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worship, and regulating their worship in many things not by the scripture, but the dregs of Antichrist : Dent iv. 2. 'Ye shall not add unto the word that I command you. What word ? Statutes, ver. 1. ceremonies and rites of worship. To baptize with water is Christ's command; but who has added the sign of the cross ? Christ instituted the sacrament of the supper: but who has added kneeling, to overturn the table-gesture, which we have from Christ's own example? The Lord's day is of divine institution : but whose are the numerous holidays observed in the chnrch of England ? Matth. xv. 9. What is all this but an accusing the scripture of imperfection, as if God had not laid down a sufficient rule to teach us how we may glorify him : as if they were ashamed of simple scriptureworship, but they must deck it up in the whorish garments made by their own brains ? God has a special zeal for his worship; and it becomes us to quicken our zeal for it, in a time when enemies are bringing in innovations in worship into this church, and setting up their Dagon beside the ark. But though God should, for our contempt of our pure worship, plague the land with this superstitious worship once more, yet as sure as Babylon shall fall, it shall fall and flee before the glory of the latter days.
6. Lastly, Be exhorted to study the holy scriptures. Read them in your families, and read them in secret, and cry for the Holy Spirit, who dictated them, to make you understand them. Lock them not up in your chests, and let them not lie dusty in your windows, as too many do to their shame and disgrace, lest the dust of them witness against you.
Prefer the Bible to all other books, as the book whereof God himself is the author. Prize and esteem it, as showing you the way to salvation, as a lamp to your feet, and a light to your paths.
THE SCOPE OF THE SCRIPTURES.
1 Tim. i. 13.—Hold fast the form of sound words—in faith and love.
Is these words there is, (1.) The character of scripture-doctrine ; it
The text affords the following doctrinal proposition.
1. Some things are taught in the scriptures less principally; that is, the main design of the scriptures is not to teach these things; neither are they taught for themselves, but for the respect they have to other things. Thus in the scripture we may learn the knowledge of several natural things, as of the nature of some trees, birds, beasts, &c. of husbandry, the customs of several nations, especially of the Jews, &c. But these and such like things are only taught in the scripture, as having some respect to our faith and obedience. So the vine tree is described, Ezek. xv. to hold forth the uselessness of barren professors, &c. However, whatsoever is taught in the scriptures, seeing the scripture is God's word, is all to be received by divine faith, though all scripture-truths are not of equal importance.
2. The scripture teaches some things chiefly. And these are faith and obedience. These are the two parts of the doctrine of the Bible. Whatsoever concerns religion, or the salvation of souls, in the Old and New Testament, may be reduced to one of these two heads : It is either an article of faith, or a point of obedience.
Here I shall consider,
I. The nature of faith and obedience, and the connection betwixt the two.
II. The manner of the scripture's teaching.
IV. Shew that the Spirit of God speaking in the scriptures is the supreme judge of controversies in religion.
I. Let us consider the nature of that faith and obedience which the scripture teaches, with the connexion betwixt the two.
First, As to faith. Divine faith is a believing of what God has revealed, because God has said it, or revealed it. People may believe scripture-truths, but not with a divine faith, unless they believe it on that very ground, the authority of God speaking in his word. And this divine faith is the product of the Spirit of God in the heart of a sinner, implanting the habit or principle of faith there, and exciting it to a hearty reception and firm belief of whatever God reveals in his word. And the faith which the scripture teaches is what a man is to believe concerning God. This may be reduced to four heads : What God is, the persons in the Godhead, the decrees of God relating to every thing that comes to pass, and the execution of them in his works of creation and providence. Now, though the works of creation and providence shew that there is a God, yet that fundamental truth, that God is, and the doctrines relating to the Trinity of Persons in the Unity of the Divine Essence, God's acts and purposes, the creation of all things, the state of man at his creation, his fall, and his recovery by the mediation and satisfaction of Christ, are only to be learned from the holy scriptures. Hence we may infer,
1. That there can be no right knowledge of God acquired in an ordinary way without the scriptures, Matt. xxii. 29. "Ye do err (said Christ to the Sadducees), not knowing the scriptures." As there must be a dark night where the light is gone, so those places of the earth must needs be dark, and without the saving knowledge of God, that want the scriptures. Thus the Apostle tells the Ephesians, that, before they were visited with the light of the gospel, they were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world." Eph. ii. 12.
