A DISCOURSE Concerning the Publick Reading OF THE Holy Scriptures By the LORDS People, in their Religious Assemblies: Deliver'd at Tisbury, August 12. 1719.

By WILLIAM HOMES, A. M. Pastor of the Church in Chilmark on Martha's Vineyard.

Luke iv. 16. And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: And as his custom was, he went into the Synagogue on the Sabbath-day, and stood up for to Read—.
1 Thes. v. 27. I charge you by the Lord, that this Epistle be read unto all the holy Brethren.
Col. iv. 16.

Quare detestabilis est in Deum contumelia, quod Papistae Scripturam obscuram esse & ambiguam insimulant. Quorsum enim loquutus esset Deus, nisi liquida invictaque in ejus verbis se proferret veritas?

Calvin. in Act. 18.28.

BOSTON: Printed by B Green. 1720.

[Page i]

To the honourable Judge SEWALL.


THE open Contempt that is put upon revealed Religion by some, while they prefer Mans corrupt reason before it, and advance the Oracles of Rea­son, as they call them, above the Oracles of GOD, as a more Infallible rule of Humane Practice; makes it the necessary duty of all that have a due regard to the Honour of GOD, and the Credit of our holy Religion, that they evidence, upon all occasions, a high and honourable esteem of the holy Scrip­tures.

[Page ii] AND we cannot better, I am perswaded, Manifest the great value we put upon those Sacred Records, than by our thankfulness for them, our earnest endeavours to acquaint our selves with them, by the diligent Im­provement of all Means that GOD hath ap­pointed in order there-unto, and particular­ly by a frequent, reverent and attentive Reading & Hearing of them Read; both in Publick and Private; and by regulating our Faith and Practice by them, as the Infallible Rule of both.

THE Publick Reading of the holy Scrip­tures hath been, I think, the general Practice of the Catholick Church, not only under the Law, but under the Gospel also, from the days of CHRIST, and His Apostles, to our Times; and why this Practice should be discontinued by any of the Disciples of the blessed JESUS, I see no reason: I am per­swaded it cannot be alleged to be any part of our Reformation from Popish Superstition.

IF the ensuing Discourse shall, thro' the blessing of GOD upon it, be made a Mean to stir up any of better parts, and greater abilities, to Examine this Matter Impartially, [Page iii]and set it in a clearer light; so that the Practice of the Reading of the Holy Scrip­tures in our Publick Assemblies, may be re­vived among us, I shall rejoyce in it.

I am very sensible that the performance is mean, and bears no just proportion to the dignity of the Subject, therein handled; and all the Apology I shall make for it is, That when I studied the Sermon, I had no thoughts that ever it should be made more Publick, than the Preaching of it in a small Congre­gation, should make it. But after I had de­livered it in Publick, a Friend of mine de­sired the perusing of my Notes, which I made no difficulty to grant him; and he shewed them to others, and some of those, whose judgment I highly value and esteem, being of Opinion that the making the Dis­course Publick may be of some use: I have submitted to their judgment, tho' I know it must appear under some disadvantages.

May it please your honour, I chearfully im­brace this Opportunity to offer you my grateful acknowledgments for all the favours and marks of respect which you have been pleased to confer upon me, and particularly upon my Arrival in this Country with my Family.

[Page iv] THAT GOD may signally bless your Honour with all needful Blessings; and con­tinue you long a useful Instrument of the advancement of His own Glory, and of the good and welfare of your Country; and that after you shall have served your own Generation by the will of GOD, you may fall asleep in the LORD, our Exalted SAVIOUR, is the sincere Prayer

Of him who is your Honours Most humble and much obliged Servant, William Homes.
[Page 1]

A Discourse Concerning the Publick Reading of the Holy Scriptures.


When all Israel is come to appear before the LORD thy GOD, in the place which he shall chuse; thou shalt read this law before all Israel, in their hearing.

THEY that believe that there is a GOD; must acknowledge that He is to be worshipped by His Reasonable Intelligent Creatures.

THE Notion we have of the glorious GOD, as the first Cause of all things; neces­sarily leads us to Conceive of Him, as the [Page 2] Chief Good; and that every thing in the Creatures, that doth any way contribute to their Safety, Comfort, or Usefulness; must be derived from Him.

AND the Idea we have of GOD as a Be­ing Infinitely and Transcendently Excellent in Himself; and Independent upon all other Beings; and that all His Creatures do intire­ly depend upon Him, in their Beings and Operations; leads us to Conceive of Him, as the Supreme Governour of the World, and that all His reasonable Creatures stand obli­ged to offer up to Him, such Service as is agreeable to His own Nature, and to the Ca­pacity that He has given them.

