Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.—JOHN 17:17.
SECONDLY, The church hath owned the word. You see how God hath owned it; he saith it is my word. Let us see how the church hath owned it. Here I shall show three things:—
1. What is the church’s duty to the word.
2. What credit and value we ought to put on the church’s testimony.
3. How the church hath witnessed to the word in all ages.
1. What is the church’s duty? To keep the word, and to transmit it pure to the next age, that nothing be added, nothing diminished; that it be published to the present age, and transmitted pure to the next: Rom. 3:2, ‘Unto them were committed the oracles of God.’ We are trustees: Jude 3, ‘Earnestly contending for the faith that was once delivered to the saints: 1 Tim. 3:15, ‘The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.’ The church is to hold it forth, as a pillar doth a proclamation, that it may not be lost and extinguished. This is the jewel Christ hath left his spouse, as the law was kept in the ark.
2. What respect we ought to bear to the church’s testimony? To hearken to it till we have better evidence. We do not ultimately resolve our faith into the church’s authority, for the authority of the church is not absolute, but ministerial; as a royal edict doth not receive credit by the officer and crier, he only declareth it. Yet the church’s testimony is not to be neglected; for ‘faith cometh by hearing,’ Rom. 10:14. It is a preparative inducement: John 4:42, ‘Now we believe, not because of thy saying, for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.’ If we would know the truth of a thing before we have experience, go to them that have experience; the judgment of others, whom we respect and reverence, causeth us to have a good opinion of a thing till we make trial. The testimony of the church hath inclined us to think that the scriptures are the word of God; not that the church can make and unmake scripture when it pleaseth, as a messenger that carrieth letters from a king doth not give authority to them.
3. How the church hath witnessed to the truth of the scriptures in all ages? Partly by tradition, partly by martyrdom.
[1.] By tradition. Holy books were indited one after another, according to the necessity of times, and still the latter confirmed the former. Moses was confirmed by Joshua, chap. 23:6, ‘Be ye courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses;’ and Joshua and others by succeeding prophets; and all were confirmed by Christ: Luke 24:44, ‘These are the words which I spake unto you while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms concerning me;’ for the New Testament, it was confirmed by all the suceeding ages of the church. Christians different in other things yet agreed these to be the writings of the apostles. So that we have a more general consent than we have about any other matter probable in the world. Men of excellent parts and learning, that were not apt to take matters on trust, all assent to scripture, as the public record for the trial of doctrines. When heirs wrangle, they go to the last will and testament.
[2.] By martyrdom. The patience and constancy of the martyrs, who have ratified this truth with the loss of their dearest concernments, yea, even of life itself: Rev. 12:11, ‘They overcame by the blood of the Lamb, and the word of their testimony, and they loved not their lives unto the death.’ It is possible that a man may suffer for a false religion, and sacrifice a stout body to a stubborn mind; but because there is counterfeit coin, is there no true gold? The devil’s martyrs are neither so many for number, nor for temper and quality so holy, so wise, so meek, as Christ’s champions. The christian religion can show you persons of all ages, young and old; of all sexes, men and women; of all conditions of life, noble and of low degree; of all qualities, learned and unlearned; persons that could not be suspected to be mopish or melancholy, or tired out with the inconveniences of an evil world, but were in a capacity to enjoy temporal things with the highest delight and sweetness, and yet counted not their lives dear to them, to confirm the truth of this word. What is dearer to men than life? And this not out of any desire of vainglory, their death being accompanied with as many disgraceful as painful circumstances; not out of any senseless stupidity, or fierceness of mind, they being of a meek temper, and blamed for nothing else but their constancy in asserting that truth which they professed; not out of any confidence in their own strength, in bearing those horrible cruelties that were inflicted upon them, but humbly committing themselves to God, and imploring his strength, did deliberately and voluntarily