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3. It is light to the blind, Psal. xix. 8. « The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.' It is a convincing light, to discover one's state to him, and so to rouse
the soul from its natural security. It pierces the heart as an arrow, and makes the careless sinner stand and consider his way: for it freely tells every one his faults, Jam. i. 25. And while the child of God travels through a dark world, it serves to light him the way, 2 Pet. i. 19.- a light shining in a dark place;' and lets him see how to set down every step. Hence David says, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path,' Psal. cxix. 105.
4. It is awakening to those that are asleep, Cant. vii. 9. It is the voice of God which is full of majesty, to awaken the sleepy Christian to the exercise of grace. For as it is the means of begetting grace in the heart, so it is also the means of actuating and quickening thereof, Psal. cxix. 50.
Thy word hath quickened me.' Here the Christian may hear the alarm sound to rise up and be doing. Here are the precious promises as cords of love to draw, and the awful threatenings to set idlers to work.
5. It is a sword to the Christian soldier, Eph. vi. 17. ? The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.' Whoever has a mind for heaven must fight his way to it; for none get the crown but the conquerors, Rev. iii. 21. They must go through many temptations, from the devil, the world, and the flesh; and the word is the sword for resisting of them. It is an offensive and defensive weapon. We see how our Lord Jesus wielded it, Mat. iv. 4, 7. It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.' And whatever be our temptations, if we be well versed in the word, we may from thence bring answers to them all.
6. It is a counsellor to those who are in straits, doubts, and difficulties, Psal. cxix. 24. «Thy testimonies are-my counsellors.' Many a time the children of God, when tossed with doubts and fears, have found a quiet harbour there; and have got their way cleared to them there, when they knew not what to do. And no doubt, if we were more exercised unto godliness, and looking to the Lord in our straits, we would make more use of the Bible, as the oracles of Heaven
up, the soul
7. It is a comforter to those that are cast down, Psal. cxix. 49, 50. “Remember the word unto thy servant, upon which thou hast caused me to hope. This is my comfort in my affliction : for thy word hath quickened me. The way to heaven lies through many tribulations, and afflictions are the trodden path to glory. But the Lord has left his people the Bible as a cordial to support them under all their pressures from within and without. And indeed the sap of the word, and the sweetness of the promises, are never more lively relished, than when the people of God are exercised under affiictions. Then does that heavenly fountain flow most plentifully, when, created streams being dried
goes for all to the Lord. To sum up all in one word,
8. Lastly, It is a cure for all diseases of the soul, Prov. iv. 22. 'My words are-health to all their flesh.' There is no malady that a soul is under, but there is a suitable remedy for it in the word, 2 Tim. iii. 16, 17. frequently quoted above, being adapted by infinite wisdom to the case of poor sinners. By it the simple may be made wise, the weak strengthened, the staggering confirmed, the hard heart melted, the shut heart opened, &c. it being the means the Spirit makes use of for these and all other such purposes.
Mot. 8. Consider the honourable epithets given to the scriptures. Amongst which I name only three.
1. The scriptures of truih, Dan. X. 21. Men may wrest the scriptures to patronise their errors, but the whole word of God is most pure truth. Here are no mistakes, no weaknesses, that adhere to all human composures.
Here we may receive all that is taught us without hesitation. The hearers of men, or readers of their works, are divided into four sorts : Some like spunges, that suck up all, both good and bad : Some like sand glasses, who, what they receive at the one ear let go at the other : Some like a strainer, that lets all the good pass through, but keeps the dregs : Some like the sieve, that keeps the good grain, and lets through what is not worth. These last are only to be approved; but in the reading of the word we must be as the first sort.
2. Holy scriptures, 2 Tim, iii. 15. They are the word of a holy God, from whom nothing can come but what is holy. It consists of holy commands, holy promises, holy threatenings, instructions, directions, &c. And holy hearts will love and reverence them for that very reason.
3. Lastly, The book of the Lord. What can be said more to commend it to us, if we have any regard to the Lord himself ? If I could tell you of a book that fell down from heaven, and were to be had by any means, who would not be curious to have such a book and study it? This is the book that contains the counsels of Heaven, and is given from Heaven to the church, to let men see the way to it.
Mot. ult. Consider the danger of slighting the word. It exposes to sin, and consequently to the greatest danger. How can they keep the way of the word that do not study to acquaint themselves with it? They must needs walk in darkness that do not make use of the light; and this leads to everlasting darkness, John iii. 19. If by this word we must be judged, how can they think to stand that neglect it?
I conclude with some directions for the study of the scriptures.
1. Keep an ordinary in reading of them, that ye may be acquainted with the whole ; and make this reading a part of your secret duties. Not that ye should bind up yourselves to an ordinary, so as never to read by choice, but that ordinarily this tends most to edification. Some places are more difficult, some may seem very bare for an ordinary reader ; but if you would look on it all as God's word, not to be slighted, and read it with faith and reverence, no doubt ye would find advantage.
