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IN the Treatise of the Government of the Tongue, publish’d 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 it self is set on fire from hell, Jam. 3. 6. of the impious vanity prevailing in this Age, whereby men play with sacred things, ivand exercise their wit upon the 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, Matt. 12. 34. and also from that irreligion, prepossession, and supiness, which the pursuit of sensual pleasures 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 attempt a profess’d 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 v 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 derived to us, or our ingratitude return’d to him, could actuate in persons not utterly obdurate.
But whereas men when they have learn’d to do amiss, quickly dispute and dictate; I found my self concern’d to pass sometimes 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 study’d to avoid the entanglements of Sophistry, and the ambition of unintelligible Quotations; and kept my self within the reach of the unlearned Christian Reader, to whose uses my labours have been ever dedicated.vi
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 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 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, Psal. 34. 8. and, as the Angel commands Saint John, Revelat. 10. 9. eat the Book: where he will experimentally find the words of David verify’d, 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 viirejoyce the heart; the Commandment of the Lord is pure, and giveth light to the eyes. The Fear of the Lord is clean and endureth for ever, the Judgements of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desir’d are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold, sweeter also than hony and the hony-comb. Moreover by them is thy servant taught, and in keeping of them there is great reward.
It is said of Moses, Exod. 34. 29. that having receiv’d the Law from God, and convers’d with him in Mount Sinai fourty days together, his face shone, and had a brightness fix’d upon it that dazled the beholders; a pledge and short essay not only of his appearance at Mount Tabor, Matt. 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 viii 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 fourty days, during our whole lives, and so anticipate and. certainly assure our interest in that great Transfiguration, when all the faithful shall put off 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 Hebr. 4. 12. declares to be quick and powerful, sharper than any two-edg’d sword, piercing to the dividing asunder ixof soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intent of the heart.
The time will come when all our Books however recommended for subtilty of discourse, exactness of method, variety of matter, eloquence of Language; when all our curious Arts, like those mention’d Acts 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, Revel. 6. 14. At which important season ’twill be more to purpose to have study’d well, that is, transcrib’d in practice this one Book, than to have run thro’ all besides, for then the dead, small and great, shall stand befere 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 xwritten in the Books according to their works, Revel. 20. 21.
In vain shall men alledge 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 immediate miracle; the 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 tempting 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 condescension would be as successless in the event, as ’tis unreasonable in the offer. Our Saviour assures, that they who hear not Moses and the Prophets, the instructions and commands laid down in holy Scripture, would xinot be wrought upon by any other method, would not be persuaded by that which they allow for irresistable conviction, tho’ one rose again from the dead, Luke 16. 31.1
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