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they will not be condemned for slighting it, Rom. ii. 12. Magi-
In discoursing further from this point, I shall,
I. I am to explain this seeking into the book of the Lord. And here I will shew,
1. What is presupposed in this seeking. 2. What is the import of a studious inquiry into the scriptures. FIR
First, I am to shew what is presupposed in this seeking into the book of the Lord. It presupposes,
1. That man has lost his way, and needs direction to find it, Psal. cxix. 176. 'I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant.'' Miserable man is bemisted in a vain world, which is a dark place, and has as much need of the scriptures to direct him, as one has of a light in darkness,' 2 Pet. i. 19. What miserable case is that part of the world in that want the Bible? They are vain in their imaginations, and grope in the dark, but cannot find the way of salvation. In no better case are those to whom it has not come in power.
2. That man is in hazard of being led farther and farther wrong. This made the spouse say, “Tell me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest, where thon makest thy flock to rest at noon:
for why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions ?' There is a subtle devil, a wicked world, corrupt lusts within one's own breast, to lead him out of the right way, that we had need to give over, and take this guide. There are many false lights in the world, which, if followed, will lead the traveller into a mire, and leave him there.
3. That men are slow of heart to understand the mind of God in his word. It will cost searching diligently ere we can take it up, John v. 39. Our eyes are dim to the things of God, our apprehensions dull, and our judgment is weak. And therefore, because the iron is blunt, we must put too the more strength. We lost the sharpness of our sight in spiritual things in Adam; and our corrupt wills and carnal affections, that savour not the things of God, do more blind our judgments : and therefore it is a labour to us to find out what is necessary for our salvation.
4. That the book of the Lord has its difficulties which are not to be easily solved. Therefore the Psalmist prays, 'Open thou mine eyes, that I may see wondrous things out of thy law,' Psal. cxix. 18. Philip asked the eunuch, ‘Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me?' There are depths there wherein an elephant may swim, and will exercise the largest capacities, with all the advantages they may be possessed of. God in his holy providence has so ordered it, to stain the pride of all glory; to make his word the liker himself, whom none can search out to perfection, and to sharpen the diligence of his people in their inquiries into it.
5. That we need highly to understand it, otherwise we would not be bidden search into it. • Of the times and seasons (says the apostle), ye have no need that I write unto you;' and therefore he wrote not of them. There is a treasure in this field; we are called to dig for it; for tho' it be hid, yet we must have it, or we will pine away in our spiritual poverty.
6. Lastly, That we may gain from it by diligent inquiry. The holy humble heart will not be always sent empty away from these wells of salvation, when it plies itself to draw. There are shallow places in these waters of the sanctuary, where lambs may wade.
Secondly, I proceed to shew what is the import of a studious inquiry into the scriptures. This holds out the matter and manner of the duty.
First, As for the matter of the duty; it lies in three things.
1. We should be capable to read the scriptures distinctly. Alas! How shall they study the book of God that cannot so much as read it? Isa, xxix. 12. It is sad to think that there are among Chris
tians who call God their Father, and cannot read his testament; who say they would be at heaven, and yet cannot consult the directions for the way. And if their parents have neglected to teach them, they have not the grace to make up that by their own industry. Their case is little better that cannot read it distinctly ; for without that there can be little benefit got by it. Neh. viii. 8.
2. We should acquaint ourselves with the letter of the scriptures, the histories, prophecies, precepts, &c. This Timothy is commended for, that from a child he had known the holy scriptures,' 2 Tim. iii. 15. That is the sacred field where the treasure lies; the blessed body, where the soul of the scripture lodgeth; the words wherein the mind of God towards sinners is held forth, Mat. xiii. 52.
3. We ought to labour to understand the mind of God in them, and that savingly and spiritually. Wisdom lies in the book of the Lord; and see what course we should take to get at it, Prov. ii. 4, 5. 'If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures : then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord; and find the knowledge of God.' To read the scriptures just for reading's sake, without labouring to understand what ye read, is very unprofitable work. Nay we should search narrowly till we find the sense and meaning of what we read, as one that digs deep, breaks the clods of earth, till he finds the golden ore.
Secondly, As to the manner of the duty; it imports,
1. A high esteem of the treasure to be found in the book of the Lord, Matth. xiii. 44. People will not be at the pains to seek into what they do not value. If men did not prize gold, they would not rip up the bowels of the earth for it. It is the undervaluing of the
. scriptures that makes people so little to study and seek into them.
