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Ch. xxi. 5.

xxii, 1.


Unfair Comparison of Sermons with Lessons. 489 unfitly said “ to preach.” For although men's tongues and pook v. their pens differ, yet to one and the selfsame general if not particular effect, they may both serve. It is no good argument, St. Paul could not “write with his tongue,” therefore neither could he“ preach with his pen.” For Preaching is a general end whereunto writing and speaking do both serve. Men speak not with the instruments of writing, neither write with the instruments of speech, and yet things recorded with the one and uttered with the other may be preached well enough with both*. By their patience therefore be it spoken, the Apostles preached as well when they wrote as when they spake the Gospel of Christ, and our usual public Reading of the word of God for the people's instruction is Preaching.

[5.] Nor about words would we ever contend, were not their purpose in so restraining the same injurious to God's most sacred Word and Spirit. It is on both sides confessed that the word of God outwardly administered (his † Spirit inwardly concurring therewith) converteth, edifieth, and saveth souls. Now whereas the external administration of his word is as well by reading barely the Scripture, as by explaining the same when sermons thereon be made ; in the one they deny that the finger of God hath ordinarily certain principal operations, which we most steadfastly hold and believe that it hath in both.

XXII. So worthy a part of divine service we should greatly what they wrong, if we did not esteem Preaching as the blessed-ordi- sermons only, nance of God, sermons as keys to the kingdom of heaven, as wings to the soul, as spurs to the good affections of man, unto the sound and healthy as food, as physic unto diseased minds. Wherefore how highly soever it may please them with words of truth to extol sermons, they shall not herein offend us.

We seek not to derogate from any thing which they can justly esteem, but our desire is to uphold the just estimation of that from which it seemeth unto us they derogate more than becometh them. That which offendeth us is first the great disgrace which they offer unto our custom of bare reading the word of God, and to his gracious Spirit, the

attribute to

to reading also,

* “ Evangelizo manu et_scrip- † John vi. 46. [45?] Matt. xvi. “ tione.” Rainol. de Rom. Eccles. 17; 2 Cor. iv. 6; 1 Cor. xii. 3 ; Idolol. Præf. ad Co. Essex.

Acts xvi. 14.

490 Use of Lessons : 1. in keeping Scripture incorrupt; 2. to BOOK V: principal virtue whereof thereby manifesting itself for the endCh. xxii. 2.

less good of men's souls, even the virtue which it hath to convert, to edify, to save souls, this they mightily strive to obscure ; and secondly the shifts wherewith they maintain their opinion of sermons, whereunto while they labour to appropri ate the saving power of the Holy Ghost, they separate from all apparent hope of life and salvation thousands whom the goodness of Almighty God doth not exclude.

[2.] Touching therefore the use of Scripture, even in that it is openly read, and the inestimable good which the Church of God by that very mean hath reaped; there was, we may very well think, some cause, which moved the Apostle St. Paul to require, that those things which any one church's affairs gave particular occasion to write, might for the instruction of all be published, and that by reading *.

1. When the very having of the books of God was a matter of no small charge and difficulty, inasmuch as they could not be had otherwise than only in written copies, it was the necessity not of preaching things agreeable with the word, but of reading the word itself at large to the people, which caused churches throughout the world to have public care, that the sacred oracles of God being procured by common charge, might with great sedulity be kept both entire and sincere. If then we admire the providence of God in the same continuance of Scripture, notwithstanding the violent endeavours of infidels to abolish, and the fraudulent of heretics always to deprave the same, shall we set light by that custom of reading, from whence so precious a benefit hath grown?

2. The voice and testimony of the Church acknowledging Scripture to be the law of the living God, is for the truth and certainty thereof no mean evidence. For if with reason we may presume upon things which a few men's depositions do testify, suppose we that the minds of men are not both at their first access to the school of Christ exceedingly moved, yea and for ever afterwards also confirmed much, when they consider the main consent of all the churches in the whole world witnessing the sacred authority of scriptures, ever sithence the first publication thereof, even till this present day and

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Ch. xxii. 3, 4.

authenticate it ; 3. to furnish a Standard ; 4. to edify Souls. 491 hour? And that they all have always so testified, I see not BOOK V. how we should possibly wish a proof more palpable, than this manifest received and every where continued custom of reading them publicly as the Scriptures. The reading therefore of the word of God, as the use hath ever been, in open

audience, is the plainest evidence we have of the Church's Assent and Acknowledgment that it is his word.

3. A further commodity this custom hath, which is to furnish the very simplest and rudest sort with such infallible Axioms and Precepts of sacred truth, delivered even in the very Letter of the Law of God, as may serve them for *Rules whereby to judge the better all other doctrines and instructions which they hear. For which end and purpose I see not how the Scripture could be possibly made familiar unto all, unless far more should be read in the people's hearing, than by a sermon can be opened. For whereas in a manner the whole book of God is by reading every year published, a small part thereof in comparison of the whole may


very well the readiest interpreter of Scripture occupied many years.

