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ye do well that ye take heed : what! a more sure word than a voice from heaven! when God himself shall vocally bear witness to the truth! yes, we have a more sure word, and that is the word of prophecy, recorded in the Old Testament. And, hence it will follow, that, because the prophecies concerning Christ may seem somewhat obscure, in comparison with this audible voice from heaven; therefore the testimony of obscure Scripture, is to be preferred before the testimony of clear sense. Now, therefore, if you would know things beyond all danger, either of falsehood or hesitation, be conversant in the Seripture; where we may take all for certain upon the word and authority of that God, who neither can deceive nor be deceived.
(6) The Scripture alone gives us the true and unerring knowledge of ourselves :
Man, who busies himself in knowing all things else, is of nothing more ignorant than of himself. The eye, which beholds other things, cannot see its own shape; and, so, the soul of man, whereby he understands other objects, is usually ignorant of its own concernments. Now, as the eye, which cannot see itself directly, may see itself reflexively in a glass : so God hath given us his Scripture, which St. James compares to a glass, James i. 23. and holds this before the soul, wherein is represented our true state and idea.
There is a Fourfold state of man, that we could never have attained to know, but by the Scriptures.
His state of Integrity.
His state of Glory. The Scripture alone can reveal to us, what we were, in our Primitive constitution: naturally holy; bearing the image and similitude of God, and enjoying his love; free from all inward perturbations, or outward miseries; having all the crea.ures subject to us, and, what is much more, ourselves.
What we were, in our state of Apostacy or Destitution ; despoiled' of all our primitive excellencies; dispossessed of all the happiness which we enjoyed, and of all hopes of
for the future; liable, every moment, to the revenge of justice, and certain once to feel it. What we are, in our state of Restitution, through grace;
begotten again to a lively hope; adopted into the family of heaven; redeemed by the blood of Christ ; sanctified and sealed by the
Holy Spirit ; restored to the favour and friendship of God; recovering the initials of his image upon our souls here on earth, and expecting the perfection of it in heaven.
What we shall be, in our final state of Glory; clothed with light; crowned with stars ; inebriated with pure spiritual joys. We shall see God as he is, know him as we are known by him, love him ardently, converse with him eternally; yea a state it will be, so infinitely happy, that it will leave us nothing to hope for.
This Fourfold state of man the Scripture doth evidently express.
Now these are such things, as it could never have entered into our hearts to have imagined, had not the Word of God described them to us; and, thereby, instructed us in the knowledge of ourselves, as well as of God and Christ.
Now let us put these Six particulars together. The Scripture instructs us in the knowledge of such things, as are intelligible only by Divine Revelation: it teacheth us the most sublime and lofty truths : it is a most inexhaustible fountain of knowledge; the more we draw, the more still springs up: it teaches that knowledge, which is necessary to salvation: it is of undoubted certainty and perpetual truth: and, lastly, it informs us in the knowledge of ourselves. And, certainly, if there be any thirst in you after knowledge, there needs no more be spoken' to persuade you to the diligent study of the Scripture, which is a rich store and treasury of all wisdom and knowledge.
Thus we have seen how the Scriptures inform the Judgment.
2. Let us now briefly see how they reform the Life, and what Practical Influence they have upon the souls of men.
Here, the Word of God hath a mighty operation; and that, in sundry particulars.
(1) This is that Word, which convinceth and humbleth the stoutest and proudest sinners.
There are two sorts of secure sinners : those, who vaunt it in the confidence of their own righteousness; and those, who are secure through an insensibility of their own wickedness. Both these, the Word, when it is set home with power, convinces, humbles, and brings to the dust. It despoils the self-justitiary of all that false righteousness, which he once boasted of and trusted to: I was alive without the Law once, saith St. Paul : but, when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died : Rom. vii. 9. It awakens and alarms the senseless, searęd sinner: how many have there been, who have scorned God and despised religion, whom yet one curse or threat of this Word hath made to tremble and fall down before the convincing majesty and authority of it!