FROM these Considerations of GOD, it naturally follows, that it belongs unto Him only to give Rules and Directions how He will be worshipped by His Creatures: and that all ways of worship, that are not agree­able to the Rules and Directions which He hath given concerning it; must be displea­sing to Him, and unprofitable to our selves.

AND I think, that Protestants are gene­rally agreed in this, that the Holy Scriptures contain the Revelations of GOD's Will con­cerning His own Worship, both as to the Mat­ter and Manner of it: and therefore when any Question arises among them, relating to [Page 3]the Worship of GOD; they must have re­course to the Revealed Will of GOD, con­tained in the holy Scriptures, for the Reso­lution of it; as that alone, which may be safely depended upon.

THE Worship that the LORD requires of His People, is either Internal, or External, answerable to the two principal parts where­of Man Consists, viz. Soul and Body. Internal religious Worship consists in the Soul's being rightly affected towards GOD the object of divine Worship. When the mind is Inlight­ned with Supernatural Knowledge whereby we are inabled to conceive of GOD, accor­ding to the discoveries He hath given of Him­self; and when He is feared, & loved above all; when He is submitted unto in all things, trusted unto, and depended upon at all times; and when we entertain a deep and abiding sense of His Goodness, in His dealings to­wards our selves, and others. External re­ligious Worship consists of such words, actions, gestures, duties and performances as serve to signifie and declare the Inward sub­jection of our Soul to GOD; and our being suitably affected towards Him; and that con­tribute to our entertaining becoming Con­ceptions of Him, and to promote and increase our Esteem of Him, and subjection to Him.

[Page 4] THE External Worship due to GOD by Man, is either Private or Publick. Private, is that religious Worship which the LORD'S People offer up to GOD Privately, either in their Families, or by themselves alone. Publick, is that religious Worship that the LORD's People offer to GOD Publickly, whereby they do Publickly and Solemnly declare their subjection to GOD, and depen­dance on Him.

IN the words we have now read, we have one of those pieces of External religious wor­ship which GOD requires His People to offer up to Him, in their Publick Assemblies; viz. The Reading of the Holy Scriptures; and all ranks of Persons are Commanded to hearken thereunto, Men, Women, Children, and Strangers; all must reverently attend upon this part of Divine Worship.

THE Doctrine that falls under our pre­sent Consideration, is,

DOCT. THAT the Reading of the Holy Scriptures, and the bearing of them Read, is a part of that Worship which GOD requires of His People, in their Publick Religious Assemblies.

[Page 5] IN prosecuting this Doctrine, I shall ob­serve the following Method:

  • (1) I shall endeavour to show that the Reading of the Holy Scriptures, and the hearing of them read, is a part of GOD's Publick Worship.
  • (2) I shall give some account how this part of GOD's Worship should be performed by His People.
  • (3) I shall draw some Practical Inferences from the whole.

AS to the first of these, that the Reading of the Holy Scriptures, and the hearing of them read, is a part of GOD's Publick Wor­ship, will appear, if we consider.

1. THAT the LORD doth very expressly require the Reading and hearing of His Word, as a part of His Publick Worship. In the Text now under Consideration, When all Israel come to appear before the Lord thy God, in the Place which he shall chuse: thou shalt read this law before all Israel, in their hearing. Gather the people together, Men, Women, and Children, and thy Stranger that is within thy Gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear the Lord your GOD, and observe to do all the words of this law. This Command is so express, plain, and full, for the Publick Reading of the Holy Scriptures, that all who take the Re­vealed [Page 6]Will of GOD for the Rule of their performances, and acknowledge the Scrip­tures of the Old Testament, to be of equal authority with those of the New; must also own their obligation to the performance of this, as a part of GOD's Publick Worship; if they duely consider the matter: for all Mo­ral Precepts, given to the Church of the Jews, under the Law are as binding upon us Christians, as they were upon them. Neither can it be alleged, with any shew of Reason, that this is a Ceremonial or Temporary Pre­cept, which did concern the Jewish Church, under the former dispensation only; seeing the end of the Command, and the reasons an­nexed to it, by the Spirit of GOD, to inforce it, concern all the professed People of GOD, to the end of the World, as much as they did the Jews, under the Law. The Reasons an­nexed to this Command are two, viz.

(1) THOU shalt read this Law before all Israel in their hearing, That they may hear and scarn, i. e. That they may so hear as to learn. We must study so to read and hear the Word of GOD, that we may understand the Myste­ries of our holy religion out of the Revelati­ons and Discoveries He hath given of them in His word. We must read and hear the Scriptures that we may learn what is our [Page 7]duty, towards GOD, towards our Neigh­bour, and towards our selves. The Scrip­tures must be read & heard, that the LORDS People may learn what they are to expect at the hand of GOD; provided they shall con­tinue Constant, and faithful in their Obedi­ence to Him: and what they have to fear, if they neglect their duty, and transgress His Law.