2. Set a special mark, one way or other, on those passages you read, which you find most suitable to your case, condition, or temptations; or such as ye have found to move your hearts more than other passages. And it will be profitable often to review these.
3. Compare one scripture with another, the more obscure with that which is more plain, 2 Pet. i. 20. This is an excellent means to find out the sense of the scriptures ; and to this good use serve the marginal notes on Bibles. And keep Christ in your eye, for to him the scriptures of the Old Testament (in its genealogies, types, and sacrifices) look, as well as those of the New.
4. Read with a holy attention, arising from the consideration of the majesty of God, and the reverence due to him. This must be done with attention, (1.) To the words ; (2.) To the sense : and (3.) To the divine authority of the scripture, and the bond it lays on the conscience for obedience, i Thess. ii. 13.
5. Let your main end in reading the scriptures be practice, and not bare knowledge, Jam. i. 22. Read that you may learn and do, and that without any limitation or distinction, but that whatever you see God requires, you may study to practise.
6. Beg of God and look to him for his Spirit. For it is the Spirit that dictated it, that it must be savingly understood by, i Cor. ii, 11. And therefore before you read, it is highly reasonable you beg a blessing on what you are to read.
7. Beware of a worldly fleshly mind: for fileshly sins blind the mind from the things of God; and the worldly heart cannot favour them. In an eclipse of the moon the earth comes between the sun and the moon, and so keeps the light of the sun from it. So the world, in the heart, coming betwixt you and the light of the word, keeps its divine light
8. Labour to be exercised unto godliness, and to observe your case. For an exercised frame helps mightily to under: stand the scriptures. Such a Christian will find his case in the word, and the word will give light to his case, and his case light into the word.
9. Lastly, Whatever you learn from the word, labour to put it in practice. For to him that hath shall be given. No wonder they get little insight into the Bible, who make no conscience of practising what they know. But while the stream runs into a holy life, the fountain will be the freer.
OF GOD AND HIS PERFECTIONS.
John iv. 24.-God is a Spirit. IMONIDES, a heathen poet, being asked by Hiero king
of Syracuse, What is God? desired a day to think upon it; and when that day was at an end, he desired two days; and when these were past, he desired four days. Thus he continued to double the number of days in which he desired to think of God, ere he would give an answer. Upon which the king
expressing his surprise at his behaviour, asked him, What he meant by this? To which the poet answered, “The more I think of God, he is still the more dark and unknown to me?' Indeed no wonder that he made such an answer;
for he that would tell what God is in a measure suitable to his excellency and glory, had need to know God even as he is known of him, which is not competent to any man upon earth. Agur puzzles the whole creation with that sublime question, What is his name? Prov. xxx. 1. But though it is impossible in our present state to know God perfectly, seeing he is incomprehensible; yet so much of him is revealed in the scriptures as is necessary for us to know in order to our salvation.
The text tells us, and it should be remembered, that the Lord Jesus, the Son of God, who lay in the bosom of the Father, and who only can reveal him, is here the speaker, that God is a spirit. It is but little of the nature of spirits that we, who dwell in tabernacles of clay, are so intimately connected with flesh and blood, and so naturally impressed with sensible objects, can know. We cannot fully understand what our own spirits or souls are; and less do we know of the nature of angels, who are of a superior nature to us; and far less can we know of the spiritual nature of the Di. vine Being, which is utterly incomprehensible by men or angels. However, as all our ideas begin at what is infinite, in considering the nature of spirits, so we are led to conceive of God as infinitely more perfect than any finite spirit *. All we can know of spirits is,
1. That a spirit is the most perfect and excellent of be. ings, more excellent than the body, or any thing that is purely material.
2. That a spirit is in its own nature immortal, having nothing in its frame and constitution tending to dissolution or corruption.
3. That a spirit is capable of understanding, willing, and putting forth actions agreeable to its nature, which no other being can do.
* It will not be improper here to subjoin the following observation of the celebrated Mr Addison. • If we consider the idea which wise men, by the light of reason, have framed of the Divine Being, it amounts to this, That he has in him all the perfection of a spiritual nature; and since we have no notion of any kind of spiritual perfection but what we discover in our own souls, we join infinitude to each kind of these perfections, and what is a faculty in a human soul becomes an attribute in God. We exist in place and time, the Divine Being fills the immensity of space with his presence, and inhabits eternity. We are possessed of a little power and a little knowledge, the Divine Being is almighty and omniscient. In short, by adding infinity to any kind of perfection we enjoy, and by joining all these different kinds of perfections in one being, we form our idea of the great Sovereign of nature.'