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expect from the mercy of God, have we not found it in the Scriptures? And shall we need further to commend it to you by arguments, since it hath commended itself by manifold experiences?
But, so it is, that the Devil knows we are disarmed and disabled, if once he can wrest the sword of the Spirit from us, as the Apostle calls it; and therefore labours all he can, to strike the Bible out of our hands: or, if we do read it, he strives to put on such false spectacles, as shall misrepresent every thing to us, and possess us with prejudice and objections against it.
i. I shall, therefore, before I proceed any farther, ENCOUNTER WITH SOME OF THOSE PREJUDICED OPINIONS, WHICH MAKE THIS A CLASPED AND SEALED BOOK TO MANY.
1. Some may fear, lest the study and knowledge of the Scriptures should only aggravate their sin and condemnation.
On the one hand, the precepts of the Law are so various, the duties so difficult, and flesh and blood so infirm and opposite; that they cast a despairing look at them, as impossible to be fulfilled. On the other hand, they have been told that knowledge, without practice, will expose them to damnation without excuse they have read, James iv. 17. To him, that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin: it is an emphatical and weighty sin and, Luke xii. 47. He, that knew his master's will, and did it not shall be beaten with many stripes: this they have read, and this deters them from reading any farther: if they cannot practise what they know, and if to know and not practise be only to inflame their last reckoning and to make their torments more intolerable, it is best for them to muffle up themselves in a safe ignorance.
To this I answer,
(1) Though the word abounds with multitudes of sublime precepts and difficult duties, yet this is no discouragement from the study of it.
For, consider, that this same word is not only a light to discover what you ought to do, but a help to enable you to do it. It is the very means, that God appointed to overcome your averseness, and assist your weakness. And, if ever this be effected, it must, in an ordinary way, be, by conversing with the Scriptures. That sick man hath lost his reason, as well as his health, who should refuse to take physic, because, if it doth not work, it will but make him the worse: the way to make it
work is, by taking it. So, it is a distempered kind of arguing against the Word of God, the physic of our souls, that it is mortal and deadly, if it doth not work into practice: the way to make it work into practice, is, to take it first into our knowledge. It is true, it were a great discouragement, if the Scripture only shewed you how much work you have to do, what temptations to resist, what corruptions to mortify, what graces to exercise, what duties to perform; and left all that upon your own hands: but the leaves of the Bible are the leaves of the Tree of Life, as well as of the Tree of Knowledge: they strengthen, as well as enlighten; and have not only a commanding, but an assisting office.
And this the Scripture doth Two ways.
 It directs where we may receive supplies of ability, for the performance of whatsoever it requires.
It leads thee unto Christ, who is able to furnish thee with supernatural strength, for supernatural duties: his treasury stands open for all comers; and his almighty power stands engaged to assist those, who rely upon it. Be not discouraged, therefore: he, who finds us work, finds us strength; and the same Scripture, that enjoins us obedience, exhibits God's promise of bestowing upon us the power of obeying thou, who workest all our works in us, and for us: Isa. xxvi. 12: and, Work out your own salvation...For it is God, which worketh in you both to will and to do: Phil. ii. 12, 13. Why then should we so complain of hard sayings and grievous commandments? Have we not God's omnipotence, obliged by promise to assist, in the same words, wherein we are commanded to obey? What saith the Apostle? I am able to do all things through Christ strengthening me: Phil. iv. 13. When, in reading the Scripture, thou meetest with difficult and rigorous duties, the severity of mortification, the self-cruelty of plucking out right-eyes and cutting off right-hands; commend thyself to those promises of aid and assistance, which the same Scripture holds forth, and lift up thy heart in that divine meditation of St. Augustin, "Lord, give what thou commandest, and command what thou pleasest." Whilst thou thus duly dependest on Christ's strength and makest use of thine own, it is as much his honour and office to enable thee, as it is thy duty to perform what he requires.
 The Scripture, as it directs us to rely on the strength of Christ; so it is a means, which God hath appointed, to quicken
and excite our own strength and power, to the discharge of those duties which it discovers.
Wherefore are those pressing exhortations and those dreadful threatenings, every where so dispersed up and down in the Book of God, but that, when we are slow and dull and drowsy, the Spirit may, by these, as by so many goads, rouse us, and make us start into duty? Such a spiritual sloth hath benumbed us, that, without this quickening, we should not be diligent in the work of the Lord: and therefore David prays, Ps. cxix. 88. Quicken me....so shall I keep the testimony of thy mouth. But yet it is also the word itself, that quickens us to the obedience of the word: Ps. cxix. 50. Thy word hath quickened me: and, indeed, if you can come from reading the word, that so abounds with promises, with threatenings, with rational arguments, with pathetic expostulations, winning insinuations, importunate intreaties, heroic examples propounded to our imitation, with all the persuasive art and rhetoric which it becometh the Majesty of the Great God to use; if you can read this word, and yet find from it no warmth of affection, no quickening to duty; let me tell you, you either read it without attending to it, or else attend without believing it. It is, therefore, no discouragement from searching and studying the Scripture, that its commands be many and difficult; for it directs you whither to go for promised strength: and, the more you converse with it, the more will you find your hearts quickened to a due obedience of it. That is the First Answer.