(2) THE Law must be read before all Israel, That they may hear and fear the LORD their GOD, i. e. That they may Worship and Serve the LORD, after an acceptable manner. The LORD will have His People to learn their Obedience to Him, out of His Own Word: for the Revealed Will of GOD, contains the Rule and Measure of that Wor­ship and Obedience which we owe unto Him: therefore it is added, That they may observe to do all the words of this Law: i. e. that they may observe to do every thing that the Law commands to be done.

NOW these are the things that we have as much need to learn, as the Jews had; and are as much obliged to do, as they were: and therefore seeing the Reading, and Hear­ing of the holy Scriptures, in our Publick religious Assemblies, is a mean appointed by GOD to these Important purposes; it ought [Page 8]not to be neglected by us. And the Reasons of GOD's Command, being the same to us, that they were to the Jews under the Law; the Command it self must oblige us, as much as it did them. And that it was the Will of GOD, when He first gave this Law to His People, that this Ordinance should be kept up in His Church, in all succeeding Genera­tions; and that it should be made a part of their stated Publick Worship every Sabbath-day, seems to be clearly intimated in these words in the 13th verse. That their Children which have not known any thing, may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God, as long as you live in the Land, whither ye go over Jordan to possess it. And thus the pious Jews under the Law, did understand this Precept, seeing they made the Publick Reading of the Law and the Prophets, always a part of their Sab­bath-days worship, Of which Ainsworth out of the Jewish Doctors gives us the following account, in his Annotations on Gen. 6.9. ‘These three Letters in the Hebrew Bibles do signifie the Parasha, or great Section of Moses Law, which was a Lecture on the Sabbath-day, read in the Jews Synagogues, as is observed, Acts 15.21. to which was added a Lecture out of the Prophets, Acts 13.15. And the first Paragraph or Section [Page 9](which is from the Creation hitherto) they call Bereshith, i. e. in the beginning. The second, which reacheth to the XII. Chapter, they call Noe; and so the rest.’

‘There are in all, 54 Sections in the Law, which they read in the 52. Sabbaths, joyn­ing two of the shortest twice together; that the whole may be finished in a Years space.’

‘Here the Jewish Doctors write thus. It is a Common Custom, throughout all Israel, that they finish wholly the (reading of the) Law in one Year: beginning in the Sabbath, which is after the feast of Tabernacles, at the first Section of Genesis: In the second Sabbath, at, These are the Generations of Noe. In the third, at, The Lord said unto Abram, Gen. 12.1. So they read and go on in this order, till they have ended the Law, at the feast of Tabernacles. So far he.

THAT this was the continued practice of the Jews, even in CHRIST, and His A­postles time, is evident from several passages in the New-Testament. As that in Acts 15.21. For Moses of old, hath in every City them that Preach him, being read in their Synagogues every Sabbath-day. Here we may observe, (1) That the Reading of the holy Scriptures, is called, by the Inspired Historian, Preaching. [Page 10](2) That the Practice of Reading the holy Scriptures in their Synagogues, was, by the Jews repeated every Sabbath-day; and con­sequently, was a part of their stated Publick Worship.

IT is recorded also in Acts 13.14. That when they; viz. Paul and Barnabas, departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the Synagogue on the Sabbath-day, and sat down; And after the reading of the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the Synagogue sent unto them, saying, Ye men and brethren, if ye have any word of Exhortation to the People, say on. Here we may observe, (1) That the reading of the Law and the Prophets was at­tended upon by the Jews, as a part of GOD's Publick Worship; seeing it was performed by them, in their Synagogue, the Place of GOD's Publick Worship; and on the Sabbath-day. (2) That this Reading of the Law and the Prophets did precede Exhortation, (or that which we commonly call Preaching) and that it was distinct from it. (3) That the Apostles of our Lord JESUS CHRIST did attend the Reading of the Law and the Prophets, as a part of GOD's Publick Worship.

AND our Saviour also Himself did coun­tenance and approve this Reading of the holy Scriptures, in Publick, as a part of GOD's [Page 11]Worship, by His frequent attending upon it; and by His practising of it Himself. We are informed by the Evangelist Luke, Luk. 4.16, 17. That he came to Nazareth where he had been brought up: and as his custom was, he went in­to the Synagogue on the Sabbath-day, and stood up for to Read. Here we may observe, (1) That it was our Saviours Custom to attend the Publick Worship of GOD, as performed by the Jews in their Synagogue on the Sabbath-day; where the Reading of the Law and the Pro­phets was a considerable part of that Wor­ship. (2) That our Saviour did Read the holy Scriptures himself, as a part of GOD's Publick Worship, and that it was His Custom so to do; which no doubt is recorded for our Instruction and Imitation.

