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-70 Fii the utmost respect, and read them with Rumist care, as the means of our salvation; and i amest a great deal, that is highly useful and incommrazy excellent, we meet sometimes with things, ve which we are unable to account; let us indeed es for solutions diligently, and be willing to admit any fair, any possible one, rather than a mistake in the sacred writings: but though we should meet with no solution, let us consider that humble faith becomes us much better, than haughty contradiction; modest suspense, than rash positiveness : for that God knows every thing, and we know little; that others perhaps now, and we ourselves after farther inquiry, may see very distinctly what at present we see not at all; and, (which alone may suffice to our satisfaction) that whatever else may be dark or doubtful, or seem exceptionable, there is abundantly enough, clearly and indisputably written, to answer the end of all; that we may believe, that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God, and that believing we may have life through his name?
* John xx. 31.
2 TIM. III. 16, 17.
AU Scripture is given by inspiration of God: and is
profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness : that the man of
God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.
I. In my preceding discourse I proved to you the divine authority of Scripture; and now go on, as was proposed, to shew
II. Its complete usefulness. This the Apostle hath expressed by saying, it is profitable for doctrine, or teaching religious truths; for reproof, or confutation of the opposite notions and practices; for correction, that is, amendment of those, whom it reproves; for instruction in righteousness, that is, leading good persons on to still higher degrees of perfection.
Had the writers of it been left to themselves, yet being worthy men, and well informed of what they wrote, it would have been extremely useful. But as they were superintended by the spirit of God, it must be unspeakably more so: in particular, because we may with absolute security rely on it in all points. Whatever it teaches, we may safely learn; and it teaches the whole of Christianity; the historical facts, the articles of faith, the rules of life, the promises, the threatenings, the exhortations, the examples. From Scripture chiefly, and almost solely, we come to know, that God is infinitely perfect, and made the
world ; that man is fallen and redeemed; that he hath eternal happiness or misery set before him; and what the means are of procuring the one, and avoiding the other. For reason could discover but little of these things, and did discover mueh less : and tradition is unable to convey any thing far down with certainty. In this narrow compass lies the proof, and it is a complete proof, of the benefits that we may receive from holy writ. However it hath graciously condescended to invite us to partake of them, by specifying them more distinctly. I shall only mention a few of those, which are enumerated in one Psalm, the 119th. You will judge from thence of the rest. Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? Even by ruling himself after thy word *. Thy words have I hid within my heart, that I might not sin against theet. Thy testimonies are my delight and my counsellors 1. So shall I have wherewith to answer him, that reproacheth me : for I trust in thy word §. I will walk at liberty, for I seek thy commandments || Thy statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage. The law of thy mouth is dearer unto me, than thousands of gold and silver**. If my delight had not been in thy law, I should have perished in my troublett. Through thy commandment I get understanding : therefore I hate all evil ways II. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my paths gs. Thy testimonies have I claimed as mine heritage for ever : and why? they are the very joy of my heart |||. Great peace have they, which love thy law, and nothing shall offend them 1. These and many other advantages, which the inspired writings ascribe to themselves, are also in reason to be expected from them; the authors had experienced them; all pious men have experienced them since; every one, that will, may at this hour. And therefore I shall enlarge no farther at present on the direct evidence of them ; but proceed to answer the objections of those, who are hindered by unjust prepossessions from trying them: who either contest the usefulness of Scripture, in order to overturn its authority; or, which is wonderfully inconsistent, think very lowly of the former, while they acknowledge the latter. For I fear many entertain injurious opinions of the word of God, without daring to own it, even to themselves: which influence them powerfully, though secretly, first to read, then to esteem it, less and less; then to indulge a life unsuitable to it, and perhaps in the last place to reject it entirely. These ensnaring sentiments therefore I shall plainly bring forth into your view without disguise, and confute them; that you may have answers ready to the bad suggestions of other men, or your own minds.
Ps. cxix. 9.
+ v. 11.
v. 54. v. 105.
v. 42. tt v.92. 99 v. 165.
Will v. 111.
It is said then, that these books are not in our own language, but in translations, which most of us must take upon trust, and which often differ. But have men the least pretence to say, that God shall not instruct them, unless he will convey his instructions to them in all the several tongues of the several countries and ages of the world ? Is it not better, that he should give them in any one, than in none? Are we not informed by translations of the most important events, that have passed formerly upon earth? Do not most of the subjects of some large empires to this day learn the will of their sovereign from translations ? And what if the translations of some parts of Scripture vary? They agree in the main : and
there can be no gross impositions ; because the clergy of one communion will be sure to detect those of others in such attempts: and there are multitudes of learned laity also in lands of freedom; and it is the common interest of all persons not to be deceived.
It is said further, that one should expect a book, written by direction from God for instructing the world in religion, to be a short plain methodical system of belief and practice, unincumbered with any other matters : and the Bible is quite a different thing. But is not the whole system of nature, and the whole conduct of Providence, quite a different thing from what one should have expected ? Had we been set to imagine before-hand, what sort of a world God would create, and in what manner he would govern it; we should none of us have pitched on such a creation and government, as we see in fact: but had the scheme of either come into our thoughts, we should probably have fancied there were innumerable and insuperable objections against it. And hence we should learn, that, in the case of revelation also, our fancies are not the measure of God's proceedings; but we are humbly to acquiesce in whatever it appears by proper evidence that he hath done, and not erect ourselves into judges of what he ought to do, or in what manner. Hear his own words: My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts * The proceedings of divine wisdom will always justify themselves to human inquiry, so far as we are capable of comprehending them. But of necessity many of God's actions must be infinitely more beyond our
* Is. lv. 8, 9.