[Page] Imprimatur.

JO. NICHOLAS. Vice Cancell. Oxon. Junii 10. 1678.

[Page] THE Lively Oracles given to us OR The Christians Birth-right and Duty, in the custody and use of the HOLY SCRIPTURE. By the Author of the WHOLE DUTY OF MAN, &c.

Search the Scriptures, Jo. 5. 39.

At the THEATER in OXFORD, 1678.


The lively Oracles given to us or The Christians birthright & duty in the custody & use of the holy Scripture.


IN the Treatise of the Government of the Tongue publisht by me heretofore, I had occasion to take notice among the exorbitances of that unruly part, which sets on fire the whole course of nature, and its self is set on fire from hell, Jam. 3. 6. of the impious vanity prevailing in this Age, whereby men play with sacred things, and exercise their wit upon those Scriptures by which they shall be judg'd at the last day, Joh. 12. 48.

But that holy Book not only suffering by the petulancy of the Tongue, but the malice of the heart, out of the abundance whereof the mouth speaks, Mat. 12. 34. and also from that irreligion, prepossession, and supiness, which the pursuit of sen­sual [Page] plesures certainly produces; the mis­chief is too much diffus'd, and deeply root­ed, to be controul'd by a few casual refle­ctions. I have therefore thought it neces­sary, both in regard of the dignity and im­portance of the subject, as also the preva­lence of the opposition, to attemt a profest and particular vindication of the holy Scriptures, by displaying their native ex­cellence and beauty; and enforcing the veneration and obedience that is to be paid unto them.

This I design'd to do in my usual me­thod, by an address to the affections of the Reader; soliciting the several passions of love, hope, fear, shame and sorrow, which either the majesty of God in his sublime being, his goodness deriv'd to us, or our ingratitude return'd to him, could actuate in persons not utterly obdurate.

But where as men, when they have learnt [Page] to do amiss, quickly dispute and dictate; I found my self concern'd to pass somtimes within the verge of controversy, and to dis­course upon the principles of reason, and de­ductions from Testimony, which in the most important transactions of human life are justly taken for evidence. In which whole performance I have studied to avoid the entanglements of Sophistry, and the ambi­tion of unintelligible quotations; and kept my self within the reach of te un­learned Christian Reader; to whose uses, my labors have bin ever dedicated.

All that I require, is that men would bring as much readiness to entertain the holy Scriptures, as they do to the reading profane Authors; I am asham'd to say, as they do to the incentives of vice and folly, nay, to the libels and invectives that are levell'd against the Scriptures.

If I obtain this, I will make no doubt [Page] that I shall gain a farther point; that from the perusal of my imperfect conceptions, the Reader will proceed to the study of the Scriptures themselves: there tast and see how gracious the Lord is, Ps. 34. 8. and as the Angel commanded Saint John, Rev. 10. 9. eat the Book; where he will experimentally find the words of David verified, Ps. 19. 7. The Law of the Lord is an undefiled Law, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, and giveth wisdom to the simple. The Statutes of the Lord are right, and rejoice the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, and giveth light to the eies. The fear of the Lord is clean and endureth for ever, the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous alto­gether. More to be desir'd are they then gold, yea, then much fine gold; sweeter al­so then hony and the hony-comb. More­over [Page] by them is thy servant taught, and in keeping of them there is great reward.

It is said of Moses, Ex. 34. 29. that having receiv'd the Law from God, and converst with him in Mount Sina forty daies together, his face shone, and had a brightness fixt upon it that dazled the beholders; a pledg and short essay not only of the appearance at Mount Ta­bor, Mat. 17. 1. where at the Trans­figuration he again was seen in glory: but of that greater, and yet future change when he shall see indeed his God face to face, and share his glory unto all e­ternity. The same divine Goodness gives still his Law to every one of us. Let us receive it with due regard and venera­tion; converse with him therein, instead of forty daies, during our whole lives; and so anticipate and certainly assure our interest in that great Transfiguration, [Page] when all the faithful shall put of their mortal flesh, be translated from glory to glory, eternally behold their God, see him as he is, and so enjoy him.

Conversation has every where an assimi­lating power, we are generally such as are the men and Books, and business that we deal with: but surely no familiarity has so great an influence on Life and Manners, as when men hear God speaking to them in his Word. That Word which the Apostle, Heb. 4. 12. declares to be quick and powerful, sharper then any two-edg'd sword, piercing even to the dividing a­sunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

The time will come when all our Books however recommended, for subtilty of dis­course, exactness of method, variety of matter, or eloquence of Language; when all [Page] our curious Acts, like those mention'd Act. 19. 19. shall be brought forth, and burnt before all men: When the great Book of nature, and heaven it self shall depart as a scroul roll'd together, Rev. 6. 14. At which important season 'twill be more to purpose, to have studied well, that is, transcrib'd in practice this one Book, then to have run thro all besides, for then the dead small and great shall stand be­fore God, and the Books shall be open'd, and another Book shall be open'd which is the Book of Life, and the dead shall be judg'd out of those things which were written in the Books, according to their works, Rev. 20. 12.

In vain shall men allege the want of due conviction, that they did not know how penal it would be, to disregard the San­ctions of Gods Law, which they would have had enforc'd by immediat miracle; the [Page] apparition of one sent from the other world, who might testify of the place of torment. This expectation the Scri­pture charges every where with the guilt of temting God, and indeed it really in­volves this insolent proposal, that the Al­mighty should be oblig'd to break his own Laws, that men might be prevail'd with to keep his. But should he think fit to com­ply herein, the condescention would be as successless in the event, as 'tis unreasonable in the offer. Our Savior assures, that they who hear not Moses and the Prophets, the instructions and commands laid down in holy Scripture, would not be wrought upon by any other method, would not be perswaded, by that which they allow for irresistible conviction, tho one rose again from the dead, Luke 16. 31.

[Page 1]THE LIVELY ORACLES GIVEN TO US, Or the Christians Birth-right and Duty in the custody and use of the HOLY SCRIPTURE.

SECT. I. The several Methods of Gods communi­cating the knowledg of himself.

GOD, as he is invisible to human eies, so is he unfathomable by hu­man understandings; the per­fection of his nature, and the im­potency of ours, setting us at too great a distance to have any clear perception of him. Nay, so far are we from a full comprehension, that we can discern nothing at all of him, but by his own light; those discoveries he hath bin pleas'd to make of himself.

2. THOSE have bin of several sorts; The first was by infusion in mans creation, when [Page 2] God interwove into mans very constitution and being the notions and apprehensions of a Deity: and at the same instant when he breath'd into him a living soul, imprest on it that native religion, which taught him to know and reverence his Creator, which we may call the instinct of humanity. Nor were those principles dark and confus'd, but clear and evident, proportionable to the ends they were design'd to, which were not only to contemplate the nature, but to do the will of God; practice being even in the state of innocence preferrable before an unactive spe­culation.

3. BUT this Light being soon eclips'd by Adams disobedience, there remain'd to his benighted posterity, only som faint glim­merings, which were utterly insufficient to guide them tho their end, without fresh aids, and renew'd manifestations of God to them. It pleas'd God therefore to repair this ruine, and by frequent revelations to communicate himself to the Patriarchs in the first Ages of the World; afterwards to Prophets, and o­ther holy men; till at last he reveled him­self yet more illustriously in the face of Jesus Christ, 2 Cor. 4. 6.

4. THIS is the one great comprehensive Revelation wherein all the former were in­volv'd, and to which they pointed; the whole mystery of Godliness being compris'd in this [Page 3] of Gods being manifested in the flesh, and the consequents thereof. 1 Tim. 3. 16. whereby our Savior as he effected our reconciliation with God by the sacrifice of his death; so he declar'd both that, and all things else that it concern'd man to know in order to bliss, in his doctrin and holy life. And this Teacher being not only sent from God, Jo. 3. but be­ing himself God blessed for ever; it cannot be that his instructions can want any supple­ment. Yet that they might not want atte­station neither to the incredulous world; he confirm'd them by the repeted miracles of his life, and by the testimony of those who saw the more irrefragable conviction of his Resurrection and Ascension. And that they also might not want credit and en­forcement, the holy Spirit set to his seal, and by his miraculous descent upon the Apostles, both asserted their commission, and enabled them for the discharge of it, by all gifts ne­cessary for the propagating the Faith of Christ over the whole World.

5. THESE were the waies by which God was pleased to revele himself to to the Fore­fathers of our Faith, and that not only for their sakes, but ours also, to whom they were to derive those divine dictats they had re­ceiv'd. Saint Stephen tells us, those under the Law receiv'd the lively Oracles to deliver down to their posterity, Act. 7. 38. And those un­der [Page 4] the Gospel, who receiv'd yet more lively Oracles, from him who was both the Word and the Life, did it for the like purpose; to transmit it to us upon whom the ends of the world are come. By this all need of repeted Revelations is superseded, the faithful deri­ving of the former, being sufficient to us for all things that pertain to life and godliness, 2 Pet. 1. 3.

6. AND for this, God (whose care is equal for all successions of men) hath graciously provided, by causing Holy Scriptures to be writ; by which he hath deriv'd on every suc­ceeding Age the illuminations of the for­mer. And for that purpose endowed the Writers not only with that moral fidelity requisite to the truth of History, but with a divine Spirit, proportionable to the great de­sign of fixing an immutable rule for Faith and Manners. And to give us the fuller se­curity herein, he has chosen no other pen­men of the New Testament, then those who were the first oral Promulgers of our Chri­stian Religion; so that they have left to us the very same doctrin they taught the Pri­mitive Christians; and he that acknowledges them divinely inspir'd in what they preach'd, cannot doubt them to be so in what they writ. So that we all may injoy virtually and effectively that wish of the devout Father, who desir'd to be Saint Pauls Auditor: for he [Page 5] that hears any of his Epistles read, is as really spoke to by Saint Paul, as those who were within the sound of his voice. Thus God who in times past spake at sundry times, and in diverse manners to our Fathers by the Prophets, and in the later daies by his son, Heb. 1. 1, 2. conti­nues still to speak to us by these inspir'd Wri­ters; and what Christ once said to his Disci­ples in relation to their preaching, is no less true of their writings: He that despiseth you, de­spiseth me, Luk. 10. 16. All the contemt that is at any time flung on these sacred Writings, rebounds higher, and finally devolves on the first Author of those doctrins, whereof these are the Registres and Transcripts.

7. BUT this is a guilt which one would think peculiar to Infidels and Pagans, and not incident to any who had in their Baptism listed themselves under Christs banner: yet I fear I may say, of the two parties, the Scri­pture has met with the worst treatment from the later. For if we mesure by the frequency and variety of injuries. I fear Christians will appear to have out-vied Heathens: These bluntly disbelieve them, neglect, nay perhaps scornfully deride them. Alas, Christians do this and more; they not only put contemts, but tricks upon the Scripture, wrest and distort it to justify all their wild phancies, or secular designs; and suborn its Patronage to those things it forbids, and tells us that God abhors.

[Page 6] 8. INDEED so many are the abuses we offer it, that he that considers them would scarce think we own'd it for the words of a sensible man, much less of the great omniscient God. And I believe 'twere hard to assign any one so comprehensive and efficacious cause of the universal depravation of manners, as the dis­valuing of this divine Book, which was de­sign'd to regulate them. It were therefore a work worthy another inspired writing, to at­temt the rescue of this, and recover it to its just estimate. Yet alas, could we hope for that, we have scoffers who would as well de­spise the New as the Old; and like the Hus­bandmen in the Gospel, Mat. 21. 36. would answer such a succession of messages by re­peting the same injuries.

9. To such as these 'tis I confess vain for man to address; nay 'twere insolence to ex­pect that human Oratory should succeed where the divine fails; yet the spreading in­fection of these renders it necessary to admi­nister antidotes to others. And besides, tho (God be blest) all are not of this form, yet there are many who, tho not arriv'd to this contempt, yet want som degrees of that just reverence they owe the sacred Scriptures, who give a confus'd general assent to them as the word of God, but afford them not a conside­ration and respect answerable to such an ac­knowledgment. To such as these, I shall hope [Page 7] it may not be utterly vain to attemt the ex­citing of those drowsy notions that lie un­active in them, by presenting to them som considerations concerning the excellence and use of the Scripture: which being all but necessary consequences of that principle they are supposed to own, viz. that they are Gods word, I cannot much question their assent to the speculative part: I wish I could as proba­bly assure my self of the practic.

10. INDEED were there nothing else to be said in behalf of holy Writ, but that it is Gods word, that were enough to command the most awful regard to it. And therefore it is but just we make that the first and principal consideration in our present discourse. But then 'tis impossible that that can want others to attend it; since whatsoever God saies, is in all respects completely good. I shall there­fore to that of its divine original add second­ly the consideration of its subject Matter; thirdly, of its excellent and no less diffusive end and design; and fourthly, of its exact propriety and fitness to that design, which are all such qualifications, that where they con­cur, nothing more can be requir'd to com­mend a writing to the esteem of rational men. And upon all these tests, notwithstan­ding the cavil of the Romanists and others, whose force we shall examin with the unhap­py issue of contrary counsels, this law of God [Page 8] will be found to answer the Psalmists chara­cter of it, Ps. 19. 7. The Law of God is perfect: and 'twill appear that the custody and use thereof, is the Birth-right and Duty of every Christian. All which severals being faithful­ly deduced; it will only remain that I add such cautions as will be necessary to the due performance of the aforesaid duty; and our being in som degree render'd perfect, as this Law of God, and the Author thereof himself is perfect, Mat. 5. 48.

SECT. II. The divine Original, Endearments, and Authority of the Holy Scripture.

MENS judgments are so apt to be biast by their affection, that we often find them readier to consider who speaks, then what is spoken: a temper very unsafe, and the principle of great injustice in our infe­rior transactions with men; yet here there are very few of us that can wholly divest our selves of it, whereas, when we deal with God (in whom alone an implicit faith may se­curely be reposed) we are nice and wary, bring our scales and mesures, will take no­thing upon his word which holds not weight in our own balance. 'Tis true, he needs not our partiality to be justified in his sayings, Psal. 51. 4. His words are pure, even as the silver tried seven times in the fire, Psal. 12. 6. able to pass the strictest test that right reason (truly so called) can put them to. Yet it shews a great perverseness in our nature, that we who so easily resign our understandings to fallible men, stand thus upon our guard against God; make him dispute for every inch he gains on us; nor will afford him what we daily grant [Page 10] to any credible man, to receive an affirma­tion upon trust of his veracity.

2. I am far from contradicting our Saviors Precept, of Search the Scriptures, Jo. 7. or Saint Pauls, of proving all things, 1 Thes. 5. 21. we cannot be too industrious in our inquest after truth, provided we still reserve to God the decisive vote, and humbly acquiesce in his sense, how distant soever from our own; so that when we consult Scripture (I may add reason either) 'tis not to resolve us whe­ther God be to be believed or no in what he has said, but whether he hath said such and such things: for if we are convinc'd he have; reason as well as Religion commands our as­sert.

3. WHATEVER therefore God has said, we are to pay it a reverence merely upon the account of its Author; over and above what the excellence of the matter exacts: and to this we have all inducements as well as obli­gation: there being no motives to render the words of men estimable to us, which are not eminently and transcendently appliable to those of God.

4. THOSE motives we may reduce to four: first, the Autority of the Speaker; secondly, his Kindness; thirdly, his Wisdom; and fourth­ly, his Truth. First, for that of Autority; that may be either native, or acquired; the na­tive is that of a parent, which is such a charm [Page 11] of observance, that we see Sa [...]omon, when he would impress his counsels, assumes the per­son of a Father; Hear O my children the in­structions of a Father, Prov. 4. 1. And gene­rally thro that whole Book he uses the com­pellation of my Son, as the greatest endear­ment to engage attention and reverence. Nay so indispensible was the obligation of children in this respect, that we see the con­tumacious child that would not hearken to the advice of his Parents, was by God himself adjudged to death, Deut. 21. 20.

5. NOR have only Gods, but mens Laws exacted that filial reverence to the dictats of Parents. But certainly no Parent can pre­tend such a title to it as God, who is not only the immediat Father of our persons, but the original Father of our very nature; not on­ly of our flesh, but of our spirits also, Heb. 12. 9. So that the Apostles Antithesis in that place is as properly applied to counsels as corre­ctions, and we may as rightly infer, that if we give reverence to the advices of our earth­ly Parents, much more ought we subject our selves to this Father of our spirits. And we have the very same reason wherewith to en­force it: for the Fathers of our flesh do as often dictate, as correct according to their own plesures, prescribe to their children not according to the exact mesures of right and wrong, but after that humor which most pre­dominates [Page 12] in themselves. But God alwaies directs his admonitions to our profit, that we may be partakers of his holiness, Heb. 12. 11. So that we are as unkind to our selves, as irre­verent towards him, whenever we let any of his words fall to the ground; whose claim to this part of our reverence is much more irre­fragable then that of our natural Parents.

6. BUT besides this native Autority there is also an acquired; and that we may distin­guish into two sorts; the one of dominion, the other of reputation. To the first kind be­longs that of Princes, Magistrates, Masters, or any that have coercive power over us. And our own interest teaches us not to slight the words of any of these, who can so much to our cost second them with deeds. Now God has all these titles of jurisdiction; He is the great King, Ps. 48. 2. Nor was it only a complement of the Psalmists; for himself owns the stile, I am a great King, Mal. 1. He is the Judg of all the World; Gen. 18. yea, that Ancient of daies, before whom the Books were open'd, Dan. 7. 10. He is our Lord and Master by right, both of Creation and Redemtion; and this Christ owns even in his state of ina­nition; yea, when he was about the most servile imploiment; the washing his Disciples feet; when he was most literally in the form of a servant; yet he scruples not to assert his right to that opposite title; You call me Master, [Page 13] and Lord; and ye say well, for so I am; Jo. 13. Nor are these emty names, but effectively at­tended with all the power they denote. Yet so stupid are we, that whilst we awfully re­ceive the dictates of our earthly Superiors, we slight and neglect the Oracles of that God who is King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. When a Prince speaks, we are apt to cry out with Herods Flatterers, the voice of a God, and not of a man, Act. 12. Yet when it is indeed the voice of God, we chuse tot listen to any thing else rather then it. But let us sadly re­member, that notwithstanding our contemts, this word shall (as our Savior tells us) judg us at the last day, Jo. 12. 38.

7. A second sort of acquir'd Autority is that of reputation. When a man is famed for som extraordinary excellencies, whether moral or intellectual, men come with appe­tite to his discourses, greedily suck them in, nor need such a one bespeak attention; his very name has don it for him, and prepossest him of his Auditors regard. Thus the Rab­bies among the Jews, the Philosophers among the Greeks, were listened to as Oracles, and to cite them was (by their admiring Disci­ples) thought a concluding Argument. Nay, under Christianity, this admiration of mens persons has bin so inordinate, that it has crumbled Religion away in little insignifi­cant parties; whilst not only Paul, Apollo, or [Page 14] Cephas, but names infinitly inferior, have be­come the distinctive characters of Sects and separate Communions. So easily alas are we charm'd by our prepossessions, and with itch­ing ears run in quest of those doctrins which the fame of their Authors, rather then the evidence of truth, commend to us.

8. AND hath God don nothing to get him a repute among us? has he no excellencies to deserve our esteem? is he not worthy to prescribe to his own creatures? If we think yes, why is he the only person to be disregard­ed? or why do we so unseasonably depart from our own humor, as not to give his Word a reverence proportionable to that we pre­tend for him; nay, which we actually pay to men of like passions with our selves? A con­temt so absurd as well as impious, that we have not the example of any the most barba­rous people to countenance us. For tho som of them have made very wild mistakes in the choice of their Deities, yet they have all a­greed in this common principle, that what­ever those Deities said, was to be receiv'd with all possible veneration; yea, such a defe­rence gave they to all significations of the divine will, that as they would undertake no great enterprize without consulting their Auguries; so upon any inauspicious signs they relinquisht their attemts. And certainly if we had the same reverence for the true God [Page 15] which they had for the false, we should as frequently consult him. We may do it with much more ease and certainty: we need not trust to the entrails of Beasts, or motion of Birds; we need not go to Delphos, or the Ly­bian Hammon for the resolving our doubts; but what Moses said to Israel is very applica­ble to us, the Word is nigh thee, Deut. 30. 14. That Word which David made his Counsellor▪ Psal. 119. 24. his Comforter, ver. 50. his Tre­sure, ver. 72. his Study ver. 99. And had we those awful apprehensions of God which he had, we should pay the like reverence to his Word. Did we well ponder how many titles of Autority he has over us, we should surely be asham'd to deny that respect to him in whom they all conspire; which we dare not deny to them separately in human Supe­riors.

9. A second motive to esteem mens words, is the kindness of the speaker. This has such a fascinating power, as nothing but ex­treme ill nature can resist. When a man is assur'd of the kindness of him that speaks, whatever is spoken is taken in good part. This is it that distinguishes the admonitions of a friend from the reproches of an enemy; and we daily in common conversation re­ceive those things with contentment and ap­plause from an intimate and familiar, which if spoken by a stranger or enemy would be [Page 16] despis'd or stomach'd. So insinuating a thing is kindness, that where it has once got it self believ'd, nothing it saies after is disputed; it supples the mind, and makes it ductile and pliant to any impressions.

10. BUT what human kindness is there that can come in any competition with the Divine? it surpasses that of the nearest and dearest relations; Mothers may forget, yet will I not forget thee, Isa. 49. 15. And the Psalmist found it experimentally true, When my Father and my Mother forsake me, the Lord taketh me up, Ps. 27. 10. The tenderest bowels compared to his, are adamant and flint: so that 'tis a most proper epithet the Wise man gives him; O Lord thou lover of souls, Wis. 11. 26. Nor is this affection merely mental, but it attests it self by innumerable effects. The effects of love are all reducible to two heads, doing and suf­fering; and by both these God has most emi­nently attested his love to us.

11. FOR the first, we cannot look either on our bodies or our souls, on the whole Uni­verse about us, or that better World above us; but we shall in each see the Lord hath don great things for us, Psal. 114. Nay, not only our enjoiments, but even the capacity to enjoy, is his bounty. Had not he drawn mankind out of his original clay, what had we bin con­cern'd in all the other works of his Creation? So that if we put any value either upon what [Page 17] we have or what we are, we cannot but ac­count our selves so much indebted to this his active love. And tho the passive was not pra­cticable by the divine Nature simply and a­part, yet that we might not want all ima­ginable evidences of his love, he who was God blessed for ever, linkt his impassible to [...]ur passible nature; assum'd our humanity, that he might espouse our sorrows, and was [...]orn on purpose that he might die for us. So that sure we may say in his own words, greater love then this hath no man, Jo. 15, 13.

12. AND now 'tis very hard, if such an un­parallel'd love in God, may not as much af­fect us as the slight benefactions of every or­dinary friend; if it cannot so much recom­mend him to our regard, as to rescue his word from contemt, and dispose us to re­ceive impressions from it; especially when his very speaking is a new act of his kindness, and design'd to our greatest advantage.

13. BUT if all he has don and suffer'd for us cannot obtain him so much from us, we must surely confess, our disingenuity is as superla­tive as his love. For in this instance we have [...]o plea for our selves. The discourses of men, [...]tis true, may somtime be so weak and irra­tional, that tho kindness may suggest pity, it cannot reverence: But this can never hap­pen in God, whose wisdom is as infinite as his love. He talks not at our vain rate who [Page 18] often talk only for talkings sake; but his words are directed to the most important ends, and addrest in such a manner as befits him in whom are all the tresures of wisdom and knowledg, Col. 2. And this is our third consideration, the wisdom of the Speaker.

14. How attractive a thing Wisdom is, we may observe in the instance of the Queen of Sheba, who came from the utmost parts of the earth, as Christ saies, Mat. 12. 42. to hear the Wisdom of Solomon. And the like is noted of the Greek Sages, that they were addrest to from all parts, by persons of all ranks and qualities, to hear their Lectures. And indeed the rational nature of man do's by a kind of sympathetic motion close with whatever hath the stamp of reason upon it. But alas what is the profoundest wisdom of men compar'd with that of God? He is the es­sential reason; and all that man can pretend to, is but an emanation from him; a ray of his Sun, a drop of his Ocean: which as he gives, so he can also take away. He can in­fatuate the most subtil designers; And (as he saies of him self) makes the diviners mad turns the wise men back, and makes their wisdom foolishness, Esay 44. 25.

15. How impious a folly is it then in us, to Idolize human Wisdom with all its imperfe­ctions, and despise the divine? yet this every man is guilty of, who is not attracted to the [Page 19] study of sacred Writ by the supereminent wisdom of its Author. For such men must either affirm that God has not such a super­ [...]minency; or that, tho he have in himself, he [...]ath noth exerted it in this writing: The for­mer is down-right blasphemy; and truly the [...]ter is the same, a little varied. For that any [...]hing but what is exactly wise, can proceed [...]om infinite wisdom, is too absurd for any [...]an to imagin. And therefore he that [...]harges Gods Word with defect of wisdom, [...]ust interpretatively charge God so too. For [...]o 'tis true, a wise man may somtimes speak [...]olishly; yet that happens thro that mixture of ignorance or passion, which is in the most knowing of mortals: but in God, who is a pure Act, and essential Wisdom, that is an im­possible supposition.

16. NAY, indeed it were to tax him of folly beyond what is incident to any sensible man, who will still proportion his instru­ments to the work he designs. Should we not conclude him mad, that should attemt to fell a mighty Oak with a Pen-knife, or stop a Tor­rent with a wisp of Straw? And sure their conceptions are not much more reverend of God, who can suppose that a writing design'd by him for such important ends, as the making men wise unto salvation, 2 Tim. 3. 15. the casting down all that exalts it self against the obedience of Christ, 2 Cor. 10. 5. should it self be foolish [Page 20] and weak: or that he should give it those great Attributes of being sharper then a two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asun­der of soul and spirit, of the joints and marrow Heb. 4. 14. if its discourses were so flat and insipid, as som in this profane Age would re­present them.

17. 'TIS true indeed, 'tis not as the Apo­stle speaks, the wisdom of this world, 1 Cor. 2. 6. The Scripture teaches us not the arts of un­dermining Governments, defrauding and cir­cumventing our brethren; but it teaches us that which would tend much more even to our temporal felicity; and as reason promts us to aspire to happiness, so it must acknow­ledg, that is the highest wisdom which teaches us to attain it.

18. AND as the Holy Scripture is thus re­commended to us by the wisdom of its Au­thor; so in the last place is it by his truth, with­out which the other might rather raise our jealousy then our reverence. For wisdom without sincerity degenerates into serpentine guile; and we rather fear to be ensnar'd then hope to be advantag'd by it. The most subtil addresses, and most cogent arguments pre­vail not upon us, where we suspect som insi­dious design. But where wisdom and fidelity meet in the same person, we do not only at­tend, but confide in his counsels, And this qualification is most eminently in God. The [Page 21] children of men are deceitful upon the weights. Psal. 62. 9. Much guile often lurks indiscer­nibly under the fairest appearances: but Gods veracity is as essentially himself, as his wis­dom, and he can no more deceive us, then he can be deceiv'd himself. He is not man that he should die, Num. 23. 19. He designs not (as men often do) to sport himself with our cre­dulity; and raise hopes which he never means to satisfy: he saies not to the seed of Jacob, seek ye me in vain, Ex. 45. 19. but all his promises are yea and Amen, 2 Cor. 1. 20. He is perfect­ly sincere in all the proposals he makes in his Word: which is a most rational motive for us to advert to it, not only with reverence but love.

19. AND now when all these motives are thus combined; the autority, the kindness, the wisdom, the veracity of the speaker, what can be requir'd more to render his words of weight with us? If this four-fold cord will not draw us, we have sure the strength, not of men, but of that Legion we read of in the Gospel, Mar. 5. 9. For these are so much the cords of a man, so adapted to our natures, nay to our constant usage in other things, that we must put off much of our humanity, disclaim the common mesures of mankind, if we be not attracted by them. For I dare appeal to the breast of any sober, industrious man, whether in case a person, who he were [Page 22] sure had all the fore-mention'd qualifica­tions, should recommend to him som rules as infallible for the certain doubling, or tre­bling his estate, he would not think them worth the pursuing; nay, whether he would not plot and study on them, till he compre­hended the whole Art. And shall we then when God in whom all those qualifications are united, and that in their utmost transcen­dencies, shall we, I say, think him below our regard, when he proposes the improving our interests, not by the scanty proportions of two or three; but in such as he intimated to Abraham, when he shewed him the Stars, as the representative of his numerous off-spring, Gen. 15. 5. when he teaches us that highest, and yet most certain Alchimy, of refining and multiplying our enjoiments, and then perpetuating them?

20. ALL this God do's in Scripture; and we must be stupidly improvident, if we will take no advantage by it. It was once the complaint of Christ to the Jews, I am come in my Fathers name and ye receive me not, if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive, Jo. 5. 43. And what was said by him the eternal essential Word, is no less applicable to the written; which coming in the name, and upon the message of God, is despis'd and slighted, and every the lightest composure of men preferr'd before it. As if that signature [Page 23] of Divinity it carries, served rather as a Brand to stigmatize and defame, then adorn and recommend it. A contemt which strikes im­mediatly at God himself, whose resentments of it, tho for the present supprest by his long-suffering, will at last break out upon all who persevere so to affront him, in a judgment wor­thy of God, Wis. 12. 26.

21. BUT after all that has bin said, I fore-see som may say, that I have all this while but beaten the air, have built upon a principle which som flatly deny, others doubt of, and have run away with a supposition that the Bible is of divine Original, without any at­temt of proof. To such as these I might just­ly enough object the extreme hard mesure they offer to Divinity above all other Sciences. For in those, they still allow som fundamen­tal maxims, which are presupposed without proof; but in this they admit of no Postulata, no granted principle on which to superstruct. If the same rigor should be extended to secu­lar cases, what a damp would it strike upon commerce? For example, a man expects fair dealing from his neighbor, upon the strength of those common notions of Justice he pre­sumes writ in all mens hearts: but according to this mesure, he must first prove to every man he deals with, that such notions there are, and that they are obligatory: that the wares expos'd to sale are his own; that domi­nion [Page 24] is not founded in grace, or that he is in that state, and so has a property to confer up­on another; that the person dealt with, paies a just price; do's it in good mony; and that it is his own; or that he is in the state of grace; or needs not be so, to justify his purchase: and at this rate the Market will be as full of nice questions as the Scholes. But because complaints and retortions are the common refuge of causes that want better Arguments, I shall not insist here; but to proceed to a de­fence of the question'd Assertion, that the Bible is the Word of God.

22. IN which I shall proceed by these de­grees. First, I shall lay down the plain grounds upon which Christians believe it. Se­condly, I shall compare those with those of less credibility which have generally satisfied mankind in other things of the like nature. And thirdly, I shall consider whether those who are dissatisfied with those grounds, would not be equally so with any other way of atte­station.

23. BEFORE I enter upon the first of these, I desire it may be consider'd, that matters of fact are not capable of such rigorous demon­strative evidences, as mathematical proposi­tions are. To render a thing fit for rational belief, there is no more requir'd but that the motives for it do over-poise those against it, and in that degree they do so, so is the belief stronger or weaker.

[Page 25] 24. Now the motives of our belief in the present case, are such as are extrinsic, or [...]ntrinsic to the Scriptures; of which the ex­trinsic are first, and preparative to the other; and indeed all that can reasonably be insisted on to a gain-saier, who must be suppos'd no competent judg of the later. But as to the former, I shall adventure to say, that the di­ [...]ine Original of the Scripture hath as great grounds of credibility as can be expected in any thing of this kind. For whether God [...]nspir'd the Pen-men of Holy Writ, is matter of fact, and being so, is capable of no other external evidence but that of testimony: and that matter of fact being also in point of time so remote from us, can be judg'd of only by a series of Testimonies deriv'd from that Age wherein the Scriptures were written, to this: and the more credible the testifiers, and the more universal the Testimony; so much the more convincing are they to all considering men.

