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knowledge" (Prov. viii. 9). Certainly, they that come in simplicity of heart, with a mind to learn God's will, not to cavil, they may know.
Secondly, God's end in setting forth the Scripture was, that it might be read of all ages and of all sexes, as the book of the law was to be read in the congregation before the men, women, little ones, and strangers (Deut. xxi.): from day to day it was read in the synagogue (Acts xv. 21). And God would have them teach their children (Deut. vi. 7). And Timothy is commended for reading the Scriptures from his youth (2 Tim, iii. 15). And the Apostle doth express himself to be debtor both to the wise and unwise, to Greeks and Barbarians (Rom. i. 14), to speak wisdom to the wise, and plainness to the simple. And St. John, he writes to children, and young men, and fathers (1 John ü. 13). Well then, here is my argument: if God would write a book to be read by men, women, children, all sorts, surely it is that all might understand ; not that they might repeat it by rote, and toss the words of it in their mouths, as parrots do words they understand not. Surely, then, they are compiled to profit all.
Thirdly, God's end in giving the word, was for converting of men or leaving them without excuse. Now, take either end, and it shows there must be a plain direction. If for converting of men, then it must be so plain that it must be understood by them; for there is nothing gets to the heart but by the understanding : “ After that I was instructed, I smote upon the thigh." And all influences are conveyed by light; and, if God gains any heart, it is by teaching and by light. Or, if it were for leaving them without excuse, it must be by a clear revealing of his will; otherwise they might pretend obscurity. The Apostle pleads this; saith the Apostle, There is such plain truth in the Gospel, that every man's conscience may take it up if he will; and, if he cannot see the majesty of God in this doctrine, they are blinded by Satan; the fault is not in Gospel-light, but in their own eyes; they cannot complain of God, but of themselves (2 Cor. iv. 2-4).
The fourth end is, that it might be a rule of faith and manners, by which all doctrines are to be tried. A rule of faith: “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isa, viii. 20); and, “ They received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so" (Acts xvii. 11). So to be a rule of manners: “As many as walk according to this rule,” &c. (Gal. vi. 16.) There are many actions which God requireth of us, that expose us to great difficulty and hazard. Now, before the heart be gained to them, we had need have a plain proof that it is the will of God; for who will venture his all, unless he have a clear warrant, that knows whither he goes, and whither to look for amends, if he suffer the loss of all things. Thus there is light in the word.
Secondly, But now it is a full direction ; for David speaks it of his feet and path.
Ist, In general, observe this: it is not a light to our brains, to fill us with empty notions; but a light to our teet, to regulate our practice, and to guide our actions (Jer. vi. 16). He doth not say, 'Hearken after the true religion ;' but, “ Walk therein.” For a man to study the Scripture only to satisfy curiosity, only to know what is right and good, and not follow it with all his heart, is but to make a rod for his own back, and doth but cause his own condemnation to be sore and terrible (Luke xii. 47). To be able to dispute for truth, and not lie under the power of it; to avoid
heresy, and live in vice, will never bring him to Heaven. It is not them that are able to talk of it, but to walk according to this rule (Gal. vi. 16); not to play with it, but to work with it. Knowledge and practice must be joined together; they do never well asunder, but excellently together.
2ndly, In our practice.
1. Our path, our general choice. A man that consults with God's word, the Lord will teach him the way that he shall choose (Psalm xxv. 12). Everything appointed to an end, must have all things absolutely necessary to that end; else it is not perfect in its kind, though perfect to guide us to eternal life; therefore it must contain all things that belong or conduce to that end. It is not a rule given us to be rich or safe, but to be eternally happy.
2. As it is a light to our path, so to our feet. How? In the particular actions that we perform, and in the particular conditions that we pass through.
(1.) In the particular actions that we perform. Every action we go about must be guided by the word; why? Because obedience in particular actions we are most apt to miscarry in. Many are wise in generals, but in particulars they quite mistake their way. We have general notions that we must be holy. Ay; but we are not “holy in all manner of conversation” (1 Peter i. 15). In every creek and turning of our lives, in all our actions of eating, drinking, sleeping, and waking, we are to be mindful and respect the command of God in all these. No path of a Christian's conversation but ought to savour of grace and holiness; not only his religious, but his common and civil action. Every action is a step to Hearen or to Hell; for this life is compared to a walk, and in a walk every step brings us onward in our way. Briefly, in every act, either sin or grace interposeth; therefore we had need look to every step, and still to walk according to rule.
(2.) It guides us in all the conditions that we pass through. In every age, here is milk for the weak, and strong meat for men of ripe age; in every calling, from the king to the lowest beggar; in every state of life, adversity, prosperity, still here is light for you.