give up themselves to be cruelly butchered and tormented, as a testimony of the power of this truth upon their hearts; some of them kissing the stake, thanking the executioner, others wrestling a while with flesh and blood and natural desires of life, yet, the love of the truth prevailing, came at length to encounter the horrors of a cruel death with a well-tempered constancy and resolution; which certainly in so many thousands, even to an incredible number, could not be without some divine power and force upon their souls. That all this should be done by persons otherwise of a delicate, tender sense, and a meek and flexible spirit! what should move them to it but the power of the truth? This being a religion of little reputation in the world, which the philosophers and disputers of that age sought to batter down with arguments, the politicians with all manner of discouragements, the orators with a flood of words, the tyrants with slaughters and torments, the devil by all manner of crafts and subtleties. What had the poor christians before their eyes but prisons, and wild beasts, and gibbets, and fires, and racks, and torturing engines more cruel than death? They had flesh and blood as well as others, a nature that continually prompted them to spare themselves as well as others; life was as dear to them, and their care of their families and little ones as great, their respect to parents and friends as much in them as any; yea, more, religion requiring natural affection in the highest exercise, and entendering their hearts with a sense of their duty; yet rather than give their bibles to be burnt, or be led away from their religion, they could trample upon all. Certainly such an invincible constancy could not be imputed to any rigid sullenness, or foolish obstinacy, or distempered stiffness, but merely to the love of truth, which prevailed over all other concernments. Let it shame us, that they could part with life, and all their interests, for Christ and his truth, and we cannot part with our lusts; they with their well-being, and we not with our ill-being. Could they suffer the persecutors to destroy their bodies, and will not we suffer the fire of the word to consume our lusts? Reason and conscience is calling upon us to quit these things, and yet we hug them to our great prejudice; we to whom a little duty is so irksome, a little pains in prayer so tedious, what would we do if the fires were kindled about us, and we were every day to carry our life in our hands, and could look for nothing but halters, and stakes, and instruments of destruction? Surely our spirits are too silken and soft for such a religion, so abstracted from ease and pleasure, and worldly interests.
Thirdly, The malignant world hath owned it; the deadly hatred of the devil, and the constant opposition of wicked men is a proof of it. The malignant world know it, and therefore they hate and oppose it. The reason of the argument is because the heart of man is naturally averse to God: 1 Cor. 2:14, ‘The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.’ Now that which all wicked men do universally and constantly oppose and malign, certainly that is of God. As Christ saith of his own disciples, John 15:19, ‘If ye were of the world, the world would love its own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.’ So may we reason: If the scriptures were of men, if devised by them, and suitable to their lusts and humours, the men of the world would receive them with a great deal of stillness, flesh and blood would love its own. But carnal men have constantly and universally opposed the doctrine of God, and always have been afflicting the church, and seeking to oppose the people of God, because of their professing the truth. Mark it, before Christianity began to be generally propagated in the world, the Jews were the mark and butt of malice, whereat all nations did shoot their envenomed arrows of malice and rage; and therefore it is very notable that the Romans, though they conquered many nations, yet they never put down the idolatry of the nations, as they put down the religion of the Jews, and sought to oppose that and molested that; and when the christians began to be discovered, then all their malice was turned off from the Jews to christians. Certainly it was not merely because of the difference of worship, for they tolerated the Epicureans, but took away all the worship of God; yea, they burnt the christians, and made them to be torches, to give light to Rome in a dark night. Therefore there was so special a spite at the ways of God.
Secondly, I am now to prove the truth, or divine authority of the word by intrinsic arguments, or such arguments as are taken from the scriptures themselves: either—
