|« Prev||Lecture IX. Preached January 23, 1691.||Next »|
Now what we shall further say, as to the two things laid down before, will be to answer an objection which possibly may arise in the minds of some: to wit,
That this way of being ascertained of the divinity first, and then secondly, concerning the identity and sameness still of these books, doth seem to resolve our faith, at length, into a human testimony and so, at length, to make only a human faith. That is, that all rests upon this—that we have been truly told, and by such as lived before us in the world, that there were such books in their time, and we are led by testimony in following ages, to collect, that these are the same books. Is not this (may some say) to resolve our faith into a human testimony, and so to make it only a human faith? In answer to this I have several things to say.
I. That it is very plain, that a human testimony must be depended upon aliquatenus, some way or other, in reference to all the concernments of religion. That is a point out of doubt, some dependance there must be upon human testimony. 467Suppose a preacher came among a company of illiterate men, men that could never so much as read; or if any of them were so, (which is a thing not unusual in Christian congregations) and he takes a text and produces (it may be) many more parallel ones out of the Bible for the doctrine which he preacheth; how can these men know that this is a Bible he preacheth out of, but by a human testimony? And even for those that can read, they must depend upon a human testimony, that what they read is a true translation: supposing them not to be learned themselves in, or not having opportunity to consult the originals, they must depend upon the testimony of the learned, who have viewed those books in the originals, such as lexicographers, and the like, for the true signification and translation of the words they read. This therefore is plain and out of question, that some use there must be of a human testimony in reference to the concernments of religion. And I add,
2. It is no more strange that God should state our case, so as to oblige us to some dependance upon human testimony, than that he should state it so as we must have a necessary dependance upon our own sense. We are told that “faith comes by hearing;” we can have no ordinary way to come to the knowledge of the things contained in these books, but by the use of our eyes, and the use of our ears. And I could fain know why there should be a greater sacredness in these organs of our own, than in those of other men. Why should mine eye or ear be thought a more sacred thing than the voice or tongue of another man? And again,
3. It is one thing to use a human testimony, in a case where in God hath ordained and appointed to do it, and another thing to do it besides, or against his ordination and appointment. Here we are to distinguish between matters of fact, and matters of right. We are to make use of the testimony of men, even by God’s own appointment, in reference to matters of fact; to inform us only of mere matter of fact. This is an institution of God. “It is written in your law (saith our Saviour) that the testimony of two or three witnesses is true.” “I come unto you in the mouth of two or more witnesses,” saith the apostle, “and in the mouth of two or three witnesses, shall every word be established.” This is a divine ordination: it is not an arbitrary thing taken up by men at random, and of their own choice and pleasure; but it is God’s stated medium and way, wherein he hath appointed, that persons are to be informed concerning matters of fact, which they are concerned to know, and of which they have not the immediate knowledge themselves. “It is written in your law (saith Christ to the Jews) 468 that the testimony of two men is true.” What law was that? It was the divine law. God hath enacted, that the testimony of a competent number of witnesses should be relied upon, to as sure us of the truth of those matters of fact, that they do testify, and you do well know, that upon this ground (so material a thing this is) depends all the administration of justice throughout the world. Otherwise, no judge would determine in reference to any case, which came not under the sight of his own eye, or whereof he was not an ear-witness. And so this would subvert the very foundations of all human society. There could be no such thing as human society in the world, upon these terms, and therefore we must look upon this as a holy, wise constitution of the great Ruler of this world, who hath ordained and appointed, that in reference to such matters of fact, as we are concerned to have the knowledge of, and have not the immediate knowledge of ourselves, we are to depend upon the testimony of others. And this is not an arbitrary thing that we take up of ourselves, but a thing that the wisdom of heaven -hath constituted and set for the preserving of common order here, among men in this world. And
4. The difference is unspeakably great, between relying upon men’s testimony, as to mere matters of fact; and relying upon it, as to matters of right. We may have a difference upon the authority of one or two credible witnesses, reporting to us such matters of fact, when as to which is right and wrong, we will have no dependance upon them at all. As now suppose any of you receive a letter from some person of very great authority and quality, and for whom you have great deference and duty, this letter “comes to you by the hands of a foot man; do you pay a deference to the man, in believing what is contained in the letter? No, all the belief of what is contained in the letter, is resolved into the authority of him that wrote it, and from whom it comes. Only you may look upon this as a fit medium to convey it to you; and you rely (if there be occasion to do so much) no more upon the footman, as to matter of fact, but that he received this letter from his lord or master to deliver to you; but his testimony hath no influence upon the contents of the letter, one way or other.