25. AND this attestation the Scripture hath in the highest circumstances, it having bin witness'd to in all Ages, and in those Ages by all persons that could be presum'd to know any thing of it. Thus the Old Testament was own'd by the whole Nation of the Jews, as the writings of men inspir'd by God; and that with such evidence of their mission, as abun­dantly satisfied those of that Age, of their [Page 26] being so inspir'd; and they deriv'd those Writings with that attestation to their po­sterity. Now that those of the first Ages were not deceiv'd, is as morally certain as any thing can be suppos'd. For in the first part of the Bible is contain'd the history of those mi­racles wherewith God rescued that people out of Egypt, and instated them in Canaan. Now if they who liv'd at that time knew that such miracles were never don, 'tis impossible they could receive an evident Fable as an in­spir'd truth. No single person, much less a whole Nation can be suppos'd so stupid. But if indeed they were eie-witnesses of those mi­racles, they might with very good reason conclude, that the same Moses who was by God impower'd to work them, was so also for the relating them; as also all those prece­dent events from the Creation down to that time, which are recorded by him.

26. So also for the preceptive parts of those Books, those that saw those formidable solemnities, with which they were first pub­lish'd, had sure little temtation to doubt that they were the dictats of God, when written. Now if they could not be deceiv'd them­selves, 'tis yet less imaginable that they should conspire to impose a cheat upon their poste­rities; nor indeed were the Jews of so easy a credulity, that 'tis at all probable the succee­ding Generations would have bin so impos'd [Page 27] on: their humor was stubborn enough, and the precepts of their Law severe and burden­som enough to have temted them to have cast off the yoak, had it not bin bound upon them by irresistible convictions of its coming from God. But besides this Tradition of their Elders, they had the advantage of li­ving under a Theocracy, the immediat gui­dance of God; Prophets daily rais'd up a­mong them, to fore-tell events, to admonish them of their duty, and reprove their back-slidings: yet even these gave the deference to the written Word, nay, made it the test by which to try true inspirations from false: To the Law and to the Testimony; if they speak not according to it, there is no light in them, Esay 8. 20. So that the veneration which they had before acquir'd, was still anew excited by fresh inspirations, which both attested the old, and became new parts of their Canon.

27. NOR could it be esteem'd a small con­firmation to the Scriptures, to find in succee­ding Ages the signal accomplishments of those prophecies which were long before re­gistred in those Books; for nothing less then divine Power and Wisdom could foretell, and also verify them. Upon these grounds the Jews universally thro all successions receiv'd the Books of the Old Testament as divine Oracles, and lookt upon them as the greatest trust that could be committed to them: [Page 28] and accordingly were so scrupulously vigi­lant in conserving them, that their Maso­rits numbred not only the sections, but the very words, nay letters, that no fraud or in­advertency might corrupt or defalk the least iota of what they esteem'd so sacred. A far­ther testimony and sepiment to which, were the Samaritan, Chaldee, and Greek versions: which being made use of in the Synagogs o [...] Jews, in their dispersions, and the Samaritan [...] at Sichem, could not at those distances receive a uniform alteration, and any other would be of no effect. Add to this, that the Origi­nal exemplar of the Law, was laid up in the Sanctuary, that the Prince was to have a Co­py of it alwaies by him, and transcribe it with his own hand; that every Jew was to make it his constant discourse and meditation teach it his children, and wear part of it up­on his hands and forehead. And now sure 'tis impossible to imagin any matter of fact to be more carefully deduced, or irrefraga­bly testified, nor any thing believ'd upon stronger evidence.

28. THAT all this is true in reference to the Jews, that they did thus own these Wri­tings as divine, appears not only by the Re­cords of past Ages, but by the Jews of the pre­sent, who still own them, and cannot be su­spected of combination with the Christians. And if these were reasonable grounds of con­viction [Page 29] to the Jews, (as he must be most ab­ [...]urdly sceptical that shall deny) they must be so to Christians also; who derive them [...]om them: and that with this farther ad­ [...]antage to our Faith, that we see the clear [...]ompletion of those Evangelical prophecies [...]hich remain'd dark to them, and conse­ [...]uently have a farther Argument to confirm [...]s, that the Scriptures of the Old Testament [...]re certainly divine.

29. THE New has also the like means of [...]robation: which as it is a collection of the [...]octrin taught by Christ and his Apostles, must if truly related be acknowledged no less divine then what they orally deliver'd. So that they who doubt its being divine, must either deny what Christ and his Apostles preacht to be so; or else distrust the fidelity of the relation: The former strikes at the whole Christian Faith; which if only of men, must not only be fallible, but is actually a deceit, whilst it pretends to be of God, and is not. To such Objectors we have to oppose those stupendious miracles with which the Gospel was attested; such as demonstrated a more then human efficacy. And that God should lend his omnipotence to abet the false pretensions of men, is a conceit too unworthy even for the worst of men to enter­tain.

30. 'TIS true, there have bin by God per­mitted [Page 30] lying miracles; as well as true ones have bin don by him; Such as were those of the Magicians in Egypt, in opposition to the other of Moses; but then the difference be­tween both was so conspicuous, that he must be more partial and disingenuous, then even those Magicians were, who would not ac­knowledg the disparity, and confess in those which were truly supernatural, the finger of God, Exod. 8. 19. Therefore both in the Old and New Testament it is predicted, that false Prophets should arise, and do signs and wonders, Deut. 13. 1. Mat. 24. 11. 24. as a trial of their fidelity who made profession of Religion; whether they would prefer the few and trivial sleights which recommended a deceiver, be­fore those great and numberless miracles which attested the sacred Oracles deliver'd to the sons of men by the God of truth. Whe­ther the trick of a Barchochebas, to hold fire in his mouth; that of Marcus the heretic, to make the Wine of the Holy Sacrament ap­pear bloud; or that of Mahomet, to bring a Pidgeon to his ear, ought to be put in ba­lance against all the miracles wrought by Moses, our Savior, or his Apostles. And in a word, whether the silly stories which Iambli­chus solemnly relates of Pythagoras, or those Philostratus tells of Apollonius Tyaneus, deserve to rival those of the Evangelists. It is a most just judgment, and accordingly threatned by [Page 31] Almighty God, that they who would not obey the truth should believe a lie, 2 Thes. 2. 11. But still the Almighty, where any man or devil do's proudly, is evidently above him, Exod. 18. 11. will be justified in his sayings, and be clear when he is judged, Rom. 3. 4.

31. BUT if men will be Sceptics, and doubt every thing, they are to know that the matter call'd into question, is of a nature that admits but two waies of solution; probability, and testimony. First for probability, let it be con­sider'd who were the first promulgers of Christs miracles. In his life time they were either the patients on whom his miracles were wrought, or the common people, that were spectators: the former, as they could not be deceiv'd themselves, but must needs know whether they were cur'd or no; so what ima­ginable design could they have to deceive o­thers? Many indeed have pretended impoten­cy as a motive of compassion; but what could they gain by owning a cure they had not? As for the Spectators, as their multitude adds to their credibility; (it being morally im­possible that so many should at once be delu­ded in a matter so obvious to their senses) so do's it also acquit them from fraud and com­bination. Cheats and forgeries are alwaies hatcht in the dark, in close Cabals, and pri­vat Juncto's. That five thousand men at one time, and four thousand at another, should [Page 32] conspire to say, that they were miraculously fed, when they were not; and all prove true to the fiction, and not betray it: is a thing as irrational to be suppos'd, as impossible to be parallel'd.

32. BESIDES, admit it possible that so many could have join'd in the deceit, yet what ima­ginable end could they have in it? Had their lie bin subservient to the designs of som po­tent Prince that might have rewarded it, there had bin som temtation: but what could they expect from the reputed son of a Car­penter, who had not himself where to lay his head? Nay, who disclaim'd all secular power; convei'd himself away from their importuni­ties; when they would have forc'd him to be a King: And consequently, could not be lookt on as one that would head a Sedition, or attemt to raise himself to a capacity of re­warding his Abettors. Upon all these consi­derations, there appears not the least shadow of probability; that either those particular persons who publish'd the cures they had re­ceiv'd, or those multitudes who were witnesses and divulgers of those, or his other miracles; could do it upon any sinister design, or indeed upon any other motive but gratitude and ad­miration.

33. IN the next place, if we come to those miracles which succeeded Christs death, those most important, and convincing, of his Re­surrection [Page 33] and Ascension, and observe who were the divulgers of those, we shall find them very unlikely to be men of design; a set of il­literate men, taken from the Fisher-boats, and other mean occupation: and such as needed a miracle as great as any of those they were to assert (the descent of the Holy Ghost) to fit them for their office. What alas could they drive at, or how could they hope that their testimony could be received, so much a­gainst the humor and interest of the present rulers; unless they were assur'd not only of the truth of the things, but also of som superna­tural aids to back and fortify them? Accor­dingly we find, that till they had receiv'd those; till by the descent of the holy Ghost they were endued with power from on high, Luk. 24. 49. they never attemted the discovery of what they had seen: but rather hid them selves, kept all their assemblies in privacy and concealment for the fear of the Jews, Jo. 20. 19. and so were far enough from projecting any thing beside their own safety. Afterwards, when they began to preach, they had early essays, what their secular advantages would be by it; threatnings and revilings, scourg­ings and imprisonments, Act. 4. 20. 5. 18. 40. And can it be imagined, that men who a lit­tle before had shewed themselves so little in [...]ove with suffering, that none of them durst stick to their Master at his apprehension, but [Page 34] one forswore, and all forfook him; can it, I say, be imagin'd that these men should be so much in love with their own Fable, as to ven­ture all sorts of persecution for the propaga­ting it? Or if they could, let us in the next place consider what probability there could be of success.

34. THEIR preaching amounted to no less then the Deifying of one, whom both their Roman and Jewish Rulers, nay, the generali­ty of the people had executed as a malefa­ctor: so that they were all engag'd, in de­fence of their own Act, to sift their testimony with all the rigor that conscious jealousy could suggest. And where were so many con­cern'd inquisitors, there was very little hope for a forgery to pass. Besides the avow'd dis­plesure of their Governors made it a hazar­dous thing to own a belief of what they asser­ted. Those that adher'd to them could not but know, that at the same time they must espouse their dangers and sufferings. And men use not to incur certain mischiefs, upon doubtful and suspicious grounds.

35 YET farther, their doctrin was design'd to an end to which their Auditors could not but have the greatest reluctancy: they were to struggle with that rooted prepossession which the Jews had for the Mosaical Law, which their Gospel out-dated; and the Gen­tiles for the Rites and Religion of their An­cestors; [Page 35] and, which was harder then either, with the corruptions and vices of both: to plant humility and internal sanctity, so con­trary to that ceremonial holiness, upon which the Jews so valued themselves, and despis'd others: and Temperance, Justice, and Purity, so contrary to the practice, nay, even the re­ligion of the Heathen: and to attemt all this with no other allurement, no other promise of recompence but what they must attend in another world, and pass too thro reproches and afflictions, torments and death. These were all such invincible prejudices, as they could never hope to break thro with a lie, nay, which they could not have en­counter'd even with every common truth, but only with that, which being divine, brought its aids with it; without which 'twas utterly impossible for all the skill or oratory of men to overcome such disadvantages.

36. AND yet with all these did these rude inartificial men contest, and that with signal success: no less then three thousand Prose­lytes made by Saint Peters first Sermon; and that in Jerusalem, the Scene where all was acted, and consequently where 'twas the most impossible to impose a forgery. And at the like miraculous rate they went on, till as the Pharisees themselves complain, they had filled Jerusalem with their doctrin. Acts 5. 28. nor did Judea set bounds to them; their sound went [Page 36] out into all nations, Rom. 10. 18. and their doctrin spred it self thro all the Gentile world.

37. AND sure so wonderful an event, so contrary to all human mesures, do's sufficient­ly evince there was more then man in it. No­thing but the same creative Power that pro­duc'd light out of darkness, could bring forth effects so much above the proportion of the cause. Had these weak instruments acted on­ly by their natural powers, nothing of this had bin atchiev'd. Alas, could these poor rude men learn all Languages within the space of fifty daies, which would take up almost as ma­ny years of the most industrious Student? And yet had they not bin able to speak them, they could never have divulg'd the Gospel to the several Nations, nor so effectually have con­vinc'd the by-standers, Act. 2. that they acted by a higher impulse. Yet to convince the world they did so, they repeted their Masters miracles as well as his doctrin; heal'd the sick, cast out devils, rais'd the dead; And where God communicated so much of his power, we may reasonably conclude he did it to promote his own work, not the work of the Devil, as it must have bin if this whole Scene were a lie.

38. WHEN all this is weigh'd, I presume there will remain little ground to suspect, that the first planters of Christian Faith had [Page 37] any other design then what they avowed, viz. the bringing men to holiness here, and salvation hereafter. The suspicion therefore, if any, must rest upon later times; and accor­dingly som are willing to persuade them­selves and others that the whole Scheme of our Religion, is but a lately devis'd Fable to keep the world in awe; whereof Princes have made som use, but Clergy-men more; and that Christ and his Apostles are only actors whom themselves have conjured up upon the stage to pursue their plot.

39. IN answer to this bold, this blasphe­mous suggestion, I should first desire these surmisers to point out the time when, and the persons who began this design; to tell us exactly whence they date this politic Reli­gion, as they are pleas'd to suppose it. If they cannot, they are manifestly unjust to reject our account of it when they can give none them­selves; and fail very much of that rigid de­monstration they require from others. That there is such a profession as Christianity in the world, is yet (God be blest) undeniable; (tho at the rate it has of late declin'd, God knows how long it will be so:) we say it came by Christ and his Apostles, and that it is attested by an uninterrupted testimony of all the intervening Ages, the suffrage of all Chri­stian Churches from that day to this. And sure they who embraced the doctrin, are the [Page 38] most competent witnesses from whence they received it.

40. YET lest they should be all thought parties to the design, and their witness exce­pted against, it has pleased God to give us col­lateral assurances, and made both Jewish and Gentile Writers give testimony to the Anti­quity of Christianity. Josephus do's this, lib. 20. chap. 8. and lib. 18. chap. 4. where, after he has given an account of the cru­cifixion of Christ exactly agreeing with the Evangelists; he concludes, And to this day the Christian people, who of him borrow their name, cease not to increase. I add not the personal elogium which he gives of our Sa­vior; because som are so hardy to controul it: also I pass what Philo mentions of the reli­gious in Egypt, because several Learned men refer it to the Essens, a Sect among the Jews, or som other. There is no doubt of what Tacitus and other Roman Historians speak of Christ as the Author of the Christian doctrin; which it had bin impossible for him to have don; if there had then bin no such doctrin, or if Christ had not bin known as the Founder of it. So afterward Plinie gives the Emperor Trajan an account both of the manners, and multitude of the Christians; and makes the innocence of the one, & the greatness of the other, an Argument to slacken the persecuti­on against them. Nay, the very bloody Edicts [Page 39] of the persecuting Emperors, & the scoffs and reproches of Celsus, Porphyrie, Lucian, and other profane opposers of this Doctrin, do undeni­ably assert its being. By all which it appears, that Christianity had in those Ages not only a being, but had also obtain'd mightily in the world, and drawn in vast numbers to its pro­fession; and vast indeed they must needs be, to furnish out that whole Army of Martyrs, of which profane, as well as Ecclesiastic wri­ters speak. And if all this be not sufficient to evince that Christianity stole not clancu­ [...]arly into the world, but took its rise from [...]hose times and persons it pretends, we must [...]enounce all faith of testimony, and not be­lieve an inch farther then we see.

41. I suppose I need say no more to shew that the Gospel, and all those portentous mi­racles which attested it, were no forgeries, or stratagems of men. I come now to that doubt which more immediatly concerns the Holy Scripture, viz. whether all these transactions be so faithfully related there, that we may believe them to have bin dictated by the spi­rit of God. Now for this, the process need be [...]ut short, if we consider who were the pen­ [...]en of the New Testament; even for the most part the Apostles themselves: Matthew, and John who wrote two of the Gospels, were certainly so: and Mark, as all the Ancients aver, was but the Amanuensis to Saint Peter, [Page 40] who dictated that Gospel. Saint Luke indeed comes not under this first rank of Apostles; yet is by som affirm'd to be one of the seven­ty Disciples: however an Apostolical person 'tis certain he was, and it was no wonder for such to be inspired. For in those first Ages of the Church men acted more by immediat inflation of the Spirit then since. And accor­dingly we find Stephen, tho but a Deacon, had the power of miracles; and preacht as divine­ly as the prime Apostles, Act. 7. And the gift of the Holy Ghost was then a usual concomi­tant of conversion, as appears in the Story of Cornelius, Acts 10. 45, 46. Besides, Saint Luke was a constant attendant on Saint Paul (who derived the Faith not from man, but by the im­mediat revelation of Jesus Christ, as himself professes, Gal. 1. 12.) and is by som said to have wrote by dictat from him, as Mark did from Saint Peter. Then as to the Epistles they all bear the names of Apostles, except that to the Hebrews, which yet is upon very good grounds presum'd to be Saint Pauls. Now these were the persons commissionated by Christ to preach the Christian doctrin, and were signally assisted in the discharge of that office; so that as he tells them, it was not they who spake, but the spirit of the Father that spake in them, Mat. 13. 11. And if they spake by di­vine inspiration, there can be no question that they wrote so also. Nay, indeed of the [Page 41] two, it seems more necessary they should do the later. For had they err'd in any thing they orally deliver'd, they might have retra­cted and cured the mischief: but these Books being design'd as a standing immutable rule of Faith and Manners to all successions, any error in them would have bin irreparable, and have entail'd it self upon posterity: which agreed neither with the truth, nor goodness of God to permit.

42. Now that these Books were indeed writ by them whose names they bear, we have as much assurance as 'tis possible to have of any thing of that nature, and that distance of time from us. For however som of them may have bin controverted; yet the greatest part have admitted no dispute, whose do­ctrins agreeing exactly with the others, give testimony to them. And to the bulk of those writings, it is notorious that the first Chri­stians receiv'd them from the Apostles, and so transmitted them to the ensuing Ages, which receiv'd them with the like esteem and vene­ration. They cannot be corrupted, saies Saint Austin in the thirty second Book against Fau­stus the Manich. c. 16. because they are and have bin in the hands of all Christians. And who­soever should first attemt an alteration, he would be confuted by the inspection of other ancienter Copies. Besides, the Scriptures are not in som one Language, but translated into many: so that the [Page 42] faults of one Book would be corrected by others more ancient, or in a different Tongue.

43. AND how much the body of Christians were in earnest concern'd to take care in this matter, appears by very costly evidences; mul­titudes of them chusing rather to part with their lives then their Bibles. And indeed 'tis a sufficient proof, that their reverence of that Book was very avowed and manifest; when their heathen Persecuters made that one part of their persecution. So that as wherever the Christian Faith was receiv'd, this Book was also, under the notion we now plead for, viz. as the writings of men inspir'd by God: so it was also contended for even unto death; and to part with the Bible was to renounce the Faith. And now, after such a cloud of te­stimonies, we may sure take up that (ill-appli­ed) saying of the high Priest, Mat. 26. 65. what farther need have we of witnesses.

44. YET besides these, another sort of wit­nesses there are, I mean those intrinsic evi­dences which arise out of the Scripture it self; but of these I think not proper here to insist, partly because the subject will be in a great degree coincident with that of the second general consideration; and partly because these can be argumentative to none who are not qualified to discern them. Let those who doubt the divine Original of Scripture, well digest the former grounds which are [Page 43] within the verge of reason; and when by those they are brought to read it with due reverence, they will not want Arguments from the Scripture it self to confirm their ve­neration of it.

45. IN the mean time, to evince how pro­per the former discourse is to found a ratio­nal belief that the Scripture is the word of God; I shall compare it with those mesures of credibility upon which all human transa­ctions move, and upon which men trust their greatest concerns without diffidence or di­spute.

46. THAT we must in many things trust the report of others, is so necessary, that with­out it human society cannot subsist. What a multitude of subjects are there in the world, who never saw their Prince, nor were at the making of any Law? if all these should deny their obedience, because they have it only by hear-say, there is such a man, and such Laws, what would become of government? So also for property, if nothing of testimony may be admitted, how shall any man prove his right to any thing? All pleas must be decided by the sword, and we shall fall into that state (which som have phancied the pri­mitive) of universal hostility. In like man­ner for traffic and commerce; how should any Merchant first attemt a trade to any foreign part of the world, if he did not be­lieve [Page 44] that such a place there was? and how could he believe that, but upon the credit of those who have bin there? Nay indeed how could any man first attemt to go but to the next Market Town, if he did not from the report of others, conclude that such a one there was, so that if this universal diffidence should prevail, every man should be a kind of Plantagnus, fixt to the soil he first sprung up in. The absurdities are indeed so infinite, and so obvious, that I need not dilate upon them.

47. BuT it will perhaps be said, that in things that are told us by our contempora­ries, and that relate to our own time, men will be less apt to deceive us, because they know 'tis in our power to examin and disco­ver the truth. To this I might say, that in many instances it would scarce quit cost to do so; and the inconveniences of trial would exceed those of belief. But I shall willingly admit this probable Argument, and only de­sire it may be applied to our main question, by considering whether the primitive Chri­stians who receiv'd the Scripture as divine, had not the same security of not being de­ceiv'd, who had as great opportunities of exa­mining, and the greatest concern of doing it throly, since they were to engage not only their future hopes in another world, but (that which to nature is much more sensible) [Page 45] all their present enjoiments, and even life it self upon the truth of it.

48. BuT because it must be confest that we who are so many Ages remov'd from them, have not their means of assurance, let us in the next place consider, whether an as­sent to those testimonies they have left be­hind them, be not warranted by the common practice of mankind in other cases. Who is there that questions there was such a man as William the Conqueror in this Island? or, to lay the Scene farther, who doubts there was an Alexander, a Julius Caesar, an Augustus? Now what have we to found this confidence on be­sides the faith of History? And I presume e­ven those who exact the severest demonstra­tions for Ecclesiastic Story, would think him a very impertinent Sceptic that should do the like in these. So also, as to the Authors of Books; who disputes whether Homer writ the Iliads, or Virgil the Aeneids, or Caesar the Com­mentaries, that pass under their names? yet none of these have bin attested in any degree like the Scripture. 'Tis said indeed, that Cae­sar ventured his own life to save his Com­mentaries, imploying one hand to hold that above the water, when it should have assisted him in swimming. But who ever laid down their lives in attestation of that, or any hu­man composure, as multitudes of men have don for the Bible?

[Page 46] 49. BUT perhaps 'twill be said, that the small concern men have, who wrote these, or other the like Books, inclines them to ac­quiesce in the common opinion. To this I must say, that many things inconsiderable to mankind have oft bin very laboriously dis­cust, as appears by many unedifying Volumes, both of Philosophers and Schole-men. But whatever may be said in this instance, 'tis ma­nifest there are others, wherein mens real and greatest interests are intrusted to the testimo­nies of former Ages. For example, a man possesses an estate which was bought by his great Grand-father, or perhaps elder Proge­nitor: he charily preserves that deed of pur­chase, and never looks for farther security of his title: yet alas, at the rate that men object against the Bible, what numberless Cavils might be rais'd against such a deed? How shall it be known that there was such a man as either Seller or Purchaser? if by the witnes­ses, they are as liable to doubt as the other; it being as easy to forge the Attestation as the main writing: and yet notwithstanding all these possible deceits, nothing but a positive proof of forgery can invalidate this deed. Let but the Scripture have the same mesure, be allowed to stand in force, to be what it pretends to be, till the contrary be (not by surmises and possible conjectures) but by evi­dent proof evinc'd; and its greatest Advocats will ask no more.

[Page 47] 50. A like instance may be given in public concerns: the immunities and rights of any Nation, particularly here, of our Magna Char­ta, granted many Ages since, and deposited among the public Records: to make this signify any thing, it must be taken for grant­ed, that this was without falsification preser­ved to our times; yet how easy were it to sug­gest that in so long a succession of its keepers, som may have bin prevail'd on by the in­fluence of Princes to abridg and curtail its concessions; others by a prevailing faction of the people to amplify and extend it? Nay, if men were as great Sceptics in Law, as they are in Divinity, they might exact demonstra­tions that the whole thing were not a forge­ry. Yet, for all these possible surmises, we still build upon it, and should think he argued ve­ry fallaciously, that should go to evacuate it, upon the force of such remote suppositions.

51. Now I desire it may be consider'd whe­ther our security concerning the holy Scri­pture be not as great, nay, greater then it can be of this. For first, this is a concern only of a particular Nation, and so can expect no fo­reign attestation; and secondly, it has all a­long rested on the fidelity of its keepers; which has bin either a single person, or at best som small number at a time; whereas the Scriptures have bin witness'd to by persons of all Nations, and those not single, but colle­ctive [Page 48] Bodies and Societies, even as many as there have bin Christian Churches thro out the world. And the same that are its Atte­stors have bin its Guardians also, and by their multitudes made it a very difficult, if not an impossible thing to falsify it in any conside­rable degree; it being not imaginable, as [...] shew'd before from St. Austin, all Churches shall combine to do it: and if they did not▪ the fraud could not pass undetected: and i [...] no eminent change could happen, much less could any new, any counterfeit Gospel be obtruded, after innumerable Copies of the first had bin translated into almost all Lan­guages, and disperst throout the world.

52. THE Imperial Law compil'd by Ju­stinian, was soon after his death, by reason of the inroads of the Goths, and other barbarous Nations, utterly lost in the Western world and scarce once heard of for the space of five hundred years, and then came casually to be retriv'd upon the taking of Amalfis by the Pi­sans, one single Copy being found there a [...] the plundering of the City. And the whole credit of those Pandects, which have ever since govern'd the Western world, depends in a manner on that single Book, formerly call'd the Pisan; and now, after that Pisa was taken by the Florentines, the Florentine Copy. But notwithstanding this; the body of the Civil Law obtains; and no man thinks it reason­able [Page 49] to question its being really what it pre­tends to be, notwithstanding its single, and so long interrupted derivation. I might draw this parallel thro many other instances, but these may suffice to shew, that if the Scripture might find but so much equity, as to be tried by the common mesures of other things, it would very well pass the test.

53. BUT men seem in this case (like our [...]ate Legislators) to set up new extraregular Courts of Justice, to try those whom no or­dinary rules will cast, yet their designs re­quire should be condemn'd: And we may conclude, 'tis not the force of reason, but of prejudice, that makes them so unequal to themselves as to reject the Scripture, when they receive every thing else upon far weaker grounds. The bottom of it is, they are re­solv'd not to obey its Precepts; and therefore think it the shortest cut to disavow its au­tority: for should they once own that, they would find themselves intangled in the most [...]nextricable dilemma; that of the Pharisees about John Baptist: If we say from heaven, he will say, why then did you not believe him? Mat. 21. 25. If they confess the Scriptures divine, they must be self-condemn'd in not obeying them. And truly men that have such prein­gagements to their lust, that they must admit nothing that will disturb them; do but pre­varicate when they call for greater evidences [Page 50] and demonstrations: for those bosom Sophi­sters will elude the most manifest convictions and like Juglers, make men disbelieve even their own senses. So that any other waies o [...] evidence will be as disputable with them, as those already offer'd: which is the thir [...] thing I proposed to consider.

54. IT has bin somtimes seen in popular mutinies, that when blanks have bin se [...] them, they could not agree what to ask: and were it imaginable that God should so far court the infidelity of men, as to allow them to make their own demands, to set down what waies of proof would perswade them I doubt not there are many have obstinac [...] enough, to defeat their own methods, as we [...] as they now do Gods. 'Tis sure there is [...] ordinary way of conviction left for them t [...] ask, God having already (as hath also b [...] shew'd) afforded that. They must therefore resort to immediat revelation, expect in stant assurances from heaven, that this Boo [...] we call the Bible is the word of God.

55. MY first question then is, in wha [...] manner this revelation must be made to ap­pear credible to them. The best account w [...] have of the several waies of revelation [...] from the Jews, to whom God was pleas [...] upon new emergencies signally to revel himself. These were first dreams; secondly visions; by both which the Prophets recei­ved [Page 51] their inspiration. Thirdly, Vrim and [...]hummim. Fourthly, the Bath-col (as they [...]erm it) Thunder and voice from Heaven. Let us consider them distinctly, and see whe­ther our Sceptical men may not probably find [...]omwhat to dispute in every one of these. And first for dreams; it is among us so hard to di­stinguish between those that arise from con­stitution, prepossession of phancy, diabolical, or divine infusion, that those that have the most critically consider'd them, do rather dif­ference them by their matter, then any cer­tain discriminating circumstances: and un­less we had som infallible way of discerning, [...]ur dependence on them, may more probably [...]etray then direct us. 'Tis unquestionable that usually phancy has the greatest stroke in them. And if he that should commit himself [...]o the guidance of his waking phancy, is not like to be over-wisely govern'd, what can we expect from his sleeping? All this and more may doubtless be soberly enough objected a­gainst the validity of our common dreams.

56. BUT admit there were now such di­vine dreams as brought their evidence along with them; yet sure 'tis possible for prejudic'd men, to resist even the clearest convictions. For do we not see som that have made a shift [...]o extinguish that natural light, those no­tions which are interwoven into the very frame and constitution of their minds, that [Page 52] so they may sin more at ease, and without re­luctancy? and sure 'tis as possible for them to close their eies against all raies from without too, to resist revelation as well as instinct; and more likely, by how much a transient cause is naturally less operative then a per­manent. An instance of this we have in Ba­laam, who being in these nightly visitations prohibited by God to go to Balack; and tho [...] he knew then, what he afterwards saies, Num 23. 19. that God was not a man that he should lie, nor the son of man that he should repent; ye [...] he would not take God at his first word, but upon a fresh bait to his covetousness, tries a­gain for an answer more indulgent to his in­terest. Besides, if God should thus revele him­self to som particular persons, yet 'tis beyond all president or imagination, that he should do it to every man; and then how shall those who have these dreams, be able to convince others that they are divine?

57. 'TIS easy to guess what reception [...] man that produces no other autority, would have in this ludicrous Age: he would certain­ly be thought rather to want sleep, then to have had revelations in it. And if Jacob and the Patriarchs, who were themselves acquain­ted with divine dreams, yet did not believe Josephs; any man that should now pretend i [...] that kind, would be sure to fall under the same irony that he did, to be entertain'd with [Page 53] a behold this dreamer cometh, Genes. 37. 19.

58. THE second way of revelation by vision was, where the man was wrapt into an extasy, his spirit for a while suspended from all sensi­ble communication with the body, and en­tertain'd with supernatural light. In these the Prophets saw emblematical representa­tion of future events, receiv'd knowledg of divine Mysteries, and commission and ability to discharge the whole prophetic office. Now suppose God should now raise us Prophets, and inspire them after this manner; what would the merry men of this time say to it? Can we think that they who rally upon all that the former Prophets have writ, would look with much reverence on what the new ones should say? Som perhaps would construe their ra­ptures to be but like Mahomets Epilepsy; o­thers a fit of frenzy, others perhaps a being drunk with new wine, Act. 2. 13. but those that did the most soberly consider it, would still need a new revelation to attest the truth of this: there being far more convincing ar­guments to prove the Scriptures divine, then any man can allege to prove his inspiration to be so. And 'tis sure a very irrational me­thod, to attemt the clearing of a doubt, by somwhat which is it self more doubtful.

59. A third way, was by Vrim and Thum­mim, which Writers tell us was an Oracle re­sulting from the Letters which were graven [Page 54] in the High Priests Pectoral, to which in all important doubts the Jews of those Ages re­sorted, and receiv'd responses; but whether it were by the suddain prominency, or resplen­dency of the letters, or by any other way, is not material in this place to enquire: one thing is certain, that the Ephod, and conse­quently the Pectoral was in the Priests custo­dy, and that he had the administration of the whole affair. Now I refer it to consideration, whether this one circumstance would not (to those prejudic'd men I speak of) utterly eva­cuate the credit of the Oracle. They have taught themselves to look on Priest-hood, whether Legal or Evangelical, only as a bet­ter name for imposture and cosenage: and they that can accuse the Priests for having kept up a cheat for so many Ages, must needs think them such omnipotent Juglers, that no­thing can be fence against their Legerde­main: and by consequence, this way of reve­lation would rather foment their displesure at the Ecclesiastics, then satisfy their doubts of the Scripture.

