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exhort you : but, as God hath left it to us a rich depositum, a dear pledge of his love and care; so we should diligently attend to a rational and profitable study of it.
There are but two things, in the general, which commend any writing to us: either that it discovers knowledge, or directs practice; that it informs the judgment, or reforms the life. Both of these are eminently the characters of this Book of God. And therefore David tells us, Ps. xix. 7. The Law of God converts the soul, and makes wise the simple: it is a light, not only to our heads, but it is a lamp unto our feet, and a light unto our path: Ps. cxix. 105.
Let us consider it, as to both.
1. In point of Knowledge, as it perfects the understanding; and so it will appear, in sundry particulars, how excellent a study it is.
(1) The Scripture discovers unto us the knowledge of those truths, which the most improved natural reason could never sift out, and which are intelligible only by Divine Revelation.
God hath composed two books, by the diligent study of which, we may come to the knowledge of himself: the Book of the Creatures, and the Book of the Scriptures. The Book of the Creatures is written in those great letters of heaven and earth, the air and sea; and, by these, we may spell out somewhat of God: he made them for our instruction, as well as our service: there is not a creature, that God hath breathed abroad upon the face of the earth, but it reads us lectures, of his infinite power and wisdom; so that it is no absurdity to say, that, as they are all the words of his mouth, so they are all the works of his hands: the whole world is a speaking workmanship; Rom. i. 20. The invisible things of God.....are clearly seen.....by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead : and, indeed, when we seriously consider how God hath poised the earth in the midst of the air, and the whole world in the midst of a vast and boundless nothing; how he hath hung out those glorious lights of heaven, the sun, the moon, and stars, and made paths in the sky for their several courses; how he hath laid the sea on heaps, and so girt it in, that it may possibly overlook, but not overflow the land; when we view the variety, harmony, and law of the creation ; our reason must needs be very short, if we cannot from these collect the infinite wisdom, power, and goodness of the Creator: so much of God as be
longs to these two great attributes of Creator and Governor of the World, the Book of Nature may plainly discover to us. But, then, there are other more retired and reserved notions of God; other truths, that nearly concern ourselves and our eternal salvation to know and believe, which nature could never give the least glimpse to discover: what signature is there stamped upon any of the creatures of a Trinity in Unity, of the eternal generation or temporal carnation of the Son of God? what creature could inform us of our first Fall, and guilt contracted by it? where can we find the copy of the Covenants of Works or of Grace printed upon any of the creatures ? though the great sages of the world were Nature's Secretaries, and ransacked its abstrusest mysteries, yet all their learning and knowledge could not discover the sacred mystery of a Crucified Saviour: these are truths, which nature is so far from searching out, that it can scarce receive them when revealed; 1 Cor. ii. 14. The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God..... neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned: the light, that can reveal these, must break immediately from heaven itself: and.so it did, upon the Prophets, Evangelists, and Apostles; the penmen of the Holy Scriptures. "And, if it were their singular privilege, that the Holy Ghost should descend into their breasts; and so possess them with divine inspirations, that what they spake or wrote became oracular: how little less is ours ; since the Scriptures reveal to us the very same truths, which the Spirit revealed to them ! God, heretofore, spake in them; and, now, he speaks by them unto us : their revelations are become ours: the only difference is, that what God taught them by extraordinary inspiration, the very same truths he teacheth us in the Scripture, by the ordinary illumination of his Spirit. Here; therefore, whilst we diligently converse in the Book of God, we enjoy the privilege of prophets : the same word of God, which came unto them, comes also unto us'; and that, without those severe preparations and strong agonies, which sometimes they underwent, before God would inspire them with the knowledge of his heavenly truth.
That is the First Motive and Argument.
(2) The knowledge, which the Scripture teacheth, is, for the matter of it, the most sublime and lofty in the world.
All other sciences are but poor and beggarly elements, if compared with this.
What doth the naturalist, but only busy himself in digging a little drossy knowledge, out of the entrails of
the earth? the astronomer, who ascends highest, mounts no higher than the celestial bodies, the stars and planets; which are but the outworks of heaven. But the Scripture pierceth much farther, and lets us into heaven itself: there, it discovers the majesty and glory of God upon his throne, the Eternal Son of God sitting at his right-hand making a prevailing and authoritative intercession for us, the glittering train of cherubims and seraphims, an innumerable company of angels, and the spirits of just men made perfect: so that, indeed, when you have this book laid open before you, you have heaven itself and all the inconceivable glories of it laid open to your view. What can be more sublime, than the nature of God? and yet, here, we have it so plainly described by all its most glorious attributes and perfections, that the Seripture doth but beam forth light to an eye of faith, whereby it may be enabled to see him who is invisible. But, if we consider those gospel-mysteries which the Scripture relates; the hypostatical union of the divine and human nature, in Christ's incarnation; the mystical union of our persons to his, by our believing; that the Son of God should be substituted, in the stead of guilty sinners; that he, who knew no sin, should be made a sacrifice for sin, and the justice of God become reconciled to man, through the blood of God : these are mysteries so infinitely profound, as are enough to puzzle a whole college of angels. Now these the Scripture propounds unto us, not only to pose, but to perfect our understanding : for that little knowledge, unto which we can attain in these things, is far more excellent than the most comprehensive knowledge of all things else in the world: and, where our scanty apprehensions fall short of fathoming these deep mysteries, the Apostle hath taught us to seek it out with an 82 Bezdos : Rom. xi. 33. O the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out !
