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DISCOURSE CONCERNING THE USE OF THE HOLY
COL. iii. 16.
LET THE WORD OF CHRIST DWELL IN YOU RICHLY IN ALL WISDOM.
THIS Epistle, if any other, is a rich mine of heavenly treasure; and abounds, both in the discovery of Gospel Mysteries, and the injunction of Christian Duties. It is furnished throughout with that, which may either instruct us in knowledge, or direct us in practice; and the Apostle, having already laid down many excellent things in order to both these; and seeing it would be an endless task to discourse unto them all the truths, or exhort them to all the duties of religion in particular; therefore speaks compendiously in the words of my text, and refers them to the perfect system in which is contained an account of what a Christian ought to know or do; and that is the Holy Scriptures: Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.
I. The WORDS OF THIS EXHORTATION are very full, and laden with weighty sense.
We may resolve them into Two parts.
The Nature and Substance of the exhortation, which is
to a diligent study and plentiful knowledge of the Holy Scriptures.
The Manner how we ought to be conversant in them: so that they may dwell in us richly in all wisdom.
i. In the FORMER, we may take notice,
1. That the Scripture is called the Word of Christ; and that, upon a double account: both because he is the Author that composed it; and, likewise, because he is the Subject Matter of which it principally treats,
Now though, in both these respects, the Scriptures of the New Testament be more especially the Word of Christ; yet, also, may the Scriptures of the Old Testament as truly and properly go under his name.
He may well write this title upon our Bibles, "The Works of Jesus Christ." All the Prophets, before his incarnation, were but his amanuenses; and wrote only what he, by his Spirit, dictated to them: 2 Pet. i. 21. Prophecy came not in old time by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost: and, certainly, the Holy Ghost inspired them by Christ's authority and commission; and what he declared, he took from him, and shewed it unto them: John xvi. 14. He shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.
(2) Christ also is the principal Subject and Matter of the Whole Scripture.
The sending of Christ a Saviour into the world, is that great business, which hath employed the counsel of the Father, the admiration and ministration of Angels, the tongues and pens of Prophets, Apostles, and Holy Men of all ages, before the Scriptures were written, when revelation or tradition was yet the only positive rule for faith and practice. The Patriarchs saw him by these: Abraham...saw my day, and was glad : John viii. 56. Afterwards, the people of the Jews saw him by types, promises, and prophecies recorded in the Scriptures: he was that excellent theme, which hath filled up many chapters of the Old Testament. As the first draught of a picture represents the features and proportion of the person, but afterwards are added the complexion and life to it; so is it here; the pens of the Prophets drew the first lineaments and proportion of Christ, in the Old Testament; and the pens of the Apostles and Evangelists have added the life and sweetness to it, in the New. Yea, Christ is so truly described in the Old Testament, by his life, by his death, by all the greater remarks of either, that, in his contest with the Jews, he appeals thither for a testimony: John v. 39. Search the Scriptures; for....they are they which testify of me: and St. Peter, Acts iii. 24. affirms, that all the prophets..... as many as have spoken, have...foretold of these days: and, Acts x. 43. To him give all the prophets witness. Christ, who is the true expositor, being himself the true author, makes them all speak his sense: Luke xxiv. 27. Beginning at Moses and all the pro
phets, he expounded unto them in all the Scriptures, the sayings concerning himself. So that St. Chrysostom's observation holds true, that the Gospel was in the world before Christ: eppigw μεν εν τοις βιβλοις των Προφητών, εβλάςησε δε εν τῷ κηρυγματι των Añosoλwy: "It took root in the writings of the Prophets, but flowed forth in the preaching of the Apostles."
So that, in both these respects, the Holy Scripture may well be called the Word of Christ; of Christ, as the Author, and as the Subject of it.
2. And, in both these, lies couched a very cogent argument, that may enforce this exhortation of the Apostle, and excite to a diligent study of the Scriptures.
(1) Is Christ the Author of them; and shall we not with all care and diligence peruse these books, which he hath composed? The writings of men are valued according to the abilities of their authors if they be of approved integrity, profound knowledge, and solid judgment, their works are esteemed and studied. And shall we not be much more conversant in these, which are set forth by the Author, who is Truth itself and the Essential Wisdom of the Father? these, that were dictated by the immediate inspiration of the Holy Ghost; and writ, as it were, with a quill of the Heavenly Dove?
(2) Christ is the Subject of the Scriptures: and what is all other learning and knowledge but beggarly elements, if compared with this?