There are two parties whose interest it is to decry the clearness of Scripture, Papists and Libertines. Papists, they are afraid to stand to this trial, they would bring all to the judgment of the church; therefore it is for their interest, that the Scriptures were not a clear, safe, and a full direction. Libertines, they decry the clearness of Scripture, upon several grounds. Those that plead for a boundless toleration, what is their great argument? Nothing is certain in religion. If the word be a clear rule, then, &c.
SERMON CXIII. VERSE 105.—Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my
path. Here I shall answer five objections that are made by cavillers.
OBJECTION I.-If it be so clear a light, why do men so often mistake that have the Scriptures, and consult with them? yea, why are there such differences among good men? ANSWER.-I answer in general, there is light in the Scriptures; but
there is darkness in men that are conversant about them. The object may be well represented, when the faculty is not well disposed. There are defects in them to whom this discovery is made ; though they have light, yet they want eyes : the sun giveth light enough, though blind men cannot see it; the word doth whatsoever is necessary on its own part. To the beholding of anything by the outward sense, there must not only be light to make the object conspicuous, but also a faculty of seeing in the eye ; blind men cannot see at noonday, nor the charpest-sighted at midnight. There is light in the Scriptures surely; for God would not deal bypocritically with us that are his people: if he bath given us a rule, he would not wrap it up in darkness, so as we should not know his meaning; so that the defect is in us. This in general.
But, secondly, there are many causes of men's mistake.
1. Some come to the word with a presumption of their own wit and leaning upon their own understanding, as if that should discover the whole counsel of God; and these God never undertook to teach : “ The meek will he guide in judgment, and the meek will he teach his way" (Psalm xxv.9). Those that, in an humble sense of their own nothingness, depend upon his direction, them will he teach : “ Receive with meekness the engrafted word" (James i. 21). We have caution given us, and admonitions against pride, and arrogance, and self-dependence (Prov. iii. 3—6).
2. Many bring their prejudicate opinions along with them, and are biassed and prepossessed before they come to the word of God, and so do not so much take up the sense which the Scriptures offer, as seek to impose their own sense on them, and regulate the Scriptures to their own hearts, not regulating their hearts, and principles, and senses, according to the word of God: Optimus ille lector est qui dictorum intelligentiain (saith Hilary) expectat, fc. That mind which is pre-occupied with evil opinions, and enslaved to preconceived conclusions, they do not take anything from the word, but impose something upon it, which God never revealed there. If the weights be equal, yet if the balance be not equipendent, wrong may be done. They come with an idol in their own hearts (Ezek. xiv. 3), as those that would ask counsel of the Lord, that were resolved beforehand. While we look through the spectacles of our own fancies and preconceptions, the mind, poisoned with error, seemeth to see what we see not.
3. Some search the Scriptures, not out of any love to the truth, or to know the mind of God, but to oppose it rather, and so seek a pretence from thence to justify their private faction in the way of opposition against God. The Devil gets Scripture, to wrest it to his own purpose (Matt. iv. 6). They read, not to be better, but to cavil, and put a greater varnish upon the Devil's cause; as Julian did search the Scriptures, to pick an advantage against the true religion, and scoff at them that professed it; and Herod inquired after the place where Jesus was born, not to adore him, but to kill him (Matt. ii. 8). Our great rule is, “Sanctify them through thy truth, thy word is truth" (John xvii. 17). When you come to study the Scriptures, to be the better for them, and not to cavil, then you are in the way to find profit from them.
4. Some come to the world, leavened with some carnal affections, and so their hearts are blinded by their lusts and passion : “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 belicve not” (2 Cor. iv. 3, 4). There is
evidence enough in the truth; but their hearts are wedded to their sins, and so cannot see it: they are ambitious, and seek after honour and worldly greatness; and, the whole bent and scope of the Scripture being against their design, they can never have a perfect understanding of it; their hearts are full of avarice, earthly-mindedness, and some other beloved sin that they cherish, which doth defile all that they touch, even the very word of God. A man that was unclean by a dead body, whatsoever he touched was also unclean, even holy things (Hag. ii. 13); and to the impure all things are impure (Titus i. 15); and so, by the just judgment of God, are blinded and hardened in their own prejudices; for the light they have, hindereth them from discerning the truth.
5. Some content themselves with some superficial apprehensions, and do not dig deep in the mines of knowledge ; and therefore no wonder they mistake in many things : “ If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God" (Prov. ii. 4,5). No excellent things are to be had without pain, and industry, and search; certainly, the knowledge of God's word must cost us great pains.