And this therefore, leads you sufficiently to understand how to answer yourselves, if any should further inquire—Pray how doth this differ from the notion that runs among them of the Romish church, that is, that we are beholden to their tradition for the Scriptures we have, and for our Christianity, and for all that we have any knowledge of in the things of God and religion?—Why it differs the most that can be. For,469
( 1.) The papists do not only claim to be witnesses in the case, but they claim to be the only witnesses: which they most pretencelessly and injuriously assume to themselves: for we do not rely upon them as the sole witnesses, nor as witnesses at all, but only as they join and fall in with the concurrent testimony of the rest of the Christian churches, that have the same books among them that we have. We are no more beholden to them, than we are to other Christians. Nor,-
(2.) Do we rely barely upon the testimony of Christian churches, as to the matters of fact contained in these books, but we rely upon the concurrent testimony of the rest of the world, Jews and pagans themselves, as to the truth of matters of fact, which we need to be informed about, in the matters of our religion. The papists do engross to themselves to be the only witnesses, most falsely, and without the least colour of pretence. But we reckon the testimony of an enemy, an avowed, professed enemy is of the greatest strength in such a case imaginable. That is the testimony we have from the Jews, and the testimony we have from the pagans, of matters of fact, when the matter of fact is against, plainly against them. This we think we have a great deal of reason to lay much stress and weight upon. Now it is very plain as to mere matters of fact, pagans themselves have owned the truth of those matters of fact, upon which the christian doth depend: to wit, the wonderful works wrought by our Saviour and his apostles to prove the doctrines that they preached, and that are contained in these books. Pagans do not deny these matters of fact, we have them in divers of their own writings. For as to those miracles wrought by Christ, in his own time, to prove the truth of Christianity, (which was done on purpose that they might know that Jesus was the Son of God: that men might believe this and that by believing it, might have life through his name,) Celsus, that great enemy of the Christian religion, never goes about to deny the matter of fact: he knew that would be vain. All the world knew the truth of the matter of fact; only he takes a great deal of pains to shew how it was possible that such things might be done by other invisible powers. Just the same conceit that the Jews had among themselves, when they tell our Saviour, that he cast out devils by Beelzebub the prince of the devils. That is, they did suppose the devil to have fallen out with himself, and that all his business was industriously to destroy his own kingdom. Indeed, the greatest and most momentous matters of fact, by which Christianity was confirmed at first, are freely granted by the most considerable pagans. We find in their writings, an acknowledgement of those things 470that filled the world with so much wonder, and they labour partly to turn off all by referring the great wonders to other causes and agents; and partly by pretending, that as strange things have been wrought by their own hands: as the setting up of Apollonius Tyanaeus, that great magician; whereas, the disparity is so great that nothing is more so, nor can be to any, who consider, that those tricks wrought by him, were easily detected of fraud and imposture, and were pretended to be wrought to no considerable purpose. But the others were frequent and often repeated, and in common sight, and without any design of hiding; so as that when men that have been concerned have canvassed and searched as much as possible, to know whether they were true or no, the light hath shone into their faces, and they have been forced to yield and own that a great and notable work hath been done, “and we cannot deny it.” And with great dread and consternation they beheld the world running after Christ and his apostles, these works carrying so great a light in them, that were wrought for that design. And,
