« PreviousContinue »
I shall, therefore,
First, Shew, that it is every one's duty to search them.
them with advantage.
1. I am to Thew, that it is every person's duty to search the Scriptures.
By the Scriptures, I understand the law and the prophets, and those books which have in all ages been accounted canonical, and which make up that volume commmonly called the Bible.
These are emphatically stiled the Scriptures, and, in one place, the “ Scriptures of Truth,” as though no other books deserved the name of true writings or scripture in comparison of them.
They are not of any private interpretation, authority, or invention, but holy men of old wrote them, as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
The foundation of God's revealing himself thus to mankind, was our fall in Adam, and the necessity of our new birth in CHRIST JESUS. And if we search the scriptures as we ought, we fhall find the sum and substance, the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and end of them, is to lead us to a knowledge of these two great truths.'
All the threats, promises and precepts, all the exhortations and doctrines contained therein, all the rites, ceremonies and facrifices appointed under the Jewish law; nay, almost all the historical parts of holy fcripture, suppose our being fallen in Adam, and either point out to us a Mediator to come, or speak of him as already come in the flesh.
Had man continued in a state of innocence, he would not have needed an outward revelation, because the law of God was so deeply written in the tables of his heart. But having eaten the forbidden fruit, he incurred the displeasure of God, and left the divine Image, and, therefore, without an external revelation, could never tell how God would be reconciled unto him, or how he should be saved from the misery and darkness of his fallen nature.
that these truths are so, I need not refer you to any other book, than your own hearts.
For unless we are fallen creatures, whenee those abominable corruptions which daily arise in our hearts? We could not come thus corrupt out of the hands of our Maker, because he being goodness itself could make nothing but what is like himself, holy, just, and good. And that we want to be delivered from these disorders of our nature, is evident, because we find an unwillingness within ourselves to own we are thus depraved, and are always striving to appear to others of a quite different frame and temper of mind than what we are,
I appeal to the experience of the most learned disputer against divine revelation, whether he does not find in himself, that he is naturally proud, angry, revengeful, and full of other passions contrary to the purity, holiness, and long-suffering of God. And is not this a demonstration that some way or other he is fallen from God? And I appeal also, whether at the same time that he finds these hurtful lufts in his heart, he does not strive to seem amiable, courteous, kind and affable; and is not this a manifest proof, that he is fenfible he is miserable, and wants, he knows not how, to be redeemed or delivered from it?
Here then, God by his word steps in, and opens to his view fuch a scene of divine love, and infinite goodness in the holy scriptures, that none but men, of such corrupt and res probate minds as our modern deists, would shut their eyes against it.
What does God in his written word do more or less, than shew thee, Oman, how thou art fallen into that blindness, darkness, and misery, of which thou feelest and complainest? And, at the same time, he points out the way to what thou defireft, even how thou mayest be redeemed out of it by believing in, and copying after the Son of his love,
As I told you before, so I tell you again, upon these two truths relt all divine revelation. It being given us for no other end, but to thew us our misery, and our happiness; our fall and recovery ; or, in one word, after what manner we died in Adam, and how in CHRIST we may again be made alive. Vol. VI.
Hence then arises the necessity of searching the fcriptures : for since they are nothing else but the grand charter of our salvation, the revelation of a covenant made by God with men in Christ, and a light to guide us into the way of peace; it follows, that all are obliged to read and search them, because all are equally fallen from God, all equally stand in need of being informed how they must be restored to, and again united with him.
How foolishly then do the disputing infidels of this generation act, who are continually either calling for signs from heaven, or seeking for outward evidence to prove the truth of divine revelation ? Whereas, what they so earnestly seek for is nigh unto, nay, within them. For let them but consult their own hearts, they cannot but feel what they want. Let them but consult the lively oracles of God, and they cannot but see a remedy revealed for all their '* ants, and that the written word does as exactly answer the wants and desires of their hearts, as face answers to face in the water. Where then is the scribe, where is the wise, where is the folidity of the reasoning of the disputers of this world? Has not God tevealed himself unto them, as plain as their own hearts could wish? And yet they require a sign : but there shall no other sign be given them. For if they believe not a revelation which is every way fo suited to their wants, neither will they be persuaded though one should rise from the dead.