6. Where men are right in the main, and give diligence to know God's mind, there will be mistakes in lesser things. All have not parts alike, and gifts and graces alike; and therefore there is some variety of opinions and interpretations of Scripture among the godly wise. Every man is not so happy to be so well studied, nor hath that ability to understand, nor so furnished with acquired helps of arts and tongues, nor such a degree of the Spirit. There is a difference in age, growth, and experience, among good men; some are babes, and some grown in years, in Christianity. Grace is bewrayed in knowledge, as well as in holiness.
OBJECTION II.-If there be such a light in the Scriptures, what need is there of the Spirit ?
ANSWER.— I answer, the Scriptures are the means of light, the Spirit is the author of light; both together enlighten the eyes (Psalm xix. 8). These two must be taken in conjunction, not in exclusion. To pretend to the Spirit and neglect the Scriptures, makes way for error and fond conceits : “ To the law, and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isa. viii. 20). Light is not contrary to light; so to study the Scriptures and neglect the Spirit, who searcheth out the deep things of God, leaveth us in darkness about God's mind (1 Cor. ii. 11). The object to be known is fixed in the Scriptures; but the faculty that knoweth must be enlightened by the Spirit. There is a literal understanding of the Scriptures and a spiritual understanding (1 Cor. ii. 14). Now, as to the spiritual understanding of them, there needs the Spirit; for the natural man cannot understand the things of the Spirit; so that here is a fair correspondence between the word and the Spirit.
OBJECTION III.-If the Scriptures be so plain, what need the ministry?
ANSWER.—I answer, 1. It is God's institution, and we must submit to it, though we could see no reason for it. That it is God's institution, it is plain; for he hath set some in the church, not only apostles and prophets, but pastors and teachers, to apply Scriptures to us. And, “It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (1 Cor. i. 21). If there were no reason but this, because it is God's institution, we should submit to it.
2. The use of the ministry is, to explain and vindicate truth. Men darken counsel with words, and render plain things obscure by their liti. gations and unprofitable debates. Now, they are set for the defence of the truth, lıç árolóyrav (Phil. i. 7); and the ministry must be åvtexòuevos, able to convince the gainsayers (Titus i. 9); good at holding and drawing: it is the human help for weak understandings. The eunuch was reading, and could not tell what to make of it; then God sent him an interpreter (Acts viii.). Now, God's help should not be despised; when he will employ men to solve doubts, to guide us in our way to Heaven, we should thankfully accept of it, rather than quarrel at the institution.
3. They are of use to apply generals to particular cases, and to teach us how to deduce genuine inferences from those truths laid down in the Scrip. tures. In this sense it is said, “ The priest's lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth; for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts" (Mal. ï. 7). God hath appointed this office to some, to solve the doubts that do arise about particular exigencies and cases, and to make out the mind of God to his people ; otherwise, they need go no further than the tables and books of Moses, to seek the law; but God hath appointed some in the church that are skilled in consequences and deductions, to raise matter therefrom, so that it is a minister's work to open and explain Scripture.
4. There is a use of the ministry to keep doctrines still afoot in the church, and to keep us in remembrance. Ministers are the Lord's remembrancers; it is a great part of their office to mind people of their duty. The word is a light; but it must be set in the candlestick of the church, they are to hold out the light for our direction and guidance.
5. There is a peculiar blessing and efficacy to a Christian from their calling: “ Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world" (Matt. xxviii. 20).
OBJECTION IV.-It is said, that there are “some things hard to be understood” (2 Peter iii. 16); therefore how should it be a clear rule to us? Thereupon, many take occasion to tax the Scriptures of obscurity, and cry out that nothing is certain in religion, and so hinder and discourage men from the study of the word.
ANSWER I.-I answer, the Apostle saith there are dvovónta, some things hard to be understood, but doth not say there are ávónta, things that cannot be understood; not there are things impossible to be understood, but there is some difficulty in them, to exercise our diligence, to subdue our pride, for the humbling of us, for the prevention of the contempt of things easy and plain, that are soon despised, to excite us to prayer for knowledge, to avoid satiety in this holy banquet.
2. The second thing that I answer is this, he doth not say there are mol/à, but riva; not many things, but some. Though there are some things propounded which are difficult, to exercise our diligence; yet other things are plainly delivered, to invite our search. Multa sunt aperta et manifesta (saith Austin), unde aperiuntur, fc. Though there are some things obscure, there are many things will help to clear them; and whatsoever is necessary to salvation, is clear. There are some things hidden, like spots in the moon and stones in the earth, things that serve for plenitude of knowledge and curiosity; he saith these things are hid ; but now, things necessary to salvation are made obvious to us; as water and bread, they are not hard to come by, but gold and silver are hid in the bowels of