(3.) There is this difference besides, in what the papists do arrogate to themselves about this matter of testifying, from what we admit and assert; that is, that they assume to themselves the making of doctrines that shall be of equal authority with these books. And one of their greatest men among them, is known to have used that blasphemous saying, that this book hath no more of authority than Æsop’s fables, other than what it hath derived from their church. And if it were not for the authority it fetcheth from their church it were no more to be regarded than Æsop’s fables: which is so great an insolence that indeed one would wonder, (but that divine patience will magnify itself till the time of taking vengeance upon that apostate church come,) that a thunderbolt from heaven should not have vindicated such a blasphemy, with all things else that are of the same piece among them, and carry the same import and signification: for we know they take upon them to say and unsay, to do and undo, to maim and mangle this book, and set up contrary institutions to it; as is particularly known in that great ordinance of the sacrament of the Lord’s supper. And then,
(4.) As to the business of being mere witnesses of matter of fact, there they have proved themselves false and unfaithful; that is, in foisting in the apocryphal books into the canon of the Scripture, against the authority both of the Jewish church and the ancient church, as the world may judge at this day that read them.471
So that there is no parity at all in these two cases, the relying by God’s institution and appointment upon a human testimony, but as a medium to convey and transmit to us our knowledge of bare matter of fact, and their assuming to themselves to be the only one to be relied upon, not only as to matter of fact, but as to the authority by which right and wrong, and the truth and falsehood of doctrine are to be finally decided and judged of. And thus far then we think, that the way of proving the sameness of these books with those that bore the character of sacred books, or books of divine authority, is altogether unexceptionable, and so strong, as that there can lie nothing against it to the common reason and understanding of men, when we have such a way of being assured of this matter, as must be convictive to any that do allow themselves the liberty and use of their understandings. And it would be a very foolish expectation, to think that God should gratify the fanciful curiosities of men, by working wonders among them continually and repeatedly to no purpose.
Upon all this I shall superadd some considerations that may give strength to all that hath been said before. As,
1. By common consent of all mankind, some divine revelation or other is necessary to the ends of religion, besides mere natural light. We do not find or read of any sort of people under heaven that have pretended to any thing of religion, but have likewise also pretended to somewhat or other of divine revelation, besides what was natural and common to men as men, as necessary for the conduct of the affairs of religion, or for which such a thing as religion was to be kept on foot in the world. Look back amongst any sort of people as to the most ancient accounts we have in the world of any thing of religion and we shall find it so: as for instance, if we go to the Egyptians of old, the Phoenicians, the Assyrians, the Persians, the Grecians, the Romans, the ancient Gauls and Britons; nay, if we carry it as far as China: for such accounts as we have of their religion and what it hath been for some hundreds of years past, nay, and some thousands of years backwards. All these people have pretended to somewhat of divine revelation, over and besides natural light, none of them but have had those among them whom they always took to be inspired persons. I am not considering now, whether their pretensions be right or wrong, true or false, but all have agreed in this sentiment, that there did need some other revelation besides the light of nature, in order to the ends and purposes of religion. They always had some sacred persons among them. Their priests, their magi, gymnosophists, their brahmins, 472 their bards, their druids, whom they always took for inspired persons; and received dictates and directions from them still in reference to matters of religion: yea, and in reference to other matters too, as so many inspired persons: thus still by their own confession, owning mere natural light insufficient for the purposes of religion. Famous it is, (besides all that hath been intimated before,) concerning those several sorts of sacred persons, that the several nations had amongst them, that when Numa began to settle religion at Rome, in the first forming of that people he pretended to have all his directions from his goddess Egeria whom he conversed and met with in the woods, and consulted of those affairs from time to time. And the people of the Chinese are reckoned to have all their methods of religion and all their notions of it from that Confucius for whom they have the greatest veneration, that ever any people could be supposed to have of one as an inspired person, so as that deference was never paid by the Turks to their Mahomet, which is paid by these Chinese, to their Confucius whom they had their religion from, at least one thousand years before ever the other was known in the world.