2. A design of spiritual profit by the scripture. No wise man will be at pains but to gain thereby. And he that would aright study the holy scriptures, must design his soul's advantage thereby. We should come to the reading of the book of the Lord, as to a soul-feast, Psal. cxix. 131; as to the gathering of spoil after battle, Psal. cxix. 162. Some read the scriptures to furnish their heads with notions of the things of religion, and their tongues with talk about them; but read ye for holiness to your hearts, and to rule your walk thereby. Some read them to support their errors, and some for matter of jest and drollery; which are horrible work. Batésearch ye the scriptures : for in them ye will find eternal life; and they are they that testify of Christ,' John v. 39.
3. A serious application of the heart to the work; for it will not be a by-hand work, Psal. i. 2. In the scriptures God speaks to us, as in prayer we speak to God; and when God speaks, we should
listen attentively. The angels pry into scripture-mysteries, 1 Pet. i. 12. So should we into the scriptures, James i. 25.
4. Painfulness in the study. Silver and gold are not to be gathered up by every lazy passenger from the surface of the earth, as stones are, but must with labour be digged out of the bowels of it, Prov. ii. 4. forecited. This is the gate of heaven; and there must be striving to get in at it. It is not easy to overcome a dark, carnal, hard heart, which unfits us for the study of the scriptures. And indeed many get but little advantage by their reading it; for dig they cannot, and beg they will not; and therefore they go empty from these wells of salvation.
5. Diligence and constancy, 1 Pet. i. 10. It is the hand of the diligent that maketh rich in all cases, while drousiness cloaths a man with rags. See the duty of a Christian with respect to the word, Psal. i. 2. 'His delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.' He suffers not his Bible to gather dust.
Lastly, A thorough search. We should go through every leaf of the book of the Lord, and endeavour to acquire the knowledge of the whole scriptures. For ' All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,' 2 Tim. iii. 16. Some never read all the Bible in their days, but pick out portions here and there only. Searchers do not so, but look into every corner. And we should labour to know more and more of what we have some insight into : for this Bible says one, contains a puncheon that hitherto has not been pierced
II. The next general head is, to give the reasons of the point, that the book of the Lord should be read, carefully and diligently searched, consulted, and sought into.
1. Because the way of salvation is to be found only therein, John v. 39. forecited. This is the star risen in a dark world, to guide us where Christ is. All the researches of the wise men of the world, all the inventions of men, can never guide us to Immanuel's land, John i. 18. “No man has seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.' Here, and here only, the counsels of God touching man's salvation are discovered. And so, as salvation is the most necessary thing, the study of the scriptures is the most necessary exercise. To slight it, is to judge ourselves unworthy of eternal life.
2. It is the only rule of our faith and lives, Isa. viii. 20. 'To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them,' Eph. ii. 20.
built upon the foundation of the proplets and apostles, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone,' Rev. xxii. 18, 19. 'I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book : and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. The Bible is the pattern shewn on the mount, to which our faith and lives must be conformed, if we would please God. The Lord says to us, as Deut. xxviii. 14. Thou shalt not go aside from any of the words which I command thee this day, to the right hand or to the left.' None can walk regularly unless they observe the rule; but how can one observe it unless ho know it? Matt. xxii. 29. God has given each of us our post in the world : the Bible is the book of our instructions; and shall we not study it? The lawyer studies his law-books, the physician his medical books; and shall not a Christian study the book of the Lord ?
3. The Lord himself dictated it, and gave it us for that very end, 2 Tim. ii. 16, 17. forecited, Rom. v. 4. 'Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning.' And has the Spirit of the Lord written it, and will not we read it? Has he given it us to be studied by us, and will we slight it? This must be horrid contempt of God, and ingratitude to him with a witness. Whose image and superscription is this on the scriptures? Is it not the Lord's? Then take it up and read.
4. We must be judged by the scriptures at the great day, John xii. 48. That is one of the books opened, Rev. xx. 12. This is the book of the Lord's laws and ordinances, by which he will proceed in absolving or condemning us. I own God will go another way to work with those who never had the Bible, Rom. ii. 12. But know thou, that seeing it is in the country where thou livest, though thou never readest a letter of it, thou must be judged by it. Is there not good reason then for reading the scriptures?
III. I proceed now to the practical improvement of this important subject.
Use I. Of information. It lets us see,
1. The necessity and advantage of translations of the scriptures into the vulgar languages, as I have formerly shewn.
2. The people not only may without any licence from the churchguides, but must read the scriptures, for God has commanded it. The Papists here take away the key of knowledge ; for their kingdom riseth and standeth by darkness, and ignorance of the scriptures.