AND from the Practice of the Jews in their Synagogues in making the Reading of the Scriptures a part of their stated Publick Worship, the like order was brought into the Christian Church; and the Reading of the Scriptures is made part of the Office of the Ministers of the Gospel, as it had been of the Priests and Levites under the Law. Timothy is commanded by the Apostle, in 1 Tim. 4.13. To give attendance to Reading, as well as to Exhortation and Doctrine. These Epistles to Timothy and Titus have been considered as a [Page 32]Directory, given by the Spirit of GOD, to these two Evangelists, how they should be­have themselves in the House of GOD; and in them, to all Gospel-Ministers in all Suc­ceeding Ages of the Church; and as the Ex­hortation and Doctrine, which the Evangelist here is directed to give attendance unto, are of a Publick Nature; so the Reading poin­ted at, seems also to be. The thing he was to read, no doubt, was the holy Scriptures; and the Reading it self a Publick act of his sacred Office, & cannot be restricted to his Pri­vate Studies, which he was to follow in or­der to his being fitted & prepared for Pub­lick Work.

THE inspired writings also of the Apostles were Commanded to be Read by Christians, in their Publick religious Assemblies. It is Commanded by the Apostle, Col. 4.16. When this Epistle is read amongst you, Cause that it be read also in the Church of the Laodiceans; and that ye also read the Epistle from Laodicea. The Apostle gives a very solemn Charge to the Church of Thessalonica to the same purpose, in 1 Thes. 5.27. I charge you by the Lord that this Epistle be read unto all the holy Brethren.

AND it is highly probable that what was enjoyned these Churches mentioned, was ex­pected from, and practised by all the Christi­an [Page 13]Churches, to whom the Apostle wrote. And this will appear, if we consider, (1) That the Apostolical Epistles sent to particular Churches, are directed to them as a Society. (2) The Doctrines insisted upon in these E­pistles are of a Publick Nature, and concern all the Members of the Church; and there­fore all had a right to be acquainted with them.

THIS Publick Reading of the holy Scrip­tures was appointed by GOD as a mean for the preserving the Knowledge of Himself among His People, & to stir them up to perse­vere in their Obedience to Him; and there­fore whenever this came to be neglected, the LORD's People did quickly sink into Ido­latry & Immorality. In the wicked Reigns of Manasseh and Amon his Son, it seems the book of the Law of GOD was lost; which was found by Hilkiah in the Reign of Josiah, while they were repairing and cleansing the Temple. And in these two Reigns the Jew­ish Church was degenerated to an astonish­ing degree. And the most glorious Refor­mations that were set on foot in that Church, were begun, and carried on, by restoring this Ordinance. It is recorded of King Josiah, that pious Prince and great Reformer, in 2 Chron. 34.29. Then the King sent, and gathered [Page 14]all the Eldors of Judah, and Jerusalem, and the King went up into the house of the Lord, and all the men of Judah, and Inhabitants of Jerusalem. And the Priests, and the Levites, and all the People great and small; and he read in their ears all the words of the book of the Covenant, that was found in the house of the Lord.

THE same Method was followed by Ezra the Priest, in his pious endeavours towards the carrying on a universal Reformation a­mong the LORD's People, after their return from the Babylonish Captivity, as is recorded, Neh. 8.2, 3. And Ezra the Priest brought the Law before the Congregation, both of men and women, and all that could hear with understand­ing; upon the first day of the second Month and he read therein, before the Street, that was be­fore the water gate, from the Morning, until mid-day, before the men, and the women, and all those that could understand.

THUS we have seen that the Reading and Hearing of the holy Scriptures Read, in the Publick Assemblies of GOD's People, hath been expressly commanded by GOD Himself, both in the Old and New-Testaments: And that this Publick Reading, and hearing of the Scriptures, hath been practised by the godly, both under the Law, and under the Gospel, as a stated part of GOD's Publick Worship, [Page 15]and that CHRIST Himself and His holy Apostles, did countenance and approve of it, both by their being frequently present at it, and by their own practice.

AND it is highly reasonable that the LORD's People should continue the practice of Reading the holy Scriptures in their Pub­lick religious Assemblies, not only because GOD hath expressly commanded it, which indeed should have the most powerful Influ­ence upon us, in all our undertakings & per­formances; but also because of the unspeak­able advantages which we may expect from it. The Apostle Paul assures us, 2 Tim. 3.15. That the Scriptures are able to make a man wise to Salvation thro' faith which is in Christ Jesus.