Now this, to me, is a very great thing, that by the common consent of mankind in all the known and noted nations of which we have any record or notices among us; they should pretend constantly to somewhat or other of divine revelation, in reference to the affairs of religion; thereby giving us, as the common sentiment of mankind, that mere natural light was not enough, but some divine revelation was further to be superadded, for the conduct and management of the affairs of religion in the world. And to that is to be added,
2. That as this would be argumentum ad hominem, (it being the common sentiment of mankind,) so it is very apparent from the nature of the thing, that really and truly it is a matter of plain necessity in itself, that there be some superadded revelation to the mere light of nature. For notwithstanding the pretence of it, (that pretence of it to be sure, can never do the business or answer the end for which the thing itself is necessary) yet it is plain, that the very thing, that is, a real and divine revelation is necessary over and besides mere natural light, as that lies now so much corrupted, depraved and obscured, among the sons of men, if you do but consider into how miserable delusions, men have generally fallen, where such a real divine revelation was wanting, in reference to the greatest and most important things of religion. As what can we suppose greater or of more importance to religion than these two, the object of it, and the end of it? The Object of it is the God 473we are to worship, and the end of it is the felicity that we are to design and aim at in all the exercises of that worship, and in the whole course of our religion. Where there is not a real divine revelation, what monstrous conceits have been taken up concerning the object of religion! The polytheism of the gentile and pagan world, is a plain and pregnant proof what a necessity there was, that over and besides the mere light of nature, God should reveal himself as the peculiar and sole Object of religion, according to what he is in himself. For though it be true indeed, that many of the wisest philosophers among the pagans, have had right sentiments of the one Deity, the supreme Numen, God; yet for the generality of the people how much otherwise hath it been? And with whom those wiser men have been forced to comply and fall in, temporising with them whose own wicked and gross conceptions have led them to worship for deities, the sun, moon and stars; or heroes, the souls of men departed from among them, and sometimes to come so low as to worship dogs and cats, weasels, apes, serpents, onions, leeks and garlic, fountains and rivers and the like, for gods. So apparent need was there for a divine revelation to inform men about the object of their worship, above that light that is common to men as men. And then as concerning the end of religion, felicity, the great diversity of opinions among the pagans, (and even the wiser of them) no less than two hundred, eighty and eight, about the summum bonum, chief good, shews how great need there is of a particular divine direction, as to what that is which we are to design for ourselves as our final and eternal felicity. To these I add,
3. That supposing the necessity of a divine revelation about matters that relate to religion and our future blessedness, it must some time or other have become necessary that it should be a written revelation, put into writing upon record. Some time I say, I do not say always necessary. It is plain it must be less necessary in former ages of the world, when by reason of the vast longevity and length of life, about three or four persons might see through two thousand years and upwards, and so give an account but by three or four hands, of the most material and important things, that were of common concernment for men, as such, to know about the beginning of the world and the like. And no doubt there was great care taken to preserve the memory of what was necessary to be known, by monuments and the like, as Seth’s pillars were, of which Josephus gives a particular account in his time. But I suppose there were only oral traditions, for that time, passing from hand to hand; and that of things of so apparent, common importance 474 and necessity, that none can imagine but if the person? were persons of tolerable prudence, (and we have no reason but to apprehend they were persons of great prudence, some at least that were more especially concerned, as Adam himself, Enoch, Noah and Shem,) there could not but have been very distinct accounts transmitted from such hands, of what was necessary to be known concerning the original of the world, and what the pleasure of him that made it was, concerning the affairs of his worship in those days. And we may easily apprehend ourselves if, in any family among us, any thing of great concernment to the nation, (mush more to all mankind,) should have come to the notice of an ancestor of ours; as, suppose any of you could say, “My grandfather or my great grandfather had certain notices, some way or other, conveyed to him of such and such matters of fact, of the greatest importance imaginable to the whole nation,” Do you think that that would be forgotten in three or four ages in that family? And as little supposable is it, that in three or four ages of so long a duration, all that concerned the original of the world, and revealed will of its Creator, how men ought to live, and order their course in the world y would be forgotten.