69. LASTLY, for the fourth way, that of thunder and voice from Heaven, tho that would be a signal way of conviction to unpre­judiced men, yet it would probably have as little effect as the rest upon the others: men that pretend to such deep reasoning, would think it childish to be frighted out of their [Page 55] opinion by a clap of Thunder; som philo­sophical reason shall be found out, to satisfy them that 'tis the effect only of som natural cause, and any the most improbable shall serve turn to supplant the fear of its being a divine testimony to that which they are so unwilling should be true. As for the voice from Heaven, it must either be heard by o­thers, and related to them; or else immediatly by themselves: if the former, 'twill lie under the same prejudice which the Bible already do's: that they have it but by hear-say, and reporters would fall under the reproach ei­ther of design or frenzy; that they meant to deceive, or were themselves deceiv'd by their own distemper'd phancy. But if themselves should be Auditors of it; 'tis odds but their bottomless jealousies in divine Matters would suggest a possibility of fraud, tho they knew not how to trace it: nay 'tis more then possi­ble that they will rather disbelieve their own senses, then in this instance take their testi­mony with all its consequences.

61. NOR is this a wild supposition: for we see it possible not only for single men, but multitudes to disbelieve their senses, thro an excess of credulity; witness the doctrin of Transubstantiation. Why may it not then be as possible for others to do the like thro a greater excess of incredulity? Besides, mens prepossessions and affections have a strange [Page 56] influence on their Faith: men many times will not suffer themselves to believe the most credible things, if they cross their inclina­tion. How often do we see irregular patients that will not believe any thing that their ap­petite craves, will do them hurt, tho their Physicians, nay, their own even sensitive ex­perience attest it to them? And can we think that a diseas'd mind, gasping with an Hy­dropic thirst after the plesures of sin, will ever assent to those premises, whose conclusion will engage to the renouncing them? Will not a luxurious voluptuous person be willing rather to give his cars the lie, to disbelieve what he hears, then permit them more deeply to dis­oblige his other senses, by bringing in those restraints and mortifications which the Scri­pture would impose upon them?

62. THUS we see how little probability there is, that any of these waies of revelation would convince these incredulous men. And indeed, those that will not believe upon such inducements as may satisfy men of sober rea­son, will hardly submit to any other method according to that Assertion of Father Abra­ham; If they hear not Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be perswaded, tho one rose from the dead, Luk. 16. 31. Now at this rate of infidelity, what way will they leave God to manifest any thing convincingly to the world? which is to put him under an impo­tency [Page 57] greater then adheres to humanity: for we men have power to communicate our minds to others, tell whether to we own such or such a thing, to which we are intitled; and we can satisfy our Auditors that it is in­deed we that speak to them: but if every method God uses, do's rather increase then satisfy mens doubts, all intercourse between God and man is intercepted; and he must do that of necessity, which Epicurus phancied he did of choice; viz. keep himself uncon­cern'd in the affairs of mortals, as having no way of communicating with them. Nay what is yet, if possible, more absurd) he must be suppos'd to have put the works of his Crea­tion out of his own reach, to have given men discoursive faculties, and left himself no way of address to them.

63. THESE inferences how horridly so­ever they sound, yet I see not how they can be disclaim'd by those, who are unsatisfied with all those waies by which God hath hitherto revel'd himself to the world. For can it be imagin'd, that God who created man a rea­sonable creature, that himself might be glo­rified in his free and rational obedience; (when all other creatures obey upon impulse and instinct) can it, I say, be imagin'd, that he should so remisly pursue his own design, as to let so many Ages pass since the Creation, and never to acquaint manking with the [Page 58] particulars wherein that obedience was to be exercis'd. This sure were so disagreeable to his wisdom and goodness, that it cannot be charg'd upon his will: and consequently they who own not that he has made any such revelation, must tacitly tax him of impo­tence, that he could not do it. But if any man will say he has, and yet reject all this which both Jews and Christians receive as such, let him produce his testimonies for the others, or rather (to retort his own mesure) his demonstrations. And then let it appear whether his Scheme of doctrin, or ours, will need the greater aid of that easy credu­lity he reproches us with.

64. I have now gon thro the method I proposed for evincing the Divine Original of the Scriptures, and shall not descend to examin those more minute and particular Cavils which profane men make against them; the proof of this, virtually superseding all those. For if it be reasonable to believe it the Word of God, it must be reasonable also to believe it of perfection proportionable to the Author, and then certainly it must be ad­vanc'd beyond all our objections. For to those who except to the stile, the incoherence. the contradictions or whatever else in Scri­pture; I shall only ask this one question, whe­ther it be not much more possible that they (who can pretend to be nothing above fal­lible [Page 59] men) may misjudg, then that the infal­lible God should dictate any thing justly lia­ble to those charges: I am sure they must de­part as much from Reason as Religion, to affirm the contrary. But alas, instead of this implicit submission to Gods Word, men take up explicit prejudices against it; condemn it without ever examining the truth of the Al­legation. 'Tis certain, that in a writing of such Antiquity, whose original Language has Idioms and Phrases so peculiar, whose Coun­try had customs so differing from the rest of the world; 'tis impossible to judg of it with­out reference to all those circumstances. Add to this, that the Hebrew has bin a dead Lan­guage for well nigh two thousand years, no­where in common use: nor is there any other ancient Book now extant in it, besides those; yet not all neither, of the Old Testament.

65. Now of those many who defame Holy Writ, how few are there that have the indu­stry to inquire into those particulars? And when for want of knowledg, som passages seem improper, or perhaps contradictory; the Scripture must bear the blame of their ignorance, and be accus'd as absurd and un­intelligible, because themselves are stupid and negligent. It were therefore methinks but a reasonable proposal, that no man should arraign it, till they have used all honest dili­gence, taken in all probable helps for the un­derstanding [Page 60] it: and if this might be obtain'd. I believe most of its Accusers would like those of the woman in the Gospel, Jo. 8. 9. drop a­way, as conscious of their own incompeten­cy: the loudest out-cries that are made a­gainst it, being commonly of those who fall upon it only as a fashionable theme of dis­course, and hope to acquire themselves the reputation of wits by thus charging God foo­lishly. But he that would candidly and up­rightly endeavor to comprehend before he judges, and to that end industriously use those means which the providence of God by the labors of pious men hath afforded him, will certainly find cause to acquit the Scripture of those imputations which our bold Critics have cast upon it. I do not say that he shall have all the obscurities of it perfectly clear [...] to him; but he shall have so many of them as is for his real advantage, and shall discern such reasons why the rest remain unfathom­able, as may make him not only justify, but celebrate the wisdom of the Author.

66. YET this is to be expected only upon the fore-mention'd condition, viz. that he come with sincere and honest intentions; fo [...] as for him that comes to the Scripture with design, and wishes to find matter of cavil and accusations; there is little doubt but tha [...] spirit of impiety and profaness which sen [...] him thither, will meet him there as a spirit [Page 61] of delusion and occecation. That Prince of the Air will cast such mists, raise such black vapors; that as the Apostle speaks, the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ shall not shine un­to him, 2 Cor. 4. 5. Indeed were such a man left only to the natural efficacy of prejudice, that is of it self so blinding, so infatuating a thing, as commonly fortifies against all con­viction. We see it in all the common in­stances of life; mens very senses are often en­slav'd by it: the prepossession of a strong phancy will make the objects of sight or hear­ing appear quite different from what they are. But in the present case, when this shall be added to Satanical illusions, and both left to their operations by Gods with-drawing his illuminating grace, the case of such a man answers that description of the Scripture: They have eies and see not, ears have they and hear not, Rom. 11. 8. And that God will so withdraw his grace, we have all reason to believe; he having promis'd it only to the meek; to those who come with malleable ductile spirits; to learn, not to deride or cavil. Saint Peter tells us, that the unlearned and unstable wrest the Scripture to their own destruction, 2 Pet. 3. 15. And if God permit such to do so, much more will he the proud malicious.

67. I say not this, to deter any from the study of Holy Scripture, but only to caution them to bring a due preparation of mind a­long [Page 62] with them; Gods Word being like a ge­nerous soveraign medicament; which if sim­ply and regularly taken, is of the greatest be­nefit; but if mixt with poison, serves only to make that more fatally operative. To con­clude, he that would have his doubts solv'd concerning Scripture, let him follow the me­thod our blessed Lord has describ'd: Let him do the will of God, and then he shall know of the doctrin, whether it be of God, Jo. 7. 17. Let him bring with him a probity of mind, a wil­lingness to assent to all convictions he shall there meet with: and then he will find grounds sufficient to assure him that it is Gods Word and consequently to be receiv'd with all the submission and reverence, that its being so exacts.

SECT. III. The subject matter treated of in the Holy Scripture is excellent, as is also its end and design.

WE have hitherto consider'd the holy Scripture only under one notion, as it is the Word of God; we come now to view it in the subject matter of it: the several parts whereof it consists; which are so various and comprehensive, as shews the whole is deriv'd from him who is all in all, 1 Cor. 19, 28. But that we may not speak only loosely, and at [...]overs, we will take this excellent frame in pieces, and consider its most eminent parts distinctly. Now the parts of Holy Writ seem to branch themselves into these severals. First, the Historical; secondly, the Prophetic; thirdly, the Doctrinal; fourthly, the Prece­ptive; fifthly, the Minatory; sixthly, the Pro­missory. These are the several veins in this [...]ich Mine, in which he who industriously la­bors, will find the Psalmist was not out in his estimate, when he pronounces them more to be desir'd then gold, yea, then much fine gold, Psal. 19. 10.

2. To speak first of the Historical part; [Page 64] the things which chiefly recommend a Hi­story are the dignity of the subject, the truth of the relation, and those plesant or profita­ble observations which are interwoven with it. And first, for the dignity of the subject the History of the Bible must be acknowledg­ed to excel all others: those shew the rise and progress of som one people or Empire this shews us the original of the whole Uni­verse; and particularly of man, for whose use and benefit the whole Creation was design'd By this mankind is brought into acquain­tance with it self; made to know the ele­ments of its constitution, and taught to pu [...] a differing value upon that Spirit which was breath'd into it by God, Gen. 2. 7. and the fle [...] whose foundation is in the dust, Job 4. 19. And when this Historical part of Scripture con­tracts and draws into a narrow channel, when it records the concerns but of one Nation yet it was that which God had dignified a­bove all the rest of the world, markt it out for his own peculiar; made it the repository of his truth, aud the visible stock from whence the Messias should come, in whom all the Na­tions of the earth were to be blessed, Gen. 18. 18. so that in this one people of the Jews, was vir­tually infolded the highest and most impor­tant interests of the whole world; and it must be acknowled'gd, no Story could have a no­bler subject to treat of.

[Page 65] 3. SECONDLY, as to the truth of the re­lation, tho to those who own it Gods Word there needs no other proof; yet it wants not human Arguments to confirm it. The most undoubted symptom of sincerity in an Historian is impartiality. Now this is very [...]minent in Scripture writers: they do not record others faults, and baulk their own; but indifferently accuse themselves as well as others. Moses mentions his own diffidence and unwillingness to go on Gods message, Ex. 4. 13. his provocation of God at the wa­ [...]ers of Meribah, Num. 20. Jonah records his own sullen behavior towards God, with as great aggravations as any of his enemies [...]ould have don. Peter in his dictating Saint Marks Gospel, neither omits nor extenuates his sin; all he seems to speak short in, is his [...]epentance. Saint Paul registers himself as the greatest of sinners.

4. AND as they were not indulgent to their own personal faults, so neither did any [...]earness of relation, any respect of quality [...]ribe them to a concelement: Moses relates the ossence of his sister Miriam in muti­ [...]ing. Num. 12. 1. of his brother Aaron in the matter of the Calf, Ex. 32. 4. with as little disguise as that of Korah and his company. David, tho a King, hath his adultery and mur­der displaied in the blackest characters: and King Hezekiahs little vanity of shewing his [Page 66] tresures, do's not escape a remark. Nay, even the reputation of their Nation could not biass the sacred Writers; but they freely tax their crimes: the Israclites murmurings in the wilderness, their Idolatries in Canaan, are set down without any palliation or ex­cuse. And they are as frequently branded for their stubborness and ingratitude, as the Canaanites are for their abominations. So that certainly no History in the world do's better attest its truth by this evidence of im­partiality.

5. IN the last place it commends it sell both by the plesure and profit it yields. The rarity of those events it records, surprizes the mind with a delightful admiration; and that mixture of sage discourses, and well­coucht Parables wherewith it abounds, do's at once please and instruct. How ingenuously apt was Nathans Apologue to David, where­by with holy artifice he ensnar'd him into re­pentance? And it remains still matter of in­struction to us, to shew us with what unequal scales we are apt to weigh the same crime in others and our selves. So also that long train of smart calamities which succeeded his sin, is set out with such particularity, that it seems to be exactly the crime reverst. His own lust with Bathsheba, was answer'd with Amnons towards Thamar; his murder of Vriah with that of Amnon; his trecherous contrivance [Page 67] of that murder, with Absoloms traiterous con­spiracy against him. So that every circum­stance of his punishment, was the very echo and reverberation of his guilt. A multitude of the like instances might be produc'd out of holy Writ; all concurring to admonish us, that God exactly marks, and will repay our crimes; and that commonly with such pro­priety, that we need no other clue to guide us to the cause of our sufferings, then the very sufferings themselves. Indeed innumerable are the profitable observations arising from the historical part of Scripture, that flow so easily and unconstrain'd, that nothing but a stupid inadvertence in the reader can make him baulk them: therefore 'twould be im­pertinent here to multiply instances.

6. LET us next consider the prophetic part of Scripture, and we shall find it no less ex­cellent in its kind. The prophetic Books are for the most part made up (as the prophetic Office was) of two parts; prediction and in­struction. When God rais'd up Prophets, 'twas not only to acquaint men with future events, but to reform their present man­ners: and therefore as they are called Seers in one respect, so they are Watch-men and Shepherds in another. Nay, indeed the for­mer was often subservient to the other as to the nobler end; their gift of fore-telling was to gain them autority, to be as it were the [Page 68] seal of their commission; to convince men that they were sent from God: and so to ren­der them the more pliant to their reproofs and admonitions. And the very matter of their prophecies was usually adapted to this end: the denouncing of judgements being the most frequent theme, and that design'd to bring men to repentance; as appears ex­perimentally in the case of Nineveh. And in this latter part of their office, the Prophets acted with the greatest incitation and vehe­mence.

7. WITH what liberty and zeal do's Elijah arraign Ahab of Naboths murder, and fore­tel the fatal event of it, without any fear of his power, or reverence of his greatness? And Samuel, when he delivers Saul the fatal message of his rejection, do's passionately and convincingly expostulate with him con­cerning his sin, 1 Sam. 15. 17. Now the very same Spirit still breaths in all the propheties Writings: the same truth of prediction, and the same zeal against vice.

8. FIRST for the predictions, what signal completions do we find? How exactly are all the denunciations of judgments fulfill'd, where repentance has not interven'd? He that reads the 28. chap. of Deut. and compares it with the Jews calamities, both under the Assyrians and Babylonians, and especially under the Romans, would think their op­ressors [Page 69] had consulted it, and transcrib'd heir severities thence. And even these Na­tions, who were the instruments of accom­plishing those dismal presages, had their own [...]uins foretold, and as punctually executed. And as in Kingdoms and Nations, so to pri­vate persons none of the prophetic threat­ings ever return'd emty. The sentence pronounc'd against Ahab, Jezebel, and their [...]osterity, was fulfill'd even to the most minute circumstances of place and manner; as is evident by comparing the denunciation of [...]lijah, 1 Kings 21. 19. 23. with their tragical ands recorded in the following chapters. And as for Jehu, whose service God was pleased [...] use in that execution, tho he rewarded it with entailing the crown of Israel on him or four descents; yet he fore-told those [...]ould be the limits, and accordingly we find [...]achariah, the fourth descendent of his line, was the last of it that sate on that throne, Kings 15. 10. So also the destruction of [...]chitophel and Judas, the one immediat, he other many hundred years remote, are pre-told by David, Psal. 109. and we find exactly answer'd in the event.

9. NOR was this exactness confin'd only to the severe predictions, but as eminent in the more gracious. All the blessings which God by himself, or the Ministry of his Prophets promis'd, were still infallibly made good. [Page 70] At the time of life God return'd and visited Sarah with conception, notwithstanding those natural improbabilities which made her not only distrust, but even deride and laugh at the promise, Gen. 18. The posterity of that Son of Promise, the whole race of Abraham was deliver'd from the Egyptian bondage, and possest of Canaan, at the precise time which God had long before signified to Abraham, Gen. 15. So likewise the return of the Jews from the Babylonish captivity, was fore-told many years before their deporta­tion, and Cyrus named for their restorer before he had either name or being save only in Gods prescience, If. 44. 28. But I need not multiply instances of national or perso­nal promises. The earliest, and most compre­hensive promise of all was that of the Mes­siah, in whom all persons and Nations of the world were to be blest, Gen. 22. 11. that see [...] of the woman that should bruise the Serpents head, Gen. 3. 15. To him give all the Prophets witness, as Saint Peter observes, Acts 10. And he who was the subject, made himself also the expounder of those prophecies in his walk to Emmaus with the two Disciples, Lu. 24. 1 [...] beginning at Moses, and all the Prophets, he expounded to them in all the Scriptures, the things concerning himself.

10. THIS as it was infinitly the greatest blessing afforded mankind, so was it the most [Page 71] frequently and eminently predicted; and that with the most exact particularity as to all the circumstances. His immaculate conception, the union of his two natures implied in his name Immanuel; Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel; is most plainly fore-told by Is. chap. 7. 14. Nay, the very place of his birth so punctually fore-told, that the Priests and Scribes could [...]eadily resolve Herods question upon the strength of the Prophecy, and assure him Christ must be born in Bethlehem, Mat. 2. 5. As for the whole business and design of his life, we find it so describ'd by Isaiah, chap. 61. as Christ himself owns it, Luk. 4. 18. The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath appointed me to preach good tidings to the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and recover­ing of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.

11. IF we look farther to his death, the greatest part of the Old Testament has a direct aspect on it. All the Levitical oeco­nomy of Sacrifices and Ablutions were but prophetic Rites, and ocular Predictions of that one expiatory Oblation. Nay, most of Gods providential dispensations to the Jews, carried in them types and prefigurations of this. Their rescue from Egypt, the sprin­kling [Page 72] of blood to secure them from the de­stroying Angel; the Manna with which they were fed, the Rock which supplied them water: these and many more referr'd to Christ, as their final and highest significa­tion.

12. BUT besides these darker adumbra­tion, we have (as the Apostle speaks) a more sure word of prophecy. Saint Peter in his calcu­lation begins with Moses, takes Samuel, and the whole succession of Prophets after him, as bearing witness to this great event of Christs passion, Acts 4. 22. 24. And indeed he that reads the Prophets consideringly, shall find it so punctually describ'd, that the Evan­gelists do not much more fully instruct him in the circumstances of it. Daniel tells us his death, as to the kind of it, was to be violent: The Messiah shall be cut off; and as to the de­sign of it, 'twas not for himself, Dan. 9. 26. But the Prophet Isaiah gives us more then a bare negative account of it; and expresly saies he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was on him, and by his stripes we were healed, chap. 53. 5. And again, ver. 10. Thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin; and ver 11. my righteous Servant shall justify many, for he shall bear their iniquities. Nor is, Job an I­dumean, much short of even this Evangelical Prophet, in that short Creed of his, wherein he [Page 73] owns him as his Redeemer, I know that my Redeemer liveth, &c. Job. 19. 25,

13. AND as the end, so the circumstances of his sufferings are most of them under pre­diction: His extension upon the Cross is men­tion'd by the Psalmist: They pierced my hands, and my feet; I may tell all my bones, Psal. 22. 16. 17. As for his inward dolors, they are in that Psalm so pathetically described, that Christ chose that very form to breath them out in: My God, my God, why hast thou for saken one? ver. 1. So his revilers did also transcribe part of their reproches form ver. 8. He tru­sted in God; let him deliver him now if he will have him, Mat. 27. 43. That vinegar which was offer'd him on the Cross, was a comple­tion of a prophecy; In my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink, Ps. 69. 21. the piercing of his side was expresly fore-told by Zachary; they shall look on him whom they have pierced, Zach. 10. 12. The company in which he suf­fer'd and the interment he had, are also in­timated by Isaiah: he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, Isai. 53. 9. Nay, even the disposal of his garments was not without a prophecy: they parted my gar­ments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots, Ps. 22. 18. Here are a cloud of wit­nesses, which as they serve eminently to attest the truth of Christian Religion; so do they to evince the excellency of sacred Scri­pture, [Page 74] as to the verity of the prophetic part.

14. As to the admonitory part of the prophetic Writings, they are in their kind no way inferior to the other. The reproofs are autoritative and convincing. What piercing exprobrations do we find of Israels ingratitude? How often are they upbraided with the better examples of the brute crea­tures? with the Ox and the Ass by Isaiah, chap. 1. 3. with the Stork and the Crane, and the Swallow, by Jeremiah, chap. 8. 7. Nay, the constancy of the Heathen to their false gods is instanc'd to reproch their revol [...] from the true. Hath a Nation changed their gods which yet are no gods! but my people have changed their glory for that which doth not pro­fit. Jer. 2. 11. What awful, what majestic re­presentations do we find of Gods power, to awake their dread! Fear ye not me saith the Lord? will ye not tremble at my presence; who have placed the sand for the bounds of the sea by a perpetual decree, that it cannot pass over and tho the waves thereof toss themselves, yet can they not prevail; tho they roar, yet can they not pass over it? Jer. 22. And again, Thus saith the high and lofty one that inhabiteth eternity whose name is holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, If. 57. 15. So we find him describ'd as a God glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, do­ing wonders, Ex. 15. 11. These and many o­ther the like heights of divine eloquence we [Page 75] meet with in the prophetic Writings: which cannot but strike us with an awful reverence of the divine Power.

15. NOR are they less pathetic in the gentler strains. What instance is there of the greatest tenderness and love, which God has not adopted to express his by? He personates all the nearest and most endearing relations: that of a Husband; I will marry thee to my self, Hos. 2. 19. of a Father; I am a Father to Israel, and Ephraim is my first born: nay, he [...]ies bowels with the tender sex, and makes it more possible for a mother to renounce her [...]ompassions towards the son of her womb, then for him to with-draw his, Isa. 49. 15. By all these endearments, these cords of a man, these bands of love, as himself stiles them, Hos. 11. 4. endeavoring to draw his people to their du­ty, and their happiness. And when their per­ [...]erseness frustrates all this his holy Artifice; how passionately do's he expostulate with them? how solemnly protest his aversness to their ruin? Why will ye die O house of Israel? for I have no plesure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God, Ezek. 18. 31, 32. with what regrets and relentings do's he think of abandoning them? How shall I give thee up Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee Is­rael? how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim? my heart is turn'd within me, my repentings are kindled together; [Page 76] Hos. 11. 8. In short, 'twere endless to cite the places in these prophetic Books, wherein God do's thus condescend to solicit even the sensitive part of man; and that with such moving Rhetoric, that I cannot but wonder at the exception som of our late Critics make against the Bible, for its defect in that parti­cular: for Oratory is nothing but a dextrous application to the assections and passions of men. And certainly we find not that don with greater advantage any where then in sa­cred Writ.

16. YET it was not the design of the Pro­phets (no more then of the Apostle) to take men with guile, 2 Cor. 12. 16. to inveigle their affections unawares to their understan­dings; but they address as well to their rea­sons, make solemn appeals to their judicative faculties. And now judg I pray between me and my vineyard, saics Isa. 5. 3. Nay, God by the Prophet Ezekiel solemnly pleads his own cause before them▪ vindicates the equity of his proceedings from the aspersions they had cast on them; and by most irrefragable Ar­guments refutes that injurious proverb which went currant among them; and in the close appeals to themselves, O house of Israel are not my waies equal, are not your waies unequals Ezek. 18. the evidences were so clear that he remits the matter to their own determina­tion. And generally we shall find that among [Page 77] all the Topics of disswasion from sin, there is none more closely prest, then that of the fol­ly of it. Idolatry was a sin to which Israel had a great propension, and against which most of the Prophets admonitions were directed. And certainly it can never be more expos'd and the sottish unreasonableness of it better displaied, then we find it in the 44. chap. of Isaiah. In like manner we may read the Pro­phet Jeremy disswading from the same sin by Arguments of the most irrefragable convi­ction, Jer. 10.

17. AND as the Prophets omitted nothing as to the manner of their address, to render their exhortations effectual, the matter of them was likewise so considerable as to com­mand attention; It was commonly either the recalling them from their revolts and Apostacies from God by Idolatry, or else to convince them of the insignificancy of all those legal ceremonial performances they so much confided in, when taken up as a super­sedeas to moral duties. Upon this account it is, that they often depreciate, and in a man­ner prohibit the solemnest of their worships. To what purpose are the multitude of your sa­crifices unto me? bring no more vain oblations: incense is an abomination to me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies I cannot away with: it is iniquity even your solemn meetings, &c. Is. 1. 11. 13. Not that these things [Page 78] were in themselves reprovable; for they were all commanded by God; but because the Jews depended so much on these external observances, that they thought by them to commute for the weightier matters of the Law (as our Savior after stiles them) Judgment, Mercy and Faith, Mat. 23. 23. lookt on these Rites which discriminated them from other Nations, as dispensations from the univer­sal obligations of nature and common ju­stice.

18. THIS deceit of theirs is sharply upbraid­ed to them by the Prophet Jeremy; where he calls their boasts of the temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord, lying words: and on the contrary, laies the whole stress of their obedience, and expectation of their happi­ness on the justice and innocence of their conversation, ch. 7. 4. And after do's smart­ly reproch their insolence in boldly resorting to the house, which by bringing their sins along with them, they made but an Asylum, and Sanctuary for those crimes. Will ye steal, murder and commit adultery, and swear falsely and burn incense to Baal, and walk after other gods whomye know not, and come and stand be­fore me in this house? Is this house which is cal­led by my name, become a den of robbers in your eies? chap. 7. 9, 10, 11. Indeed all the Pro­phets seem to conspire in this one design, of making them look thro shadows and ceremo­nies, [Page 79] to that inward purity, Justice and Ho­nesty, which they were design'd to inculcate, not to supplant. And this design as it is in it self most excellent, most worthy the com­mand of God, and the nature of man; so we have seen that it has bin pursued by all the most apt, and most powerful mediums, that the thing or persons addrest to were ca­pable of; and so that the Prophets are no less eminent for the discharge of this exhor­tatory part of their office, then they were in the former, of the predicting.

19. THE next part of Scripture we are to consider, is the Doctrinal; by which I shall not in this place understand the whole com­plex of Faith and Manners together; but re­strain it only to those Revelations which are the object of our Belief: and these are so su­blime, as shews flesh and bloud never revel'd them. Those great mysteries of our Faith, the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Hypostati­cal union, the Redemtion of the world by making the offended party the sacrifice for the offence, are things of so high and abstruse speculation, as no finite understanding can fully fathom. I know their being so, is by som made an Argument for disbelief; but doubtless, very unjustly: for (not to insist upon the different natures of Faith and Science, by which that becomes a proper ob­ject of the one which is not of the other) our [Page 80] non-comprehension is rather an indication that they have a higher rise; and renders it infinitly improbable that they could spring from mans invention. For 'twere to suppose too great a disproportion between human fa­culties, to think men could invent what them­selves could not understand. Indeed these things lie so much out of the road of human imagination, that I dare appeal to the brests of the most perverse gain-saiers, whether ever they could have fallen into their thoughts without suggestion from without. And there­fore 'tis a malicious contradiction to reject these truths because of their dissonancy from human reason, and yet at the same time to ascribe their original to man. But certainly there can be nothing more inconsistent with mere natural reason, then to think God can be or do no more then man can comprehend. Never any Nation or person that own'd a Deity, did ever attemt so to circumscribe him: and it is proportionable only to the licentious profaness of these later daies, thus to mesure immensity and omnipotence by our narrow scantling.

20. THE more genuine and proper effect of these supernatural truths, is, to raise our ad­miration of that divine Wisdom, whose waier are so past finding out; and to give us a just sense of that infinit distance which is between it, and the highest of that reason wherein we [Page 81] so pride our selves. And the great propriety these doctrins have to that end, may well be [...]eckon'd as one part of their excellency.

21. INDEED there is no part of our holy Faith, but is naturally productive of som pe­culiar vertue; as the whole Scheme together engages us to be universally holy in all man­ner of conversation, 1 Pet. 1. 15. And it is the supereminent advantage true Religion hath over all false ones, that it tends to so lauda­ble an end.

22. THE Theology of the Heathens was [...]n many instances an extract and quintes­sence of vice. Their most solemn Rites, and sacredest Mysteries were of such a nature, that instead of refining and elevating, they cor­rupted and debased their Votaries; immerst them in all those abominable pollutions which sober nature abhorr'd. Whereas the principles of our Faith serve to spiritualize and rectify us, to raise us as much above mere manhood as theirs cast them below it.

23. AND as they are of this vast advantage [...]o us, so also are they just to God, in giving us [...]ight notions of him. What vile unworthy [...]pprehensions had the Heathen of their Dei­ [...]ies; intitling them not only to the passions but even to the crimes of men: making Ju­piter an adulterer, Mercury a thief, Bacchus a [...]runkard, &c. proportionably of the rest? Whereas our God is represented to us as an [Page 82] essence, so spiritual, and incorporeal, that we must be unbodied our selves before we can perfectly conceive what he is: so far from the impotent affections and inclinations of men that he has neither parts, nor passions; and is fain to veil himself under that disguise, to speak somtimes as if he had, merely in con­descension to our grosser faculties. And a­gain, so far from being an example, a patron of vice, this his eies are too pure to behould ini­quity, Hab. 1. 13. Holiness is an essential part of his nature, and he must deny himself to put it off.

24. THE greatest descent that ever he made to humanity, was in the incarnation of the second person: yet even in that, tho he was linked with a sinful nature, yet he preserved the person immaculate; and while he had all the sins of the world upon him by imputa­tion, suffer'd not any one to be inherent in him.

25. To conclude, the Scripture describes our God to us by all those glorious Attributes of infinity, Power and Justice, which may ren­der him the proper object of our Adorations and Reverence: and it describes him also in those gentler Attributes of Goodness, Mer­cy and Truth, which may excite our love of and dependence on him. These are represen­tations somthing worthy of God, and such as impress upon our mind great thoughts of him.

[Page 83] 26. BUT never did the divine Attributes so concur to exert themselves, as in the my­stery of our Redemtion: where his Justice was satisfied without diminution to his Mer­cy; and his Mercy without entrenching on his Justice: his Holiness most eminent in his indignation against sin, and yet his Love no less so in sparing sinners: these contradi­ctions being reconcil'd, this discord com­pos'd into harmony by his infinit Wisdom. This is that stupendous Mystery into which the Angels desir'd to look, 1 Pet 1. 12. And this is it which by the Gospel is preach'd unto us; as it follows, ver. 25.