THE holy Scriptures may be considered as an Epistle sent down from Heaven, by GOD Himself, to the Children of Men here below, containing in it, a plain and full Re­velation of all the Mysteries of our holy Reli­gion; and a Declaration of those Divine Truths which must be known and firmly be­lieved by us, in order to Salvation: and the Infallible Rules by which our Lives and Practices must be regulated: And the sure Charter by which we hold our Title to Hea­ven, and to all the valuable Blessings & Pri­vileges made over to us, in the Gospel-Co­venant. [Page 16]And indeed, the most excellent, useful, and edifying Sermons that can be Preach'd, are so, only as they serve to ex­plain the holy Scriptures, and to stir up Men to comply with the Will of GOD revealed in them; and to follow the Directions which GOD hath given us in His Word. And there­fore our acquainting our selves with these blessed Records, by the diligent Improve­ment of every mean that the LORD is affor­ding us, in order there-unto; must be both our Duty and our Interest; of which, frequent Reading, and hearing of them Read, both in Publick and Private, is one, and perhaps, as proper, and as frequently blessed of GOD, as any. What is said concerning the Book of Revelation, Rev. 1.3. Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this Prophecy, and keep those things that are written therein, holds true of all the rest of the Books of holy Scripture.

THE holy Scriptures, in all things neces­sary to Salvation, are plain and easy to be understood, and are as well-accommodated to humane weakness, as the discourses of the most Celebrated Preachers ordinarily are, or indeed can be: and therefore the Reading of them to a Publick and vulgar Auditory, must be as likely to promove a [Page 17]Peoples Instruction and Edification, as Prea­ching; especially considering that it is a mean of GOD's own appointment, in order to this end, as well as that. And it looks too like our putting a slight upon the holy Scriptures, and our being too regardless of GOD Himself, the Author of them, when we thrust the Reading of them out of our Pub­lick religious Assemblies: and that even af­ter the LORD hath so plainly signified His Will to us, that He would have the Publick Reading of His Word continued among His People, and practised by them, as a part of His Publick Worship.

Obj. 1. IF it be objected against the Publick Reading of the holy Scriptures, that Bibles are now plenty, & most of Christian Families are well stored with them, and the LORD'S People are, almost universally, capable of reading them in Private; and therefore our Reading them in Publick, is needless.

To this I answer,

1. THAT tho' Bibles are plenty, and most of Christian Families are well stored with them, and the LORD'S People are al­most universally capable of reading them; which is a Mercy that should be acknowled­ged by us, with all Thankfulness: yet we have no assurance that they do universally do [Page 18]so, or even that the greater part of them make Conscience of the doing of it, either by themselves, or in their Families; tho' this be their duty, and they Sin if they neg­lect it.

2. THE LORD hath Commanded the Reading of His Word in Publick, as a part of His own Worship; and therefore our Private reading of it, how diligent so ever we may be therein; can never free us from the obli­gation of this Command. This ought to be done, and the other not left undone.

3. THE LORD'S People may warranta­bly expect a special Blessing upon their Read­ing and Hearing the Scriptures in Publick, beyond and above, what they can expect up­on their Private reading of them, especially when the Publick Reading of them is wil­fully neglected: for the LORD hath promi­sed, Exod. 20.23. In all Places where I record my name, I will come unto thee, and bless thee. When we make Conscience of attending up­on the LORD in His own Ordinances, Institu­tions and Appointments, to which He has annexed His Promises; we may, with some degree of Considence, hope that the Spirit of GOD will concur to the making of them effectual to the promoting and carrying on our Edification and Salvation.

[Page 19] Obj. 2. IF it be alleged, that the Publick Reading of the Scriptures would consume much time, which otherwise might be Im­proved to greater advantage. I answer.

1. THAT seeing the Publick Reading of the holy Scriptures is GOD's own Ordinance, Time must be allowed for it. If GOD has Commanded His People to Read the holy Scriptures in Publick, that they may learn to Fear Him; it must be great presumption and undutifulness in them, to think or say that it is either needless, or that it is not a proper mean for reaching the end we propose to our selves therein, and therefore that it Deserves not Time to be spent in it.

2. IT must be a putting some degree of Contempt upon the holy Scriptures, to think or say that it is not worth while to spend Time in the Publick Reading of them. They that make this objection against the Publick Reading of the Scriptures, are not likely to spend much Time in the Private Reading of them; seeing they have so low an esteem of them. They that can say with holy David, Psal. 119.97. O how love I thy Law! It is my meditation all the day: will not begrudge the Time that is necessarily spent in the Improve­ment of proper means, in order to their being more throughly and universally acquainted with it.

