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the earth; and therefore, though there be some things hard to be understood, he doth not say they are not to be understood. Now, the question between us and the Papists is not, whether some things in the Scripture be obscure, but whether they be so obscure as that people ought not to read them, or cannot with any profit, and that there can be no certainty thence deduced. As to the defining things controverted in matters necessary to salvation, we say there are some things hard to be understood, to keep us hunible, to quicken us to pray for the Spirit; yet, for the most part, God's mind is plain and easy to be understood by them that humbly depend upon Christ's teaching in the use of the appointed means.
OBJECTION V.-Another objection is from experience; a poor Christian complaineth, as Job, “He hath fenced up my way, that I cannot pass” (xix. 8); they would fain know the mind of God in some particular cases; but they cannot see it.
ANSWER.-I answer, this darkness of ours should not be urged to the disparagement of the word. We are under many doubts, we are divided between light and interest, we puzzle and grope, and would reconcile the light of the Scriptures and our interests together ; but this should not disparage the word. The Scriptures complain of our darkness, not of their own; and the saints always say, not, •Lord, make a plainer law;' but, • Open our eyes,' in the 18th verse of this Psalm : this is Chrysostom's gloss upon that place. When a man walketh in the way of his own heart, his way may be darkness, and he may stumble, and know not whither he goeth; but you that give up yourselves sincerely to the directions of his word, he will make your path clear and plain before you ; that is, when you seek nothing but God's glory and your own eternal salvation for your end, and come with an humble, meek mind to seek God's counsel, being free from the pre-occupations of self-conceits, being resolved to follow God's directions whatever they be, and use that dilgence which is necessary, you will not be long kept in the dark.
USE 1.-To inform us how to answer this question, how to know whether the Scriptures be the word of God. It shows itself and evidenceth itself to be so; for it is a light that discovers itself, and all things else, without any other testimony. When the sun is up, there needs no witness and proof that it is light. Let the least child bring a candle into a room, and, as it discovers other things, so it discovers itself: so the word of God is that which discovers itself to us ; yea, it hath a self-evidencing light.
If the word be a light, it informs us then, there is none that are above the Scriptures. There is a fond conceit that men take up, that the Scriptures are for novices and young beginners, not for strong Christians. David was no novice; yet he saith, “ Thy word is a light;" and Daniel was no novice, yet he got understanding by the prophecy of the Prophet Jeremiah (Dan. ix. 2). Timothy was no novice, who was to "give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine” (1 Tim. iv. 13). Ay; but what is meant by that place? “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). From thence many gather, that, as soon as Christ is revealed in us, we should not look after the Scriptures; for it is said, “ Until the day dawn, and the day-star arise in your hearts." Some understand this place of the light of glory, and others of the light of the Gospel; you do well to take heed to the Old Testament light, till
you have the New Testament light, which is most agreeable to the mind of God. For my part, I pitch upon the former, and shall understand it of the dawning of eternity, or Christ's secoud coming, which is called in Scripture a day wbich shall then begin and never be ended, after which there is no night, nor any other day but a blessed eternity; and sometimes it is called " that day" (2 Tim. ir. 8, and 1 Thes. v. 4); and Christ is called “the bright and morning star” (Rev. xxii. 16); and the glorious shall shine like the morning stars (Dan. xi. 3, and Rev. ü. 28). Our happiness is expressed by a day-star : so that the meaning is, take heed unto this word until the day of eternity dawn upon you, till you come to the light of glory, till you have a greater light than that of the Gospel.
Now, I rather pitch upon this interpretation, because they to whom the Apostle wrote were converted Jews, and did not only own the Old Testament, but had already received the Gospel-light; the day-star was risen upon their hearts, so that he bids them take heed to the sure word of prophecy, till the light of glory was revealed to them. I know there are some divines understand it of a more clear and plentiful knowledge of the Gospel, who take prophecy to be the Scriptures of the Old Testament that they were to take heed to, till the Gospel light did arise upon them: and the times of the Old Testament were called night, but now, the Gospel time is called day (Rom. xiii. 12); but, if it be understood thus, then some say, that the law must be cast off, when the Gospel appeared to them, because it is said, “ until the day." Those divines explain themselves safely enough herein; for, say they, “ until" doth not always note terminum temporis, the end of time, but continuationem actus, the continuation of the act; until the time, and afterwards, as it is spoken of in other Scriptures, Their sin shall not be blotted out till they die; that is, never; but for the former reason that I have given before, I think it is meant of the light of glory.