27. AND as the Scripture gives us this knowledg of God, so it do's also of our selves; in which two, all profitable knowledg is com­prised. It teaches us how vile we were in our original dust; and how much viler yet in our fall, which would have sunk us below our first principles, sent us not only to earth, but hell. It shews the impotence of our lapsed estate: that we are not able of our selves so much as to think a good thought: and it shews us also the dignity of our renovated estate, that we are heirs of God, and fellow-heirs with Christ, Ro. 8. 17. yet lest this might puff us up with mistaken hopes; it plainly acquaints us with the condition on which this depends; that it must be our obedience both active and passive, which is to intitle us to it: that we [Page 84] must be faithful to death, if we mean to inherit a crown of life, Rev. 2. 10. and that we must suffer with Christ, if we will be glorified with him. Ro. 8. 17. And upon supposition that we per­form our parts of the condition, it gives us the most certain assurance, engages Gods ve­racity that he will not fail on his. By this it gives us support against all the adversities of life; assuring us the sufferings of it are not wor­thy to be compared with the glory we expect. Rom. 8. 18. yea, and against the terrors of death too; by assuring us that what we look on as a dissolution, is but a temporary part­ing; and we only put off our bodies, that they may put of corruption, and be clothed with immortality.

28. THESE and the like are the doctrins the holy Scripture offers to us: and we may certainly say, they are faithful sayings, and worthy of all acceptation, 1 Tim. 4. 15. The notions it gives us of God are so sublime and great, that they cannot but affect us with re­verence, and admiration: and yet withall, so amiable and endearing that they cannot but raise love and gratitude, affiance and de­light.

29. AND, which is yet more, these milder Attributes are apt to inspirit us with a gene­rous ambition of assimilation; excite us to transcribe all his imitable excellencies: in which the very Heathens could discern con­sisted [Page 85] the accomplishment of human feli­city.

30. AND then the knowledg it gives us of our selves, do's us the kindest office imagina­ble: keeps us from those swelling thoughts we are too apt to entertain, and shews us the necessity of bottoming our hopes upon a fir­mer foundation: and then again keeps us from being lazy or secure, by shewing us the necessity of our own endevors. In a word, it teaches us to be humble and industrious, and whoever is so ballasted can hardly be ship­wrackt.

31. THESE are the excellencies of the doctrinal part of Scripture, which also renders them most aptly preparative for the prece­ptive. And indeed, so they were design'd: the Credenda and the Agenda being such inse­parable relations, that whoever parts them, forfeits the advantage of both. The most so­lemn profession of Christ, the most importu­nate invocations, Lord, Lord, will signify no­thing to them which do not the things which he saies, Mat. 7. And how excellent, how ratio­nal those precepts are which the Scripture proposes to us from him, is our next point of consideration.

32. THE first Law which God gave to mankind was that of nature. And tho the impressions of it upon the mind be by Adams fall exceedingly dimm'd and defac'd; yet [Page 86] that derogates nothing from the dignity and worth of that Law, which God has bin so far from cancelling, that he seems to have made it the rule and square of his subsequent Laws: so that nothing is injoin'd in those, but what is consonant and agreable to that. The Moral Law given in the Decalogue to the Jews, the Evangelical Law given in the Gospel tho Christians, have this natural Law for their basis and foundation. They licence nothing which that prohibits, and very rare­ly prohibit any thing which it licences.

33. 'TIS true, Christ in his Sermon on the Mount, raises Christians to a greater strictness then the Jews thought themselves oblig'd to; but that was not by contradicting either the natural, or moral Law, but by rescuing the la­ter from those corruptions which the false glosses of the Scribes and Pharisees had mixt with it; and reducing it to its primitive in­tegrity, and extent. In a word, as the Deca­logue was given to repair the defacings, and renew the impressions of the natural Law; so the precepts of the Gospel were design'd to revive and illustrate both. And accordingly we find Christ, in the matter of divorce, calls them back to this natural Law; In the begin­ning it was not so, Mat. 19. 8. I say not but that even these natural notions are in som in­stances refin'd and elevated by Christ; the se­cond Adam being to repair the fall of the first [Page 87] with advantage: but yet he still builds upon that ground-work, introduces nothing that is inconsistent with it.

34. AND this accordance between these several Laws is a circumstance that highly re­commends Scripture precepts to us. We can­not imagin but that God who made man for no other end but to be an instrument of his glory, and a recipient of all communicable parts of his happiness, would assign him such rules and mesures as were most conducive to those ends. And therefore since the Scri­pture injunctions are of the same mould, we must conclude them to be such as tend to the perfection of our being; the making us what God originally intend us; and he that would not be that, will certainly chuse much worse for himself.

35. I know there have bin prejudices taken up against the precepts of Christ, as if they im­pos'd unreasonable, unsupportable strictnes­ses upon men: and som have assum'd liberty to argue mutinously against them; nay, a­gainst God too for putting such natural appe­tites into men, and then forbidding them to satisfy them.

36. BUT the ground of this cavil is the not rightly distinguishing of natural appe­tites, which are to be differenc'd according to the two states of rectitude and deprava­tion: those of the first rank are the appetites [Page 88] God put into man; and those were all regu­lar and innocent, such as tended to the pre­servation of his being: nature in its first inte­grity mesuring its desires by its needs. Now Christs prohibitions are not directed against these, he forbids no one kind of these de­sires. And tho the precept of self-denial may somtimes restrain us in som particular acts; yet that is but proportionable to that re­straint Adam was under in relation to the for­bidden tree, a particular instance of his obe­dience, and fence of his safety. So that if men would consider nature under this its first and best notion, they cannot accuse Christ of being severe to it.

37. BUT 'tis manifest they take it in ano­ther acception, and mean that corruption of nature which inordinatly inclines to sensitive things; and on this account they call their riots, their luxuries, appetites put into them by God: whereas 'tis manifest this was super­induced from another coast: The wise man gives us its true pedigree in what he saies of death, which is its twin-sister: By the envy of the devil came death into the world, Wis. 2. 24. And can they expect that Christ who came to destroy the works of the devil, 1 Joh. 3. 8. should frame Laws in their favor, make Acts of to­leration and indulgence for them? This were to annul the whole design of his coming into the world▪ which was to restore us from our [Page 89] lapst estate, and elevate us to those higher degrees of purity which he came not only to [...]rescribe, but to exemplify to us.

38. BUT in this affair men often take nature [...]n a yet wider and worse notion; and under natural desires comprehend whatever upon any sort of motive they have a mind to do. The awe of a superior, the importunity of a companion, custom, and example, make men do many ill things, to which their nature would never promt them; nay, many times such as their nature relucts to, and abhors, [...]is certainly thus in all debauchery and ex­cess. 'Tis evident, it gratifies no mans nature to be drunk, or to lie under undigested loads of meats: these are out-rages and violences upon nature, take it only in the most sensi­ [...]ive notion, such as the struggles to avert: and yet men make her bear, not only the op­pression, but the blame too.

39. BUT besides 'tis to be consider'd, that the nature of a man includes reason as well as sense, and to this all sorts of luxury are yet more repugnant, as that which clouds the mind, and degrades the man (who in his constitution is a rational being) and sets him [...]n the rank of mere animals: and certainly these can be no appetites of nature, which thus subvert it.

40. THE like may be said concerning re­venge, particularly that absurdest sort of it, [Page 90] duels; which certainly are as great contradi­ctions to nature as can be imagin'd, the un­ravelling and cancelling its very first princi­ple of self-preservation, (which in other in­stances men bring in bar against duty.) And yet men will say the generosity of their na­tures compels them to it; so making their na­tures a kind of felo de se to prompt the de­stroying it self: when alas 'tis only the false notion they have got of honor that so enga­ges them. And if men would but soberly consider, they must be convinc'd that there is nothing more agreeable to reason then that precept of Christ of not retaliating in­juries; which is in effect but to bid us to chuse a single inconvenience before a long train of mischiefs. And certainly if nature even in its deprav'd estate were left to determine, it would resolve it a better bargain to go off with a reprochful word, then to lose a limb, perhaps a life in the revenge of it. There being no maxim more indisputable, then that of evils the least is to be chosen. And the innate principle of self-love do's more strong­ly biass nature to preserve it self, then any ex­ternal thing can to destroy ir.

41. know 'twill be said to this, that re­venge is a natural appetite: but I say still, self­preservation is more so; and would prevail against as much of revenge as is natural, were it not heightned and fortified by phancy, and [Page 91] that Chimera of point of honor, which, as it is now stated, is certainly one of the most emty nothings that ever was brought in balance with solid interests. And indeed 'tis to belie nature, and suppose it to have forfeited all degrees of reason, as well as vertue, to fasten [...]o absurd a choice upon her. But admit re­ [...]enge to be never so much the dictate of cor­rupt nature; 'tis certain 'tis not of primitive regular nature. Revenge is but a relative to [...]njury: and he that will say God put the ap­ [...]etite of revenge into man, must say he put the appetite of injury into him also: which [...]s such an account of the sixth daies creation, [...]s is hardly consistent with Gods own testi­mony of its being very good, Gen. 1.

42. BESIDES, 'tis certain all the desires God infus'd into human nature, were such as [...]ended to its preservation; but this of re­venge, is of all other the most destructive, as [...]s too sadly attested by the daily tragical ef­fects of it. In short, the wise man gives a good summary of the whole matter: God made man [...]pright, but he sought out many inventions, Eccl. 7. 29.

43. NOW if man have by his own volun­tary act deprav'd himself, it would be nei­ther just nor kind in God to warp his Laws to mans now distorted frame; but it is both, to keep up the perfect rectitude of those, and call upon man to reduce himself to a confor­mity [Page 92] with them: and when to this is added s [...]ch a supply of grace as may silence the plea of disability, there can nothing be imagin'd more worthy of God, or more indulgent to man.

44. AND all this Christ do's in the Gospel in those precepts which the blind world makes the subject of their cavil or scorn. It were an easy task to evince this in every par­ticular precept of the Gospel; but I shall content my self with the instances already given, and not swell this Tract by insisting upon what has already bin the subject of so many pious and excellent discourses, as must already have convinc'd all but the obstinate.

45. WE proceed therefore to a view of the promissory parts of Scripture; in which we are first in general to observe the great goodness of God, in making any promises at all to us; and next to examin of what na­ture and excellence these promises are. And first if we consider how many titles God has to our obedience, we must acknowledg he may challenge it as his undoubted right: We are the work of his hands; and if the Potter have power over the clay (the mate­rials whereof are not of his making) much more has God over his creatures, whose mat­ter as well as form is wholly owing to him. We are the price of his blood. And if men account purchase an indefeisible title, God [Page 93] must have absolute dominion over what he has bought, and at so dear a price too as his own blood. Lastly we depend upon him for the support of that being he has given us: we live merely upon his bounty, spend upon his stock. And what Patron will not expect ob­servance from one who thus subsists by him?

46. YET as if God had none of these claims, these preingagements upon us, he descends to treat with us as free-men, by way of Article and compact; buies his own of us, and engages to reward that obedience, which he might upon the utmost penalties exact: which is such an astonishing indul­gence as our highest gratitude cannot reach: and of this the sacred Scriptures are the evi­dences and records; and therefore upon that account deserve at once our reverence, and our joy.

47. BUT this will yet farther appear, if we look in the second place into the promises themselves; which are so extensive as to take in both our present and future state: accor­ding to that of the Apostle; Godliness hath the promise of this life, and of that which is to come, 1 Tim. 4. 8. For the present, they are propor­tion'd to the several parts of our composition; the body, and the mind, the outward and the inward man; so stretching themselves to all we can really be concern'd for in this world.

48. AND first for the body, the Old Te­stament [Page 94] abounds in promises of this sort. The first part of the 28. of Deut. contains a full catalogue of all temporal blessings; and those irreversibly entail'd upon the Israelites obedience, ver. 1. The Psalmist tells us, they that fear the Lord shall lack nothing, Ps. 34. 9. that they shall not be confounded in the perillous time, and in the daies of dearth they shall have enough, Ps. 37. 19. And Solomon, that the Lord will not suffer the righteous to famish, Pro. 10. 3. And tho under the Gospel, the promises of temporal affluence seem not so large; (its design being to spiritualize us, and raise our minds to higher injoiments;) yet it gives us ample security of so much as is real­ly good for us. It supersedes our care for our selves by assuring us all these things shall be ad­ded to us, Mat. 6. 33. that is, all those things which our heavenly Father knows we have need of, ver. 32. which is all the limitations the context gives. And certainly we have little temtation to fear want, who have him for our provider; whose are all the beasts of the Forrest, and the cattel upon a thousand hills, Ps. 50. 10.

49. AND when we are thus secur'd of all things necessary, it may perhaps be an equal mercy to secure us from great abundance; which at the best, is but a lading ones self with thick clay, in the Prophets phrase, Hab. 2. 6. but is often a snare as well as a burden.

50 BESIDES, the Gospel by its precepts [Page 95] of temperance and self-denial, do's so con­tract our appetites, that a competence is a more adequate promise to them, then that of superfluity would have bin: and 'tis also the mesure wherein all the true satisfaction of the senses consist; which are gratifi'd with mo­derate plesures, but suffocated and over­whelm'd with excessive. The temperat man tasts and relishes his portion, whilst the volu­ptuous may rather be said to wallow in his plenty then injoy it.

51. AND as the necessaries of life, so life it self, and the continuance of that, is a Scri­pture promise. The fifth Commandment af­fixes it to one particular duty: but it is in a multitude of places in the Old Testament annex'd to general obedience. Thus it is, Deut. 11. 9. and again, ver. 21. And Solomon proposes this practical wisdom as the multi­plier of daies: By me they daies shall be multi­pli'd, and the years of thy life shall be increas'd, Pro. 9. 11. and chap. 3. Length of daies is in her right hand, ver. 16. And tho we find not this promise repeted in the New Testament, yet neither is it retracted: 'tis true, the Go­spel bids us be ready to lay down our lives for Christs sake, but it tells us withal, that he that will lose his life, shall save it: which tho it be universally true only in the spiritual sense, yet it often proves so in a literal. It did so eminently in the destruction of Jerusa­lem, [Page 96] where the most resolute Christians e­scap'd, while the base compliers perish'd toge­ther with those they sought to endear. This is certain, that if the New Testament do not expresly promise long life, yet it do's by its rules of temperance and sobriety, contented­ness and chearfulness, very much promote it: and so do's virtually and efficaciously ratify those the Old Testament made.

52. THE next outward blessing is repu­tation: and this also is a Scripture pro­mise. The wise shall inherit glory, Prov. 3. 38. And the vertuous woman Solomon describes, is not only blessed by her children and hus­band, but she is praised in the gate, Pro. 31. ult. Nay, this blessing is extended even beyond life. The memory of the just shall be blessed, Pro. 10. 7. Nor do's the Gospel evacuate this promise; but rather promts us to the waies of having it made good to us, by advising us to abstain from all appearance of evil, 1 Thes. 5. 22. to provide for honest things, not only in the sight of God, but also in the sight of men, 2 Cor. 8. 21.

53. 'TIS true indeed, Christ fore-warns his Disciples that they shall be revil'd, and have all manner of evil spoken against them falsly, for his names sake: but then the cause transform'd the sufferings, and made it so ho­norable, that they were to count it matter of oy, Mat. 5. 11, 12. Neither was this any pa­radox [Page 97] even in relation to their reputation; which tho sullied by a few ill men of that age, yet has bin most illustrious among all Ages since. Their sufferings and indignities gave them a new title of honor, and added the Martyr to the Apostle. And the event has bin proportionable in all successions since: Those holy men that fill'd up the Pagan pri­sons, fill'd up the Churches Diptycs also, and have bin had as the Psalmist speaks, in ever­lasting remembrance, Ps. 112. 6.

54. AND as Scripture-promises thus take in all the concerns of the outward man, so do they also of the inward. The fundamental promise of this kind, is that of sending Christ into the world, and in him establishing the [...]ew Covenant, which we find, Jer. 31. 31. and is referr'd to by the Author to the He­brews, I will put my Laws in their hearts, and write them in their minds; and their sins and [...]niquities will I remember no more, Heb. 10. 16.

55. AND this is so comprehensive a pro­mise as includes all the concerns of the in­ward man. The evils incident to the mind of man may be reduc'd to two; impurity, and inquietude: and here is a cure to both. The divine Law written in the heart, drives hence all those swarms of noysom lust, which [...]ke the Egyptian Frogs over-run and putrify [...]he soul. Where that is seated and enshrin'd, [...]hose can no more stand before it, the Da­gon [Page 98] before the Ark. This repairs the divine Image in us (in which consists the perfection of our nature) renews us in the spirits of our minds, Eph. 4. 22. and purges our consciences from dead works, Heb. 6. 4. which all the Ca­thartics and Lustrations among the Heathen, all the sacrifices and ceremonies of the Law were not able to do.

56. SECONDLY, this promise secures the mind from that restlesness and unquietness, which attends both the dominion and guilt of sin. To be subject to a mans lusts and cor­rupt appetites is of all others the vilest vassal­lage: they are the cruellest task-masters, and allow their slaves no rest, no intermission of their drudgery, And then again, the guilt that tortures and racks the mind with dread­ful expectations, keeps it in perpetual agita­tion and tumult; which is excellently de­scrib'd by the Prophet Isaiah, The wicked is like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest; whose wa­ters cast out mire and dirt: there is no peace saith my God to the wicked, Is. 48. 22. How prosperous soever vice may seem to be in the world, yet there are such secret pangs and horrors that dog it, that as Solomon saies, eve [...] in laughter the heart is sorrowful, Prov. 14. 13.

57. BUT this Evangelical promise of be­ing merciful to our iniquities, and remem­bring our sins no more, calms this tempest, in­troduces peace and serenity into the mind, [Page 99] and reconciles us at once to God and our selves. And sure we may well say with the A­postle, these are great and precious promises, [...]. Pet. 1. 4.

58. THERE are besides many other which spring from these principal, as suckers from the root: such are the promises of fresh sup­plies of grace upon a good imploiment of the former. To him that hath shall be given, Mat. 25. 29. Nay, even of the source and foun­tain of all grace. He shall give the holy spirit to them that ask him, Mat. 7. 11. Such is that of supporting us in all difficulties and as­ [...]aults: the not suffering us to be temted above that we are able, 1 Cor. 10. 13. which like Gods bow set in the clouds, Gen. 9. is our secu­rity, that we shall not be over-whelm'd by any [...]eluge of temtation: and (to instance no more) such is that comprehensive pro­mise of hearing our praiers, Ask and it shall be given you, Mat. 7. 7. This puts all good things within our reach, gives us the key of Gods Store-house, from whence we may fur­nish our selves with all that is really good for [...]s. And if a few full Barns could temt the [...]ich man in the Gospel, to pronounce a Re­ [...]uiem to his soul; what notes of acquiescence may they sing, who have the command of an [...]exhaustible store; that are suppli'd by him whose is the earth, and the fulness thereof?

59. AND certainly, all these promises to­gether [Page 100] must be (to use the Apostles phrase) strong consolation; such as may quiet and calm all the fears and griefs, all the tumults and perturbations of the mind, in relation to its present state. But then there are others relating to the future of a much higher eleva­tion: those glories and felicities of another world, which are so far beyond our narrow conception, that the comprehension and in­joiment must begin together. The Scripture shadows it out to us by all the notions we have of happiness: by glory, Rom. 8. 18. by a king­dom, Mat. 25. 14. by joy, Mat. 25. 21. and which comprehends all, by being with the Lord, 1 Thes. 4. 17. seeing him face to face, 1 Cor. 13. 12. being like to him, 1 Jo. 3. 2. In a word 'tis bliss in the utmost extent: immense for quan­tity, and eternal for duration.

60. AND surely this promise is so excellent for kind, so liberal in its degree, so transcendent­ly great in all respects, that did it stand single, stript of all those that relate to this life, it a­lone would justify the name of Gospel, and be the best tidings that ever came to mankind. For alas, if we compare the hopes that other Religions propose to their Votaries with these, how base, how ignoble are they! The Heathens Elysium, the Mahumetan Paradise, were but higher gratifications of the sensual part, and consequently were depressions and debasements of the rational. So that in effect [Page 101] they provided a heaven for the beast, and a hell for the man. We may therfore confident­ly resume our conclusion, and pronounce the Scripture promises to be so divine and excel­lent, that they could as little have bin made, as they can be perform'd by any but an holy and almighty Author.

61. NOR is their being conditional any impeachment to their worth, but an enhanse­ment. Should God have made them (as som phancy he has his decrees) absolute and irre­spective; he had set his promises at war with his precepts, and these should have superse­ded what those injoin. We are all very nig­gardly towards God, and should have bin apt to have ask'd Judas's question; to what purpose is this wast? Mat. 26. 8. What needs the la­bor of the course if the prize be certain? And it must have bin infinitly below the wisdom and majesty of the supreme Legislator, to make Laws, and then evacuate them by dis­pencing rewards without any aspect on their observance. 'Tis the Sanction which inspi­rits the Law, without which the divine, as well as the human, would to most men be a dead letter.

62. BUT against this God has abuntdant­ly provided, not only by the conditionality of the promises, but the terror of his threats too; which is the last part of Scripture which falls under consideration. And these are of [Page 102] the most direful kinds; and cannot better be illustrated then by the opposition they stand in to the promises: for as those included all things that might make men happy either as to this life or the next; so these do all that may make them miserable. If we make our reflection on all the particulars of the promi­ses, we shall find the threats answering them as their reverse or dark shadow.

63. AND first as concerning the outward state, if we look but into the 28 of Deut. we shall find, that after all the gracious promises which begun the chapter, it finally ends in thunder, in the most dreadful denunciations imaginable, and those adapted by a most peculiar opposition to the former promises: as the Reader may see at large in that Chapter. And the whole tenor of the Scripture go's in the like stile. Thus, Psal. 140. 11. A wicked person shall not prosper in the earth, evill shall hunt the wicked man to overthrow him. The Lord will not suffer the righteous to famish, but he casteth out the substance of the wicked; Pro. 10. 3. And again, the righteous eateth to the satisfying of his soul, but the belly of the wicked shall want, Pro. 13. 25. Multitudes of like ge­neral threatnings of temporal improsperi­ty there are every where scatter'd thro out the Scripture; and many more appli'd to particular vices, as sloth, unmercifulness, [Page 103] luxury, and the like; which would be here too long to enumerate.

64. AND altho these threatnings may seem somtimes to be literally confuted by the wealth and opulency of wicked men, yet they never miss of being really and vertually verified. For either their prosperities are very short, and only preparative to a more emi­nent ruin, which was the Psalmists resolu­tion of this doubt, Psal. 72. or else if God leave them the matter of temporal happi­ness, yet he substracts the vertue and spirit of them, renders them emty and unsatisfy­ing. This is well exprest by the Psalmist in the case of the Israelites: He gave them their desire, and sent leaness withall into their soul, Psa. 106. 15. and by Zophar, Job. 20. 22. where speaking of the wicked, he saith; In the fulness of his sufficiency shall he be in straits. And to this Solomon seems to refer, when he saith, the blessing of the Lord maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it, Pro. 10. 22.

65. NEITHER is it only the comforts of life, but life it self that is threatned to be taken from wicked men: untimely death is throout the Old Testament frequently men­tion'd as the guerdon of impiety: 'tis often assign'd judicially in particular cases: He shall be cut off from his people, being the usual sentence upon most offenders under the Le­vitical Law. But 'tis also menaced more gene­rally [Page 104] as an immediat judgment from God: The blood-thirsty and deceitful men shall not live out half their daies, Psal, 55. 23. Farther yet, their names shall putrify as soon as their Car­kasses: the name of the wicked shall rot; Pro. 10. 7. Nay both their infamy and their ruin are intail'd upon their posterity. The seed of evil doers shall never be renown'd. Prepare slaughter for his children, for the iniquity of their fathers; Isa. 14. 20. 21.

66. IF now we look on Scripture threat­nings in relation to the mind of man, we shall find them yet more severe: wilful im­penitent sinners being cut off from the bene­fits of the new covenant, nor barely so, but look'd upon as despisers of it, and that blood of Christ in which it was seal'd; Heb. 10. 29. nay as those murtherous Wretches that shed it: They crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh; Heb. 6. 6. And this is the fataliest sentence that can fall on any man in this life; to be thus disfranchised of all the privi­leges of the Gospel, and ranckt as well in punishment as guilt, with the most criminous of mankind.

67. FROM hence 'tis consequent, that the mind remains not only in its native im­purity, but in a greater and more incurable one; whilst that bloud which alone could cleanse it, serves but to embrue and pollute it; and as it were flush, and excite it to all [Page 105] immanities and vilenesses: and he that is thus filthy, 'tis the doom pronounc'd against him, that he shall be filthy still, Rev. 22. 11.

68. AND then in the second place, what calm can there be to such a mind? what re­mains to such a person, but that fearful expectation of wrath and fiery indignation, which the Apostle mentions, Heb. 10. 27. In­deed, were there none but temporal mis­chiefs to fear, yet it were very unplesant to think ones self, like Cain, out-law'd from the presence and protection of God; to be afraid that every man that meets us should slay us, Gen. 4. 14. Nay, those confus'd indistinct fears of indefinite evils which attend guilt, are very unquiet uneasy inmates in the mind. This is excellently describ'd by Moses; The Lord shall give thee a trembling heart, and fail­ing of eies, and sorrow of mind, and thy life, shall [...]ang in doubt before thee, and thou shalt fear day and night; in the morning thou shalt say, would God it were evening, and in the evening, would God it were morning, Deut, 28. 65, 66, 67.

69. AND what can be more wretched then to have a mind thus agitated and tost, rackt and tortur'd; especially when thro all these clouds it sees a glimpse of the eternal To­ [...]het; and knows, that from the billows of this uneasy state, it must be tost into that Lake of fire. And this is indeed the dregs of [Page 106] the cup of Gods wrath, the dreadfullest and most astonishing of all Scripture denuncia­tions. This comprehends all that the nature of man is capable of suffering. Divines di­stinguish it into the pain of sense, and of loss: that of sense is represented to us in Scripture by fire; and that accended, and render'd noisom as well as painful by brimstone, that afflicts the smell as well as the touch: som­times by outer darkness, wailing and gnash­ing of teeth, to grate the ears, and consume the eies; by intolerable thirst, to torment the palate. Not that we are to think the sensi­tive pains of Hell do not infinitly exceed all these; but because these are the highest me­sures our present capacities can make, and are adequate to those senses for whose carnal sa­tisfactions we incur them.

70. THE pain of loss is yet more dismal; as being seated in the soul, whose spiritual nature will then serve it only to render its torments more refin'd, and acute. With what anguish will it then see it self banish'd from the presence of God, and consequently from all that may give satisfaction and bliss to the creature? But yet with how much deeper an­guish will it reflect on it self as the Author of that deprivation? How will it recollect the many despis'd tenders of grace, the easy terms on which salvation might have bin had? And how sadly will conscience then re­venge [Page 107] all its stifled admonitions by an unsilen­ceable clamor, that worm which never dies, Mar. 9. 48. How wounding will it then be to see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and all the Saints in the kingdom of God, Luk. 13. 28. (nay, that poor Lazarus, whom here men turn'd over to the charity of their dogs) and it self in the company of the devil and his angels, who will then upbraid what they once inticed to?

71. NATURE abhors nothing more then to have our misery insulted over by those who drew us into it: yet that no circum­stance may be lacking to their torment, this must be the perpetual entertainment of damn'd souls. And to all this Eternity is the dismal adjunct; which is of all other circum­stances the most disconsolate, as leaving not so much as a glimpse of hopes; which here uses still to be the reserve, and last resort of the miserable.

72. THIS Eternity is that which gives an edg, infuses a new acrimony into the tor­ments: and is the highest strain, the vertical point of misery. These are those terrors of the Lord, with which the Scripture acquaints us: and sure we cannot say that these are flat contemtible menaces; but such as suit the dreadful Majesty of that God who is a consu­ming fire, Heb. 12. 29. So that these are as aptly accommodated for the exciting our dread, as the promises were of our love: [Page 108] both jointly concur to awake our industry.

73. FOR God has bin so good to mankind, as to make the threats conditional as well as the promises: so that we as well know the way to avoid the one, as we do to attain the other. Nor has he any other intendment or end in proposing them, but that we may do so. See to this purpose, with what solemnity he protests it by Moses; I call heaven and earth to record against you this day that I have set be­fore you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore chuse life, that both thou and thy seed may live, Deut. 30. 19.

74. I have now run thro the several parts of Scripture I proposed to speak of. And tho I have in each given rather short instances and essaies then an exact description, yet even in these contracted lineaments the ex­quisit proportions may be discern'd. And if the Reader shall hence be incourag'd to ex­tend his contemplations, and as he reads ho­ly Scripture, observe it in all its graces, and full dimensions; I doubt not he will pro­nounce from his experience, that the matter of the divine Book is very correspondent to the Author: which is the highest Eulogy imaginable.

75. IN the next place we are to consider the holy Scripture in relation to its end and design; in proportion to which every thing is more or less valuable. The most exquisit [Page 109] frame, and curious contrivance, that has no determinat end or use, is but a piece of indu­strious folly, a Spiders web, as the Prophet speaks, Isa. 59. 5. Now those designs have al­waies been esteem'd the most excellent that have had te most worthy subjects, and bin of the greatest extent. Accordingly, those who have projected the obliging and bene­fiting of other men (tho but within a privat Sphere) have alwaies bin lookt on as men of generous and noble designs. Those who have taken their level higher, and directed their aim to a more public good, tho but of a Ci­ty or Nation, have proportionably acquir'd a greater esteem. But those who have aspi­r'd to be universal benefactors, to do som­thing for the common benefit of the world, their fame has commonly teach'd as far as their influence; men have reverenc'd, nay somtimes (according to the common exces­ses of mans nature) ador'd them. Many of the heathen deities (especially their demi­gods) having bin only those persons, who by introducing som useful Art, or other part of knowledg, had oblig'd mankind. So we see what a natural gratitude men are apt to pay to worthy and generous designs. And if we will be content but to stand to this common award of our nature, the Scripture will have the fairest claim imaginable to our reverence and thankfulness, upon this very account [Page 110] of the excellency of its designs.

76. NOR need we borrow the balance of the Sanctuary to weigh them in; we may do it in our own scales; for they exactly answer the two properties above mention'd, of profit and diffusiveness which in secular concerns are the standard rules of good designs. For first, it is the sole scope and aim of Scripture, the very end for which 'twas writ, to benefit and advantage men; and that secondly, not only som small select number, som little an­gle or corner of the world, but the whole race of mankind, the entire Universe; and he that can imagin a more diffusive design, must imagin more worlds also.

77. NOW for the first of these, that it is the design of the Scripture to benefit men, we need appeal but to Scripture it self; which surely can give the best account to what ends 'tis directed; and that tells us, it is to make us wise unto salvation, 2 Tim. 3. 15. In which is comprehended the greatest benefit that mans nature is capable of: the making us wise while we live here, and the saving us eternal­ly. And this sure is the most generous, the most obliging design, that 'tis possible even for the Creator to have upon the creature: and this is it which the holy Scripture nego­tiates with us.

78. AND first, the making us wise, is so inviting a proposal to humanity, that we see [Page 111] when that was much wiser then now it is, it caught at a fallacious tender of it; the very sound of it, tho out of the devils mouth, fa­scinated our first Parents, and hurried them to the highest disobedience, and certainest ruin. And therefore now God by the holy Scriptures makes us an offer as much more safe, as it is more sincere; when he sends his Word thus to be a lamp to our feet, and a light to our paths, Ps. 119. 105. to teach us all that is good for us to know, our affectation of ignorance will be more culpable then theirs of knowledg, if we do not admire the kind­ness, & embrace the bounty of such a tender.

79. NOW the making us wise must be un­derstood according to the Scripture notion of wisdom, which is not the wisdom of this world, nor of the Princes of this world, which come to [...]ought, as the Apostle speaks, 1 Cor. 2. 5. but that wisdom which descends from above, Ja. 3. 17. which he there describes to be first pure, then peaceable, gentle and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. Indeed the Scripture usually comprehends these and all other graces under Wisdom; for it makes it syno­nymous to that which includes them all, viz. the fear of the Lord. Thus we find throout the whole Book of Proverbs these us'd as terms convertible. In short, Wisdom is that practical knowledg of God and our selves [Page 112] which engages us to obedience and duty; and this is agreeable to that definition the Wise man gives of it; The wisdom of the pru­dent is to understand his way, Pro. 14. 8. With­out this, all the most refin'd and aerial specu­lations, are but like Thales's star-gazing; which secur'd him not from falling in the water; nay, betrai'd him to it. In this is all solid wisdom compris'd.