1. From the manner and form of these writings; or else,
2. From the matter of them.
1. In the manner and form of these writings you may observe these things:—
[1.] The majesty of the style. Look, as there was a difference between Christ’s teaching and the teaching of the pharisees: Mat. 7:29, ‘He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes;’ such a sovereign majesty is there in the scriptures. They speak, not as conscious of any weakness, and so begging assent, but as commanding it. ‘Thus saith the Lord.’ It is the great argument in scripture; hear it, or you are lost for ever. Pray mark, it is not said, ‘not as the prophets,’ but ‘not as the scribes;’ they had nothing but what was human out of the Jewish rabbis, but Christ speaketh like an extraordinary messenger, as one that came to increase the canon and rule of faith, with such an awe that the high priest’s officers were afraid to meddle with him: John 7:45, 46, ‘Why have ye not brought him? The officers said, Never man spake like this man,’ with such an infallible spirit. ‘Ye have heard,’ saith Christ, but ‘I say;’ and his great argument is, ‘I say unto you;’ Mat. 5:21, 22, ‘Ye have heard that it hath been said of old time, Thou shalt not kill, &c.; but I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause,’ &c. So ver. 27, 28, 33, 34, 38, 39, 43, 44. There is such a majesty breathing forth from one end of the scriptures to another. Men can only beg assent, not command it by their own authority; and therefore in all matters which they would enforce, they use insinuation and argument; but the prophets say, ‘Thus saith the Lord;’ and Christ, who had original authority in the Church, ‘I say unto you.’ With what a majestic contempt doth Christ scorn his opposers! ‘He that hath ears to hear, let him hear;’ ‘He that is filthy, let him be filthy still.’ God will not regard the loss of such, that do not regard to understand and obey his word. Longinus, a heathen, admired the majesty of Moses his writings, γενηθήτω καὶ ἐγένετο, ‘Let it be done, and it was done;’ the style of mighty princes and emperors.
[2.] The simplicity of the style. Though it be full of majesty and authority, yet the naked truth is represented in a plain manner, to the capacity of the meanest: Ps. 19:7, ‘The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.’ As there are deep mysteries which may exercise the greatest wits, so in points necessary the scriptures are so plain and clear that they may be understood by those of the dullest understanding. Such simplicity with such majesty is a character of their divine original. They speak in such a manner as to feed the greatest, and instruct the meanest; a child may wade, and an elephant may swim. But this is not all I mean by simplicity, the plainness of the style, but the native beauty of it. Things are nakedly reported, but yet in an affective manner, as if we had been actually present to see them done. Look to the histories of the word, certainly they cannot be fictions, for fictions must either be to delight the fancy, as poetry, or to win the assent for politic ends. There is no such thing in the scriptures; not poetry, things are delivered in a plain manner; not policy, to gain a repute to themselves; they still seek to cast the honour upon God, as I shall prove by and by, by the faithfulness of their relations. It is not imitable by art, such a plain genuine relation. For mysteries, there were sophists in the apostle’s times. Nihil tam horrendum, quod non dicendo fiat probabile. The fashion was to make absurd horrid things seem probable by the paint and artifice of words, as to prove a gnat better than the sun, or a worm than a man, by plausible arguments. But saith the apostle, 1 Cor. 2:4, ‘My speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.’ Nor in ostentation of parts, but in simplicity and power; plain words have a mighty efficacy. Those sophists and orators did only tickle the fancy; their aim was not to win assent.
[3.] The fidelity of their reports. The penmen of the scripture report their own failings, which men will not do. If they must write of themselves, they will be sure to write the best, and not the worst; but these spared not their own faults. Men naturally labour to cover their own faults, to hide them, to speak well of themselves; especially they are careful not to leave an ill character of themselves to posterity, nor of their party and faction. Now you shall see Moses spareth not to relate his own weaknesses and miscarriages, his resistance of his call, Exod. 4, nor what a great deal of do God had to bring him into Egypt, to perform his duty to his country. His false pleas show his carnal fear: ver. 19, ‘The Lord said unto Moses in Midian, Go, return into Egypt, for all the men are dead which sought thy life.’ His murmuring against God, and speaking unadvisedly with his lips, the idolatry of Aaron, the murmuring of Miriam his sister, God shutting him out of the land of Canaan, and not believing after many miracles: Num. 20:12, ‘And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.’ Many such instances may be given, how the penmen of scripture relate things to their own disparagement: Deut. 32:51, ‘Because ye trespassed against me among the children of Israel, at the waters of Meribah-kadesh, in the wilderness of Zin; because ye sanctified me not in the midst of the children of Israel.’
