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All right obedience flows from a principle of faith in the heart. True faith will always be productive of, and accompanied with good works. And it is in vain for men to say they have religion, unless they abound in all the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ unto the praise and glory of God. Let us then shew our faith by our works, in having a respect unto all the commands of God, and doing whatsoever he has enjoined us in his word.
THE SCRIPTURES THE BOOK OF THE LORD, AND THE DILIGENT
STUDY AND SEARCH THEREOF RECOMMENDED AND URGED.
Isaiah xxxiv. 16.—Seek ye out of the book of the Lord, and read: no one of these shall fail, none shall want her mate: for my mouth it hath commanded, and his spirit it hath gathered them.
HAVING considered the divine authority of the holy scriptures, and their scope, I come now to recommend unto you the diligent study and search of these sacred oracles, from the text now read.
In the former part of this chapter, there are most terrible threatenings denounced against the enemies of God and his church, which receive not their full accomplishment till the last day, as appears from ver. 4, 10. In the text there is the confirmation of the whole. And therein we have,
1. An intimation that all shall be accomplished according to the word. Wherein two things are to be observed.
(1.) The study of the word required. Where we may notice, (1.) The honourable epithet given to it, The book of the Lord. Thus the holy scripture is called, as being of divine original and authority, God himself being the author of it. It is true, that in Isaiah's days, even the canon of the Old Testament was not completed, some of the historical books, and of the prophetical too, not being then written. But the body of the doctrine of the word was comprised in the law, or five books of Moses ; and what was afterwards written, was but a building on that foundation, by enlargement, explication, and application. And this prophecy looking as far as the end of the world, the Spirit of God might here have an eye to the complete canon of the Old and New Testament. [2.] The study of it recommended, Seek out of it. The word signifies to inquire, search, seek out ; and imports diligence and earnestness in consulting a thing to learn from it. And so it is emphatically pointed, to denote a vehemency and intenseness of spirit in the study. It does in a great measure
answer that word, Acts xvii. 11—Searched the scriptures. We are not only to seek from it, but out of it, or, as the Hebrew signifies, from in it, or, as in the Greek, to it, and seek from it. [3.] The way to study, read it. Do not satisfy yourselves to hear it, but read it with your own eyes. For the eye makes ordinarily deeper impression than the ear.
(2.) The accomplishment in the most minute circumstance. [l.J Whereas the Lord had named a great many horrible creatures that should possess the dwellings of his enemies, none of them shall fail, they shall all be there. [2.] Whereas he had said they should have their mates, that so their kinds might be continued there, none of them shall want their mate for that purpose.
2. The confirmation or reason of this accomplishment according to the word. And it hath two parts, namely, that he has spoken the one, and will effectuate the other.
(1.) Himself has spoken the word: My mouth it hath commanded. His truth is engaged for its accomplishment. He has commanded, not these creatures, but the word or book, as Psal. cv. 8.—The word he commanded : and God is said to command his word, for that he gives it as a lawgiver, of supreme authority. And so this answers to the first part of the intimation.
(2.) He will effectuate the thing in accomplishment of the word : His spirit will gather these creatures. So his power is engaged to make it forthcoming. There seems to be here a remarkable change of the persons. But I am mistaken if the mouth of the Lord be not one of the names of Christ in the scripture : Thus, Isa. Ixii. 2.— Thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord shall name.' Jer. xxiii. 16. 'They speak—not out of the mouth of the Lord. Compare John i. 18. 'No man hath seen God at any time: the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.' Heb. i. 1, 2. 'God who at sundry times, and in divers manners, spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son.' And so the words run very plainly and exactly according to the original, For my mouth he hath commanded, and his Spirit it hath gathered them.
Two doctrines naturally arise from the words, viz.
Doct. II. The scripture is a book to be read, carefully, and diligently searched, consulted, and sought into.'
As it is the last of these doctrines I mainly intend to discourse upon, I shall be very brief in the illustration of the first : and though some things to be spoken upon it interfere with what has
been already delivered, I hope it will tend to your establishment in the truth, and the more endear the holy scripture to you.
Doct. I. The holy scripture is the book of the Lord.'
I. My first province is to shew in what respects the holy scripture is the book of the Lord.
1. The Lord is the subject matter of that book, as the book of the wars of the Lord. It is the commendation of a book, that it treats of a noble subject; and this book treats of God, the great scope of it being to show what God is, and what his will is. Hence we are commanded to hold fast the form of sound words,' 2 Tim. i. 13. If we would know God, and our duty to him, we must turn to this book and learn it.
2. The Lord is the author of it, 2 Tim. iii. 16. 'All scripture is given by inspiration of God.' And who was fit to make a book on that noble subject but himself? John i. 18. forecited. It is the product of his own unerring Spirit, and so his own book in a most proper sense. It is for this reason that it is called 'the book of the Lord.' It is true, several hands were employed in the writing of it; but yet all and every part of it was from the Lord.