80. THE utmost all the wise men in the world have pretended to, is but to know what true happiness is, and what is the means of attaining it; and what they sought with so much study, and so little success, the Scri­pture presents us with in the greatest certain­ty, and plainest characters, such as he that runs may read, Hab. 2. 2. It acquaints us with that supreme felicity, that chief good where­of Philosophy could only give us a name; and it shews us the means, marks us out a path which will infallibly lead us to it. Accor­dingly we find that Solomon after all the ac­curate search he had made to find what was that good for the sons of men; he shuts up his inquest in this plain conclusion: Fear God and keep his commandments; for God shall bring every work unto judgment, Eccles. 12. 13, 14 The regulating our lives so by the rules of Piety, as may acquit us at our final account, is the most eligible thing that falls within hu­man cognizance; and that not only in rela­tion [Page 113] to the superlative happiness of the next world, but even to the quiet and tranquillity of this. For alas, we are impotent giddy crea­ [...]ures, swai'd sometimes by one passion, som­ [...]imes by another; nay often the interfear­ing of our appetites makes us irresolute which we are to gratify, whilst in the interim their [...]trugling agitates and turmoils the mind. And what can be more desirable in such a [...]ase, then to put our selves under a wiser conduct then our own; and as opprest States [...]se to defeat all lesser pretenders by becom­ing homagers to som more potent: so for us to deliver our selves from the tyranny of our [...]usts, by giving up our obedience to him whose service is perfect freedom.

81. WERE there no other advantage of the exchange, but the bringing us under fixt and determinat Laws, 'twere very considera­able. Every man would gladly know the terms of his subjection, and have som standing [...]ule to guide himself by; and Gods Laws are [...]o; we may certainly know what he requires of us: but the mandats of our passions are [...]rbitrary and extemporary: what pleases them to day disgusts them to morrow; and we must alwaies be in readiness to do we know not what, and of all the Arbitrary governments that men either feel or fear, [...]his is doubtless the most miserable. I wish our apprehensions of it were but as sensible: and [Page 114] then we should think the holy Scripture did us the office of a Patriot, in offering us a rescue from so vile a slavery.

82. AND that it do's make us this offer, is manifest by the whole tenor of the Bible. For first it rowzes and awakes us to a sense of our condition, shews us that what we call liberty, is indeed the saddest servitude; that he that committeth sin is the servant of sin, Jo. 8. 34. that those vices which pretend to serve and gratify us, do really subdue and enslave us, and fetter when they seem to embrace: and whereas the will in all other oppressions re­tains its liberty, this tyranny brings that al­so into vassallage: renders our spirits so mean and servile, that we chuse bondage; are apt to say with the Israelites, Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians, Ex. 14. 12.

83. AND what greater kindness can be don for people in this forlorn abject con­dition, then to animate them to cast off this yoke, and recover their freedom. And to this are most of the Scripture exhortations addrest; as may be seen in a multitude of places, particularly in the sixth chapter to the Romans, the whole scope whereof is di­rectly to this purpose.

84. NOR do's it only sound the alarm, put us upon the contest with our enemies, but it as­sists us in it, furnishes us with that whole armor of God which we find describ'd, Eph. 6. 13. Nay [Page 115] further it excites our courage, by assuring us that if we will not basely surrender our selves, we can never be overpower'd if we do but stand our ground; resist our enemy, he will fly from us; Ja. 4. 7. And to that purpose it di­rects us under what banner we are to list our selves; even his who hath spoil'd principalities and powers, Col. 2. 15. to whose conduct and discipline if we constantly adhere, we cannot miss of victory.

85. AND then lastly it sets before us the prize of this conquest; that we shall not only recover our liberty, manumit our selves from the vilest bondage to the vilest and cruellest oppressors; but we shall be crown'd for it too, be rewarded for being kind to our selves, and be made happy eternally hereafter for being willing to be happy here.

89. AND sure these are terms so appa­rently advantageous, that he must be infinitly stupid (foolish to destruction) that will not be thus made wise unto salvation, that despi­fes or cavils at this divine Book, which means him so much good, which designs to make him live here generously and accor­ding to the dignity of his nature, and in the next world to have that nature sublimated, and exalted, made more capacious of those refin'd and immense felicities, which there await all who will qualify themselves for them; who (as the Apostle speaks) by patient [Page 116] continuance in well doing seek for glory, and honor, and immortality, eternal life, Rom. 2. 7.

87. BUT besides the greatest and princi­pal advantages which concern our spiritual interest, it takes in also the care of our secu­lar, directs us to such a managery of our selves, as is naturally apt to promote a quiet and happy life. Its injunction to live peaceable with all men, keeps us out of the way of many misadventures, which turbulent unruly spirits meet with, and so secures our peace. So also as to wealth, it puts us into the fairest road to riches by prescribing diligence in our cal­lings: what is thus got being like sound flesh, which will stick by us; whereas the hasty growth of ill-gotten wealth is but a tumor and impostume, which the bigger it swells, the sooner it bursts and leaves us lanker then be­fore. In like manner it shews us also how to guard our reputation, by providing honest things not only in the sight of God, but also in the sight of men, Cor. 8. 28. by abstaining even from all appearance of evil, 1 Thes. 5. 22. and making our light shine before men, Mat. 5. 16. It provides too for our ease and tranquillity, supersedes our anxious cares and sollicitud's, by directing us to cast our burden upon the Lord, Psal. 55. 22. and by a reliance on his provi­dence how to secure to our selves all we really want. Finally it fixes us in all the changes, supports us under all the pressures, [Page 117] comforts us amidst all the calamities of this life, by assuring us they shall all work together for good to those that love God; Ro. 8. 28.

88. NOR do's the Scripture design to pro­mote our interests consider'd only singly and personally, but also in relation to Societies and Communities; it gives us the best rules of distributive and commutative Justice; teaches us to render to all their dues, Ro. 13. 7. to keep our words, to observe inviolably all our pacts and contracts; nay tho they prove to our damage. Psa. 15. 4. and to preserve exact fidelity and truth; which are the sinews of human commerce. It infuses into us noble and generous principles, to prefer a common good before our private: and that highest flight of Ethnic vertue, that of dying for ones Country, is no more then the Scripture prescribes even for our common brethren, 1 To. 3. 16.

89. BUT besides these generals, it descends to more minute directions accommodated to our several circumstances; it gives us ap­propriate rules in reference to our distinct relations, whether natural, civil, ecclesiasti­cal, or oeconomical. And if men would but universally conform to them, to what a bles­sed harmony would it tune the world? what order and peace would it introduce? There would then be no oppressive Governors, nor mutinous Subjects; no unnatural Parents, nor [Page 318] contumacious Children: no idle Shepherds, or straying Flocks: none of those domestic jars which oft disquiet, and somtimes subvert families: all would be calm and serene; and give us in reality that golden Age, whereof the Poets did but dream.

90. THIS tendency of the Scripture is remarkably acknowledg'd in all our public Judicatories, where before any testimony is admitted, we cause the person that is to give his testimony, first to lay hold of with his hands, then with his mouth to kiss the holy Scriptures: as if it were impossible for those hands, which held the mysteries of Truth, to be immediatly emploi'd in working false­hood; or that those lips which had ador'd those holy Oracles, should be polluted with perjuries and lies. And I fear, the civil Go­vernment is exceedingly shaken at this day in its firmest foundation, by the little regard is generally had of the holy Scriptures, and what is consequent thereto, the oaths that are taken upon them.

91. 'TIS true, we are far remov'd from that state which Esaiah prophecied of under the Gospel, tho we have the Bible among us; that when the Law should go forth of Sion, and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem, they should heat their swords into plow-shares, and their spears into pruning hooks, Es. 2. 4. but that is not from any defect in it, but from [Page 119] our own perversness: we have it, but (as the Apostle speaks in another sense) as if we had it not, 1 Cor. 7. 29. We have it (that is, use it) to purposes widely different from what it means. Som have it as a Supersedeas to all the duty it injoins; and so they can but cap texts, talk glibly of Scripture, are not at all con­cern'd to practice it: som have it as their Ar­senal, to furnish them with weapons, not a­gainst their spiritual enemies, but their secu­lar: applying all the damnatory sentences they there find, to all those to whose persons or opinions they have prejudice. And som have it as a Scene of their mirth, a topic of raillery, dress their profane and scurrilous jests in its language; and study it for no o­ther end but to abuse it. And whilst we treat it at this vile rate, no wonder we are never the better for it. For alas, what will it avail us to have the most soveraign Balsom in our possession, if instead of applying it to our wounds, we trample it under our feet?

92 BUT tho we may frustrate the use, we cannot alter the nature of things. Gods design in giving us the Scripture was to make us as happy as our nature is capable of being; and the Scripture is excellently adapted to this end: for as to our eternal felicity, all that believe there is any such state, must ac­knowledg the Scripture chalks us out the rea­dy way to it: not only because 'tis dictated [Page 120] by God who infallibly knows it, but also by its prescribing those things which are in themselves best; and which a sober Heathen would adjudg fittest to be rewarded. And as to our temporal happiness, I dare appeal to any unprejudic'd man, whether any thing can contribute more to the peace and real happiness of mankind, then the universal practice of the Scripture rules would do. Would God we would all conspire to make the experiment; and then doubtless, not on­ly our reason, but our sense too would be con­vinc'd of it.

93. AND as the design is thus beneficial, so in the second place is it as extensive also. Time was when the Jews had the inclosure of divine Revelation; when the Oracles of God were their peculiar depositum, and the Heathen had not the knowledg of his Laws, Ps. 147. ult. but since that by the goodness of God the Gentiles are become fellow-heirs, Eph. 3. 6. he hath also deliver'd into their hands the deeds and evidences of their future state, given them the holy Scriptures as the exact and authentic registres of the covenant be­tween God and man, and these not to be like the heathen Oracles appropriated to som one or two particular places, so that they cannot be consulted but at the expence of a pilgrimage; but laid open to the view of all that will believe themselves concern'd.

[Page 121] 94. IT was a large commission our Savior gave his Disciples; go preach the Gospel to eve­ry creature, Mar. 16. 15. (which in the nar­rowest acception must be the Gentile world) and yet their oral Gospel did not reach far­ther then the writen: for wherever the Chri­stian Faith was planted, the holy Scriptures were left as the records of it; nay, as the con­servers of it too; the standing rule by which all corruptions were to be detected. 'Tis true, the entire Canon of the New Testament, as we now have it, was not all at once deliver'd to the Church; the Gospels and Epistles be­ing successively writ, as the needs of Chri­stians, and the encroachments of Heretics gave occasion: but at last they became all together the common magazine of the Church, to furnish arms both defensive and offensive. For as the Gospel puts in our hands the shield of Faith, so the Epistles help us to hold it, that it may not be wrested out of our hands again, either by the force of persecu­tion, or the sly insinuations of vice or he­resy.

95. THUS the Apostles like prudent lea­ders, have beat up the Ambushes, discover'd the snares that were laid for us; and by dis­comfiting Satans forlorn hope, that earliest Set of false teachers and corrupt practices which then invaded the Church, have laid a foundation of victory to the succeeding Ages, [Page 122] if they will but keep close to their conduct, adhere to those sacred Writings they have left behind them in every Church for that purpose.

96. Now what was there deposited, was design'd for the benefit of every particular member of that Church. The Bible was not committed (like the Regalia, or rarities of a Nation) to be kept under lock and key (and consequently to constitute a profitable office for the keepers) but expos'd like the Brazen Serpent for universal view and benefit: that sacred Book (like the common air) being every mans propriety, yet no mans inclosure: yet there are a generation of men whose eies have bin evil, because Gods have bin good: who have seal'd up this spring, monopoliz'd the word of Life, and will allow none to par­take of it but such persons, and in such pro­portions as they please to retail it: an attemt very insolent in respect of God, whose pur­pose they contradict; and very injurious in respect of man, whose advantage they ob­struct. The iniquity of it will be very appa­rent, if we consider what is offer'd in the fol­lowing Section.

SECT. IV. The Custody of the holy Scripture is a privi­lege and right of the Christian Church, and every member of it; which cannot without impiety to God, and injustice un­to it and them, be taken away or em­peacht.

BESIDES the keeping of the divine Law, which is obsequious, and imports a due regard to all its Precepts, commonly exprest in Scripture by keeping the commandments, hearkning to, and obeying the voice of the Lord, walking in his waies, and observing and doing his statutes and his judgments: there is a pos­sessory keeping it, in reference to our selves and others; in respect whereof, Almighty God, Deut. 6. and elsewhere frequently, ha­ving enjoin'd the people of Israel, to love the Lord their God with all their heart, and with all their soul, and with all their might, and that the words which he commanded them should be in their heart, he adds, that they shall teach them diligently to their children, and shall talk of them when they sit down in their houses, and when they walk by the way, and when they lie down, and when they rise up: and that they bind them for a sign upon their hand, and that they shall be as [Page 124] froutlets between their eies, and that they shall write them upon the posts of their house, and on their gates. So justly was the Law call'd the Scripture, being writen by them, and worn upon the several parts of the body, inscrib'd upon the walls of their houses, the entrance of their dores and gates of their Cities; and in a word, placed before their eies wherever they convers'd.

2. AND this was granted to the Jews, as matter of privilege and favor. To them, saies Saint Paul, Rom. 9. 4. pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, aud the covenants, and the giving of the Law. And the same Saint Paul, at the 3. chap. 2. v. of that Epistle, unto the que­stion, what advantage hath the Jew, or what prosit is there of circumcision, answers, that it is much every way, chiefly because unto them were committed the Oracles of God. This depositum or trust was granted to the Fathers, that it should be continued down unto their chil­dren. He made a covenant, saies David, Ps. 78. v. 5. with Jacob, and gave Israel a Law, which he commanded our Fore-fathers to teach their children, that their posterity might know it, and the children which were yet unborn: to the intent that when they came up, they might shew their children the same. Which Scripture by a perpetual succession was to be handed down unto the Christian Church, the Apostles on all occasions appealing unto them, as being [Page 125] read in the Synagogues every Sabbath day, Act. 13. 27. and also privatly, in their hands; so that they might at plesure search into them, Jo. 5. 39. Act. 17. 11. Hereupon the Jews are by Saint Austin call'd the Capsarii, or servants that carried the Christians Books. And Atha­nasius in this Tract of the Incarnation, saies, The Law was not for the Jews only, nor were the Prophets sent for them alone; but that Nation was the Divinity-Schole of the whole world; from whence they were to fetch the knowledg of God, and the way of spiritual living: which amounts to what the Apostle saies, Galat. 3. 24. That the Law was a Schole-master to bring us unto Christ.

3. AND 'tis observable that the very same word, Rom. 3. 2. in the Text even now reci­ted, which expresses the committing of the Oracles of God to the Jews, is made use of constantly by Saint Paul, when he declares the trust and duty incumbent on him in the preaching of the Gospel: of which, see 1 Cor. 9. 17. Gal. 2. 7. 1 Thes. 2. 4. 1 Tim. 1. 11. Tit. 1. 3. And therefore, as he saies, 1 Cor. 9. Tho I preach the Gospel I have nothing to glory of; for necessity is laid upon me, yea, wo is unto me if I preach not the Gospel, for if I do this thing wil­lingly, I have a reward; but if against my will, a dispensation of the Gospel is committed unto me: So may all Christians say; if we our selves keep and transmit to our posterities the [Page 126] holy Scriptures, we have nothing to glory of, for a necessity is laid upon us, and wo be unto us if we do not our selves keep, and transmit to our posterity the holy Scriptures. If we do this thing willingly, we have a reward, but if against our will, the custody of the Gospel, and at least that dispensation of it, is com­mitted to us. But if we are Traditors, and give up our Bibles, or take them away from others; let us consider how black an apostacy and sa­crilege we shall incur.

4. THE Mosaic Law was a temporary con­stitution, and only a shadow of good things to come, Heb. 10. 1. but the Gospel being in its duration as well as its intendment, everlasting, Rev. 14. 6. and to remain when time shall be no more, Rev. 10. 6. it is an infinitly more precious depositum, and so with greater care and solemner attestation to be preserv'd. Not only the Clergy, or the people of one particu­lar Church, nor the Clergy of the universal are intrusted with this care; but 'tis the charge, the privilege and duty of every Christian man, that either is, or was, or shall be in the world; even that collective Church which a­bove all competition, is the pillar and ground of truth, 1 Tim. 3. 15. against which the as­saults of men and devils, and even the gates of hell shall not prevail, Mat. 16. 18.

5. THE Gospels were not written by their holy Pen-men to instruct the Apostles, but to [Page 127] the Christian Church, that they might believe Jesus was the Christ, the son of God, and that be­lieving they might have life thro his name, Jo. 20. 31. The Epistles were not addrest pecu­liarly to the Bishops and Deacons, but all the holy brethren, to the Churches of God that are sanctified in Jesus Christ, and to all those that call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, Rom. 1, 7. 1 Cor. 1. 2. 2 Cor. 1. 1. Galat. 1. 2. Eph. 1. 1. Col. 4. 16. 1 Thes. 5. 27. Phil. 1. 1. Jam. 1. 1. 1 Pet. 1. 1. 2 Pet. 1. 1. Revel. 1. 4. Or if by chance som one or two of the Epistles were addrest to an Ecclesiastic person, as those to Timothy and Titus, their purport plainly refers to the community of Christians, and the depositum committed to their trust; Tim. 6. 20. And Saint John on the other side di­rects his Epistles to those who were plainly se­cular; to fathers, young men and little chil­dren; and a Lady and her children, Epist. 1. chap. 2. 12. 13, 14. and Epist. 2. 1. 1.

6. BUT besides the interest which every Christian has in the custody of the Scripture upon the account of its being a depositum intrusted to him, he has also another no less forcible; that 'tis the Testament of his Sa­vior, by which he becomes a Son of God, no more a Servant but a Son; and if he be a Son, it is the Apostles inference, that he is then an heir, an heir of God thro Christ, Gal. 4. 7. Now as he who is heir to an estate, is also to the [Page 128] deeds and conveiances thereof; which with­out injury cannot be detain'd, or if they be, there is a remedy at Law for the recovery of them: So it fares in our Christian inheri­tance; every believer by the privilege of faith, is made a son of Abraham, and an heir of the promises made unto the fathers, where­by he has an hereditary interest in the Old Testament; and also by the privilege of the same Faith he has a firm right to the purchast possession, Eph. 1. 14. and the charter thereof, the New. Therefore the detention of the Scriptures, which are made up of these two parts, is a manifest injustice, and sacrilegious invasion of right, which the person wrong'd is impower'd, nay, is strictly oblig'd by all law­ful means to vindicate.

7. WHICH invasion of right, will ap­pear more flagrant when the nature and im­portance of it is consider'd; which relating to mens spiritual interest, renders the violation infinitly more injurious then it could be in any secular. I might mention several detri­ments consequent to this detention of Scri­pture, even as many as there are benefits ap­pendant to the free use of it; but there is one of so fundamental and comprehensive a na­ture, that I need name no more; and that is, that it delivers men up to any delusion their teachers shall impose upon them, by depriving them of means of detecting them. [Page 129] Where there is no standard or mesures, 'tis easy for men to falsify both; and no less ea­sy is it to adulterate doctrins, where no re­course can be had to the primary rule. Now that there is a possibility that false teachers may arise, we have all assurance; nay we have the word of Christ, and his Apostles that it should be so: and all Ecclesiastic Story to attest it has bin so. And if in the first and purest times (those Ages of more immediat illumination) the God of this world found in­struments whereby to blind mens minds, 2 Cor. 4. 4. it cannot be suppos'd impossible or improbable he should do so now.

8. BUT to leave generals, and to speak to the case of that Church which magisterially prohibits Scripture to the vulgar: she manifest­ly stands liable to that charge of our Savior, Luk. 11. 52. Ye have taken away the key of knowledg: and by allowing the common people no more Scripture then what she af­fords them in their Sermons and privat Ma­nuals, keeps it in her power to impose on them what she pleases. For 'tis sure those portions she selects for them, shall be none of those which clash with the doctrins she recom­mends: and when ever she will use this power to the corrupting their faith, or worship (yea, or their manners either) they must brutishly submit to it, because they cannot bring her dictats to the test.

[Page 130] 9. BUT 'twill be said, this danger she wards by her doctrin of infallibility: that is, she enervates a probable supposition attested by event, by an impossible one confuted by e­vent. For 'tis certain, that all particular Churches may err; and tho the conscious­ness of that, forces the Roman Church upon the absurd pretence of universality, to assert her infallibility; yet alas, Tyber may as well call it self the Ocean, or Italy the world, as the Roman Church may name it self the u­niversal; whilest 'tis so apparent that far the less part of Christians are under her com­munion. And if she be but a particular Church, she has no immunity from errors, nor those under her from having those errors (how pernicious soever) impos'd upon them. As to her having actually err'd, and in diverse particulars, the proof of that has bin the work of so many Volumes, that 'twould be impertinent here to undertake it: I shall on­ly instance in that of Image-Worship; a pra­ctice perfectly irreconcileable with the se­cond Commandment; and doubtless, clear­ly discern'd by her to be so: upon which ac­count it is, that tho by Translations and Pa­raphrases she wrests and moulds other Texts to comply with her doctrins, yet she dares not trust to those arts for this: but takes a more compendious course, and expunges the Com­mandment; as is evident in her Catechisms [Page 131] and other Manuals. Now a Church that can thus sacrilegiously purloin one Command­ment (and such a one as God has own'd him­self the most jealously concern'd in) and to delude her children split another to make up the number, may as her needs require, sub­stract and divide what others she please: and then whilst all resort to Scripture is obstru­cted; how fatal a hazard must those poor souls run, who are oblig'd to follow these blind, or rather these winking guides into the ditch?

10. BUT all these criminations she retorts by objecting the dangers of allowing the Scriptures to the vulgar, which she accuses as the spring of all Sects, Schisms, and Here­sies. To which I answer first, that supposing this were true, 'twas certainly foreseen by God, who notwithstanding laid no restraint; probably as fore-seeing, that the dangers of implicit faith (to which such a restraint must subiect men) would be far greater: and if God saw fit to indulge the liberty, those that shall oppose it, must certainly think they do not only partake, but have transplanted in­fallibility from God to themselves.

11. BUT secondly, 'tis not generally true, that Sects, Schisms, and Heresies are owing to this liberty; All Ecclesiastical Story shews us that they were not the illiterat Lay-men, but the learned Clarks who were usually the broachers of Heresies. And indeed many of [Page 132] them were so subtil and aerial, as could never have bin forg'd in grosser brains; but were founded not on Scripture merely mistaken. but rackt and distorted with nice criticisms, and quirks of Logic, as several of the An­cients complain: som again sprang from that ambition of attaining, or impatience of missing Ecclesiastical dignities: which appro­priates them to the Clergy. So that if the a­buse infer a forfeiture of the use, the Learned have of all others the least title to the Scri­ptures; and perhaps those who now ingross them, the least title of all the Learned.

12. ON the other side, Church-story in­deed mentions som lay-propugners of Here­sies; but those for the most part were either so gross and bestial; as disparag'd and confuted themselves and Authors, and rose rather from the brutish inclination of the men, then from their mistakes of Scripture: or else they were by the immediat infusion of the devil, who backt his heretical suggestions with sor­ceries and lying wonders, as in Simon Magus, Menander, &c. And for later times, tho som­times there happens among the vulgar a few pragmatic spirits, that love to tamper with the obscurest Texts, and will undertake to expound before they understand; yet that is not their common temper: the generality are rather in the other extreme, stupid and unobservant even of the plainest doctrins. [Page 133] And if to this be objected the multitude of Quakers and Fanatics, who generally are of the ignorant sort; I answer, that 'tis mani­fest the first propugners of those tenets in Germany were not seduc'd into them by mis­takes of Scripture, but industriously form'd them, at once to disguise and promote their villainous designs of sedition and rapine: and as for those amongst us, it is not at all certain that their first errrors were their own productions: there are vehement presum­tions that the seeds were sown by greater Ar­tificers; whose first business was to unhinge them from the Church, and then to fill their heads with strange Chimera's of their privi­leges and perfections; and by that intoxica­tion of spiritual pride, dispose them for all de­lusions: and thereby render them, like Sam­sons Foxes, fit instruments to set all in combu­stion.

13. BUT admit this were but a conjecture, and that they were the sole Authors of their own frenzy; how appears it that the liberty of reading the Scripture was the cause of it? Had these men bin of the Romish commu­nion, and so bin interdicted privat reading, yet som broken parts of Scripture would have bin in Sermons and Books of devotion com­municated to them; had it not bin as possible for them to have wrested what they heard as what they read? In one respect it seems ra­ther [Page 134] more likely: for in those loose and inci­dental quotations the connexion is som­times not so discernable: and many Texts there are whose sense is so interwoven with the context, that without consulting that, there may be very pernicious mistakes: on which account it is probably more safe that the Auditor should have Bibles to consult. So that this restraint of Scripture is a very fal­lible expedient of the infallible Church. And indeed themselves have in event found it so: for if it were so soveraign a prophylactic a­gainst error, how comes it to pass that so ma­ny of their members who were under that dis­cipline have revolted from them into that which they call heresy? If they say, the defection was made by som of the Learned to whom the Scripture was allow'd, why do they not (according to their way of arguing) take it from them also upon that experiment of its mischief, and confine it only to the infal­lible chair? but if they own them to have bin unlearn'd (as probably the Albigenses and Waldenses, &c. were) they may see how in­significant a guard this restraint is against error: and learn how little is got by that policy which controles the divine Wisdom.

14 NOR can they take shelter in the ex­ample of the primitive Christians: for they in the constant use of the holy Scriptures yiel­ded not unto the Jews. Whereas the Jews had [Page 135] the Scriptures read publicly to them every Sabbath day; which Josephus against Appion thus expresses: Moses propounded to the Jews the most excellent and necessary learning of the Law; not by hearing it once or twice, but every se­venth day laying aside their works, he commanded them to assemble for the hearing of the Law, and throughly and exactly to learn it. Parallel to this was the practice of the primitive Church, per­form'd by the Lector, or Reader, of which Ju­stin Martyr in his 2. Apol. gives this account. On the day call'd Sunday, all that abide in towns or the countries about, meet in one place, and the writings of the Apostles and Prophets are read, so far as there is place. So Tertullian in his A­pol. describing the offices in the public Assem­blies: We feed our faith with the sacred Words, we raise our hopes, and establish our reliance.

15. AND as the Jews thought it indecent for persons professing piety, to let three daies pass without the offices thereof in the con­gregation; and therefore met in their Syna­gogues upon every Tuesday and Thursday in the week, and there perform'd the duties of fasting, praier, and hearing the holy Scri­ptures; concerning which is the boast of the Pharisee, Luk. 18. 12. in conformity here­to the Christians also, their Sabbath being brought forward from the Saturday to the day following; that the like number of daies might not pass them without performing the [Page 136] aforesaid duties in the congregation; met together on the Wednesdaies and Fridaies, which were the daies of Station, so frequently mention'd in Tertullian, and others, the first writers of the Church. Tertullian expresly saies▪ that the Christians dedicated to the offices of Piety, the fourth and sixth day of the week: and Clemens Alex. saies of the Christians, that they understood the secret reasons of their weekly fasts, to wit, those of the fourth day of the week and that of preparation before the Sabbath; commonly call'd Wednesday and Friday. Where, by the way, we may take notice what ground there is for the observation of the Wednes­day and Friday in our Church, and the Lita­nies then appointed, so much neglected in this profligate Age.

16. BUT secondly, as the Jews were dili­gent in the privat reading of the Scripture; being taught it from their infancy which custom Saint Paul refers to 1 Tim. 3. 15. whereof Josephus against Appion saies, That if a man ask any Jew concerning the Laws, he will tell every thing readier then his name: for learning them from the first time they have sense of any thing, they retain them imprinted in their minds. So were the first Christians equally industrious in improving their knowledg of divine Truth. The whole life of a Christian, saies Clem. Alex. Strom. l. 7. is a holy solemnity, there his sacrifices are praiers and praises, be­fore [Page 137] every meal he has the readings of the holy Scriptures; and Psalms, and Hymns at the time of his meals. Which Tertullian also describes in his Apol. and Saint Cyprian in the end of the Epist. to Donatus.

17. AND this is farther evidenc'd by the early and numerous versions of the Scriptures into all vulgar Languages; concerning which Theodoret speaks in his Book of the Cure of the Affections of the Greeks, Serm. 5. We Christians (sais he) are enabled to shew the power of Apostolic and prophetic doctrins, which h [...]ve fill'd all Countries under Heaven. For that which was formerly utter'd in Hebrew, is not only translated into the Language of the Gre­cians, but also the Romans, Egyptians, Persians, Indians, Armenians, Scythians, Samaritans; and in a word to all the Languages that are us'd by any Nation. The same is said by Saint Chry­sostom in his first Homily upon Saint Iohn.

18. NOR was this don by the blind zeal of inconsiderable men, but the most eminent Doctors of the Church were concern'd herein: such as Origen, who with infinit labor contriv'd the Hexapla. Saint Chrysostom, who transla­ted the New Testament, Psalms, and som part of the Old Testament into the Armeni­an Tongue as witnesses Geor. Alex. in the life of Chrysost. So Vlphilas the first Bishop of the Goths translated the holy Scripture into the Gothic; as Socrat. Eccl. Hist l. 4. cap. 33. [Page 138] and others testify. Saint Jerom, who trans­lated them not only into Latin from the He­brew, the Old Italic version having bin from the Greek; but also into his native vulgar Dalmatic: which he saies himself in his Epi­stle to Sophronius.

19. BUT the peoples having them for their privat and constant use, appears farther by the Heathens making the extorting of them a part of their persecution: and when diverse did faint in that trial, and basely surrender'd them, we find the Church level'd her severity only against the offending per­sons, did not (according to the Romish e­quity) punish the innocent, by depriving them of that sacred Book, because the others had so unworthily prostituted it (tho the pre­vention of such a profanation for the future had bin as fair a plea for it as the Romanists do now make:) but on the contrary the pri­mitive Fathers are frequent, nay indeed im­portunat in their exhortations to the privat study of holy Scripture, which they recom­mend to Christians of all Ranks, Ages, and Sexes.

20. AS an instance hereof let us hear Cle­mens of Alex. in his Exhort. The Word, saies he, is not hid from any, it is a common light that shineth to all men; there is no obscurity in it; hear it you that be far off, and hear it you that are nigh.

[Page 139] 21. To this purpose St. Jerom speaks in his Epistle to Leta, whom he directs in the edu­cation of her young daughter, and advises, th [...]t instead of gems and silk, she be enamour'd with the holy Scripture; wherein not gold, or skins, or Babylonian embroideries, but a cor­rect and beautiful variety producing faith, will recommend its self. Let her first learn the Psal­ter, and be entertain'd with those songs; then be instructed unto life by the Proverbs of Solo­mon: let her learn from Ecclesiastes to despise worldly things; transcribe from Job the pra­ctice of patience and vertue: let her pass then to the Gospels, and never let them be out of her bands: and then imbibe with all the faculties of the mind, the Acts of the Apostles, and Epistles. When she has enrich'd the store-house of her breast with these tresures, let her learn the Pro­phets, the Heptateuch, or books of Moses, Jo­shua and Judges, the books of Kings and Chro­nicles, the volumes of Ezra and Esther, and lastly the Canticles. And indeed, this Father is so concern'd to have the unletter'd semale sex skilful in the Scriptures, that tho he sharp­ly rebukes their pride and over-wening; he not only frequently resolves their doubts concerning difficult places in the said Scri­ptures, but dedicates several of his Commen­taries to them.