[4.] Another quality to be discerned in the manner and form of the scriptures is the harmony and agreement that is to be found in them all along, notwithstanding the diversity of times, places, and persons; still there is an increase of knowledge, and dispensations rise higher and higher, as the light increaseth till noonday, but there is no difference: Luke 1:70, ‘As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began.’ One mouth, many prophets. They lived in such distant ages, handled such diversity of arguments, yet all conspired in promoting the same truth, which is now revealed to us in the New Testament. There is a great difference of style; some speak with more loftiness and majesty, others with greater familiarity and humility of expression, yet all promoting the same thing. There is a difference in the manner of prosecution, yet an exact harmony in the substance and essential quality of their writings, not only in their general drift and scope, to set out the glory of God and the good of mankind, but in the matter handled, without any spice of secular vanity, as is to be seen in other writings; so the one and the same spirit appeareth throughout the whole: 1 Cor. 12:4, ‘Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.’ Yea, there is not only a diversity of style, but a different degree of light, according to the increase of God’s dispensations; yet there is a harmony. God’s name and style, and the mystery of Christ, was made known to the church by degrees; the solemn title and style of God was not one and the same from the beginning of the world; but though they were diverse, yet they were not one contrary to another, but one perfecting the other. He is called by Melchisedek, ‘The most high God, possessor of heaven and earth,’ Gen. 14:19. Afterwards, by reason of his covenant with Abraham, אל־שרי, ‘God all-sufficient;’ Gen. 17:1, ‘I am the Almighty God,’ or the all-sufficient God; ‘walk before me, and be thou perfect.’ Then when he was put to it, he made known himself by the name of Jehovah: Exod. 6:2, 3, ‘And God spake unto Moses, and said unto him, I am the Lord. And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known unto them.’ And after the appropriation of the covenant to the family of the patriarchs, he is called the ‘God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob;’ Exod. 3:15, ‘The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you. This is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.’ Then, upon experience of God’s care of them, he is called, Exod. 20:2, ‘The Lord thy God, which hath brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage;’ then ‘the Lord, that brought his people out of the north country:’ Jer. 23:7, 8, ‘Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that they shall no more say, The Lord liveth, that brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; but, The Lord liveth, which brought up and which led the seed of the house of Israel out of the north country, and from all countries whither I had driven them, and they shall dwell in their own land.’ Then, when the Sun of righteousness was risen, ‘the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ:’ 1 Peter 1:3, ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy, hath begotten us again unto a lively hope,’ &c.; 2 Cor. 1:3, ‘Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;’ Eph. 1:3, ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.’ So for the mystery of redemption; first it was revealed to Adam to be by ‘the seed of the woman;’ Gen. 3:15, ‘I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel;’ then to Abraham, by ‘thy seed:’ Gen. 12:3, ‘In thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed;’ which was repeated to Isaac to cut off Ishmael; then to Jacob to cut off Esau. Then it was revealed out of what tribe he should come, viz., out of Judah: Gen. 49:10, ‘The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor the lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come.’ Then that he should come of David’s line: Isa. 11:1, ‘There shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.’ And that he should be born of a virgin: Isa. 7:14, ‘Behold a virgin shall conceive, and shall bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.’ There is a difference of manifestation, yet still a harmony, as there is a difference between a small print and a great print, but the matter is the same. The mystery of God manifested in the flesh is set forth in a fairer edition.
[5.] There is one character more in the form and manner of these writings, and that is impartiality. Kings and subjects are bound by the same laws, liable to the same punishments, encouraged by the same promises. If the scriptures were only a politic device to keep subjects in awe, there would be some exemption for potentates; but they are alike obnoxious to God’s judgment, and the same Tophet that is provided for the peasant is provided for the prince: Isa. 30:33, ‘For Tophet is ordained of old, yea, for the king it is prepared; he hath made it deep and large,’ &c. Tophet was a valley where the idolatrous Jews were wont to burn their children; therefore, as a fit type of everlasting punishment, it is put for hell; it is capacious enough to receive all, king and subject. Now the scriptures, that threaten potentates as well as others, must needs be a law that cometh from a higher than the highest; who would presume else to threaten those in power? Rev. 20:12, ‘And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God: and the books were opened; and another book was opened, which was the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.’ On this side the grave there is a distinction between man and man, but all are alike obnoxious to Christ’s judgment, and all stand in dread of it. There is enough in the scriptures to astonish the heart of the mightiest potentate, and make it tremble.