But this discourse is not defigned so much for them that believe not, as for them, who both know and believe that the scriptures contain a revelation which came from God, and that it is their duty, as being chief parties concerned, not only to read but search them also.
I pass on, therefore, in the
Second place, to lay down some directions, how you may search them with advantage.
First, Have always in view, the end for which the scriptures were written, even to fnew us the way of salvation, by Jesus CHRIST.
“ Search the scriptures,” says our blessed LORD, “ for they are they that testify of me.” Look, therefore, always for Christ in the scripture. He is the treasure hid in the field, both of the Old and New Testament. In the Old, you will find him under prophesies, types, facrifices, and shadows; in the New, manifested in the Aesh, to become a propitiation for our fins as a Priest, and as a Prophet to reveal the whole will of his heavenly Father.
Have CHRIST, then, always in view when you are reading the word of God, and this, like the star in the east, will guide you to the Messiah, will serve as a key to every thing that is obscure, and unlock to you the wisdom and riches of all the mysteries of the kingdom of God.
Secondly, Search the scriptures with an humble child-like disposition.
For whosoever does not read them with this temper, shall in no wise enter into the knowledge of the things contained in them. For God hides the sense of them, from those that are wise and prudent in their own eyes, and reveals them only to babes in Christ : who think they know nothing yet as they ought to know; who hunger and thirst after righteousness, and humbly desire to be fed with the fincere milk of the word, that they may grow thereby.
Fancy yourselves, therefore, when you are searching the scriptures, especially when you are reading the New Testament, to be with Mary fitting at the feet of the holy JESUS; and be as willing to learn what God shall teach you, as Samuel was, when he said, “ Speak, LORD, for thy fervant heareth.”
Oh that the unbelievers would pull down every high thought and imagination that exalts itself against the revealed will of God! O that they would, like new-born babes, desire to be fed with the pure milk of the word! then we should have them no longer scoffing at Divine Revelation, nor would they read the Bible any more with the same intent the Philistines brought out Sampson, to make sport at it; but they would sce the divine image and superscription written upon every line. They would hear GoD speaking unto their souls by it, and, consequently, be built up in the knowledge and fear of him, who is the Author thereof.
Thirdly, Search the scriptures, with a sincere intention to put in practice what you read.
A desire to do the will of God is the only way to know it; if any man will do my will, says Jesus Christ, " He shall know of my doctrine, wheiher it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” As he allo speaks in another place to his disciples, “ To you, (who are willing to practise your duty) it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to those that are without, (who only want to raise cavils against my doctrine) all these things are spoken in parables, that seeing they may fee and not understand, and hearing they may hear and not perceive.”
For it is but just in God to send those strong delusions, that they may believe a lie, and to conceal the knowledge of himself from all such as do not feek him with a single intention.
JESUS CHRIST is the fame now, as formerly, to those who desire to know from his word, who he is that they may believe on, and live by ; and to him he will reveal himself as clearly as he did to the woman of Samaria, when he said, “I that speak to thee am he,” or as he did to the man that was born blind, whom the Jews had cast out for his name's sake, • He that talketh with thee, is he." But to those who con-, sult his word with a defire neither to know him, nor keep his commandments, but either merely for their entertainment, or to scoff at the fimplicity of the manner in which he is revealed, to those, I say, he never will reveal himfelf, though they should search the scriptures to all eternity. As he never would tell those whether he was the Mirrah or not, who put that question to him either out of curiolicy, or that they might have whereof to accuse him.
Fourthly, In order to search the scriptures still more effectually, make an application of every thing you read to your own hearts.
For whatever was written in the book of God, was written for our learning. And what Christ said unto those afore. time, we must look upon as spoken to us also: for since the holy scriptures are nothing but a revelation from God, how fallen man is to be restored by JESUS CHRIST : all the precepts, threats, and promises, belong to us and to our children, as well as to those, to whom they were immediately made known.