(2) This is that Word, which sweetly comforts and raises them, after their dejections.
All other applications to a wounded spirit are improper and impertinent. It is only Scripture-consolation that can ease it. The leaves of this book are like the leaves of that tree, Rev.xxii. 2. which were for the healing of the nations. The same weapon, that wounds, must here work the cure.
(3) This is that Word, which works the mighty change upon the heart, in renovation.
Take a man, who runs on in vile' and desperate courses, who sells himself to do iniquity and commits all manner of wickedness with greediness; and make use of all the arguments that reason can suggest: these seldom reclaim any from their debaucheries: or if, in some few, they do reform the life; yet they can never change the heart. But that, which no other means can effect, the Word of God can : Ps. xix. 7. The Law of God is perfect, converting the soul.
(4) This is that Word, which strengthens and arms the people of God, to endure the greatest temporal evils, only in hope of that future reward which it promiseth.
(5) This is that Word, which contains in it such a collection of rules and duties, that whosoever observes and obeys, shall in the end infallibly obtain everlasting life.
Though I can but just mention these heads unto you, yet there is enough in them to persuade you to be diligent in the Scriptures. In them, saith our Saviour, ye think to have eternal life,
We are all of us guilty malefactors; but God hath been pleased to afford us the mercy of this book: and, what! shalỊ we not so much as read for our lives?
This is that book, according to which we must either stand or fall, be acquitted or condemned eternally. The unalterable sentence of the Last Day will pass upon us, as it is here recorded in this Scripture, Here we may, beforehand, know our doom; and what will become of us to all eternity. He, that believeth..... shall be saved; but he, that believeth not, shall be damned. It is said, Rev. xx. 12. that when the dead stood before God to be judged, the books were opened : that is, the Book of Conscience and the Book of the Scripture. Be persuaded to open this book, and to judge yourselves out of it before the Last Day. It is not a sealed book to you: you may there read what your present state is, and foretel what your future will be. If it be a state of sin and wrath, search farther : there are directions how you may change this wretched state for a better. If it be a state of grace and favour, there are rules how to preserve you in it. It is a word suited to all persons, all occasions, all exigencies: it informs the ignorant, strengthens the weak, comforts the disconsolate, supports the afflicted, relieves the tempted, resolves the doubtful, directs all to those ways which lead to endless happiness; where, as the word of God hath dwelt richly in us, so we shall dwell for ever gloriously with God.
DISCOURSE UPON PROVIDENCE:
MAT. X. 29, 30. ARE NOT TWO SPARROWS SOLD FOR A FARTHING ? AND ONE OF
THEM SHALL NOT FALL ON THE GROUND WITHOUT YOUR FA
The mystery of God's Providence, next to that of Man's Redemption, is the most sublime and inscrutable. It is easy, in both, to run ourselves off our reason : for, as reason confesseth itself at a loss, when it attempts a search into those Eternal Decrees, of electing sinners to salvation, and designing Christ to save them; so must it, likewise, when it attempts to trace out all those entangled mazes and labyrinths, wherein the Divine Providence walks. We may sooner tire reason, in such a pursuit, than satisfy it; unless it be some kind of satisfaction, when we have driven it to a nonplus, to relieve ourselves with an 12 Bedos: O the depth of the.....wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out !
This knowledge, therefore, being too wonderful for us, I shall not presume to conduct you into that secret place, that pavilion of clouds and surrounding darkness, where God sits holding the rudder of the world, and steering it through all the floatings of casualty and contingency to his own fore-ordained ends: where he grasps and turns the great engine of nature in his hands ; fastening one pin, and loosing another; moving and removing the several wheels of it; and framing the whole according to the eternal idea of his own understanding. Let it content us, to consider so much of God's Providence as may affect us with comfort, in reflecting on that particular care which he takes of us; rather than with wonder and astonishment, by