused, and unintelligible; that the most powerful and wise monarch, and most loving of all, that he should write a book to teach men the way to Heaven, and do it so cloudily that we cannot tell what to make of it. Therefore, if God be the author, this book must be true, here must be light, a clear and sure direction to guide us in all our waye.
(ii.) I prove it by reason again, from the instruments used in this work. Shall I take those words for my ground-work? “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Pater i. 21); that is, it is not the fancies or dictates of men, but the word of God; for they were holy men, and holy men guided by the Holy Ghost, and so guided as that they were moved, borne up by the special motion of the Spirit. Let me reason thus: those that God hath employed to deliver his mind to the world, look either to the prophets of the Old Testament or apostles of the New, and you will find them to be holy men, burning with zeal for God and love to souls;
and it is not to be imagined that they would deliver God's mind so darkly that noboily could understand their meaning. Christians they were, not men that were to act a part of their own upon the stage of the world, not men that aimed at ostentation of wisdom and curiosity of science; but they were holy men, they were free from ambition and envy, and other such vile affections, which are wont to make writers to affect obscurity : therefore, in all simplicity of style, plainness of heart, and faithfulness to their message, they minded their master's honour and the people's good; they renounced pomp of words and lofty speculations, minded that people might understand the mind of God published by them. As they were holy men, so they were acted by the Spirit of God. Now, the Spirit of God is not a spirit of darkness, but a spirit of light, which gives understanding to all men; therefore they spake luminously and clearly. Nay, they were not only acted by the Spirit, but they were borne up by the Spirit, carried by the Holy Ghost while they were employed in this work, publishing the mind of God to the church; they were carried beyond the line of their natural spirits, by an extraordinary impulse infallibly borne up, so that they could not err and miscarry. Now, from such holy men that were not swayed by ambition and private aims, so guided, so acted by the Spirit, what can be expected but what is sure, clear, and plain?
(iii.) I argue and reason again, from the end of God in giving us the Scriptures, all which doth clearly infer, that here is a sure and plain direction that will lead you to Heaven. There is a fourfold end wherefore God hath given us the Scriptures :
First, that by this means heavenly doctrine might be kept free from corruption, that men might not obtrude articles of faith upon us, and fancies of their own brain; that heavenly doctrine might be put into a stated course, and kept pure from corruption. When mankind sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, it was necessary that one way or other they should have light, that God by some way or other should reveal his mind to them, either by word of mouth or by writing. Now, God did it by oracles and extraordinary messages at first, while there were but few truths revealed, and such as did not much burden the memory, and while men were long-lived, and so could a great while avouch their message from God, and while they were of great simplicity, and the church was confined to a few men; to a few families, within a small compass of ground, not liable to those miseries and changes now in latter days. Before Christ came, it was fit God should send his messengers; but now, in these latter days, when he hath spoken to us by his Son (Heb. i. 1), it is fit the rule of faith should be closed up. It is not for the honour of the Son of God, that, after him, should come any extraordinary nuncio or ambassador from Heaven, as if he had not fully discovered his Father's mind. Well then. therefore God hath put all his messages into writing, for the use of afterages, and for this end, that there might be some public standard for trying of things by. Now, God's end would not be accomplished, if this writing were not clear. Here is the argument: the world would be left at great uncertainties, far more than in old time; and so this end of preserving truth for the use and direction of the church, would be wholly lost. Well then, if God will make a writing serve instead of extraordinary messages, which brought their own evidence with them, certainly he will not put it into words liable to mistake, but that are intelligible. Wisdom saith, “ They are all plain to him that understandeth, and right to them that find VOL. II.