(1.) The motion to write was from the Lord, by a particular impulse on the spirits of the holy penmen, which influenced them to the work, and carried them on it, 2 Pet. i. 21. 'Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.' Sometimes they had particular express calls, but they had always this motion powerfully determining and inclining them to the work.
(2.) The matter of their writing was from him. He laid it to their hands, 2 Tim. iii. 16. 'All scripture is given by inspiration of God.' Some things were matters of pure revelation, that could not be known otherwise; such as things past, whereof there was no manner of record, things to come, things without the reach of men's knowledge, as the thoughts of others. These things they had by immediate suggestion. Some things they might have by other records, their own judgment, or memory. In these the Spirit of the Lord infallibly guided them what to chuse and refuse, strengthened their judgment and memories, so that they could not mistake, John xvi. 13. The Spirit of truth—will guide yon into all truth.'
(3.) The very words they wrote were from him. Since the apostles spoke the very words of the Holy Ghost, much more did they write them, 1 Cor. ii. 13. And therefore God is said to speak by and in
the holy penmen, 2 Sam. xxiii. 2. Luke i. 70. Acts i. 16. He did not give them the matter to put in their own words, but put the words in their hearts too, but in a manner suited to their native style. And truly it is hard to conceive how the inspiration of the holy scriptures could reach the end without it, seeing so much depends on the suitable expressing of matter.
II. I proceed to shew, that the holy scripture is the book of the Lord. This is evident from many things, of which I shall only observe a few.
1. This book discovers what no mortal could ever have done, and nowise could be had but by divine revelation, as the history of the creation, what was done before man was on the earth, the sublime mysteries of the Trinity, of the incarnation of the Son of God, and the eternal counsels of God concerning man's salvation.
2. The perfect holiness of the doctrine. It commands all holiness, forbids all impurity in heart and life, under the pain of damnation : which shews it could neither be the work of men, being so far above their reach, and cross to their corrupt nature; nor of evil angels, being so opposite to Satan's kingdom ;' nor of good ones, who could never have put a cheat on the world, making their own words pass for God's.
3. The efficacy of the doctrine in its searching and convincing the conscience, Heb. iv. 12.; converting souls from their most beloved lusts, even when nothing can be expected from the world for such a change, Psal. xix. 7.; rejoicing the heart under the deepest distresses, ver. 8. This is not from any virtue in the letters or syllables, but from the Spirit, whose instrument it is.
4. The miracles wherewith it has been confirmed. These were wrought to confirm the doctrine, Mat. ix. 6. These are God's seal, which he will never put to a lie.
5. Lastly, There is an inward sensation of this in the spirits of those that have their senses exercised. For it is not to be doubted, but as the works of God bear the marks of a divine hand, so his word also does. And while there are such manifest differences betwixt one voice and another of men, how can it be thought, but the voice of God has a peculiar signature on it? If that be not discerned by others, it is by his own people that know his voice.
I shall now make a short improvement of this point.
1. The scripture is the best of books. They who heard Christ, said, 'Never man spake like this man ;' and they that see the true glory of the scriptures must own, never did any write like these writings. There we have the true picture of the great Author, in
spotless holiness; there the revelation of his mind with respect to our salvation. Whatever other books there be in the world relating to our salvation; they are but dim tapers lighted at this burning lamp.
2. They are enemies to God that are enemies to the scriptures, whether in their principles, as Papists and others, or in their practices. For if men loved God, they would love his word, Psal. cxix. 97. And men, by their relish of the word, may know what case their souls are in. For according as they relish the scriptures, so is it with their souls. If they have lost the gust of them, it is evident that either they have no grace, or that it is not in exercise.
3. Wo to those whom the Bible condemns; and these are all wicked men and hypocrites, whatever their stations or professions be. But happy they whom it approves and justifies; and these are all the sincere seekers of God. Seek to be of the number of the latter, and then none of the woes denounced in God's word shall fall upon you.
Use II. Of exhortation.
1. Let us highly prize this book for the sake of the Author. The Ephesians thought that they had good ground to be zealous for the image of Diana, because they fancied it fell down from Jupiter, Acts xix. 35. Your Bible is a book really come from God; let us be ashamed we do not prize it more, by using it diligently to the ends for which it was given the church.
2. Let us believe it in all the parts thereof; the commands, that we may study to conform ourselves to them; the promises, that we may thereby be encouraged to a holy life; and the threatenings, that we may thereby be deterred from sin. Alas! though we own it to be the word of God, that we are no more moved with it than if it were the word of man, and such a man as we give little credit to. For compare the lives of the most part with it they say, it is but idle tales.
3. Let us submit our souls to it, as the oracles of the living God. He is the great Lawgiver, and in that book he speaks ; let us own his authority in his word, and submit to it as the rule of our faith and life, without disputing or opposing.
4. Lastly, Let us study to be well acquainted with it, and make it our business to search the scriptures. This brings me to the main thing I intend.
Doct. II. “ The scripture is a book to be read, carefully and diligently searched, consulted, and sought into."
If ye ask, by whom this is to be done ? it is by all into whose hands, by the mercy of God, it comes. Some never had it, and so