But afterwards, when the lives of men grew shorter, it is most apparent, there was a necessity that such things as were most requisite to be known, and were of most common use, should be digested into records in writing. And so we find first, the books of Moses written; and afterwards, there was an addition of more and more made, as God thought fit, in following ages, till the fulness of time, when we have the clearest light of an entire gospel revelation handed to us from our Lord himself, who came from the bosom of his* Father to reveal and make him known, and his whole mind and will to men. And indeed, for them that would substitute tradition, and particularly that of oral tradition in the room of this sacred written rule, they do it with the greatest absurdity that can be imagined: and indeed with the greatest immodesty, in them that now a-days pretend to it. It is true, we read the apostle did take order with Timothy that some particular things which he had seen and taken notice of, and heard from him, he should commit to faithful men that might besuitablee to teach and instruct others. There were many useful things that were not presently put into writing. But as for these men, under the notion of faithful witnesses, they have the least reason of any men in the world to lay claim to that office and dignity, of being the conveyancers to us of the things that concern us, in reference to our salvation and our eternal well-being: for when they take upon them to be authors, they 475cannot be looked upon to have done the part of faithful witnesses. How strangely have they innovated upon that religion which they boast to have been the conveyers of to us! How much another thing have they made it, to what it was, in doctrinals and worship, and even in reference to the affairs of common conversation itself? So that we may see, even by the insolency of this pretence of theirs, enough to assure us of the necessity of such a written rule to resort unto. And indeed, in what case had the Christian religion been at this day and the professors of it in the world, if we had not had this written rule in our hands, to correct and discover plainly wherein they have prevaricated and corrupted the Christian religion? So that we may seek Christianity in the Christian world, as was said of old concerning the City of Samium, it was so altered that Samium was to be sought in Samium itself; so we would still be to seek Christianity among christians, if we had not these records to set us right, and let us know what Christian religion was at first.
And upon the whole matter, as to those that would so officiously substitute their traditions in the room of the clear light of this written word, it is much a like case as if any of you should fall in with one travelling on the way, and he offers himself to be your companion and guide, and tells you that you have eyes that you make use of in choosing your way, but these eyes are only troublesome to you, they represent to you diversities of objects that draw this way and that, so that you cannot mind your path. “And pray (saith he) let me put out those eyes of yours and submit yourself to my conduct;” and all that he may guide you into a pit. Or a like case it would be, as if you should have writings in your hands, any of you, that were ancient, and did concern the title to an estate of yours from ages past, and one should say to you “These writings have a great deal of obscurity in them, pray let me have these writings and dispose of them as I see good, and you need not doubt but that there will be witnesses enough to prove your title if there be occasion; and you do not need to question but I will take care to defend you and make out your title;” and to think to rob you of them by such a fraudulent artifice. Just thus would they deal with us about the sacred records, in which our all for eternal life do lie. But very plain it is upon all these grounds, that it was necessary there should be some what of divine revelation superadded to mere natural light; and was also necessary, some time, that it should be a written one.
4. Supposing this, that it is necessary there should be a 476 written revelation of the mind of God, about matters that do concern our present religion and future felicity, then we have none at all extant in the world that can come in any plausible competition with this book, unless you will bring the Mahometan Alcoran into competition with it. Nothing else doth pretend to be a rule of faith and light to men. And for that Alcoran, (besides what it hath borrowed, or stolen, rather from the Bible) it is a book full of so gross absurdities, that they who have but common sense, would soon discern the difference between them; and how little of pretence there could be to bring that in to competition with this, much less to carry it against this upon such a comparison. There are things in it so manifestly contrary to the common light and reason of men, as there would be ground enough for a most contemptuous rejection of it upon that score:—such as its asserting the corporeity of the divine nature; and that the felicity of the future state in the other world doth consist only in bodily pleasures and the like; things manifestly refutable by common natural light. And besides the contradiction that there is to the common reason of men in so great things as these, it is made up of contradictions and repugnancies to itself. For it doth say even that concerning him, upon whom, you know our great hopes depend, which it doth, in the most substantial things, afterwards gainsay and contradict, for it owns him to be a great and a holy prophet, sent by God into this world. But if their religion should be true, he must be the falsest prophet (one of them) that ever was upon the face of the earth, or that ever pretended to prophesy; for did not he avow and give himself out to be the Son of God? If he were a true prophet he did truly say this, that he was the Son of God, and that he and his Father were one: and if he were a true prophet he did truly say this also, that the religion he taught and the professors of it, should continue, and he with them, to the end of the world; and then the Mahometan religion was never to subvert and root out the Christian.