2. Now from the matter of the scriptures. I am much prevented from what is published on James 1:18; but let me speak something now. All that is spoken in the scripture may be reduced to these five heads—Precepts, promises, doctrines, histories, prophecies. Now all these proclaim it to be of God. I shall be brief in going over this enumeration.
[1.] For the precepts of the word: Ps. 119:96, ‘I have seen an end of all perfection, but thy commandments are exceeding broad.’ Here all matters of duty and morality are advanced to their highest perfection. It is very broad, watching every thought, and the first motions of the heart. No precepts are so holy, just, and good. The light of nature seeth a necessity of holiness; there are some fragments and remains of light in man’s heart, that teach him what is good and right; but these are much blurred: Rom. 2:15, ‘Which show ἔργον νὁμου, the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts in the meanwhile accusing, or else excusing one another.’ Now the word is the second edition of God’s will, wherein duties are better known and set forth; not only sins, but lusts are forbidden. Lust is adultery: Mat. 5:28, ‘Whosoever shall look on a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.’ In worship and other duties, not only the act, but the frame of the heart is regarded: Mat. 22:37, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.’ Yea, there are precepts that go against the bent and hair of nature; man’s heart could never have devised them, as to love our enemies: Mat. 5:44, 45, ‘Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father that is in heaven; for he maketh his sun to rise upon the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.’ To wean men from the world, that it is a sin to walk as men: 1 Cor. 3:3, ‘For ye are yet carnal; for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?’ Christians are trained up in a higher school. So to deny ourselves, a lesson proper to Christ’s school: Mat. 16:24, ‘If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up the cross and follow me.’ To depend on God, renouncing our sufficiency, &c.
[2.] The promises of the word, they hold forth the highest happiness that man is capable of. Philosophy was to seek of a fit reward and encouragement of virtue; the chief good is only revealed in the scriptures. Men are at a puzzle and loss till they take this light along with them: Ps. 4:6, ‘There are many that say, Who will show unto us any good?’ There is a disposition and instinct of nature towards happiness, yea, towards eternal happiness. All men would be happy. Man’s soul is a chaos of desires; like a sponge, it desireth to fill itself; it is thirsty, and seeketh to be satisfied. Austin speaketh of a jester that at the next show would undertake to show every one what they did desire; and when there was a great confluence and expectation, he told them, Hoc omnes vultis, vili emere, et caro vendere. Another said, Ye all desire to be praised. But Austin saith rightly, these were but foolish answers, because many good men desire neither, the one being against justice, and the other against sincerity; but, saith he, Si dixisset, omnes beati esse vultis, he had said right: every one may find this disposition in his own heart, to an eternal infinite happiness. This stock was left in nature, on which grace hath grafted: Acts 17:26, ‘That they may seek the Lord, if happily they might feel after him and find him, though he be not far from every one of us.’ They groped after God, like the blind Sodomites about Lot’s door. When we have all outward blessings, the soul of man is not filled, but this sore runneth. Fecisti nos, Domine, propter te, et ideo irrequietum est cor meum, donee requiescatin te. There is a natural poise in the soul, that bendeth it that way, so that we cannot be quiet without God. We may make experiments, as Solomon did, but still we shall want an infinite eternal recompense after this life, for we can never be happy here; as the heathens dreamed of Elysian fields. This is fit for God to give, and for us to receive; the infinite eternal God will give like himself, 2 Cor. 4:17, ‘A far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;’ as Araunah ‘gave like a king to the king,’ 2 Chron. 24:24, a royal gift. There is a time when God will give like himself. The scripture giveth this manifestation of eternal happiness.