[Page 20] BUT seeing it is generally acknowledged by Christians, that the Publick Reading of the holy Scriptures is a duty which GOD hath enjoyned His People the performance of, and that the far greater part of professed Christians do actually practise it, I shall not, at present insist any longer in the proof of it, but proceed to the second general Head, Which is to Inquire, How this part of GOD's Publick Worship ought to be performed by the LORD'S People? And,

1. IT ought, without doubt, to be performed with much Reverence & Solemnity. Thus did the Church of the Jews attend upon it. It is recorded in Luke 4.16. That our Saviour stood up, when He addressed Himself to the Read­ing of the Scriptures, as an evidence, no doubt, of the reverent regard He had to these Sacred Records, and that He might Instruct us by His holy Example. We are informed, Neb. 8.5. And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people; (for he was above all the people) and when he opened it, all the people stood up. And indeed it is highly reasonable, that this part of GOD's Publick Worship should be attended by His People with holy fear and reverence, seeing herein GOD speaks to us in a more Immediate way; and that about matters of the greatest Importance. [Page 21]If reverence be due when we speak more di­rectly to GOD, as in Prayer, It must be very becoming & necessary, when He speaks to us.

THE Jews before they ingaged in this part of GOD's Publick Worship, did address themselves to GOD, whose Word they were about to Read, in solemn Prayer. It is said in Neb. 8.6. And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the People answered, Amen, amen, with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their beads and worshipped the Lord, with their faces to the ground. And it was usual with them also to conclude the Publick Reading of the [...]w, with solemn Prayer: As Ainsworth out of the Jewish Doctors, ob­serves, upon the Text now under our Consi­deration.

2. THE holy Scriptures ought to be Read and Heard, by the Lord's People, with much Se­riousness and Attention, with a heart prepared, and very desirous to Learn and Understand the mind of GOD held sorth to us in His Word. When the great GOD speaks, Carelesness and Indifferency in us, is very unbecoming, and unsuitable. It is recorded in Neb. 8.3. And he read therein before the street that was before the water gate, from the morning until mid-day, before the men, and the women, and those that could understand; and the ears of all [Page 22]the People were Attentive unto the book of the Law.

3. THE holy Scriptures ought so to be Read, that they may be Understood by the People, before whom they are read. The end of this Publick Reading is, that the People may learn to fear the LORD; and therefore they are so to be read, that this end may be effectually reached. They are therefore to be Read in a Lan­guage wherewith the People are acquainted: and the difficulties that may occur in our Reading, ought to be cleared to the capacity of the Hearers. And such observations made upon what we Read, and such Inferences drawn from it, as may contribute most effectually, to it's being put in practice. A­greeable to this Method, it is observed in Neb. 8.8. So they read in the book, in the law of the Lord distinctly, and gave the sence, and caused them to understand the reading.

4. THE holy Scriptures shou'd be Read, by the LORD's People, in their Publick Assem­blies, Orderly. What was practiced by the Jewish Church, with respect here-unto, we have seen already; they began at the begin­ning of the Old Testament, in the Sabbath after the feast of Tabernacles; and so read the whole over in order in the space of a Year. This they did no doubt, that the [Page 23]People might be acquainted, with the whole revealed Will of GOD. There is no part of holy Scripture unnecessary; no part of it is unprofitable; it is all useful, edifying, and instructive: and therefore no part of it is to be passed over in our Reading; no part should be omitted: we are told, 2 Tim. 3.16. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for Doctrine, for Reproof, for Instruction in Righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished, unto all good works. The Command of GOD to His People is, that His Law be Read in their Publick Assemblies; and the design of the Command cannot be fully answered by them, if any part of it be omitted in their Publick Reading of it. It is observed of Joshua to his Commendation, Josh. 8.35. That there was not a word of all that Moses command­ed, which Joshua read not, before all the Con­gregation of Israel, with the Women, and little Ones, and the Strangers that were conversant among them.

WE have this Reading of the holy Scrip­tures in Order, recommended to us by the Assembly of Divines at Westminster, in their Directory for Publick Worship, in these words; ‘It is requisite that all the Canoni­cal books, be read over in Order, that [Page 24]the People may be better acquainted with the whole body of Scriptures.’

THE LORD hath not determined in His Word, how much of the holy Scriptures should be Read at one time by His People, in their Publick Assemblies; that seems to be left to Christian prudence to determine. The whole revealed Will of GOD must be Read; and therefore it should be Read in such Portions, that the LORD's People who attend upon this Publick Reading, may be acquainted with the whole counsel of GOD.

THIS Publick Reading of the holy Scrip­ture, doth by no means, free the LORD'S People from the Private Reading of them: GOD hath Commanded both, and therefore both must be made Conscience of by all that would approve themselves to GOD. As to the Private Reading of the Scriptures, we have the following direction, Deut. 6.6. These words which I command thee this day, shall be in thy peart and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy Children, and shalt talk of them, when thou sittest in thy house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou lyest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thy band: and they shall be as frontles between thine eyes. And thou shalt write [Page 25]them upon the posts of thine house, and on thy gates.