(2) Whereas many think that it is better not to know, than not to practise; we must here distinguish of Ignorance.
Which is of too kinds; either invincible, or else affected. Invincible ignorance is such, as is conjoined with and proceeds from an utter impossibility of right information: and it ariseth only from Two things.
Absolute want of necessary instruction: or,
Want of natural capacity to receive it.
Affected Ignorance, is an ignorance under the means of knowledge; and always ariseth from the neglect or contempt of them. Such is the ignorance of those, who do or may live where the Gospel is preached, and where by pains and industry they may arrive to the knowledge of the truth.
Now, here, for ever to answer this objection, and to shew
you how necessary knowledge is, I shall lay down these Two particulars.
 I grant, indeed, that Unpractised Knowledge is a far greater sin than Invincible Ignorance, and exposeth to a much sorer condemnation.
Hell fire burns with rage, and meets with fuel fully prepared for it, when God dooms unto it a head full of light, and a heart full of lusts: those, who know God's will, but do it not, do but carry a torch with them to hell, to fire that pile which must for ever burn them. We have a common proverb, that Knowledge is no burden: but, believe it, if your knowledge in the Scripture be merely speculative, and overborne by the violence of unruly lusts, this whole Word will be no otherwise to you, than the burden of the Law, as the Prophets speak; a burden, that will lie insupportably heavy upon you for ever: better far you were born under barbarism in some dark corner of the earth, where the least gleam of Gospel light never shone, and where the name of Christ was never mentioned, than to have this weighty book, a book which you have read and known, hung about you to sink you infinitely deeper in the burning lake, than a millstone hung about you can do in the midst of the sea. Peter speaks of Apostates, 2 Pet. ii. 21. is but too well applicable to the knowing sinner: It had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn aside from the...commandment delivered unto them. How! better not to have known it? Why is there any possibility to escape the condemnation of hell, without the knowledge of the way of righteousness revealed in the Scriptures? no; damnation' had been unavoidable without this knowledge; yet it had been better they had not known it: for here is the hyperbole of their misery; better they had been damned, than to have known these truths and this rule of righteousness, and yet turn from the obedience and practice of it. O fearful state! O dreadful doom! when a simple and genuine damnation shall be reckoned a gain and favour, in comparison of that exquisite one, which God will with all his wisdom prepare, and with all his power inflict, on those, who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that they, which commit such things, are worthy of death, do, notwithstanding, persevere in them: He, that knew his master's will and did it not, shall be beaten with many stripes: Luke xii. 47. and, If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin ; but
now they have no cloke for their sin, saith our Saviour, John xv. 22. The sin and punishment of those, who are invincibly ignorant, is as nothing compared to what the knowing sinners lie under.
But, do not flatter yourselves: your ignorance is not invincible. Are you not called to the knowledge of Christ? do you not read or hear the Scriptures? do you not enjoy Gospel-Ordinances and Ministry? may you not, if you will be but diligent and industrious, understand what you are ignorant of? Certainly, there is nothing, that can prove your ignorance invincible, unless it be your obstinacy, that you will not be prevailed with to be instructed by all the means of instruction. Your ignorance must, therefore, be affected.
 Well, then, attend unto the Second particular. Affected Ignorance is a greater sin, and will be more sorely punished at the Day of Judgment, than Unpractised Knowledge.
This kind of ignorance is so far from being pleadable as an excuse, that it is an aggravation of men's guilt, and will be so of their condemnation. There be but two things, that complete a Christian; knowledge and practice. Both these God doth strictly require. Knowledge may be without practice; but the practice of godliness cannot be without knowledge. God, I say, requires them both. Now judge ye which is the greatest sinner: he, who labours after knowledge, though he neglect practice; or he, who neglects them both: he, who fulfils some part of God's will; or he, who fulfils nothing of it. Certainly, in your own judgment, this latter deserves to be doubly punished: once, for not doing his duty; and, again, for not knowing it, when he might. Truly, it is but just and righteous, that God should, with the highest disdain and indignation, say unto them, Depart from me, ye cursed, I know you not; since they have audaciously said unto him, Depart from us, we desire not the knowledge of thy ways. The Apostle, speaking of God's patience, towards Heathens, who were invincibly ignorant of the truth, tells us, Acts xvii. 30. that the times of this ignorance, and yet an ignorance it was that put them upon no less than brutish idolatry, God winked at: ignorant persons in ignorant times, whilst as yet the world was destitute of the means of knowledge and darkness overspread the face of it, God connived and winked at; but ignorant persons in knowing times, God doth not wink at, but frown upon. I am the more earnest in pressing this, because