Here, we have the cabinet of God's counsels unlocked; the eternal purposes of his grace, in sending his Son into the world, publicly declared: here, we have the stupendous history of God's becoming man, of all the miracles which this God-Man did upon earth, and of all the cruelties which he suffered here, we have the description of his victory in his resurrection, of his triumph in his ascension, of his glory in his session at the righthand of the Majesty on High: surely, great is the mystery of godliness: God manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory; as the Apostle with admiration recounts it, 1 Tim. iii. 16: and of all these wonderful passages, the Scripture gives us a perfect narrative. And what have the great wits of the world ever treated on, like this; either for strangeness or truth? all their learning is but idle and contemptible speculation, compared to this great mystery of a Crucified Saviour; who
It was a very
subdued death by dying, and, without force, converted the world to believe a doctrine above reason. odd saying of Tertullian, De Carne Christi, cont. Marc. and yet there is something in it that strikes, Natus est Dei Filius: non pudet, quia pudendum est; " The Son of God was born: we blush not at it, because it is shameful." Mortuus est Dei Filius: prorsùs credibile est, quia ineptum est: "The Son of God died: it is credible, because it is unfit and unlikely it should be so." Sepultus resurrexit: certum est, quia impossibile est: "He rose from the dead: it is certainly true, because it is impossible." Now these unlikely and impossible things, judged so by human reason, these deep things of God, the Scripture declares; and declares them in such a manner, as convinceth even reason itself to assent to them, though it cannot comprehend them. If, therefore, you desire to know Christ and him crucified, and those mysterious doctrines which the wit of man could not invent, for it can hardly receive them, be conversant in the Holy Scriptures: for they are the word of Christ; and reveal all the wonders of wisdom and knowledge, to which all the wisdom of the world is but folly.
This, therefore, I suppose, lies in the expression, the Word of Christ: viz. the Word, of which he is both the Author and the Subject.
ii. We may observe, in the text, the MANNER, how we ought to be conversant in the Scriptures: and that is set forth very significantly.
1. Let the word of Christ dwell in you.
Do not only give it the hearing, as a strange and marvellous story. Let not the memory of it vanish out of your minds, as soon as the sound of the words vanisheth out of your ears; but lay it up and lodge it in your hearts make it familiar and domestic to you; that it may be as well known to you, as those that live in the same house with you. Read it, ponder and
meditate upon it, till you have transcribed the Bible upon your hearts, and faithfully printed it in your memories.
2. Let it dwell in you richly or copiously.
Which may be taken, either objectively or subjectively. Objectively. And so the sense is, that all the word of God should dwell in us. Content not yourselves with some part of it: that you read the Gospel, or New Testament, but neglect the
Old; as is the practice of some flush notionists: or, that you know the historical part of both, but neglect the doctrinal ; which is the fond and childish custom of some, who read the Scripture as they would romances, skipping over the moral discourses as impertinent to the story. But the word of Christ dwells in us richly, when we receive the whole doctrine con tained in it, and are diligent in revolving the Prophets, Evangelists, Apostles, every part and parcel of the heavenly-revealed truth.
Again, the word of Christ may dwell in us richly in the latter sense, or Subjectively. And so it doth, when not only every part of it dwells in us, but when it dwells also in every part of us: in our memories, to retain it; in our minds, to meditate on it; in our affections, to love it; and in our lives, to practise it, Then doth the word of Christ dwell richly, or abundantly, in us. 3. Let it dwell richly in all wisdom.
The highest wisdom is, truly to know and to serve God, in order to eternal life. Now, saith the Apostle, so acquaint yourselves with the Scriptures, that you may from thence learn true wisdom; the saving knowledge, both of what is to be believed and what is to be done, in order to the obtaining of everlasting happiness. To be conversant in it so as only to know what it contains, is not wisdom but folly. But then it dwells in you in wisdom, when you study it, to practise it; when you endeavour to know the rule, that you may obey it. This is wisdom, here; and will end in happiness, hereafter.
And, thus, you have the words of my text explained.
II. In handling this subject, I shall only pursue the design of the Apostle, and endeavour to PRESS THOSE EXHORTATIONS upon you.
And, indeed, I need not many arguments to persuade those, who have already any acquaintance with these sacred oracles, still to be conversant in them. Have you not yourselves found such clear light, such attractive sweetness and persuasive eloquence in the words of God, that all, which the tongue of man can utter for it, falls infinitely short of what it speaks on in its own behalf? Who of us have not found direction from it in cases of difficulty, solution of doubts, support under afflictions, comfort under sadness, strength against temptation, quickenings of grace, warmth of affection? and, in brief, whatsoever we could