1. HENCE we may infer, That it must be Culpable in any who profess themselves to be the LORD's People, to live in the neglect of the Publick Reading of the holy Scriptures in their Religious Assemblies, as a part of GOD's Worship; upon what pretence soever this may be done, seeing we have GOD's express Command for the doing of it, and the Ex­ample of CHRIST and His Apostles, pro­posed to us, for our Imitation therein.

IT cannot be supposed that our Reading a verse or two for a Text, on the LORDS day, or a few verses quoted by us, in the course of our Sermons, for the Confirmation and Illustration of the Doctrine we undertake to explain and apply to our hearers; can be any tolerable answering of the design of this Command; seeing it is certain that notwith­standing all the People hear out of the holy Scriptures this way, they may remain great Strangers to no small part of GOD's revea­led Will.

AND the diligence of some, in Reading the Scriptures in Private (for I do not take this to be universally practised by the LORD's [Page 26]professed People) can no way satisfie for our neglecting to Read them in Publick. GOD's Commands should be obeyed by all that have subjected themselves to His Au­thority. It would he very undutiful in any of the LORD'S Servants, when He Commands them to Read His Word in Publick, to answer, No. there is no need of our doing so, we can Read it in Private to as much advantage. This would be to arraign the Wisdom of GOD as defective, in appointing a thing to be done by His People, and that in His own Worship, that is unprofitable and needless, and a calling in question His Authority over us. It belongs to Him to give Direction how He will be worshipped and served by His Subjects & Servants, and He doth not al­low, that any of His Commands be debated by them. It is our duty to Obey GOD; and not prescribe to Him. It is without doubt, the necessary duty of all, who have any true zeal for the Glory of GOD, and the credit of Religion, that they manifest an honoura­ble regard to the holy Scriptures, by decla­ring publickly & practically, that they look upon them as the Infallible Rule of faith and practice, at a time when all revealed Religion is decry'd by many; and whole volumes written against it by Men who pre­tend [Page 27]to a greater share of understanding and penetration than others. Surely it must be our duty to do what we can towards the stopping the awful progress of the present prevailing Apostacy.

2. THEY that live in the allowed Omission of this part of GOD's Publick Worship, because they do not look upon it as any part of their duty; are hence exhorted to allow this matter a Serious and Impartial Examination. You can­not otherwise acquit your selves of too great a degree of negligence about the Worship of GOD. It is very reasonable that when we are Charged as guilty of a culpable Omission in any part of our practice; especially in the Worship of GOD; that we examine and try whether the Charge be just and well groun­ded, or not. And this matter, as all others relating to the Worship of GOD, must be ex­amined by the revealed Will of GOD: The Rules & Directions GOD hath given us, how He will be worshipped and served by His People, must be carefully Inquired into.

WE must, by no means, make the Custom and usage of those we live among, the stan­dard by which this is to be tryed; seeing the prevailing Custom of the Places Men live in, doth too often mislead them in point of Practice. Neither is this matter to be tryed [Page 28]by the example of Men, though otherwise great and good; seeing the best may err, and therefore are to be followed no further than they have followed CHRIST, and have conformed themselves to the Rules of the Gospel. Here therefore we would propose such Questions as these to our selves, to be fairly debated by us.

QUEST. 1. IS the Reading of the holy Scrip­tures a duty that the LORD hath commanded His People to perform in their Religious assem­blies, as a part of His Publick Worship?

2. IS that Law whereby GOD hath so ex­pressly Commanded the Publick Reading of the Scriptures, a Ceremonial, or a Moral Law? For without doubt, if it be a Moral Law, we are as much obliged to the observation of it, as the Jews were under the former Dispen­sation.

3. IS the Reading of a verse or two for a Text, and a few quotations, in the course of our Sermons each Lords day, a sufficient answering of the design of this Law, whereby GOD hath enjoyned the Publick Reading of His Word?

4. IF it be a Moral Law, and consequently of perpetual Obligation; and our Reading a verse or two for a Text, &c. each Lords-day, doth in no measure answer the design of that Law; how can we fairly account for our living in the [Page 2]Omission of a Duty, that GOD hath so express­ly Commanded us?

IT is very reasonable that we should con­sider these Questions seriously, and imparti­ally, in order to our coming to such a Reso­lution of each of them, as may be safely de­pended upon by us. And what I have said in this discourse, may, I hope, be of some use towards our framing a safe answer to each of them.