22. THE same is to be said of Saint Au­stin, who in his Epistles to unletter'd Laics, en­courages [Page 140] their enquiries concerning the Scri­pture, assuring Volusianus Ep. 3. that it speaks those things that are plain to the heart of the learned and unlearned, as a familiar friend; in the mysterious, mounts not up into high phrases which might deter a slow and unlearned mind, (as the poor are in their addresses to the rich;) but invites all with lowly speech, feeding with manifest truth, and exercising with secret. And Ep. 1. 21. tells the devout Proba, that in this world, where we are absent from the Lord, and walk by faith and not by sight, the soul is to think it self desolate, and never cease from praier, and the words of divine and holy Scri­pture, &c.

23. SAINT Chrysostom in his third Homi­ly of Lazarus thus addresses himself to mar­ried persons, house-holders, and people enga'd in trades and secular professions; telling them, that the reading of the Scripture is a great de­fensative against siu; and on the other side, the ignorance thereof is a deep and head-long pre­cipice; that not to know the Law of God, is the utter loss of salvation; that this has caus'd he­resies, and corruption of life, and has confounded the order of things: for it cannot be by any means, that his labor should be fruitless, who emploies himself in a daily and attentive read­ing of the Scripture.

24. I am not, saies the same St. Chry. Hom. 9. on Colos. 3. a Monk, I have wise and children, [Page 141] and the cares of a family. But 'tis a destructive opinion, that the reading of the Scripture per­tains only to those who have addicted themselves to a monastic life; when the reading of Scripture is much more necessary for secular persons; for they who converse abroad, and receive frequent wounds, are in greatest need of remedies and preservatives. So Hom. 2. on Mat. Hearken all you that are secular, how you ought to order your wives and children; and how you are particularly enjoin'd to read the Scriptures, and that not per­functorily, or by chance, but very diligently.

25. LIKEWISE Hom. 3. on Laz. What saiest thou, O man? it is not thy business to turn over the Scripture, being distracted by innume­rable cares; no, thou hast therefore the greater obligation: others do not so much stand in need of the aids of the Scripture, as they who are con­versant in much business. Farther, Hom. 8. on Heb. 5. I beseech you neglect not the reading of the Scriptures; but whether we comprehend the meaning of what is spoken or not, let us alwaies be conversant in them: for daily meditation strengtheus the memory; and it frequently hap­pens, that what you now cannot find out, if you attemt it again▪ you will the next day discover: for God of his goodness will enlighten the mind. It were endless to transcribe all the Exhorta­tions of the ancient Doctors and Fathers of the Church; they not only permitted, but ear­nestly prest upon all Christians, whatever their [Page 142] estate or condition were, the constant read­ing of the holy Scripture. Nor indeed was their restraint ever heard of till the Church of Rome had espous'd such doctrins as would not bear the test of Scripture; and then as those who deal in false wares are us'd to do, they found it necessary to proportion their lights accordingly.

26. THIS Peter Sutor in his second Book cap. 22. of the Translation of the Scripture honestly confesses, saying, that whereas many things are enjoin'd which are not expresly in Scri­pture, the unlearned observing this, will be apt to murmur and complain that so heavy burthens are laid upon them, and their Christian liberty infring'd. They will easily be with-drawn from observing the Constitutions of the Church, when they find that they are not contain'd in the Law of Christ. And that this was not a frivo­lous suggestion, the desperat attemt of the Romanists above mention'd, in leaving out the second Commandment in their Primers and Catechisms which they communicate to the people, may pass for an irrefragable evi­dence; For what Lay-man would not be shockt, to find Almighty God command, not to make any graven image, nor the likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or in the earth be­neath, or in the water under the earth; that no one should bow down to them, nor worship them: when he sees the contrary is practic'd and comman­ded by the Church.

[Page 143] 27. BUT would God none but the Ro­manist were impeachable of this detention of Scripture: there are too many among us that are thus false and envious to themselves: and what the former do upon policy and pre­tence of reverence, those do upon mere osci­tancy and avow'd profaness; which are much worse inducements. And for such as these to declaim against detention of the Scripture, is like the Law-suits of those who contend only about such little punctilio's as themselves design no advantage from, but on­ly the worsting their adversaries: and it would be much safer for them to lie under the interdict of others, then thus to restrain themselves: even as much as the errors of obedience are more excusable, then those of contemt and profaness.

28. AND here I would have it seriously consider'd that the Edict of Diocletian for the demolishing the Christian Churches, and the burning their Bibles; became the cha­racter and particular aggravation of his most bloudy persecution. Now should Almighty God call us to the like trial, should Antichri­stian violence, whether heathen or other, take from us our Churches and our Bibles, what comfort could we have in that calamity, if our contemt of those blessing drove them from us; nay, prevented perfecution, and be­reft us of them even whilst we had them in [Page 144] our power? He who neglects to make his constant resort unto the Church, which by Gods mercy now stands open; or to read di­ligently the holy Scriptures, which by the same divine Goodness are free for him to use, in his own Diocletian; and without the ter­rors of death, or torments, has renounc'd, i [...] not the Faith, the great instruments of its conveiance, and pledg of God Almighties presence among the sons of men.

29. BUT what if men either upon the one motive or the other, will not read; yet the Scriptures continue still most worthy to be read: they retain still their propriety for all those excellent ends to which God de­sign'd them: and as the Prophet tells the Jews, Ez. 2. 5. whether they will hear, or whe­ther they will forbear, they shall know there has bin a Prophet among them; so whether we will take the benefit or no, we shall one day find that the holy Scriptures would have made us wise unto salvation. If thro our fault alone they fail to do so, they will one day assume a less grateful office; and from guides and assistants, become accusers and witnesses against us.

SECT. V. The Scripture has great propriety and fit­ness toward the attainment of its excellent end.

WE are now in the next place to consi­der how exactly the holy Scriptures are adapted to those great ends to which they are directed: how sufficient they are for that important negotiation on which they are sent: and that we shall certainly find them,. if we look on them either intrinsecally, or circumstantially. For the first of these no­tions we need only to reflect on the third Part of this discourse, where the Scripture in respect of the subject Matter is evinc'd to be a system of the most excellent Laws, backt with the most transcendent rewards and pu­nishments; and the certainty of those con­firm'd by such pregnant instances of Gods mercies and vengeance in this world, as are the surest gages and earnests of what we are bid to expect in another.

2 NOW what method imaginable can there be used to rational creatures of more sorce and energy? Nay it seems to descend [Page 146] even to our passions and accommodates it self to our several inclinations. And seeing how few Proselytes there are to bare and naked vertue, and how many to interest and advantage; God closes with them upon their own terms, and do's not so much injoin as buy those little services he asks from us.

3. BUT because som mens natures are so disingenuous as to hate to be oblig'd no less then to be reform'd, the Scripture has goads and scourges to drive such beasts as will not be led; terrors and threatnings, and those of most formidable sorts, to affright those who will not be allur'd. Nay lest incredulous men should question the reality of future re­wards or punishments, the Scripture gives as sensible evidence of them as we are capable of receiving in this world; by registring such signal protections and judgments propor­tion'd to vertue and vice, as sufficiently at­tests the Psalmists Axiom: Doubtless there is a God that judgeth the earth, Psal. 58. 11. and leaves nothing to the impenitent sinner, but a fearful expectation of that fiery indignation threatned hereafter; Heb. 10. 27.

4. AND now methinks the Scripture seems to be that net our Savior speaks of, that caught of every sort, Mat. 13. 47. it is of so vast a compass, that it must, one would think, fetch in all kind of tempers: and sure had we not mixt natures with fiends, contracted som of [Page 147] their malice and obstinacy, mere human pravity could not hold out.

5. AND as the holy Scripture is thus fitly proportion'd to its end in respect of the sub­ject matter, so is it also in reference to its cir­cumstances, which all conspire to render it, the power of God unto salvation, Ro. 1. 16. In the first rank of those we must place its divine original, which stamps it with an uncon­troulable autority; and is an infallible secu­rity that the matter of it is perfectly true: since it proceeds from that essential verity which cannot abuse us with fraudulent pro­mises or threatnings: and from that infinite power that cannot be impeded in the execu­tion of what he purposes.

6. YET to render this circumstance effi­cacious there needs another; to wit, that its being the word of God be sufficiently te­stifi'd to us: and we have in the fore-going dis­course evinced it to be so; and that in the utmost degree that a matter of that kind is capable of, beyond which no sober man will require evidence in any thing. And certain­ly these two circumstances thus united, have a mighty force to impress the dictats of Scri­pture on us. And we must rebel against God and our own convictions too, to hold out against it.

7. A third circumstance relates to the frame and composure of this divine Book, [Page 148] both as to method, and stile: concerning which I have already made som reflexions. But now that I may speak more distinctly, I observe it takes its rise from the first point of time wherein 'twas possible for mankind to be concern'd; and so gradually proceeds to its fall and renovation: shews us first our need of a Redeemer, and then points us out who it is by types and promises in the Old Testament, and by way of history and com­pletion in the New. In the former it ac­quaints us with that pedagogy of the Law which God design'd as our Schole-master to bring us to Christ, Gal. 3. 25. and in the Gos­pel shews us yet a more excellent way; pre­sents us with those more sublime elevated do­ctrins, which Christ came down from heaven to revele.

8. As for the stile, that is full of grateful variety, somtimes high and majestic, as becomes that high and holy one that inhabi­teth eternity, Esai. 57. 15 and somtimes so humble and after the manner of men, as agrees to the other part of his Characters▪ his dwelling is with him that is of an humble spirit▪ Esay 57. 15. I know profane wits are apt to brand this as an unevenness of stile: but they may as well accuse the various notes of Music as destructive to harmony, or blame an Orator for being able to tune his tongue to the most different strains.

[Page 149] 9. ANOTHER excellency of the stile, is its propriety to the several subjects it treats of. When it speaks of such things as God would not have men pry into, it wraps them up in clouds and thick darkness; by that means to deter inquisitive man (as he did at Sinai) from breaking into the mount, Ex. 20. And that he gives any intimation at all of such, seems design'd only to give us a just estimate how shallow our comprehensions are; and excite us to adore and admire that Abyss of divine Wisdom which we can never sa­thom.

10. THINGS of a middle nature, which may be useful to som, but are not indispensibly necessary to all, the Scripture leaves more ac­cessible; yet not so obvious as to be within every mans reach: but makes them only the prize of industry, praier, and humble ende­vors. And it is no small benefit, that those who covet the knowledg of divine Truth, are by it engag'd to take these vertues in the way. Besides there is so much time requir'd to that study, as renders it inconsistent with those secular businesses wherein the genera­lity of men are immerst: and consequently tis necessary that those who addict them­selves to the one, have competent vacancy from the other: And in this it hath a visible use by being very contributive to the main­taining that spiritual subordination of the [Page 150] people to the Pastors; which God has esta­blish'd. Miriam and Corahs Partisans are a pregnant instance how much the opinion of equal knowledg unfits for subjection: and we see by sad experience how much the bare pretence of it has disturb'd the Church, and made those turn preachers who never were understanding hearers.

11. BUT besides these more abstruse, there are easier truths in which every man is con­cern'd; the explicit knowledg whereof is ne­cessary to all; I mean the divine Rules for saving Faith and Manners. And in those the Scripture stile is as plain as is possible: con­descends to the apprehensions of the rudest capacities: so that none that can read the Scripture but will there find the way to bliss evidently chalk'd out to him. That I may use the words of Saint Gregory, the Lamb may wade in those waters of life, as well as the E­lephant may swim. The Holy Ghost, as St. Au­stin tells us, lib. 2. of Christian doctrin, chap. 6. has made in the plainer places of Scripture ma­gnificent and healthful provision for our hunger; and in the obscure, against satiety. For there are scarce any things drawn from obscure places, which in others are not spoken most plainly And he farther adds, that if any thing happen to be no where explain'd, every man may there abound in his sense.

12. So again, in the same Book, cap. 9. [Page 151] he saies, that all those things which concern Faith and Manners, are plainly to be met with in the Scripture: and Saint Jerom in his Com­ment on Es. 19. tells us, that 'tis the custom of the Scripture to close obscure sayings with those that are easy; and what was first exprest dark­ly, to propose in evident words: which very thing is said likewise by Saint Chrysostom, Hom. 9. 2 Cor. 4. 11. who in his first homily on Saint Mat. farther declares, that the Scri­ptures are easy to be understood, and expos'd to vulgar capacities.

13. He saies again, Hom. upon Esay, that the Scriptures are not mettals that require the help of Miners, but afford a tresure easily to be had to them that seek the riches contain'd in them. It is enough only to stoop down, and look upon them, and depart replenish'd with wealth; it is enough only to open them, and behold the splendor of those Gems. Again, Hom. 3. on the second Ep. to the Thess. 2. All things are evi­dent and strait, which are in the holy Scripture; whatever is necessary is manifest. So also Hom. 3. on Gen. 14. It cannot be that he who is stu­dious in the holy Scripture should be rejected: for tho the instruction of men be wanting, the Lord from above will inlighten our minds, shine in upon our reason, revele what is secret, and teach what we do not know. So Hom. 1. on Jo. 11. Almighty God involves his doctrin with no mists, and darkness, as did the Philosophers: his do­ctrin [Page 152] is brighter then the Sun-beams, and more illustrious; and therefore every where diffus'd: and Hom. 6. on Jo. 11. His doctrin is so facile, that not only the wise, but even women, and youths must comprehend it. Hom. 13. on Gen. 2. Let us go to the Scripture as our Mark, which is its own interpreter. And soon after saies, that the Scripture interprets it self, and suffers not its Auditor to err. To the same purpose saies Cyril in his third Book against Julian. In the Scripture nothing is difficult to them, who are conversant in them as they ought to be.

14. IT is therefore a groundless cavil which men make at the obscurity of the Scripture; since it is not obscure in those things where­in 'tis our common interest it should be plain: which sufficiently justifies its propriety to that great end of making us wise unto salvation. And for those things which seem less intel­ligible to us, many of them become so, not by the innate obscurity of the Text, but by ex­trinsic circumstances (of which perhaps the over-busy tampering of Paraphrasts, pleased with new notions of their own, may be reckon'd for one.) But this subject the Reader may find so well pursued in Mr. Boyls Tract concerning the stile of Scripture, that I shall be kindest both to him and it to refer him thither; as also for answer to those other que­rulous objections which men galled with the sense of the Scripture, have made to its stile.

[Page 153] 15. A third circumstance in which the Scripture is fitted to attain its end, is its being committed to writing, as that is distinguish'd from oral delivery. It is most true, the word of God is of equal autority and efficacy which way soever it be deliver'd: The Ser­mons of the Apostles were every jot as divine and powerful out of their mouths, as they are now in their story. All the advantage there­fore that the written Word can pretend to, is in order to its perpetuity, as it is a securer way of derivation to posterity, then that of oral Tradition. To evince that it is so, I shall first weigh the rational probabilities on either side. Secondly, I shall consider to which God himself appears in Scripture to give the deference.

16. FOR the first of these, I shall propose this consideration, which I had occasion to intimate before, that the Bible being writ for the universal use of the faithful, 'twas as universally disperst amongst them: The Jews had the Law not only in their Synagogues, but in their privat houses, and as soon as the Evangelical Books were writ, they were scat­ter'd into all places where the Christian Faith had obtain'd. Now when there was such a vast multitude of copies, and those so revered by the possessors, that they thought it the highest pitch of sacrilege to expose them, it must surely be next to impossible, entirely to [Page 154] suppress that Book. Besides, it could never be attemted but by som eminent violence as it was by the heathen Persecutors; which (ac­cording to the common effect of opposition) serv'd to enhance the Christians value of the Bible; and consequently when the storm was past, to excite their diligence for recruiting the number. So that, unless in after Ages, all the Christians in the world should at once make a voluntary defection, and conspire to eradicate their Religion, the Scripture could not be utterly extinguish'd.

17. AND that which secures it from total suppression, do's in a great degree do so from corruption and falsification. For whilst so many genuine copies are extant in all parts of the world, to be appeal'd to, it would be a very difficult matter to impose a spurious one; especially if the change were so material as to awaken mens jealousies. And it must be only in a place and age of gross ignorance, that any can be daring enough to attemt it. And if it should happen to succeed in such a particular Church, yet what is that to the uni­versal? And to think to have the forgery ad­mitted there, is (as a learned man saies) like attemting to poison the sea.

18. ON the other side, oral Tradition seems much more liable to hazards, error may there insinuate it self much more insen­sibly. And tho there be no universal conspi­racy [Page 155] to admit it at first; yet like a small eruption of waters, it widens its own passage, till it cause an inundation. There is no im­pression so deep, but time and intervening accidents may wear out of mens minds; e­specially where the notions are many and are founded not in nature, but positive insti­tution, as a great part of Christian Religion is. And when we consider the various tem­pers of men, 'twill not be strange that suc­ceeding Ages will not alwaies be determin'd by the Traditions of the former. Som are pragmatic, and think themselves fitter to prescribe to the belief of their posterity, then to follow that of their Ancestors: som have interest and designs which will be better ser­v'd by new Tenets: and som are ignorant and mistaking, and may unawares corrupt the doctrin they should barely deliver: and of this last sort we may guess there may be many, since it falls commonly to the mo­thers lot to imbue children with the first ru­diments.

19. NOW in all these cases how possible is it that primitive Tradition may be either lost or adulterated? and consequently, and in proportion to that possibility, our confi­dence of it must be stagger'd. I am sure ac­cording to the common estimate in seculars it must be so. For I appeal to any man whe­ther he be not apter to credit a relation which [Page 156] comes from an eie-witness then at the third or fourth, much more at the hundredth re­bound: (as in this case.) And daily experi­ence tells us; that a true and probable story by passing thro many hands, often grows to an improbable lie. This man thinks he could add one becoming circumstance; that man another: and whilst most men take the liberty to do so, the relation grows as mon­strous as such a heap of incoherent phancies can make it.

20. IF to this it be said that this happens only in trivial secular matters, but that in the weighty concern of Religion mankind is cer­tainly more serious and sincere: I answer that 'tis very improbable that they are; since 'tis obvious in the common practice of the world, that the interests of Religion are postpon'd to every little worldly concern. And there­fore when a temporal advantage requires the bending and warping of Religion, there will never be wanting som that will attemt it.

21. BESIDES, there is still left in human nature so much of the venom of the Serpents first temtation, that tho men cannot be as God, yet they love to be prescribing to him, and to be their own Assessors as to that worship and homage they are to pay him.

22. BUT above all 'tis considerable that [Page 157] in this case Sathan has a more peculiar con­cern, and can serve himself more by a falsi­fication here then in temporal affairs. For if he can but corrupt Religion, it ceases to be his enemy, and becomes one of his most useful engins, as sufficiently appear'd in the rites of the heathen worship. We have therefore no cause to think this an exemt case; but to presume it may be influenc'd by the same pravity of human nature, which prevailes in others; and consequently are oblig'd to bless God that he has not left our spiritual concerns to such hazards, but has lodg'd them in a more secure repository, the written Word.

23. BUT I fore-see 'twill be objected, that whilst I thus disparage Tradition, I do vertu­ally invalidate the Scripture it self, which comes to us upon its credit. To this I answer first that since God has with-drawn immedi­ate revelation from the world▪ Tradition is the only means to convey to us the first no­tice that this Book is the word of God: and it being the only means he affords, we have all reason to depend on his goodness, that he will not suffer that to be evacuated to us: and that how liable soever Tradition may be to err, yet that it shall not actually err in this particular.

24. BUT in the second place; This Tra­dition seems not so liable to falsification as o­thers: [Page 158] It is so very short and simple a propo­sition; such and such writings are the word of God, that there is no great room for So­phistry or mistake to pervert the sense; the only possible deception must be to change the subject, and obtrude suppositious writings in room of the true, under the title of the word of God. But this has already appear'd to be unpracticable, because of the multitude of copies which were disperst in the world; by which such an attemt would soon have bin de­tected. There appears therefore more reason as well as more necessity, to rely upon Tradi­tion in this, then in most other particulars.

25. NEITHER yet do I so farr decry oral Tradition in any, as to conclude it im­possible it should derive any truth to posterity: I only look on it as more casual; and conse­quently a less fit conveiance of the most im­portant and necessary verities then the wri­ten Word: In which I conceive my self justi­fi'd by the common sense of mankind; who use to commit those things to writing, which they are most solicitous to derive to posterity. Do's any Nation trust their fundamental Laws only to the memory of the present Age, and take no other course to transmit them to the future? do's any man purchase an e­state, and leave no way for his children to lay claim to it, but the Tradition the present witnesses shall leave of it? Nay do's any con­sidering [Page 159] man ordinarily make any important pact or bargain (tho without relation to poste­rity) without putting the Articles in writing? And whence is all this caution but from a uni­versal consent that writing is the surest way of transmitting?

26. BUT we have yet a higher appeal in this matter then to the suffrage of men: God himself seems to have determin'd it; And what his decision is, 'tis our next business to in­quire.

27. AND first he has given the most real and comprehensive attestation to this way of writing, by having himself chose it. For he is too wise to be mistaken in his estimate of better and worse, and too kind to chuse the worst for us: and yet he has chosen to com­municate himself to the latter Ages of the world by writing; and has summ'd up all the Eternal concerns of mankind in the sacred Scriptures, and left those sacred Records by which we are to be both inform'd and go­vern'd; which if oral Tradition would infal­libly have don, had bin utterly needless: and God sure is not so prodigal of his spirit, as to inspire the Authors of Scripture to write that, whose use was superseded by a former more certain expedient.

28. NAY, under the Mosaic oeconomy, when he made use of other waies of reveling himself, yet to perpetuate the memory even [Page 160] of those Revelations, he chose to have them written. At the delivery of the Law, God spake then viva voce, and with that pomp of dreadful solemnity, as certainly was apt to make the deepest impressions; yet God fore-saw that thro every succeeding Age that stamp would grow more dim, and in a long revolution might at last be extinct. And therefore how warm soever the Israelites ap­prehensions then were, he would not trust to them for the perpetuating his Law, but committed it to writing; Ex. 13. 18. nay wrote it twice himself.

29. YET farther even the ceremonial Law, tho not intended to be of perpetual ob­ligation, was not yet referr'd to the traditio­nary way, but was wrote by Moses, and deposi­ted with the Priests, Deut. 31. 9. And after­event shew'd this was no needless caution. For when under Manasses, Idolatry had pre­vail'd in Jerusalem, it was not by any dor­mant Tradition, but by the Book of the Law found in the Temple, that Josiah was both excited to reform Religion, and instructed how to do it; 2 Kings 22. 10. And had not that or som other copy bin produc'd, they had bin much in the dark as to the particulars of their reformation; which that they had not bin convei'd by Tradition, appears by the sudden startling of the King upon the rea­ding of the Law; which could not have bin. [Page 161] had he bin before possest with the contents of it. In like manner we find in Nehemiah, that the observation of the Feast of Taber­nacles was recover'd by consulting the Law; the Tradition whereof was wholly worn out; or else it had sure bin impossible that id could for so long a time have bin intermitted, Neh. 8. 18. And yet mens memories are common­ly more retentive of an external visible rite, then they are of speculative Propositions, or moral Precepts.

30. THESE instances shew how fallible an expedient mere oral Tradition is for trans­mission to posterity. But admit no such in­stance could be given, 'tis argument enough that God has by his own choice of writing, given the preference to it. Nor has he barely chosen it, but has made it the standard by which to mesure all succeeding pretences. 'Tis the means he prescribes for distinguish­ing divine from diabolical Inspirations: To the Law and to the Testimony: if they speak not according to this Word, there is no light in them, Isai. 8. 20. And when the Lawier interroga­ted our Savior what he should do to inherit eternal life, he sends him not to ransac Tra­dition, or the cabalistical divinity of the Rabbins, but refers him to the Law: What is written in the Law? how readest thou? Luk. 10. 26. And indeed, throout the Gospel, we still find him in his discourse appealing to [Page 162] Scripture, and asserting its autority: as on the other side inveighing against those Tra­ditions of the Elders which had evacuated the written Word: Ye make the Word of God of none effect by your Tradition, Mat. 15. 6. Which as it abundantly shews Christs adhe­rence to the written Word, so 'tis a pregnant instance how possible it is for Tradition to be corrupted, and made the instrument of im­posing mens phancies even in contradiction to Gods commands.

31. AND since our blessed Lord has made Scripture the test whereby to try Traditions, we may surely acquiesce in his decision, and either embrace or reject Traditions, accor­ding as they correspond to the supreme rule, the written Word. It must therefore be a ve­ry unwarrantable attemt to set up Tradition in competition with (much more in contra­diction to) that to which Christ himself hath subjected it.

32. Saint Paul reckons it as the principal privilege of the Jewish Church, that it had the Oracles of God committed to it; i. e. that the holy Scriptures were deposited, and put in its custody: and in this the Christian Church succeeds it, and is the guardian and conservator of holy Writ. I ask then, had the Jewish Church by vertue of its being keeper, a power to supersede any part of those Ora­cles intrusted to them? if so, Saint Paul was [Page 163] much out in his estimate, and ought to have reckon'd that as their highest privilege. But indeed, the very nature of the trust implies the contrary; and besides, 'tis evident, that is the very crime Christ charges upon the Jews in the place above cited. And if the Jewish Church had no such right, upon what account can the Christian claim any? Has Christ enlarg'd its Charter? has he left the sacred Scriptures with her, not to preserve and practice, but to regulate and reform? to fill up its vacancies, and supply its defects by her own Traditions? if so, let the commis­sion be produc'd; but if her office be only that of guardianship and trust, she must nei­ther substract from, nor by any superaddi­tions of her own evacuate its meaning and efficacy: and to do so, would be the same guilt that it would be in a person intrusted with the fundamental Records of a Nation, to foist in fuch clauses as himself pleases.

33 IN short, God has in the Scriptures laid down exact rules for our belief and pra­ctice, and has entrusted the Church to convey them to us: if she vary, or any way enervate them, she is false to that trust, but cannot by it oblige us to recede from that rule she should deliver, to comply with that she obtrudes up­on us. The case may be illustrated by an easy resemblance. Suppose a King have a forreign principality for which he composes [Page 164] a body of Laws; annexes to them rewards and penalties, and requires an exact and in­dispensable conformity to them. These be­ing put in writing, he sends by a select mes­senger: now suppose this messenger deliver them, yet saies withall, that himself has auto­rity from the King to supersede these Laws at his plesure; so that their last resort must be to his dictats, yet produces no other testimony but his own bare affirmation. Is it possible that any men in their wits should be so stu­pidly credulous, as to incur the penalty of those Laws upon so improbable an indemni­ty? And sure it would be no whit less mad­ness in Christians, to violate any precept of God, on an ungrounded supposal of the Churches power to dispense with them.

34. AND if the Church universal have not this power, nor indeed ever claim'd it, it must be a strange insolence for any particular Church to pretend to it, as the Church of Rome do's; as if we should owe to her Tra­dition all our Scripture, and all our Faith; insomuch that without the supplies which she affords from the Oracle of her Chair, our Re­ligion were imperfect, and our salvation in­secure. Upon which wild dictates I shall take liberty in a distinct Section, farther to anim­advert.

SECT. VI. The suffrage of the primitive Christian Church, concerning the propriety and fit­ness which the Scripture has towards the attainment of its excellent end.

AGAINST what has bin hitherto said to the advantage of the holy Scripture, there opposes it self (as we have already in­timated) the autority of the Church of Rome; which allows it to be only an imperfect rule of Faith, saying in the fourth Session of the Council of Trent, that Christian faith and dis­cipline, are contain'd in the Books written, and unwritten Tradition. And in the fourth rule of the Index put forth by command of the said Council, the Scripture is declar'd to be so far from useful, that its reading is pernicious if permitted promiscuously in the vulgar Tongue, and therefore to be with­held: insomuch that the study of the holy Bible is commonly by persons of the Roman Communion, imputed to Protestants as part of their heresy; they being call'd by them in contemt the Evangelical men, and Scriptu­rarians. And the Bible in the vulgar Tongue of any Nation, is commonly reckon'd among prohibited Books, and as such, publicly burnt [Page 166] when met with by the Inquisitors: and the person who is found with it, or to read there­in, is subjected to severe penalties.

2. FOR the vindication of the truth of God, and to put to shame those unhappy In­novators, who amidst great pretences to an­tiquity, and veneration to the Scriptures, pre­varicat from both: I think it may not be amiss, to shew plainly the mind of the primi­tive Church herein; and that in as few words as the matter will admit.

3. FIRST I premise that Ireneus and Ter­tullian having to do with Heretics, who boast­ed themselves to be emendators of the Apo­stles, and wiser then they; despising their au­tority, rejecting several parts of the Scripture, and obtruding other writings in their steed, have had recourse unto Tradition, with a seeming preference of it unto Scripture. Their adversaries having no common prin­ciple besides the owning the name of Chri­stians; it was impossible to convince them, but by a recourse to such a medium which they would allow. But these Fathers being to set down and establish their Faith, are most express in resolving it into Scripture: and when they recommend Tradition, ever mean such as is also Apostolical.

4. IRENEUS in the second Book, 47. c. tells us, that the Scriptures are perfect, as dicta­ted by the word of God and his spirit. And the [Page 167] same Father begins his third Book in this manner, The disposition of our salvation is no otherwise known by us, then by those by whom the Gospel was brought to us; which indeed they first preach'd, but afterward deliver'd it to us in the Scripture, to be the foundation and pillar of our Faith. Nor may we imagin, that they began to preach to others, before they themselves had perfect knowledg, as som are bold to say; boast­ing themselves to be emendators of the Apostles. For after our Lords Resurrection, they were in­dued with the power of the holy Spirit from on high; and having perfect knowledg, went forth to the ends of the earth, preaching the glad tidings of salvation, and celestial praise unto men. Each and all of whom had the Gospel of God. So Saint Matthew wrote the Gospel to the Hebrews, in their tongue. Saint Peter and Saint Paul preach'd at Rome, and there founded a Church: Mark the Disciple and interpreter of Peter, de­liver'd in writing what he had preach'd, and Luke the follower of Paul set down in his Book the Gospel he had deliver'd. Afterward Saint John at Ephesus in Asia publish'd his Gospel, &c. In his fourth Book, c. 66. he directs all the Heretics with whom he deals, to read di­ligently the Gospel deliver'd by the Apostles, and also read diligently the Prophets, assuring they shall there find every action, every doctrin, and every suffering of our Lord declared by them.

[Page 168] 5. THUS Tertullian in his Book of Pre­scriptions, c. 6. It is not lawful for us to intro­duce any thing of our own will, nor make any choice upon our arbitrement. We have the Apo­stles of our Lord for our Authors, who themselves took up nothing on their own will or choice; but faithfully imparted to the Nations the discipline which they had receiv'd from Christ. So that if an Angel from heaven should teach another do­ctrin, he were to be accurst. And. c. 25. 'Tis madness, saies he of the Heretics, when they confess that the Apostles were ignorant of no­thing, nor taught things different; to think that they did not revele all things to all: which he enforces in the following chapter. In his Book against Hermogenes, c. 23. he discourses thus; I adore the plenitude of the Scripture, which discovers to me the Creator, and what was created. Also in the Gospel I find the Word was the Arbiter and Agent in the Creation. That all things were made of preexistent matter I never read. Let Hermogenes, and his journy-men shew that it is written. If it be not written, let him fear the woe, which belongs to them thad add or detract. And in the 39. ch. of his Prescript. We feed our faith, raise our hope, and establish our reliance with the sacred Words.

6. IN like manner Hippolytus in the Ho­mily against Noetus declares, that we acknow­ledg only from Scripture that there is one God. And whereas secular Philosophy is not to be had, [Page 169] but from the reading of the doctrin of the Philo­sophers; so whosoever of us will preserve piety towards God, he cannot otherwise learn it then from the holy Scripture. Accordingly Origen in the fifth Homily on Leviticus, saies, in the Scripture every word appertaining to God, is to be sought and discust; and the knowledg of all things is to be receiv'd.