[3.] The doctrines of the word, of sin, righteousness, and judgment, they are all sublime: John 16:8, ‘When the Spirit is come, he will reprove (or convince) the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment.’ Without a revelation from God they could not enter into the heart of man; doctrines of sin, to humble the creature; of righteousness, to raise him and comfort him; of judgment, to awe him unto holiness. Of sin, as of the fall, the heathens knew nothing of this; they complained of nature as a step-mother. Vitia etiam sine magistro discuntur. Man cometh into the world crying, as into a place of misery; the cause they could not tell. The scriptures show us how we sinned in Adam. Our natures are evil, more susceptible of bad than of good, never weary of sin, because this is most suitable to us. Then there are doctrines of righteousness, and there indeed come in many mysteries, trinity of persons, union of the two natures in Christ’s person, a child born of a virgin; but all these, though above nature, yet not against it. All religions aim at this, to bring men to God; nature is sensible of a breach. There are vain offers elsewhere to make up this breach, but the scriptures show the way; therefore there is no reason to suspect the truth of them. It is above reason, that showeth it to be of divine original; if the creature had been put to study it, they could never have found it out; it exceedeth all human contrivance, and therefore maketh us wonder. And there are doctrines of judgment; take it of judgment to come, resurrection, last judgment, it is not incredible; reason showeth it may be: Acts 26:8, ‘Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you that God should raise the dead?’ Justice must have a solemn triumph. The heathens dreamed of a severe day of accounts: Acts 24:25, ‘As he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled;’ Rom. 1:18, ‘The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.’ There is a sad presage of it in a guilty heart.
[4.] The histories of the word. The scriptures are a history of the creation of the world, which puzzled the philosophers; some thought it was produced by chance, others that it was from eternity. Moses with plainness, and yet with majesty, speaks of the original of all things, the propagation of mankind, &c. There is no such ancient historical monument; for above the funerals of Troy, all is uncertain. And all the rest of the bible is but a comment on Moses.
[5.] The prophecies of the word; future contingencies are in it foretold many years before the event: Isa. 41:22, 23, ‘Let them show the former things, what they are, that we may consider them, and know the latter end of them, or declare us things for to come. Show the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that ye are gods.’ Cyrus was mentioned by name a hundred years before he was born: Isa. 45:1, ‘Thus saith the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden.’ The birth of Josiah three hundred years before it came to pass: 1 Kings 13:2, ‘Behold, a child shall be born unto the house of David, Josiah by name,’ &c. The building of Jericho five hundred years before it was re-edified: Josh. 6:26, ‘Cursed be the man before the Lord that riseth up and buildeth this city Jericho; he shall lay the foundation thereof in his first-born, and in his youngest son shall he set up the gates of it.’ Which was fulfilled: 1 Kings 16:34, ‘In his days did Hiel the Bethelite build Jericho; he laid the foundation thereof in Abiram his first-born, and set up the gates thereof in his youngest son Segub, according to the word of the Lord, which he spake by Joshua the son of Nun.’ The great promise of Christ made in paradise was accomplished some thousands of years afterward.
Use 1. It informeth us how to settle the conscience in sore temptations. When we doubt of the truth of the scriptures, take this course:—
1. There must be some word and rule from God to guide the creatures; how else shall he be served and worshipped? The inward rule of reason is not enough, as appears by the sad experience of the heathens: Rom. 1:21, 22, ‘Because that when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish hearts were darkened: professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.’ There must be some second edition of his will. Reason will teach us that God is to be worshipped, and every man’s heart will tell him that he must not be worshipped as we will, but as he will; for the servant must not prescribe to the master, but the master to the servant. Now we have no rule of worship but in the scriptures. The Alcoran is a silly piece, fit for sots. As for revelation, those that are ingenuous cannot speak of any such thing; and we see how men split themselves upon that rock: all is proved lies at length.