1. Of those that walk in the midst of this light, and yet perceive no more of the things of God than if they were in darkness; these lose the benefit which God vouchsafeth to thein : “ The light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not” (John i. 5); and, “Light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light” (John ïïi. 19). It had been better for them they had never heard of the Scriptures, and that God had never set up such a lamp in the church. These men believe the word of God is a light and a lamp, yet never take care of, nor give heed to it; they are careless, and never measure their actions according to this rule.
2. It reproves those that set up another rule, and look for an infallible interpreter.
(1.) Those that set up reason instead of the word of God. Alas! this is an imperfect rule: these men would bring down all things before the tribunal of their own reason; these are not disciples of Christ, but masters : they will not be taught by the directions of the word, but by their own dark hearts. I have told you the candle of the Lord did burn bright within us; but, alas ! now it is weakened by sin, it is an imperfect, irrational thing; we can never be saved by it.
(2.) Others are guided by their passions and lusts : this is their direction and their lamp; this will surely lead them to utter darkness : “If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die” (Rom. viii. 13).
(3.) Some take the counsel and example of others; this will leave them comfortless, and make them fall into the snare.
(4.) Some go to witches in straits, as the Prophet reproves such : “Should not a people seek unto their God?” (Isa. viii. 19.)
(5.) Others expect new revelations from Heaven to counsel them; they would converse with angels, now God hath spoken to us by his Son: If “ an angel from Heaven should present any other Gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed” (Gal. i. 8).
USE III.-Caution, to enterprise nothing but what you have a warrant for out of the word of God. When you are going about any action, say, • Where is my warrant? If I do it upon my own brain, I must stand to my own hazard; and all the evil that comes upon me, it is the fruit of my own counsel. The priest was to ask counsel of the Lord, who shall go out and who shall go in (Numb. xxvii. 21); and, to do things with a doubting conscience, with an uncertainty whether it be good or bad, it is a sin (1 Sam. xxiii. 9, 10); for “ whatsoever is not of faith, is sin." Still seek your direction from the word.
USE IV.-It exhorts us to bless God, and be thankful for this light: “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Isa. ix. 2).
There is the same difference between the church and other places, as there was between Egypt and Goshen (Exod. x. 23); here is light, and in other places thick darkness. What a mercy is it that we have present direction, a light to guide us here in grace, that will bring us to glory! Give thanks to God for so great a benefit.
Walk according to the directions of the word; walk in the light (Eph. v. 8); believe it (Heb. ir. 2), the true and infallible truth that came out of God's mouth; and then apply it. Say, This truth which is spoken is spoken to me,' and urge thy heart with the duties of it. This was spoken for our learning; be persuaded of this truth; and so walk and so do, and you shall not find any miscarriage (1 Cor. xv. 58). Here is my warrant and my direction, I will keep to it ; though it expose me to many hazards and straits, I know it will be made up at last; it will not be lost labour to do what God biddeth thee to do.
SERMON CXIV. VERSE 106.—I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep
thy righteous judgments. In the former verse, David had commended the word for a sure direction : it is a light and a lamp ; how so? Not only by God's designation and appointment, but by David's choice: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” Now, in this verse, he speaks of his firmness and constancy to that choice, “I have taken thy word for my guidance and direction, and there he did resolve to stick ; his constancy was grounded upon a vow, or upon a promissory oath, which he saw no cause to retract, or repent of; “I have sworn, and I will perform it," &c.
In which words, you may observe,
1. The strength of David's resolution and purpose, expressed in his oath ; not, I must, or I will keep; but, “ I have sworn,” &c.
2. The matter of this purpose, or oath; and that was to keep God's judgments.
3. One great motive and reason that inclined him so to do, in the words, “ Thy righteous judgments ;” the marvellous equity that was to be observed in the things commanded by God.
4. The conscience that lay upon him of observing this oath, “I will perform it." As if he had said, “I saw a great deal of reason to make the promise so solemnly to God; and I see no reason at all to retract it.'
Four points I shall observe :
1. That it is not only lawful, but good and profitable, to bind ourselves to our duty, by a vow, solemnly declared purpose, and holy oath; so David, “ I have sword.”
2. That this help of an oath or vow should be used in a matter lawful, weighty, and necessary : “I have sworn," saith David; but what hath he sworn? To “ keep thy righteous judgments," -a great duty which God had enjoined him in his covenant.
3. Those that are entered in the bond of a holy oath, must religiously observe and perform what they have sworn to God, “I have sworn, and I will perform."
4. That we may perform our oaths, and lie under a sense and conscience of our engagements to God, it is good that they should be often revived and renewed upon us; for so doth David here recognize his oath, “ I have sworn," &c.