7. WHAT Saint Cyprian's opinion was in this point, we learn at large from his Epistle to Pompey. For when Tradition was object­ed to him, he answers; Whence is this Tradi­tion? is it from the autority of our Lord and his Gospel; or comes it from the commands of the Apostles in their Epistles? Almighty God declares that what is written should be obei'd and practic'd. The Book of the Law, saies he in Joshua, shall not depart from thy mouth, but thou shalt meditate in it day and night, that you may observe and keep all that is written therein. So our Lord sending his Apo­stles, commands them to baptize all Nations, and teach them to observe all things that he had commanded. Again, what obstinacy and pre­sumtion is it to prefer human Tradition to di­vine Command: not considering that Gods wrath is kindled as often as his Precepts are dissolv'd and neglected by reason of human Traditions. Thus God warns and speaks by Isaiah: This peo­ple honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; but in vain do they worship me, [Page 170] teaching for doctrins the commandments of men. Also the Lord in the Gospel checks and reproves, saying; you reject the Law of God, that you may establish your Tradition. Of which Precept the Apostle Saint Paul being mindful, admonishes and instructs, saying; If any man teaches other­wise, and hearkens not to sound doctrin, and the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, he is proud, know­ing nothing: From such we must depart. And again he adds, There is a compendious way for religious and sincere minds, both to deposit their errors, and find out the truth. For if we return to the source and original of divine Tradition, human error will cease, and the ground of hea­venly Mysteries being seen, what soever was hid with clouds and darkness, will be manifest by the light of truth. If a pipe that brought plen­tiful supplies of water, fail on the suddain, do not men look to the fountain, and thence learn the cause of the defect, whether the spring it self be dry; or if running freely, the water is stopt in its passage; that if by interrupted or broken conveiances, it was hindred to pass, they being repair'd, it may again be brought to the City, with the same plenty as it flows from the spring? And this Gods Priests ought to do at this time, obeying the commands of God, that if truth have swerv'd or fail'd in any particular, we go backward to the source of the Evangelical and Apostolical Tradition, and there found our actings; from whence their order and origation began.

[Page 171] 8. IT is true Bellarmine reproches this dis­course as erroneous; but whatever it might be in the inference which Saint Cyprian drew from it, in it self it was not so. For Saint Au­stin, tho sufficiently engag'd against Saint Cy­prian's conclusion, allows the position as most Orthodox; saying, in the fourth Book of Baptism, c. 35. Whereas he admonishes to go back to the fountain, that is, the Tradition of the Apostles, and thence bring the stream down to our times; 'tis most excellent, and without doubt to be don.

9. THUS Eusebius expresses himself in his second Book against Sabellius. As it is a point of sloth, not to seek into those things, whereof one may enquire; so 'tis insolence to be inquisitive in others. But what are those things which we ought to enquire into? Even those which are to be found in the Scriptures: those things which are not there to be found, let us not seek after. For if they ought to be known, the holy Ghost had not omitted them in the Scripture.

10. ATHANASIUS in his Tract of the Incar­nation, saies, It is fit for us to adhere to the word of God, and not relinquish it, thinking by syl­logisms to evade, what is there clearly deliver'd. Again in his Tract to Serap. of the holy Ghost; Ask not, saies he, concerning the Tri­nity, but learn only from the Scriptures. For the instructions which you will find there, are suffi­cient. And in his Oration against the Gen­tiles, [Page 172] declares, That the Scriptures are suffi­cient to the manifestation of the truth.

11. AGREEABLE to these is Optatus in his 5. Book against Parmen. who reasons thus, You say 'tis lawful to rebaptize, we say 'tis not lawful: betwixt your saying and our gain-say­ing the peoples minds are amus'd. Let no man believe either you or us. All men are apt to be contentious. Therefore Judges are to be call'd in. Christians they cannot be; for they will be parties; and thereby partial. Therefore a Judg is to be lookt out from abroad. If a Pagan, he knows not the mysteries of our Religion. If a Jew, he is an enemy to our baptism. There is therefore no earthly Judg; but one is to be sought from heaven. Yet there is no need of a resort to heaven, when we have in the Gospel a Testa­ment: and in this case, celestial things may be compar'd to earthly. So it is as with a Father who has many children; while he is present he orders them all, and there is no need of a written Will: Accordingly Christ when he was present upon earth, from time to time commanded the Apostles whatsoever was necessary. But as the earthly father finding himself to be at the point of death, and fearing that after his departure his children should quarrel among themselves, he calls witnesses, and puts his mind in writing; and if any difference arise among the brethren, they go not to their Fathers Sepulcher, but repair to his Will and Testament; and he who rests in his [Page 173] grave, speaks still in his writing, as if he were a­live. Our Lord who left his Will among us, is now in heaven, therefore let us seek his commands in the Gospel, as in his Will.

12. THUS Cyril of Ierus. Cat. 4. Nothing, no not the least concernment of the divine and holy Sacraments of our Faith, is to be deliver'd without the holy Scripture: believe not me un­less I give you a demonstration of what I say from the Scripture.

13. SAINT Basil in his Book of the true Faith saies, If God be faithful in all his sayings, his words, and works, they remaining for ever, and being don in truth and equity; it must be an evident sign of infidelity and pride, if any one shall reject what is written, and introduce what is not written. In which Books he generally declares that he will write nothing but what he receives from the holy Scripture: and that he abhors from taking it elsewhere. In his 29. Homily against the Antitrinit. Believe, saies he, those which are written; seek not those which are not written. And in his Eth. reg. 26. Every word and action ought to be confirm'd by the testimony of the divine [...]y inspir'd Scriptures to the establishment of the Faith of the good, and reproof of the wicked.

14. SAINT Ambrose in the first Book of his Offic. saies: How can we make use of any thing which is not to be found in Scripture? And in his Instit. of Virgins. I read he is the first, but [Page 174] read not he is the second; let them who say he is second, shew it from the reading.

15. GREG. Nyssen in his Dial. of the soul and resurrect. saies. 'Tis undeniable, that truth is there only to be plac'd, where there is the seal of Scripture Testimony.

16. SAINT Jerom against Helvidius de­clares. As we deny not that which is written, so we refuse those which are not written. And in his Comment on the 98. Ps. Every thing that we assert, we must shew from the holy Scripture. The word of him that speaks has not that auto­rity as Gods precept. And on the 87. Ps. What­ever is said after the Apostles, let it be cut off, nor have afterwards autority. The one be holy after the Apostles, the one be eloquent; yet has he not autority.

17. SAINT Austin in his Tract of the uni­ty of the Church, c. 12. acknowledges that he could not be convinc'd but by the Scriptures of what he was to believe; and adds they are read with such manifestation, that he who be­lieves them, must confess the doctrin to be most true. In the second Book of Christian do­ctrin, c. 9. he saies, that in the plain places of Scripture are found all those things that concern Faith and Manners. And in Epist. 42. All things which have bin exhibited heretofore as don to mankind, and what we now see and deli­ver to our posterity, the Scripture has not past them in silence, so far forth as they concern [Page 175] the search or defence of our Religion. In his [...]ract of the good of Widowhood, he saies to [...]ulian, the person to whom he addresses: What shall I teach you more then that we read in the Apostle: for the holy Scripture settlos the rule of our doctrin; that we think not any thing more then we ought to think; but to think so­ [...]erly, as God has dealt to every man the mesure of Faith. Therefore my teaching is only to ex­ [...]ound the words of this Doctor, Ep. 157. Where [...]ny subject is obscure, and passes our compre­ [...]ension, and the Scripture do's not plainly af­ford its help, there human conjecture is presum­ [...]ous in defining,

18. THEOPHILUS of Alex. in his second Paschal homily, tells us, that 'tis the suggestion of a diabolical spirit to think that any thing besides the Scripture has divine autority. And in his third he adds, that the Doctors of the Church having the Testimony of the Scripture, lay firm foundation of their doctrin.

19. CHRYSOSTOM in his third Homily on the first of the Thessal. asserts, that from the alone reading or hearing of the Scripture one may learn all things necessary. So Hom. 34. on Act. 15. he declares. A heathen comes and saies: I would willingly be a Christian, but I know not who to join my self to; for there are many contentions among you, many seditions and tumults; so that I am in doubt what opinion I should chuse. Each man saies, what y say is [Page 176] true, and I know not whom to believe; each pretends to Scripture which I am ignorant of 'Tis very well the issue is put here: for if the ap­peal were to reason, in this case there would be just occasion of being troubled: but when we ap­peal to Scripture, and they are simple and cer­tain, you may easily your self judg. He that agrees with the Scripture is a Christian, he that resists them, is far out of the way. And on Ps. 95. If any thing be said without the Scripture, the mind halts between different opinions; somtimes inclining as to what is probable, anon rejecting as what is frivolous: but when the testimony of holy Scripture is produc'd, the mind both of speaker and hearer is confirm'd. And Hom. 4. on La­zar. Tho one should rise from the dead, or an Angel come down from heaven, we must believe the Scripture; they being fram'd by the Lord of Angels, and the quick and dead. And Hom. 13. 2 Cor. 7. It is not an absurd thing that when we deal with men about mony, we wil trust no body, but cast up the sum, and make use of our counters; but in religious affairs, suffer our selves to be led aside by other mens opinions, even then when we have by an exact scale and touch­stone, the dictat of the divine Law. Therefore I pray and exhort you, that giving no heed to what this or that man saies, you would consult the holy Scripture, and thence learn the divine riches, and pursue what you have learnt. And Hom. 58. on Jo. 10. 1. 'Tis the mark of a thief [Page 177] that he comes not in by the dore, but another way: now by the dore the testimony of the Scri­pture is signified. And Hom. on Gal. 1. 8. The Apostle saies not, if any man teach a contrary doctrin let him be accurs'd, or if he subvert the whole Gospel; but if he teach any thing beside the Gospel which you have receiv'd, or vary any little thing, let him be accurs'd.

20. CYRIL of Alex. against Jul. l. 7. saies, The holy Scripture is sufficient to make them who are instructed in it, wise unto salvation, and en­dued with most ample knowledg.

21. TH [...]ODORET Dial. 1. I am perswaded only by the holy Scripture. And Dial. 2. I am not so bold to affirm any thing, not spoken of in the Scripture. And again, qu. 45. upon Genes. We ought not to enquire after what is past over in silence, but acquiesce in what is written.

22. IT were easy to enlarge this discourse into a Volume; but having taken, as they of­fer'd themselves, the suffrages of the writers of the four first Centuries, I shall not proceed to those that follow. If the holy Scripture were a perfect rule of Faith and Manners to all Christians heretofore, we may reasonably as­sure our selves it is so still; and will now guide us into all necessary truth, and consequently make us wise unto salvation, without the aid of oral Tradition, or the new mintage of a li­ving infallible Judg of controversy. And the [Page 178] impartial Reader will be enabled to judg whether our appeal to the holy Scripture, in all occasions of controversy, and recommen­dation of it to the study of every Christian, be that heresy and innovation which it is said to be.

23. IT is, we know, severely imputed to the Scribes and Pharisees by our Savior, that they took from the people the key of knowledg, Luk. 11. 52. and had made the word of God of none effect by their Traditions, Matt. 15. 6. but they never attemted what has bin since pra­cticed by their Successors in the Western Church, to take away the Ark of the Testa­ment it self, and cut of not only the effica­cy, but very possession of the word of God by their Traditions. Surely this had bin ex­ceeding criminal from any hand: but that the Bishops and Governors of the Church, and the universal and infallible Pastor of it, who claim the office to interpret the Scri­ptures, exhort unto, and assist in the know­ledg of them, should be the men who thus rob the people of them; carries with it the highest aggravations both of cruelty and breach of trust. If any man shall take away from the words of the Book of this prophecy, saies Saint John, Revel. 22. 19. God shall take away his part out of the Book of Life, and out of the holy City, and from the things [Page 179] which are written in this Book. What ven­geance therefore awaits those, who have ta­ken away not only from one Book, but at once the Books themselves, even all the Scri­ptures, the whole word of God?

SECT. VII. Historical reflections upon the events which have happen'd in the Church since the with-drawing of the holy Scripture.

'TWILL in this place be no useless con­templation to observe, after the Scri­ptures had bin ravisht from the people in the Church of Rome, what pitiful pretenders were admitted to succeed. And first because Lay-men were presum'd to be illiterate, and easily seducible by those writings which were in themselves difficult, and would be wrested by the unlearned to their own destruction; pi­ctures were recommended in their steed, and complemented as the Books of the Laity, which soon emprov'd into a necessity of their worship, and that gross superstition which renders Christianity abominated by Turks, and Jews, and Heathens unto this day.

2. I would not be hasty in charging Idola­try upon the Church of Rome, or all in her communion; but that their Image-worship is a most fatal snare, in which vast numbers of unhappy souls are taken, no man can doubt who hath with any regard travail'd in Popish Countries. I my self, and thousands of others, [Page 181] whom the late troubles, or other occasions sent abroad, are and have bin witnesses there­of. Charity, 'tis true, believes all things, but it do's not oblige men to disbelieve their eies. 'Twas the out-cry of Micah against the Da­nites, Jud. 18. 24. ye have taken away my Gods which I have made, and the Priest, and are gon away, and what have I more? but the Laity of the Roman communion may enlarge the complaint, and say; you have taken away the oracles of our God, and set up every where among us graven and molten Images, and Teraphims, and what have we more? and 'twas lately the loud, and I doubt me is still, the unanswerable complaint of the poor Americans, that they were deni'd to worship their Pagod once in the year, when they who forbad them, worship'd theirs every day.

3. THE Jews before the captivity, not­withstanding the recent memory of the Miracles in Egypt and the Wilderness, and the first conquest of the Land of Canaan with those that succeeded under the Judges and kings of Israel and Juda; as also the ex­press command of God, and the menaces of Prophets, ever and anon fell to downright Idolatry: but after their return unto this day, have kept themselves from falling into that sin, tho they had no Prophets to instruct them, no miracles or government to encourage or constrain them. The reason of which a very [Page 182] learned man in his discourse of religious As­semblies takes to be, the reading and teach­ing of the Law in their Synagogues; which was perform'd with great exactness after the return from the captivity, but was not so per­form'd before. And may we not invert the observation, and impute the Image-worship now set up in the Christian Church, to the for­bidding the reading of the Scriptures in the Churches, and interdicting the privat use, and institution in them?

4. FOR a farther supplement in place of the Scriptures, whose History was thought not edifying enough, the Legends of the Saints were introduc'd; stories so stupid, that one would imagin them design'd as an experi­ment how far credulity could be impos'd up­on; or else fram'd to a worse intent, that Christianity by them might be made ridicu­lous. Yet these are recommended to use and veneration, while in the mean time the word of God is utterly forbidden, whereby the par­ties to this unhappy practice (that I may speak in the words of the Prophet Jerem. 2. 13.) have committed two evils, they have for saken the fountain of living waters, aud hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no wa­ter.

5. FARTHER yet, the same unreasonable tyranny which permitted not the Laity to un­derstand Almighty God speaking to them in [Page 183] the Scripture; hinder'd them from being suf­fer'd to understand the Church or themselves speaking to him in their praiers; whilst the whole Roman office is so dispos'd, that in defiance of the Apostles discourse, 1 Cor. 14. he that occupies the room of the unlearned must say amen, to those praiers and praises which he has no comprehension of: and by his endless repetitions of Paters, Ave's and Credo's, falls into that battology reprov'd by our Savior, Mat. 6. 7. and as 'twas said to the woman of Samaria, Jo. 4. 22. knows not what he worships. Yet this unaccountable practice is so much the darling of that Church, that when in France about eighteen years since, the Roman Missal was translated into the vulgar Tongue, and publish'd by the direction of several of their Bishops; the Clergy of France rose up in great fury against the attemt, anathemati­zing in their circular Epistles, all that sold, read, or us'd the said Book: and upon com­plaint unto Pope Alex. the 7. he resented the matter so deeply, as to issue out his Bull a­gainst it in the following words.

6. WHEREAS sons of perdition, endevoring the destruction of souls, have translated the Roman Missal into the French Tongue, and so attemted to throw down and trample upon the majesty of the holy Rites comprehended in Latin words: As we abominate and detest the novelty, which will deform the beauty of the Church, and produce [Page 184] disobedience, temerity, boldness, sedition and schism; so we condemn, reprobate and forbid, the said and all other such Translations, and inter­dict the reading, and keeping, to all and singular the faithful, of whatever sex, degree, order; con­dition, dignity, honor, or preeminence, &c. un­der pain of excommunication. And we command the copies to be immediatly burnt, &c. So mor­tal a sin it seems 'twas tought for the Laity to understand the praiers in which they must communicate.

7. NOR is this all; agreeable to the other attemts upon the holy Scripture, was the bold insolence of making a new authentic Text, in that unknown Tongue in which the offices of praier had bin, and were to be kept disguis'd; which was don by the decree of the Council of Trent in the fourth Session. But when the Council had given this Prerogative to the Version which it call'd vulgar, the succeeding Popes began to consider what that Version was; and this work Pius the fourth and fifth set upon, but prevented by death fail'd to complete it, so that the honor of the perfor­mance fell to Sixtus the fifth, who in the ple­nitude of his Apostolic power (the Translation being reform'd to his mind) commanded it to be that genuine ancient Edition, which the Trent Fathers had before made authentic, and under the pain of excommunication requir'd it to be so received: which he do's in this [Page 185] form. Of our certain knowledg, and the pleni­tude of Apostolic power, we order and declare that vulgar Edition which has hin receiv'd for authentic by the Council of Trent, is without doubt or controversy to be esteem'd this very one, which being amended as well as it is possible, and printed at the Vatican Press, we publish to be read in the whole Christian Republic, and in all Churches of the Christian world. Decreeing that it having bin approv'd by the consent of the holy universal Church, and the holy Fathers, and then by the De­cree of the general Council of Trent, and now by the Apostolic authority deliver'd to us by the Lord; is the true, legitimate, authentic, and undoubted, which is to be received and held in all public and privat Disputations, Lectures, Pre­achings, and Expositions, &c. But notwithstan­ding this certain knowledg, and plenitude of Apostolic power, soon after came Clement the eighth, and again resumes the work of his Predecessor Sixtus, discovers great and many errors in it, and puts out one more reform'd, yet confest by himself to be imperfect; which now stands for the authentic Text, and car­ries the title of the Bible put forth by Sixtus, notwithstanding all its alterations. So well do's the Roman Church deserve the honor which she pretends to, of being the mistress of all Churches; and so infallible is the holy Chair in its determinations: and lastly, so authen­tic a Transcript of the word of God (con­cerning [Page 186] which 'tis said, Mat. 5. 18. one jot or one title shall not fail) is that which she esta­blisht, and that has receiv'd so many, and yet according to the confession of the infallible Corrector, wants still more alterations.

8. DEPENDENT upon this, and as great a mischief as any of the former, consequent to the with-drawing of the Scripture, I take to be the step it made to the overthrow of the ancient and most useful disciplin of the Church in point of Penance, whose rigors alwaies heretofore preceded the possibility of having absolution. Now of this we know a solemn part was the state of Audience, when the lapst person was receiv'd after long atten­dance without dores, prostrations, and lamen­tations there, within the entrance of the Church; and was permitted with the Cate­chumens or Candidats of Baptism, to hear the readings of the Scripture, and stay till Praier began, but then depart. He was ob­lig'd to hear the terrors of the Lord, the threats of the divine Law against sin and sin­ners, to stand among the unbaptiz'd and hea­then multitude, and learn again the ele­ments of that holy Faith from which he had prevaricated; and so in time be render'd capable of the devotions of the faithful, and afterward the reception of the Eucharist. But when the Scriptures were thought useless or dangerous to be understood and heard, it [Page 187] was consequent that the state of Audience should be cut off from Penance, and that the next to it, upon the self-same principle should be dismist: and so the long probation for­merly requir'd should be supplanted; and the compendious way of pardoning first, and re­penting afterwards, the endless circle of sin­ning and being absolv'd, and then sinning and being absolv'd again, should prevail upon the Church. Which still obtains, notwithstan­ding the complaints, and irrefragable demon­strations of learned men even of the Romish Communion, who plainly shew this now re­ceiv'd method, to be an innovation ground­less and unreasonable, and most pernicious in its consequents.

9. AND, by the way, we may take notice that there cannot be a plainer evidence of the judgment of the Church, concerning the necessity of the Scriptures being known, not only by the learned but mean Christian, and the interest they have therein; then is the ancient course of Penance, establisht by the practice of all the first Ages, and almost as many Councils, whether general or local, as have decreed any thing concerning disci­plin; with the penitentiary Books and Ca­nons, which were written for the first eleven hundred years in the whole Christian world. For if even the unbaptiz'd Catechumen, and the lapst sinner, notwithstanding their slen­der [Page 188] knowledg in the mysteries of Faith, or frail pretence to the privilege thereof: had a right to the state of Audience, and was ob­lig'd to hear the Scripture read; surely the meanest unobnoxious Laic, was in as advan­tagious circumstances, and might not only be trusted with the reading of those sacred Books, but might claim them as his birth­right.

10. I may justly, over and above what has bin hitherto alleg'd, impute to the Gover­nors of the same Church, and their with­holding from the Laity the holy Scripture; the many dangerous errors, gross ignorances, and scandalous immoralities which have pre­vail'd among them both. It is no new me­thod of divine vengeance, that there should be like people, like Priest, Hos. 4. 9. and that the Idol shepherd who led his flock into the ditch, should fall therein himself, Mat. 15. 14. And as the Prophet Zachary describes it, c. 11. 17. The sword shall be upon his arm, and upon his right eie: his arm shall be clean dried up, and his right eie shall be utterly darkned.

11. BUT no consequence can be more ob­viously deducible from that practice, then that men should justify the with-holding of the Scripture, by lessening its credit, and de­preciating its worth: which has occasion'd those reproches which by the writers of the Church of Rome, of best note, have bin cast [Page 189] upon it. As that it was a Nose of wax, a leaden rule, a deaf and useless deputy to God in the of­fice of a Judg; of less autority then the Roman Church, and of no more credit then Esops Fables, but for the testimony of the said Church; that they contain things apt to raise laughter or in­dignation, that the Latin Translation in the Complutensian Bible is placed between the Hebrew Text, and the Septuagint Version, as our Savior was at his Crucifixion between two thieves; and that the vulgar Edition is of such autority that the Originals ought to be mended by it, ra­ther then it should be mended from them: which are the complements of Cardinal Bellarmin, Hosius, Eckius, Perron, Ximenes, Coqueus, and others of that Communion: words to be answer'd by a Thunderbolt, and fitter for the mouth of a Celsus or a Porphyrie, then of the pious sons, and zealous Champions of the Church of Christ.

12. 'TIS to be expected that the Romanists should now wipe their mouths, and plead not guilty; telling us that they permit the Scri­pture to the Laity in their mother Tongue: And to that purpose the Fathers of Rhemes and Doway have publisht an English Bible for those of their communion. I shall therefore give a short and plain account of the whole affair, as really it stands, and then on Gods name let the Romanist make the best of their Apology.

[Page 190] 13. THE fourth rule of the Index of prohibited Books compos'd upon the com­mand and auspice of the Council of Trent, and publish'd by the autority of Pius the fourth, Sixtus the fifth, and Clement the eighth, runs thus; Since 'tis manifest by experience, that if the holy Bible be suffer'd promiscuously in the vulgar Tongue, such is the temerity of men, that greater detriment then advantage will thence a­rise; in this matter let the judgment of the Bi­shop or Inquisitor be stood to: that with the ad­vice of the Curat or Confessor, they may give leave for the reading of the Bible in the vulgar Tongue, translated by Catholics, to such as they know will not receive damage, but increase of Faith and Piety thereby. Which faculty they shall have in writing; and whosoever without such faculty shall presume to have or to read the Bible, he shall not till he have deliver'd it up, receive absolution of his sins. Now (to pass over the iniquity of ob­liging men to ask leave to do that which God Almighty commands) when 'tis consider'd how few of the Laity can make means to the Bishop or Inquisitor, or convince them, or the Curat or Confessor, that they are such who will not receive damage, but encrease of Faith and Piety by the reading of the Scri­pture; and also have interest to prevail with them for their favor herein: and after all can and will be at the charge of taking out the faculty, which is so penally requir'd: 'tis [Page 191] easy to guess what thin numbers of the Laity are likely, or indeed capable of reaping be­nefit by this Indulgence pretended to be al­lowed them.

14. BUT, besides all this, what shall we say, if the power it self of giving Licences be a mere shew, and really signifies just nothing? In the observation subjoin'd to this fourth rule it is declar'd, that the Impression and Edi­tion thereof gives no new faculty to Bishops, or Inquisitors, or Superiors of regulars to grant Li­cences of buying, reading, or retaining Bibles publisht in a vulgar Tongue; since hitherto by the command and practice of the holy Roman and universal Inquisition, the power of giving such faculties, to read or retain vulgar Bibles, or any parts of Scripture of the Old or New Te­stament, in any vulgar Tongue; or also summa­ries, or historical compendiums of the said Bibles or Books of Scripture, in whatsoever Tongue they are written, has bin taken away. And sure if a Lay-man cannot read the Bible without a faculty, and it is not in any ones power to grant it; 'twill evidently follow that he can­not read it: And so the pretence of giving liberty, owns the shame of openly refusing it, but has no other effect or consequence. And if any Romanist among us, or in any other Protestant Country enjoies any liberty here­in, 'tis merely by connivance, and owed to a fear least the Votary would be lost, and take [Page 192] the Bible where it was without difficulty to be had, if strictness should be us'd. And should Popery, which God forbid, become para­mount; the Translations of the Scripture into our Mother Tongues, would be no more endur'd here, then they are in Spain: and they who have formerly bin wary in commu­nicating the Scriptures; remembring how thereby their errors have bin detected, would upon a revolution effectually provide for the future, and be sure to keep their peo­ple in an Egyptian darkness, that might it self be felt, but that allow'd the notices of no other object. They would not be content with that composition of the Ammonite, to thrust out all the right eies of those that sub­mitted to them, 1 Sam. 11. 2. but would put out both; as the Philistins did to Samson, that they might make their miserable captives for ever grind in their Mill, Jud. 16. 21.

15. BUT this heaviest of judgments will never fall upon the reform'd Churches, till by their vicious practice and contemt of the di­vine Law, they have deserted their profession; and made themselves utterly unworthy of the blessings they enjoy, and the light of that Gospel which with noon-day brightness has shin'd among them. Upon which account, I suppose it may not be impertinent in the next place to subjoin som plain directions, and cautionary advices, concerning the use of these sacred Books.

SECT. VIII. Necessary cautions to be us'd in the reading of the holy Scriptures.

IT is a common observation: that the most generous and sprightly Medicins are the most unsafe; if not appli'd with due care and regimen: And the remark holds as well in spiritual as corporal remedies. The Apostle asserts it upon his own experience, that the doctrin of the Gospel, which was to som the savor of life unto life, was to others the savor of death, 2 Cor. 2. 15. And the same effect that the oral Word had then, the written Word may have now; not that either the one or the other have any thing in them that is of it self mortiferous, but becomes so by the ill dis­position of the persons who so pervert it. It is therefore well worth our inquiry, what quali­fications on our part are necessary to make the Word be to us what it is in it self, the power of God unto salvation, Rom. 1. 16. Of these som are previous before our reading, som are concomitant with it, and som are subsequent and follow after it.

2. OF those that go before, sincerity is a most essential requisit: by sincerity, I mean [Page 194] an upright intention, by which we direct our reading to that proper end for which the holy Scriptures were design'd; viz. the know­ing Gods will in order to the practicing it. This honest simplicity of heart is that which Christ represents by the good ground, where a­lone it was that the seed could fructify, Mat. 13. 8. And he that brings not this with him, brings only the shadow of a Disciple. The word of God, is indeed, sharper then a two-edged sword, Heb. 4. 12. but what impression can a sword make on a body of air; which still slips from, and eludes its thrusts? And as little can all the practical discourses of holy Writ make on him, who brings only his speculative faculties with him, and leaves his will and af­fections behind him; which are the only pro­per subjects for it to work on.

3. To this we may probably impute that strange inefficaciousness we see of the Word. Alas, men rarely apply it to the right place: our most inveterat diseases lie in our morals; and we suffer the Medicin to reach no farther then our intellects. As if he that had an ulcer in his bowels should apply all his balsoms and sanatives only to his head. 'Tis true, the holy Scriptures are the tresuries of divine Wisdom; the Oracles to which we should resort for sa­ving knowledg: but they are also the rule and guide of holy Life: and he that covets to know Gods will for any purpose but to pra­ctice [Page 195] it, is only studious to entitle himself to the greater number of stripes, Luk. 12. 47.

4. NAY farther, he that affects only the bare knowledg, is oft disappointed even of that. The Scripture, like the Pillar of fire and cloud, enlightens the Israelites, those who sincerely resign themselves to its guidance; but it darkens and confounds the Egyptians, Ex. 14. 20. And 'tis frequently seen, that those who read only to become knowing, are toll'd on by their curiosity into the more ab­struse and mysterious parts of Scripture, where they entangle themselves in inextricable ma­zes and confusions; and instead of acquiring a more superlative knowledg, loose those easy and common notions which lie obvious to every plain well meaning Reader. I fear this Age affords too many, and too frequent in­stances of this; in men who have lost God in the midst of his Word, and studied Scripture till they have renounc'd its Author.

5. AND sure this infatuation is very just, and no more then God himself has warn'd us of, who takes the wise in their own craftiness, Job. 5. 12. but appropriates his secrets only to them that fear him, and has promis'd to teach the meek his way, Psal. 25. 9. 14. And this was the method Christ observ'd in his preaching; unveiling those truths to his Disciples, which to the Scribes and Pharisees, his inquisitive, yet refractory hearers, he wrapt up in parables: [Page 196] not that he dislik'd their desire of knowledg, but their want of sincerity: which is so fatal a defect as blasts our pursuits, tho of things in themselves never so excellent. This we find exemplifi'd in Simon Magus, Acts 8. who tho he coveted a thing in itself very desirable, the power of conferring the holy Ghost, yet de­siring it not only upon undue conditions, but for sinister ends, he not only mist of that, but was (after all his convincement by the Apo­stles miracles, and the engagement of his Ba­ptism) immerst in the gall of bitterness; and at last advanc'd to that height of blasphemy, as to set up himself for a God; so becoming a lasting memento, how unsafe it is to prevari­cate in holy things.

6. BUT as there is a sincerity of the Will in order to practice, so there is also a sinceri­ty of the understanding in order to belief; and this is also no less requisit to the profitable reading of Scripture. I mean by this, that we come with a preparation of mind, to embrace indifferently, whatever God there reveles as the object of our Faith: that we bring our own opinions, not as the clue by which to un­fold Scripture, but to be tried and regulated by it. The want of this has bin of very per­nicious consequence in matters both of Faith and speculation. Men are commonly pre­possest strongly with their own notions, and their errand to Scripture is not to lend them [Page 197] light to judg of them, but aids to back and defend them.

7. OF this there is no Book of controversy that do's not give notorious proof. The So­cinian can easily over-look the beginning of Saint John, that saies, The Word was God, Jo. 1. 1. and all those other places which plainly as­sert the Deity of our Savior; if he can but di­vert to that other more agreeable Text, that the Father is greater then I. Among the Ro­manists, Peters being said to be first among the Apostles, Mat. 10. 2, and that on that Rock Christ would build his Church, Mat. 16. 18. car­ries away all attention from those other places where Saint Paul saies he was not be­hind the very chiefest of the Apostles, 2 Cor. 11. 5. that upon him lay the care of all the Churches, 2 Cor. 11. 28. and that the Church was not built upon the foundation of som one, but all the twelve Apostles, Revel. 21. 14. So it fares in the business of the Eucharist: This is my body, Mat. 26. 26. carries it away clear for Tran­substantiation, when our Saviors calling that which he drunk the fruit of the vine, Mat. 26. 29. and then Saint Pauls naming the Ele­ments in the Lords Supper several times over Bread and Wine; The Bread that we break, is it not the Communion of the Body of Christ: the Cup that we bless, is it not the Communion, & 1 Cor. 10. 16. And again, He that eats this Bread, and drinks this Cup unworthily, &c. 1 Cor. 11. [Page 198] 29. can make no appearance of an Argu­ment.