2. There is far more reason to receive the scriptures as the word of God than to suspect them. There is none more credulous than the atheist; he offereth violence to his own heart. The first temptation to it ariseth from his lusts; he would not have them true; and then afterward he is hardened and grown obstinate in his prejudices. If he would but hearken to the books of Moses as to the story of an ordinary man, as of Henry the Eighth, there is enough to make him tremble. Now there is no such history in the world, of such a genuine native style, so free from weaknesses, so likely even to a common eye; and if Moses be true, so is all the rest; the same vein runneth through all. Now the cause being so weighty, the inducements so rational, why should we not believe it? At least we may say, as of the blind man, ‘If it be not he, it is like him,’ John 9:9.
3. To what hath been alleged, add only this: consider the matter and aim of the scriptures. The scriptures seek to establish nothing but the worship and glory of the true God, the creator and governor of the world; they discover the God of nature in a most worthy and glorious manner. And for precepts: Deut. 4:8, ‘What nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous, as all this law, which I have set before thee this day?’ Where are there such precepts? where such promises? such a manifestation of happiness? such purity? There have been corruptions in the best things to which man ever put his hand, mixtures of falsehood and folly; but here all is pure and divine. Where are there such comforts for afflicted consciences? Jer. 6:16, ‘Stand ye in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, Where is the good way? and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls;’ Mat. 11:28, ‘Come unto me all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and ye shall find rest for your souls.’ Go and survey all the religions in the world, whatever pretence they be of, see where you can find such rest for your souls, such provision for the comfort and everlasting happiness of the creature, such rich encouragements for afflicted consciences. That which all religions aim at is here only accomplished.
4. Beg the light of the Spirit. What will your arguings reprove? David saith, Ps. 36:9, ‘In thy light we shall see light.’ We shall never else have any certainty: 1 Cor. 2:14, ‘The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned;’ ver. 15, ‘But he that is spiritual judgeth all things.’ The Spirit in the heart discerns the Spirit in the scriptures, as the sun is seen by its own light.
5. Till you have certainty by the light of the Spirit, practise what the scripture enjoins, upon these rational inducements: John 7:17, ‘If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.’ You will say, What is the meaning of this promise? before doing the will of God, we must of necessity know it. Ans. It is true, before you know it certainly. There are degrees of knowledge; first we know the scriptures to be the word of God by rational inducements, and some foregoing light of the Spirit, as those that are bred in the church. They that would know, not to wrangle but to practise, shall have new light, till they grow up to a greater certainty. It concerneth chiefly weak and doubting christians. Do that you may believe, believe that you may do. They that set their hearts to fear and obey him shall be clearly resolved of the christian faith.
Use 2. It teacheth us these duties:—
1. To make the word the judge of all controversies. There God speaketh to us. A father having many children, while he lives he governeth them himself, and needeth no will and testament; but a little before he dieth, that his children may not fall out, he calleth witness, maketh his will. Voluntatem suam de pectore morituro transfert in tabulas diu duraturas. If any controversy happen, Non itur ad tumulum, sed quæritur testamentum, saith Optatus. In this testament he speaketh his mind as if he were alive. God taught by oracle. Christ, when bodily present, taught his disciples by word; but his will and testament is written: Isa. 8:20, ‘To the law, and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.’
2. Make it your direction and constant rule of faith and manners. All other rules are uncertain, the traditions and opinions of men: Ps. 119:152, ‘Concerning thy testimonies, I have known of old that thou hast founded them for ever.’ Among men, τὰ δικαῖα κινούμενα, saith Aristotle; what one age counteth just and good, another counteth vain and frivolous, but God hath given us a settled rule. Not providence; it is to be observed, but it doth not always speak by way of approbation, nor point out the best way. Not impulse of spirit; this is to be regarded with other circumstances of a known duty: Acts 17:16, ‘His spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry;’ Acts 18:5, ‘Paul was pressed in spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ.’ Not necessity; man never was necessitated to sin. David’s eating the shew-bread in necessity does not prove it; for ceremonials must give place to moral duties. But now observe the word, as if God himself spake from heaven: Gen. 3:3, ‘God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.’ What the word saith, God saith: Ps. 119:105, ‘Thy word is a light unto my feet, and a lamp unto my paths.’