(3) The Scripture is an inexhaustible fountain of knowledge: the more you draw from it, the more still springs up. It is a deep mine, and the farther you search into it, still the richer you
It is tedious to read the works and writings of men often over, because we are soon at the bottom of what they deliver, and our understanding hath nothing new to refresh it: but, in reading the Scripture, it fares with us as it did with those whorn Christ
miraculously fed; the bread multiplied under their teeth, and increased in the very chewing of it: so, here, while we ruminate and chew on the truths of the Scripture, they multiply and rise up thicker under our meditation. One great cause of the neglect, which many are guilty of in reading the Holy Scripture, is a fear that they shall but meet with the same things again, which they have already read and known; and this they account tedious and irksome: indeed if they read it only superficially and slightly, it will be so; but those, who fix their minds to ponder and meditate upon the word, find new truths arising up to their understanding, which they never before discovered. Look as it is in a starry night, if you cast your eyes upon many spaces of the heavens, at the first glance perhaps you shall discover no stars there; yet, if you continue to look earnestly and fixedly, some will emerge to your view, that were before hid and concealed: so is it with the Holy Scriptures : if we only glance curiously upon them, no wonder we discover no more stars, no more glorious truths beaming out their light to our understanding. St. Augustin, found this so experimentally true, that he tells us, in his Third Epistle, that though he should, with better capacity and greater diligence, study all his lifetime, from the beginning of his childhood to decrepit age, nothing else but the Holy Scriptures; yet they are so compacted and thick set with truths, that he might daily learn something, which before he knew not. God hath, as it were, studied to speak compendiously in the Scriptures : what a 'miracle of brevity is it, that the whole duty of inan, relating both to God and his neighbour, should be all comprised in ten words ! not a word, but, were the sense of it drawn out, were enough to fill whole volumes; and therefore the Psalmist, Ps. cxix. 96. I have seen an end of all perfection; but thy commandments are exceeding broad. When we have attained the knowledge of those things that are absolutely necessary to salvation, there yet remain such depths of wisdom, both in the manner of Scripture-expression, and in the mysteriousness of the things expressed, that, after our utmost industry, still there will be left new truths to become the discovery of a new search.
(4) The Scripture exhibits to us that knowledge, which is necessary to eternal salvation.
This is life eternal, to know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent : John xvii. 3. And this knowledge the Scriptures alone can afford us : John v. 39. So 2 Tim. iii. 15. We need not, therefore, enquire after blind traditions, or expect any whimsical enthusiasms: the Written Word contains whatsoever is necessary to be known in order to eternal salvation; and whosoever is wise above what is written, is wise only in impertinencies. Now hath God contracted whatever was necessary for us to know, and summed it up in one book ? and shall not we be diligent and industrious in studying that, which doth so necessarily concern us? Other knowledge is only for the adorning and embellishment of nature: this is for the necessity of life, of life eternal. I have before spoken enough concerning the necessity of knowledge unto salvation, and therefore shall not farther enlarge. Therefore, as St. Peter said to Christ, Lord, wbither shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life: so let us answer whatsoever may seem to call us off from the diligent study of the Scriptures, “ Whither shall we go? to this we must cleave : with this we will converse ; for here alone are the words of eternal life.”
(5) The knowledge, which the Scripture discloseth, is of undoubted certainty and perpetual truth: it depends not upon probabilities or conjectures, but the infallible authority of Christ himself: he hath dictated it, for whom it is impossible to lie.
The rule of our veracity or truth, is the conformity of our speech to the existence of things : but divine truth and veracity hath no other rule, besides the will of him that speaks it. He must needs speak infallible truth, who speaks things into their beings : such is the omnipotent speech of God. Whatsoever he declares is therefore true, because he declares it. Never matter how strange and impossible Scripture-mysteries may seem to flesh and blood; to the corrupt and captious understandings of natural men: when the Word of God hath undertaken for the truth, it is as much impiety to doubt of them, as it is folly to question the reality of what we see with our very eyes. Nay, the information of our senses, what we see, what we hear, what we feel, is not so certain, as the truth of those things, which God reveals and testifies in the Scriptures :' and therefore the Apostle, 2 Pet. i. 18, 19. speaking of that miraculous voice that sounded from heaven: (Matt. xvii. 5. This is my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased :) saith This voice...... we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount : but we have also a more sure word of prophecy; or, as the Greek may well be rendered, We account more sure the word of prophecy ; unto