4. Besides, wherefore should any man think, but that reading itself is one of the “ordinary” means, whereby it pleaseth God of his gracious goodness to instil that celestial verity, which being but so received, is nevertheless effectual to save souls? Thus much therefore we ascribe to the reading of the word of God as the manner is in our churches.

(3.) And because it were odious if they on their part should altogether despise the same, they yield that reading may “set forward," but not begin the work of salvation ; that tfaith may be “nourished” therewith, but not bred; that I herein men's attention to the Scriptures, and their speculation of the creatures of God have like efficacy, both being of power to "augment,” but neither to effect belief without sermons; that ifş any believe by reading alone, we are to account it a miracle, an “extraordinary” work of God. Wherein that which they grant we gladly accept at their hands, and wish that patiently they would examine how little cause they have to deny that which as yet they grant not.

[4.] The Scripture witnesseth that when the book of the


* John v. 39; Isa. viii. 20. + T.C. i. 375, 376, 396.

I T.C. ii. 378.

T.C. ii. 383

Ch. xxii. 4.

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492 Difference of God's Word and Works as Sources of Faith. BOOK V. Law of God had been sometime missing, and was after found,

the king, which heard it but only read, tare his clothes, and with tears confessed, “Great is the wrath of the Lord upon us,

because our fathers have not kept his word to do after “all things which are written in this book*.” This doth argue, that by bare reading (for of sermons at that time there is no mention) true repentance may be wrought in the hearts of such as fear God, and yet incur his displeasure, the deserved effect whereof is eternal death. So that their repentance (although it be not their first entrance) is notwithstanding the first step of their reentrance into life, and may be in them wrought by the word only read unto them.

Besides, it seemeth that God would have no man stand in doubt but that the reading of Scripture is effectual, as well to lay even the first foundation, as to add degrees of farther perfection in the fear of God. And therefore the Law saith, “ Thou shalt read this Law before all Israel, that men, women, “ and children may hear, yea even that their children which

as yet have not known it may hear it, and by hearing it 80 read, may learn to fear the Lord t."

Our Lord and Saviour was himself of opinion, that they which would not be drawn to amendment of life by the testimony which Moses and the Prophets have given concerning the miseries that follow sinners after death, were not likely to be persuaded by other means †, although God from the very dead should have raised them up preachers.

Many hear the books of God and believe them not. Howbeit their unbelief in that case we may not impute unto any weakness or unsufficiency in the mean which is used towards them, but to the wilful bent of their obstinate hearts against it. With minds obdurate nothing prevaileth. As well they that preach, as they that read unto such, shall still have cause to complain with the prophets which were of old, “Who will “ give credit unto our teaching $?” But with whom ordinary means will prevail, surely the power of the word of God, even without the help of interpreters in God's Church worketh mightily, not unto their confirmation alone which are converted, but also to their conversion which are not.

It shall not boot them who derogate from reading to excuse

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Faith may come by Lessons without a Miracle.


Ch. xxii. 5, 6.

it, when they see no other remedy, as if their intent were only BOOK V. to deny that aliens and strangers from the family of God are won, or that belief doth use to be wrought at the first in them, without sermons. For they know it is our custom of simple reading not for conrersion of infidels estranged from the house of God, but for instruction of men baptized, bred and brought up in the bosom of the Church, which they despise as a thing uneffectual to save such souls. In such they imagine that God hath no ordinary mean to work faith without sermons.

[5.] The reason, why no man can attain belief by the bare contemplation of heaven and earth, is for that they neither are sufficient to give us as much as the least spark of light concerning the very principal mysteries of our faith; and whatsoever we may learn by them, the same we can only attain to know according to the manner of natural sciences, which mere discourse of wit and reason findeth out, whereas the things which we properly believe be only such as are received upon the credit of divine testimony. Seeing therefore that he which considereth the creatures of God findeth therein both these defects, and neither the one nor the other in Scriptures, because he that readeth unto us the Scriptures delivereth all the mysteries of faith, and not any thing amongst them all more than the inouth of the Lord doth warrant: it followeth in those two respects that our consideration of creatures and attention unto Scriptures are not in themselves, and without sermons, things of like disability to breed or beget faith.

[6.] Small cause also there is, why any man should greatly wonder as at an extraordinary work, if without sermons reading be found to effect thus much. For I would know by some special instance, what one article of Christian faith, or what duty required necessarily unto all men's salvation there is, which the very reading of the word of God is not apt to notify. Effects are miraculous and strange when they grow by unlikely means. But did we ever hear it accounted for a wonder, that he which doth read, should believe and live according to the will of Almighty God *? Reading doth convey to the mind that truth without addition or diminution, which Scripture hath derived from the Holy Ghost. And the end of all Scripture is the same which St.John proposeth in the writing

* Exod. xxiv. 7.

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