2. That where the scriptures are not known, there can be no saving faith.
For, says the apostle, Rom. x. 14, 15, 17. How shall they call on him in whom they have not believed ? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher ? and how shall they preach, except they be sent ? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.'
3. That there is nothing we are bound to believe as a part of faith but what the scripture teaches, be who they will that propose it, and whatever they may pretend for their warrant. 'To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because their is no light in them,' Isa. viii. 20. No man must be our master in these things : 'For one is our master, even Christ, Matth. xxiii. 10. He is Lord of our faith, and we are bound to believe whatever he has revealed in his word. Secondly, As to obedience, it is that duty which God requires of
It is that duty and obedience which man owes to God, to his will and laws, in respect of God's universal supremacy and sovereign authority over man; and which he should render to him out of love and gratitude. The scriptures are the holy oracle from whence we are to learn our duty, Psal. xix. 11. 'By them is thy servant warned,' says David. The Bible is the light we are to take heed to, that we may know how to steer our course, and order the several steps of our life. 'Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light to my path,' says the Psalmist, Psal. cxix. 105. From whence we
1. That there can be no sufficient knowledge of the duty which we owe to God without the scriptures. Though the light of nature does in some measure shew our duty to God, yet it is too dim to take up the will of God sufficiently in order to salvation.
2. That there can be no right obedience yielded to God without them. Men that walk in the dark must needs stumble; and the works that are wrought in the dark will never abide the light; for there is no working rightly by guess in this matter. obedience to God must be learned from the scriptures.
3. That there is no point of duty that we are called to, but what the scripture teaches, Isa. viii. 20. forecited. Men must neither make duties to themselves, or others, but what God has made duty. The law of God is exceeding broad, and reaches the whole conversation of man, outward and inward, Psal. xix. and man is bound to conform himself to it alone as the rule of his duty.
Thirdly, As to the connexion of these two, faith and obedience are joined together, because there is no true faith but what is followed with obedience, and no true obedience but what flows from faith. Faith is the loadstone of obedience, and obedience the touchstone of faith, as appears from Jam. ii. passim. They that want faith cannot be holy; and they that have true faith, their faith will work by love. Hence we may see,
1. That faith is the foundation of duty or obedience, and not obedience or duty the foundation of faith, Tit iii. 8. and that the things to be believed are placed before the things to be practised, in order to distinguish between the order of things in the covenant of grace, and what they were under the covenant of works. Under the latter, doing, or perfect obedience to the law, was the foundation of the promised privilege of life; but under the former, the promise is to be believed, and the promised life is to be freely received: and thereupon follows the believer's obedience to the law, out of gratitude and love for the mercy received. This appears from the order laid down by God himself in delivering the moral law from mount Sinai. He lays the foundation of faith, first of all, in these words, • I am the Lord thy God,' &c. which is the sum and substance of the covenant of grace; and then follows the law of the ten commandments, which is as it were grafted upon this declaration of sovereign grace and love, Exod. xx. 2,—18. And let it be remembered, that the apostle Paul calls gospel-obedience the obedience of faith as springing from and founded upon faith. And if we examine the order of doctrine laid down in all his epistles, we shall find, that he first propounds the doctrine of faith, or what man is to believe, and upon that foundation inculcates the duties that are to be practised.
2. That all works without faith are dead, and so cannot please God. For whatsoever is not of faith is sin; and without or separate from Christ we can do nothing. Faith is the principle of all holy and acceptable obedience.
3. That those who inculcate moral duties without discovering the necessity of regeneration, and union with Christ, as the source of all true obedience, are foolish builders ; they lay their foundation on the sand, and the superstructure they raise will soon be overturned; and they pervert the gospel of Christ. Such would do well to consider what the Apostle says, Gal. i. 9. ' If any man preach any other gospel unto you than ye have received, let him be accursed.
II. I proceed now to consider the manner of the scripture's teaching
1. The scripture teaches some things expressly in so many words; as, ' Except a man be born again, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God,' &c. Other things it teaches by good and necessary consequence; as, that infants are to be baptized. Now, whatever can be proved by just and necessary consequence from sacred writ, is all one, as to the binding power on men's consciences, as if it were taught there in so many words, whether it be in points of faith or obedience. 2. The scriptures teach but externally. It is the Spirit that