DOCTRINE I.—That it concerns us sometimes to bind ourselves to God, and the duty that we owe to him, by an oath.
First, That it is lawful so to do, appears from God's injunction and the practice of the saints.
Ist, From God's injunction. He bath commanded us to accept of the Gospel-covenant ; and not barely so, but to submit unto the seals and rites by which it is confirmed ; which submission of ours implieth an oath made to God. Baptism is our sacramentum militare, sacramental vow, our oath of allegiance to God, and therefore it is called, & TEQúrnua, “the answer of a good conscience towards God” (1 Peter iii. 21), an answer upon God's demands in the covenant. God does, as it were, in the covenant of grace, put us to the question, “Will you renounce all your sins, and all the vanities you have doted upon ? And we answer to God, enter into a solemn oath, that we will renounce sin, that we will accept of Christ as our Saviour, and will walk before him in all holy obedience. Among the Ros mans, when any soldier was pressed for war, he took an oath to serve his captain faithfully, and not to forsake him ; and then he was called miles per sacramentum, a soldier by sacrifice, or by oath ; and sometimes one took an oath for all the rest, and the others only said, “The same oath he took, the same do I ;' and these were called milites per conjurationem et milites evocati. Thus every Christian is a professed soldier of Christ; he hath sworn to become the Lord's, to cleave faithfully to him; and this oath, that it may not be forgotten, is renewed at the Lord's Supper, where again we solemnly engage, by the public rites that are there used, to stand to our covenant. We do not only come and take God's enfeoffment, take a pledge out of God's hands, to be assured of the privileges of the covenant; but we bind ourselves to perform the duty thereof: for, as the blood of the beast that was offered in the sacrifice, which is called there the
blood of the covenant, was sprinkled, not only upon the altar, to show that God was engaged to bless, but sprinkled half upon the people, to show they were engaged to obey ; there was a confirmation of that promise made to God, “ All that the Lord hath said will we do” (Exod. xxiv. 6–8). Well now, if God thought such a course necessary and profitable for us, certainly we may, upon occasion, use the like means for our confirmation, for our strengthening in the work of obedience. That there is such a vow expressed, or implied, in every prayer, may be easily made good in the whole tenour of our Christianity; therefore, certainly, it is lawful so to do, to make our duty more urgent and explicit upon our souls, by solemn vow and serious oath of dedication of ourselves to God's use and service.
2ndly, The practice of the saints who have publicly and privately engaged themselves to God, doth show the lawfulness of it. Public instances : “ They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord God of their fathers, with all their heart and with all their soul, &c. And they sware unto the Lord,” &c. (2 Chron. xv. 12–14.) So in Josiah's time : “ And the king stood in his place, and made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord, and to keep his commandments,” &c. (2 Chron. xxxiv. 31.) So, they entered “into an oath to walk in God's law" (Neh. x. 29). And for private oaths; we have David's instance here in the text; and, “I made a covenant with mine eyes ” (Job xxxi. 1). He had bound himself by a holy vow and purpose, to guard his senses, and take heed his heart did not take fire by the gazing of his eye, that it was not inflamed with lust and sin.
Secondly, That it is convenient so to do.
Ist, To answer God's love and condescension to us in the covenant. God thinks he can never be bound fast enough to us, and therefore interposeth by an oath. An oath is properly conversant about a doubtful matter, of which there is some question or scruple, which cannot otherwise be decided : then, the law saith, he should give his oath to his neighbour. Why, then, doth the Lord swear? is there any doubtfulness in his promises? No; the Apostle saith, the Lord swears, being willing over and above to give the heirs of promise ample satisfaction (Heb. vi. 18). Now, for God that cannot lie, and whose word is above all assurance, to stoop to us, and put himself to an oath, certainly this should work upon our hearts, and draw from us some answerable return on our part, there being great and visible danger of our breaking with God, none of God's breaking with us: therefore, that we may not play fast and loose with him, we should come under this engagement to him of vow and public promise to God.
2ndly, To testify our affection to his service, we should put ourselves under the highest and most sacred bonds that can be found out. Many have some slight and wandering motions towards God, and cold purposes of serving him, which soon vanish, and come to nothing; but now, it argueth the heart is more thoroughly bent and set towards God, and that we have a deep sense of our duty, when we seriously confirm our purpose by a vow and holy oath. There are divers sorts of men in the world, some that are of that spirit as to break all bonds, cast away all cords, and think they can never be loose enough in point of religion (Psalm ii. 3): they seek to deface and blot out of their conscience the natural sense which they have of religion, and of their duty to God, and so give up themselves Scadlong to all manner of impiety. There are others have some cold ap