8. THUS men once engag'd ransac for Texts that carry som correspondency to the opinions they have imbibed; and those how do they rack and scrue to bring to a perfect conformity; and improve every little pro­bability into a demonstration? On the other side, the contrary Texts they look on as ene­mies, and consider them no farther then to provide fences and guards against them: So they bring Texts not into the scales to weigh, but into the field to skirmish, as Par­tizans and Auxiliaries of such or such opi­nions.

9. BY this force of prepossession it is, that that sacred Rule, which is the mesure and standard of all rectitude, is it self bow'd and distorted to countenance and abet the most contrary tenets: and like a variable picture, represents differing shapes according to the light in which you view it. And sure we cannot do it a worse office then to represent it thus dissonant to it self. Yet thus it must still be till men come unbiast to the reading of it. And certainly there is all the reason in the world they should do so: the ultimate end of our faith is but the salvation of our souls, 1 Pet. 1. 9. and we may be sure the Scripture can best direct us what Faith it is which will lead us to that end.

[Page 199] 10. WHY should we not then have the same indifference which a traveller hath, whe­ther his way lie on this hand or that; so as it be the direct road to his journies end? For al­tho it be infinitly material that I embrace right principles, yet 'tis not so that this should be right rather then the other: and our wishes that it should be so, proceed only from our prepossessions and fondness of our own conceptions, then which nothing is more apt to intercept the clear view of truth. It there­fore nearly concerns us to deposit them, and to give up our selves without reserve to the guidance of Gods Word, and give it equal credit when it thwarts, as when it complies with our own notions.

11. WITHOUT this, tho we may call Scripture the rule of Faith, and judg of con­troversies; yet 'tis manifest we make it not so, but reserve still the last appeal to our own prejudicat phancies: and then no wonder, tho we fall under the same occaecation which our Savior upbraids to the Jews, that seeing, we see not, neither do we understand, Mat. 13. 14. For he that will not be sav'd Gods way, will hard­ly be so by his own. He that resolves not im­partially to embrace all the Scriptures di­ctats, comes to them as unsincerely, as the remnant of the Jews did to Jeremiah to in­quire of the Lord for them, which he no sooner had don, but they protest against his [Page 200] message, Jer. 42. 20. and may expect as fatal an event.

12. BUT there are a set of men who deal yet more insincerely with the Word; that read it insidiously: on purpose to collect mat­ter of objection and cavil: that with a mali­cious diligence compare Texts in hope to find contradictions; and read attentively, but to no other end then to remark incoherences and defects in the stile: which when they think they have started, they have their de­sign; and never will use a quarter of the same diligence in considering how they may be solv'd, or consulting with those who may assist them in it. For I think I may appeal to the generality of those who have rais'd the loudest clamors against the Scripture, whe­ther they have endeavor'd to render them­selves competent judges of it by inquiring in­to the Originals, or informing themselves of those local Customs, peculiar Idioms, and ma­ny other circumstances, by which obscure Texts are to be clear'd. And tho I do not af­firm it necessary to salvation that every man should do this; yet I may affirm it necessary to him that will pretend to judg of the Bi­ble: and he that without this condems it, do's it as manifest injury, as a Judg that should pass sentence only upon the Indictment, without hearing the defence.

13. AND certainly there cannot be any [Page 201] thing more unmanly and disingenuous, then for men to inveigh and condemn before they inquire and examin. Yet this is the thing upon which so many value themselves, assu­ming to be men of reason, for that for which the Scripture pronounces them brute beasts, viz. the speaking evil of those things they under­stand not, 2 Pet. 2. 12. Would men use due di­ligence, no doubt many of those seeming contradictions would be reconcil'd, and the obscurities clear'd: and if any should after all remain, he might find twenty things fit­ter to charge it on, then want of verity or discourse in the inspir'd writers.

14. ALAS what human writing is there of near that Antiquity, wherein there are not many passages unintelligible? And indeed, unless modern times knew all those national customs, obsolete Laws, particular Rites and Ceremonies, Phrases and proverbial Sayings, to which such ancient Books refer, 'tis im­possible but som passages must remain ob­scure. Yet in these we ordinarily have so much candor, as to impute their unintelligi­bleness to our own ignorance of those things which should clear them, the improprieties of stile, to the variation that times make in dialects, or to the errors of Scribes, and do not presently exclame against the Authors as false or impertinent, or discard the whole Book for som such passages.

[Page 202] 15. AND sure what allowances we make to other Books, may with more reason be made to the Bible; which having bin writ so many Ages since, past thro infinit variety of hands, and (which is above all) having bin the object of the Devils, and wicked mens malice, lies under greater disadvantages then any human composure: And doubtless men would be as equitable to that as they are to others, were it not that they more wish to have that false or irrational then any other Book. The plain parts of it, the precepts and threatnings speak clearer then they desire, gall and fret them; and therefore they will revenge themselves upon the obscurer: and seem angry that there are som things they understand not, when indeed their real dis­plesure is at those they do.

16. A second qualification preparatory to reading the Scripture is reverence. When we take the Bible in our hands, we should do it with other sentiments and apprehensions then when we take a common Book; consi­dering that it is the word of God, the instru­ment of our salvation; or upon our abuse of it a promoter of our ruin.

17. AND sure this if duly apprehended. cannot but strike us with a reverential awe. make us to say with Jacob, Gen. 28. 17. surely God is in this place; controle all trifling phan­cies, and make us read, not for custom or di­vertisement, [Page 203] but with those solemn and holy intentions which become the dignity of its Author. Accordingly we find holy men have in all Ages bin affected with it, and som to the inward reverence of the mind, have join'd the outward of the body also, and never read it but upon their knees: an example that may both instruct and reproach our profa­ness; who commonly read by chance, and at aventure: If a Bible happen in our way, we take it up as we would do a Romance, or Play-book; only herein we differ, that we dismiss it much sooner, and retain less of its impressions.

18 IT was a Law of Numa, that no man should meddle with divine things, or worship the Gods, in passing, or by accident, but make it a set and solemn business. And every one knows with how great ceremony and solem­nity the heathen Oracles were consulted. How great a shame is it then for Christians to defalk that reverence from the true God, which heathens allow'd their false ones?

19. NOW this proceeds somtimes from the want of that habitual reverence we should alwaies have to it as Gods word, and somtimes from want of actual exciting it, when we go to read: for if the habit lie only dormant in us, and be not awak'd by actual considera­tion, it avails us as little in our reading, as the habitual strength of a man do's towards la­bor, [Page 204] when he will not exert it for that end.

20. WE ought therefore, as to make it our deliberat choice to read Gods word; so when we do it, to stir up our selves to those solemn apprehensions of its dignity and autority, as may render us malleable, and apt to receive its impressions: for where there is no reve­rence, 'tis not to be expected there should be any genuine or lasting obedience.

21. SAINT Austin in his Tract to Hono­ratus, of the advantage of believing, makes the first requisit to the knowledg of the Scri­ptures to be the love of them. Believe me, saies he, every thing in the Scripture is sublime and divine, its truth and doctrin are most accommodate to the refreshment, and building up of our minds: and in all respects so order'd, that every one may draw thence what is suffi­cient for him; provided he approach it with devotion, piety, and religion. The proof of this may require much reasoning and discourse. But this I am first to perswade, that you do not hate the Authors, and then that you love them. Had we an ill opinion of Virgil, nay, if upon the ac­count of the reputation he has gain'd with our Predecessors, we did not greatly love, before we understood him; we should never patiently go thro all the difficult questions Grammarians raise about him. Many employ themselves in com­menting upon him; we esteem him most, whose ex­position most commends the Book, and shews that [Page 205] the Author, not only was free from error, but did excellently well where he is not understood. And if such an account happen not to be given, we impute it rather to the Interpreter then the Poet.

22. THUS the good Father; whose words I have transcrib'd at large, as being remark­able to the present purpose; he also shews that the mind of no Author is to be learnt from one averse to his doctrin: as that 'tis vain to enquire of Aristotles Books from one of a different Sect: Or of Archimedes from Epicurus: the discourse will be as displeasing as the speaker; and that shall be esteem'd ab­surd, which comes from one that is envi'd or despis'd.

23. A third preparative to our reading should be praier. The Scripture as it was di­ctated at first by the holy Spirit, so must still owe its effects and influence to its coopera­tion. The things of God, the Apostle tells us, are spiritually discern'd, 1 Cor. 2. 14. And tho the natural man may well enough apprehend the letter, and grammatical sense of the Word; yet its power and energy, that insi­nuative perswasive force whereby it works on hearts, is peculiar to the spirit; and there­fore without his aids, the Scripture whilst it lies open before our eies, may still be as a Book that is seal'd, Esai. 29. 11. be as ineffe­ctive as if the characters were illegible.

[Page 206] 24. BESIDES our Savior tells us the devil is still busy to steal away the seed as soon as it is sown, Mat. 13. 17. And unless we have som better guard then our own vigilance, he is sure enough to prosper in his attemt. Let it therefore be our care to invoke the divine Aid; and when ever we take the Bible into our hands, to dart up at least a hearty ejacu­lation, that we may find its effects in our hearts. Let us say with holy David, open thou mine eies O Lord, that I may see the wondrous things of thy Law. Blessed art thou O Lord, O teach me thy statutes, Ps. 119. Nay indeed 'twil be fit matter of a daily solemn devotion, as our Church has made it an annual in the Collect on the second Sunday in Advent: a praier so apt and fully expressive of what we should desire in this particular, that if we tran­scribe not only the example, but the very words, I know not how we can form that part of our devotion more advantageously.

25. IN the second place we are to consi­der what is requir'd of us at the time of read­ing the Scripture; which consists principally in two things. The first of these is attention, which is so indispensably requisit, that without it all Books are alike, and all equally insignifi­cant: for he that adverts not to the sense of what he reads, the wisest discourses signify no more to him, then the most exquisit music do's to a man perfectly deaf. The letters and syl­lables [Page 207] of the Bible are no more sacred then those of another Book; 'tis the sense and meaning only that is divinely inspir'd: and he that considers only the former, may as well entertain himself with a spelling-book.

26. WE must therefore keep our minds fixt and attent to what we read: 'tis a folly and lightness not to do so in human Authors; but 'tis a sin and danger not to do so in this divine Book. We know there can scarce be a greater instance of contemt and disvalue, then to hear a man speak, and not at all mind what he saies: yet this vilest affront do all those put upon God, who hear or read his Word, and give it no attention. Yet I fear the practice is not more impious then it is frequent: for there are many that read the Bible, who if at the end of each Chapter they should be call [...]d to account, I doubt they could produce very slender collections: and truly 'tis a sad consideration, that that sacred Book is read most attentively by those, who read it as som preach the Gospel, Phil. 1. 15. out of [...]vy and strife. How curiously do men in­spect, nay ransac and embowel a Text to find a pretence for cavil and objection, whilst men who profess to look there for life and salva­tion. read with such a retchless heedlesness, as if it could tell them nothing they were concern'd in: and to such 'tis no wonder if their reading bring no advantage. God is [Page 208] not in this sense found of those that seek him not, Esai. 65. 1. 'tis Satans part to serve him­self of the bare words and characters of holy Writ, for charms and amulets: the vertue God has put there consists in the sense and meaning, and can never be drawn out by drousy inadverting Readers.

27. THIS unattentiveness fore-stalls all possibility of good. How shall that convince the understanding, or perswade the affections, which do's not so much as enter the imagi­nation. So that in this case the seed seems more cast away then in any of those instances the parable gives, Mat. 13. In those it still fell upon the soil, but in this it never reaches that; but is scatter'd and dissipated, as with a mighty wind, by those thoughts which have prepossess'd the mind. Let no man therefore take this sacred Book into his hand, till he have turn'd out all distracting phan­cies, and have his faculties free and vacant for those better objects which will there pre­sent themselves. And when he has so dispos'd himself for attention, then let him contrive to improve that attention to the best advan­tage.

28. To which purpose it may be very con­ducive to put it into som order and method. As for instance, when he reads the doctrinal part of Scripture, let him first and principally advert to those plain Texts which contain [Page 209] the necessary points of Faith: that he may not owe his Creed only to his education, the institution of his Parents or Tutors; but may know the true foundation on which it is bottom'd, viz. the word of God, and may thence be able to justify his Faith: and as Saint Peter exhorts, be ready to give an an­swer to every man that asks him a reason of the hope that is in him, 1 Pet. 3. 15. For want of this it is, that Religion sits so loose upon men, that every wind of doctrin blows them into distinct and various forms; till at last their Christianity it self vapors away and disap­pears.

29. BUT let men be careful thus to secure the foundation, and then 'twill be commen­dable in them (who are capable of it) to aspire to higher degrees of speculation; yet even in these it will be their safest course chiefly to pursue such as have the most imme­diat influence on practice, and be more indu­strious to make observations of that sort, then curious and critical remarks, or bold conje­ctures upon those mysteries on which God has spread a veil.

30. BUT besides a mans own particular collections, it will be prudence in him to ad­vantage himself of those of others, and to consult the learned'st and best expositors; and that not only upon a present emergency, when he is to dispute a point, (as most do) [Page 210] but in the constant course of this reading, wherein he will most sedatly, and dispassio­natly judg of the notions they offer.

31. AS to the choice of the portions of Scripture to be read in course, tho I shall not condemn that of reading the whole Bible in order, yet 'tis apparent that som parts of it (as that of the Levitical Law) are not so aptly accommodated to our present state, as others are; and consequently not so edifica­tory to us: and therefore I cannot see why any man should oblige himself to an equal frequency in reading them. And to this our Church seems to give her suffrage; by exclu­ding such out of her public Lessons. And if we govern our privat reading by her mesures, it will well express our deference to her judg­ment; who has selected som parts of Scri­pture, not that she would keep her children in ignorance of any, but because they tend most immediatly to practice.

32. NEITHER will the daily reading the Scripture in the rubricks order, hinder any man from acquainting himself with the rest. For he may take in the other parts as super­numeraries to his constant task, and read them as his leisure and inclination shall promt. So that all the hurt that can accrue to him by this method, is the being invited to read somtimes extraordinary proportions.

33. IF it be objected, that to those who [Page 211] daily hear the Church Service, 'twill be a kind of tautology, first to read those Lessons in privat, which soon after they shall hear read publicly, I answer that whatever men may please to call it, 'twill really be an advantage: For he that shall read a chapter by himself with due consideration, and consulting of good Paraphrasts, will have div'd so far into the sense of it, that he will much better comprehend it when he hears it read: as on the other side, the hearing it read so immediat­ly after will serve to confirm and rivet the sense in his mind. The one is as the conning, the other the repeating the Lesson; which every Schole-boy can tell us is best don at the nearest distance to each other. But I shall not contend for this, or any particular me­thod; let the Scripture be read in proportion to every mans leisure and capacity, and read with attention; and we need not be scru­pulous about circumstances, when the main duty is secur'd.

34. BUT as in the doctrinal, so in the preceptive part, there is a caution to be us'd in our attention. For we are to distinguish be­tween those temporary precepts that were a­dapted to particular times and occasions, and such as are of perpetual obligation. He that do's not this may bring himself under the Jewish Law, or believe a necessity of selling all and giving it to the poor because 'twas [Page 212] Christs command to the rich man, Mat. 19. or incur other considerable mischiefs.

35. THUS frequently commands are put in comprehensive indefinite words, but con­cern only the Generality to whom the Law is written; and not those who are entrusted with the vindication of their contemt. Ac­cordingly 'tis said, thou shalt not kill, Mark. 10. 19. which concerns the private person; but extends not to the Magistrate in the exe­cution of his office, who is a revenger appoin­ted by God, and hears not the sword in vain. Rom. 13. 4. So the injunction not to swear at all, Mat. 5. 34 refers to the common trans­actions of life; but not those solemn occa­sions where an oath is to give glory to God, and is the end of all strife, Heb. 9. 16. Yet these mistakes at this day prevail with Ana­baptists and Quakers, and bottom their denial of the Magistrates power to protect his Subjects by war; and to determin differences in Peace, by the oath of witnesses in judicial proceedings.

36. THERE is another distinction we are to attend to; and that is between absolute and primary commands, and secundary ones: the former we are to set a special remark upon, as those upon whose observance or violation our eternal life or death inseparably depends. And therefore our first and most solicitous care must be concerning them. I mention this, [Page 213] not to divert any from aspiring to the highest degrees of perfection: but to reprove that preposterous course many take, who lay the greatest weight upon those things on which God laies the least; and have more zeal for oblique intimations, then for ex­press downright commands; nay think by the one to commute for the contemt of the other. For example, fasting is recommen­ded to us in Scripture, but in a far lower key then moral duties: rather as an expedient and help to vertue, then as properly a ver­tue it self. And yet we may see men scrupu­lous in that, who startle not at injustice, and oppression (that clamorous sin that cries to heaven) who pretend to mortify their ap­petites by denying it its proper food, or being luxurious in one sort of it; and yet glut their avarice, eat up the poor, and devour widows houses, Mat. 23.

37. To such as these 'twould be good ad­vice to fix their attention on the absolute commands, to study moral honesty, and the essentials of Christianity; to make a good progress there, and do what God indispen­sably requires: and then it may be seasonable to think of voluntary oblations: but till then they are so far from homage, that they are the most reprochful flattery; an attemt to bribe God against himself; and a sacrilege, like that of Dionysius; who took away Apol­lo's [Page 214] golden robe, and gave him a stuff one.

38. THE second thing requisit in our rea­ding is application: this is the proper end of our attention: and without this we may be very busy to very little purpose. The most laborious attention without it, puts us but in the condition of those poor slaves that labor in the mines: who with infinit toil dig that ore of which they shall never partake. If therefore we will appropriate that rich tre­sure, we must apply, and so make it our own.

39. LET us then at every period of holy Writ, reflect and look on our selves as the persons spoke to. When we find Philip giving baptism to the Eunuch upon this condition that he believe with all his heart, Act. 8. let us consider that unless we do so; our baptism (like a thing surreptitiously obtain'd) conveis no title to us; will avail us nothing.

40. WHEN we read our Saviours denun­ciation to the Jews, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish; Lu. 13. 5. we are to look on it as if addrest immediatly to our selves; and conclude as great a necessity of our repen­tance. In those black catalogues of crimes which the Apostle mentions, 1 Cor. 6. 10. and Gal. 5. 19, 20, 21. as excluding from the King­dom of heaven, we are to behold our own guilts arraign'd, and to resolve that the same crimes will as certainly shut heaven gates a­gainst us, as those to whom those Epistles were [Page 215] immediatly directed. In all the precepts of good life, and Christian vertue, we are to think our selves as nearly and particularly concern'd, as if we had bin Christs Auditors on the Mount. So proportionably in all the threats and promises we are either to tremble or hope, according as we find our selves ad­here to those sins or vertues to which they are affixt.

41. THIS close application would ren­der what we read operative and effective, which without it will be useless and insignifi­cant. We may see an instance of it in David; who was not at all convinc'd of his own guilt by Nathans parable (tho the most appo­site that was imaginable) till he roundly appli'd it, saying, thou art the man: 2 Sam. 12. And unless we treat our selves at the same rate, the Scripture may fill our heads with high notions, nay with many specula­tive truths, which yet amounts to no more then the Devils theology, Ja. 2. 19. and will as little advantage us.

42. IT now remains that we speak of what we are to do after our reading; which may be summ'd up in two words: Recollect and practice. Our memories are very frail as to things of this nature. And therefore we ought to impress them as deep as we can, by reflecting on what we have read. It is an ob­servation out of the Levitical Law, that [Page 216] those beasts only were clean, and fit for sa­crifice, that chew'd the cud, Lev. 11. 4. And tho the ceremony were Jewish, the moral is Chri­stian, and admonishes us how we should re­volve and ruminate on spiritual instructions. Without this what we hear or read slips in­sensibly from us, and like letters writ in chalk, is wip [...]t out by the next succeeding thought: but recollection engraves and indents the characters in the mind. And he that would duly use it, would find other manner of im­pressions; more affective and more lasting, then bare reading will leave.

43. WE find it thus in all Sciences: he that only reads over the rules, and laies aside the thoughts of them together with his Book, will make but a slow advance; whilest he that plods and studies upon them, repetes and rein­forces them upon his mind, soon arrives to an eminency. By this it was that David at­tain'd to that perfection in Gods Law as to out-strip his teachers, and understand more then the Ancients, Ps. 119. 99, 100. because it was his meditation as himself tells us, ver. 97, 99.

44. LET us therefore pursue the same me­thod; and when we have read a portion of Scripture, let us recollect what observable things we have there met with: what exhor­tations to vertue, or determents from vice; what promises to obedience, or menaces for the contrary: what examples of Gods ven­geance [Page 217] against such or such sins, or what in­stances of his blessing upon duties. If we do this daily, we cannot but amass together a great stock of Scripture documents, which will be ready for us to produce upon every occasion. Satan can assault us no where, but we shall be provided of a guard, a Scriptum est; which we see was the sole armor the ca­ptain of our salvation us'd in his encounter with him. Mat. 4. ver. 4, 7, and 10. and will be as successful to us, if we will duly ma­nage it.

45. THE last thing requir'd as consequent to our reading, is practice. This is the ulti­mate end, to which all the fore-going quali­fications are directed. And if we fail here, the most assiduous diligence in all the former will be but lost labor. Let us mean never so well, attend never so close, recollect never so exactly; if after all we do not practise, all the rest will serve but to enhance our guilt. Chri­stianity is an active Science, and the Bible was given us not merely for a theme of specu­lation, but for a rule of life.

46. And alas, what will it avail us that our opinions are right, if our manners be crook­ed? When the Scripture has shew'd us what God requires of us, nay, has evinc'd to us the reasonableness of the injunctions, the great a­greeableness which they have to the excel­lency of our nature: and has backt this with [Page 218] the assurance that in keeping of them there shall be a great reward, Ps. 19. 11. if in the midst of such importunate invitations to life we will chuse death; we are indeed worthy, as the wise man speaks, to take part with it, Wis. 1. 16. our crimes are hereby increas'd to a monstrous bulk, and also depriv'd of that veil and shelter which darkness and igno­rance would have given them. And a vicious Christian may have cause at the last day to wish that he had studied the Alcoran rather then the Bible. His sensualities might then have pleaded, that they were but the antici­pating his Paradice, taking up that before hand, which his Religion propos'd to him as his summum bonum, his final and highest aim. But with what confusion must a Christian then appear, whose institution obliges him to mortify the slesh: and yet has made it the business of his life, not only to satisfy, but even to enrage, and enflame its appetites? that has set up a counter-discipline to that of the Gospel he professes; and when that re­quires austerities and self-denials, to reduce corrupt nature to a tameness and subjection; has not only pull'd off the bridle, but us'd the spur; contriv'd Arts to debauch even corru­ption it self; and has forc'd his relucting na­ture upon studied and artificial leudness? Such men may be thought to have read the Scri­pture with no other design but to be sure to [Page 219] run counter to it; that by informing them­selves of Gods will, they may know the more exactly how to affront and contradict it.

47. NAY, so it is, too many unto malice add contemt; are not content only sullenly to resist its Precepts, but despise and revile them also; arraign the wisdom of God, and pronounce the divine Laws to be weak and impertinent; lay their Scenes of ridiculous mirth in the Bible; rally in the sacred Dia­lect, and play the Buffoons with the most se­rious thing in the world. An impious licen­tiousness which is now grown to that height, that it is one of the wonders of Gods long-suffering, that there are not as many eminent instances of the vengeance, as there are of the guilt. I have formerly complain'd of it, and must still crave leave to do so. It is indeed so spreading an infection, that we can never be sufficiently arm'd against it. Som degrees of it have tainted many who have not utterly renounc'd their reverence for the Bible: there being those who in their solemn moods own it as Gods word and profess they must finally stand or fall by its verdict; who yet in their jocular humors make light and irreverent ap­plications of its phrases and sentences, furnish out their little jests in its attire, and use it as if they thought it good for nothing else.

48. AND certainly this abuse in men that own the Bible, is infinitly more monstrous [Page 220] then in those who defy it: the later look on it as a common thing, and use it as such: but for those who confess it sacred, thus to pro­stitute it, is a flat contradiction as much a­gainst the rules of Discourse as Religion: 'tis to offer the same abuse to Christ in his Word, which the rude soldiers did to his person; to bow the knee before it, and yet expose it as an object of scorn and laughter. But sure there cannot be two things more inconsistent, then the avowing it to be dictated by God in order to the most important concern of man, and yet debase it to the vilest pur­poses; make it the drudg and hackney to our sportful humors, and bring it out as the Philistims did Samson, only to make us mer­ry, Jud. 16. 25.

49. INDEED one would wonder how that should become a proper instrument for that purpose, that those doctrins of righteousness, temperance and judgment to come (every where scatter'd thro that Book) which set heathen Felix a trembling, should set Chri­stians a laughing: and yet should men cite the same things and phrases out of another Author, there would be no jest in it. It seems therefore that the spirit and essence of this sort of wit lies in the profaneness. How ab­surd is it then for men that do not utterly abjure Religion, to affect this impious sort of raillery, which has nothing but daring wick­edness [Page 221] to recommend it? For certainly, of all the waies of discourse that ever pretended to wit, this has the least claim to it.

50. WHAT strength of reason, or height of phancy is there, in repeting of phrases and fragments of Books, when what they would say, they might much more properly express in their own words? In any other instance but this of the Bible, it would pass rather for a defect then an excess of wit. But that which I suppose renders it so taking, is, that it is the cheapest expedient for men to arrive to that reputation. Men that cannot go to the cost of any thing that is truly ingenious, can by this means immediatly commence wits; if they can but charge their memories with half a dozen Texts, they need no other furniture for the trade: these mangled and transpo­sed, will be ready at all turns, and render them applauded by those who have no other mesure of wit, but its opposition to Piety. But would God, men would look a little before them, and consider what the final reckoning will be for such divertisements; and if the whole world be an unequal exchange for a soul, what a miserable Merchant is he that barters his for a bald insipid jest? such as a sober man would avoid were there no sin in it.

51. I know men are apt to flatter them­selves, that these lighter frolics will pass for [Page 222] nothing, so long as they do not seriously and maliciously oppose Gods word: but I fear they will find God in earnest, tho they be in jest. He that has magnified his Word above all things, Psal. 138. 2. cannot brook that we should make it vile and cheap, play and dally with it. And if it were a capital crime to convert any of the perfume of the Sanctuary to common use, Ex. 30. 32. can we think God can be pleas'd to see his more sacred Word, the theme of our giddy mirth, and have his own words echoed to him in profane drol­lery?

52. BUT besides 'tis to be consider'd that this wanton liberty is a step to the more so­lemn and deliberate contemt of Gods word: custom do's strangely prescribe to us; and he that a while has us'd any thing irreverently, will at last bring his practice into argument, and conclude that there is no reverence due to it. God knows we are naturally too apt to slight and easy apprehensions of sacred things; and had need to use all Arts and In­struments to impress an awe upon our minds.

53. IT will sure then be very unsafe for us to trifle with them, and by so undue a fa­miliarity draw on that contemt which we should make it our care to avoid. The wise man saies, he that contemns small things, shall fall by little and little, Eccl. 19. 1. And tho no degree of irreverence towards God or his [Page 223] Word, can be call'd a small thing absolutely consider'd, yet comparatively with the more exorbitant degrees it may: and yet that smal­ler is the seed and parent of the greatest. It is so in all sins; the kingdom of Satan, like that of God, may be compard' to a grain of mu­stard seed, Mat. 13. 31. which tho little in it self, is mighty in its increase.

54. No man ever yet began at the top of villany, but the advance is still gradual from one degree to another; each commission smoothing and glibbing the way to the next. He that accustoms in his ordinary discourse, to use the sacred Name of God with as little sentiment and reverence, as he do's that of his neighbor or servant; that makes it his common by-word, and cries Lord and God upon every the lightest occasion of exclama­tion or wonder, this man has a very short step to the using it in oaths, and upon all frivolous occasions; and he that swears vainly, is at no great distance from swearing falsely. It is the same in this instance of the Scriptures: He that indulges his wit to rally with them, will soon come to think them such tame things that he may down-right scorn them: And when he is arriv'd to that, then he must pick quarrels to justify it, till at last he arrive even to the height of enmity.

55. LET every man therefore take heed of setting so much as one step in this fatal [Page 224] circle; guard himself against the first insi­nuation of this guilt: and when a jest offers it self as a temtation, let him balance that with a sober thought, and consider whether the jest can quit the cost of the profanation. Let him possess his mind with an habitual awe, take up the Bible with solemner thoughts, and other kind of apprehensions then any human Author: and if he habituate himself to this reverence, every clause and phrase of it that occurs to his mind, will be apter to ex­cite him to devout ejaculations then vain laughter.

56. IT is reported of our excellent Prince, King Edward the sixth; that when in his Council Chamber, a Paper that was call'd for happen'd to lie out of reach, and the Person concern'd to produce it, took a Bible that lay by, and standing upon it reacht down the Paper: the King observing what was don, ran himself to the place, and taking the Bible in his hands, kissed it, and laid it up again. Of this it were a very desirable moral, that Princes, and all persons in au­tority, would take care not to permit any to raise themselves by either a hypocritical or profane trampling upon holy things. But besides that, a more general application of­fers its self; that all men of what condition soever, should both themselves abstain from every action that has the appearance of a [Page 225] contemt of the holy Scripture; and also when they observe it in others, discountenance the insolence: and by their words and actions give Testimony of the veneration which they have for that holy Book, they see others so wretchedly despise.

57. BUT above all let him who reads the Scripture seriously, set himself to the practice of it, and daily examin how he proceeds in it: he that diligently do's this, will not be much at leisure to sport with it: he will scarce meet with a Text which will not give him cause of reflection, and provide him work within his own brest: every duty injoin'd will promt him to examin how he has perform'd; eve­ry sin forbid, will call him to recollect how guilty he has bin, every pathetic strain of de­votion will kindle his zeal, or at least upbraid his coldness: every heroic example will excite his emulation. In a word, every part of Scri­pture will, if duly appli'd, contribute to som good and excellent end. And when a thing is proper for such noble purposes, can it be the part of a wise man to apply it only to mean and trivial? Would any but an Idiot wast that Soveraign Liquor in the washing of his feet, which was given him to expel poison from his heart? And are not we guilty of the like folly when we apply Gods word to serve only a ludicrous humor: and make our selves mer­ry with that which was design'd for the most [Page 226] serious and most important purpose; the sal­vation of our souls. And indeed who ever takes any lower aim then that, and the ver­tues preparatory to it in his study of Scripture, extremely debases it.

58. LET us therefore keep a steady eie up­on that mark, and press towards it as the Apo­stle did; Phil. 3. 14. walk by that rule the holy Scripture proposes; faithfully and diligently observe its precepts, that we may finally par­take its promises. To this end continually pray we in the words of our holy mother the Church unto Almighty God, who has caus'd all holy Scripture to be written for our learn­ing; that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of his holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting Life, which he has given in our Savior Jesus Christ.


  • Sect. 1. The several methods of Gods communi­cating the knowledg of himself. Pag. 1.
  • Sect. 2. The divine Original, Endearments, and Autority of the Holy Scripture. p. 9.
  • Sect. 3. The Subject Matter treated of in the ho­ly Scripture is excellent, as is also its end and design. p. 63.
  • Sect. 4. The Custody of the holy Scripture is a privilege and right of the Christian Church, and every member of it, which cannot without impiety to God, and injustice unto it and them, be taken away or empeacht. p. 123.
  • Sect. 5. The Scripture has great propriety and fitness toward the attainment of its excellent end. p. 145.
  • Sect. 6. The suffrage of the primitive Christian Church, concerning the propriety and fitness which the Scripture has, toward the attain­ment of its excellent end. p. 165.
  • Sect. 7. Historical reflexions upon the events which have happen'd in the Church, since the with-drawing of the holy Scripture. p. 180.
  • Sect. 8. Necessary Cautions to be us'd in the reading of the holy Scripture. p. 193.

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