3. IF upon Examination we find, that the Publick Reading of the Scriptures is a Duty that GOD hath Commanded His People the per­formance of, as a part of His Publick Worship, and that we have lived hitherto in the culpable neglect of it; Let us now resolve upon a speedy Reformation; as that which will be most ac­ceptable to GOD, and most safe for our selves. It is sinful in any to go about to justifie their practice in that wherein they are evidently faulty. And it is no less dangerous for Men to persist in a practice, after they are con­vinced that it is wrong; upon what consi­deration so ever this may be done. What tho it be alleged against us by some, That we are bringing in a New Practice, contrary to the received Custom and Usage of the Country wherein we live. If we be singu­lar herein, it is but by our returning to the [Page 30] good Old Way, that GOD Commanded His People to walk in, that we are so; and this can be no culpable singularity.

HE that has Commanded us, Not to fol­low a Multitude to do evil, Exod. 23.2. Will, without doubt, approve of our Reforming what we find amiss in our own way. And it is a Truth of perpetual Verity, that they that have respect to all God's Commandments, shall not be ashamed, Psal. 119.6. GOD will show a tender regard to their honour and reputation, who make Conscience of honou­ring Him, by doing their duty faithfully and constantly. The LORD hath laid it down, as a constant and fixed Rule of His procee­dings with the Children of Men. 1 Sam. 2 30. Them that honour me, I will honour; and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed.

OUR love to GOD and His Laws should Constrain us to comply with every thing that He makes known to be our duty. Nei­ther Custom, nor the Example of Others, nor our own Inclinations must be our Rule in the Matters of GOD and Religion: but the revealed Will of GOD: To this we must study to conform our selves in all things; not turning to the right nor to the left hand from that straight path that GOD (who is our Lawgiver, and shall be our Judge) hath [Page 31]directed us to walk in. Blessed is that ser­vant whom his Lord when he cometh, shall find so doing, Mat. 24.46.

I shall conclude what I design upon this subject at this time, with the following Di­rections.

1. WHEN we Read, or Hear the holy Scrip­tures Read; We should Consider them, not as the words of Men, but as the Words of the Li­ving and True GOD, whereby He discovers to us matters of the biggest Importance. And therefore that they ought to be Read and Heard with the profoundest Reverence, and the greatest Attention and Application of Mind that we are capable of. It is recorded to the honour of the believing Thessalonians, 1 Thes. 2.13. For this cause thank we God without ceasing, because when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but (as it is an truth) the Word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe. When we are Reading, or Hearing the Scripture Read; we should think with our selves, Now the great GOD the Creator & Supream Gover­nour of the World is Speaking, and He di­recis His Speech particularly to me, in mat­ters wherein His own Glory, and the Wel­fare [Page 32]of my own Soul are nearly concerned; and He is observing how I behave my self in the present duty; and will call me to a particular and strict Account how I behave my self herein: and therefore I had need to manage the Duty I am engaged in, with all seriousness and circumspectness.

2. IN our Reading and Hearing the Scrip­tures, we should seriously Consider, to what End the LORD gave his revealed Will to Men, and hath so clearly revealed Himself to them therein. We are told that all Scrip­ture is given by Inspiration of GOD, and is profitable for doctrine for reproof, for cor­rection, for instruction in righteousness, that the Man of GOD may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. The Scriptures are given that we may learn to fear GOD, that we may be directed how we may glorifie GOD, and enjoy Him for ever; and therefore in our Reading and Hearing of them Read, we should study to fall in with GOD's glorious Design in gi­ving His Word to us: Otherwise we must fall mort of the End which we should pro­pose to our selves in these religious Ex­ercises.

[Page 33] 3. WE should seriously Consider, that we must give an Account to GOD, how we have Improved His Word, how we have Read it, and how we have Heard it, and what profit and ad­vantage we have had by both, and what effect the Word of GOD hath had upon us. Have we been led thereby to frame right Concep­tions of GOD, of our selves, and of the World? And what Influence it hath had upon our Conversation? Have we been thereby induced to ingage in the Study of a Universal Holiness? to a ready and chear­ful Obedience to all GOD's Commands? And to an Intire Resignation of our selves to the Will of GOD in all things?

IF we receive no advantage by our Read­ing and Hearing of the Scriptures, we may conclude that there must be something a­miss in our way and manner of doing of it, which we should search and try, until we have found it out; and when we have found it we should immediately set about the Reforming of what has been amiss in our managing of that Important Duty.

[Page 34] To Conclude, In our Reading and Hear­ing the holy Scriptures, we should look un­to, and depend upon GOD for His Blessing upon His own Word, that it may become the Power of GOD to Salvation to all of us. That we may be gradually prepared for Heaven, and for the Immediate Enjoyment of GOD the chief Good; For so an entrance shall be ministred unto us abundantly, into the everlasting Kingdom of our Lord and Saviour JESUS CHRIST, 2 Pet. 1.11.


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