It is plain therefore, that nothing under the name of a divine revelation can with any, the least plausibleness be brought into competition with this book. And therefore, if a divine revelation were necessary, and a written revelation were necessary, this must be it and there can be no other. It is true indeed, some enthusiastical persons have pretended to inspiration as to this or that particular thing: but none have undertaken to pretend, that they are so inspired of God as to give a full, particular, perfect system and model, of all that is to be believed and done, in reference to worship and religion. So that this book hath really no plausible pretender or competitor against it.477
5. Whereas, it doth pretend and avow itself to be divine, and of divine original; it hath those inimitable characters of divinity upon it, which most plainly justify that pretence: I shall, before I instance, only forelay this That we must consider, when we would make a judgment upon this thing, whether this thing be a godlike thing, yea or no, and carries visible characters of divinity stamped upon it, we are, in making our judgment about this matter, to consider, not barely what is spoken or contained in this book, but also to whom such things are spoken, whose use this book was designed to serve, and what use it was intended for. We are not to consider, in this case, how God should speak if he were to publish an edict, or make an oration from the throne of glory to the innumerable company of angels, those glorious creatures that surround him above. That is none of the case that we are to consider. But we are to consider how we would expect him to speak, or how he would direct things to be written, that were intended for all sorts of men, here in this world, from the highest to the lowest, of all capacities and of all conditions, that have any exercise of reason and understanding. We are not to expect that one sort of Bible should have been written for learned men, and another for unlearned; or that one sort of Bible was written for citizens and another for country people; but we are to suppose that there was to be a book written that should suit the capacities of all sorts of persons from the highest to the lowest. And what could have been more Godlike, more suitable to his wisdom and goodness, and more agreeable to the capacity and necessity of men in general, than what we have here in this book? And consider the use that it was to serve, what it was indeed to be written for. It was for the saving of miserable creatures that were in a lost perishing state. It was never intended that such a book should be written, only to please men’s fancies or gratify their humours, or tickle their ears. It was intended for saving lost miserable souls, from perishing for ever; and those of all sorts, of all capacities, from the highest to the lowest: and so nothing could have been imagined more worthy of God, than the composure of this Book, for such persons and for such uses. And now to particularize a little, as to such divine characters which are conspicuous in it, and which I call inimitable, that could have proceeded from none but a divine Author.—As,
(1.) The majesty of the style: How great, how august and Godlike it is! in the whole of it: take it entirely in the whole frame, and nothing could appear, in respect to the style, more majestic or more worthy of God. Though the case must be478considered with a diversity, that is, that he did make use of human penmen, and it is never to be supposed, that he should direct every word and every phrase, by an extraordinary immediate inspiration: for then it were impossible there should have been a diversity of style, but all the parts must have been in one and the same style. But there was that influx of the divine Spirit that did most certainly guide the writers, as to all the substance, of what was to be written and recorded by them; which did attemper itself to the natural genius of those that were made use of as the penmen, so that the communication of the Holy Ghost, received by such and such men, of such and such a constitution, temper and genius, comes to be diversified in that manner, as if one come to pour a quantity of water in to such and such a particular vessel, the water in its form will resemble the figure of the vessel: if the vessel be round, the water falls into a round figure; if the vessel be square, the water is formed into that figure unavoidably. And so the same communication of the Holy Ghost, being poured into such a vessel as this or that man was, comes to be accordingly diversified. That very communication to such a one as Isaiah, for instance, receives one sort of figure there, and a communication to such a one as Micah, receives another figure there; when yet all these communications are from one and the same Fountain, and serve for one and the same common purpose. And indeed upon the whole, it doth appear, that the greatness of the way of speaking it, doth so suit the majesty of God as nothing could do more, when men have come forth and spoken and written in the name of the Lord; and have from time to time pronounced, “Thus saith the Lord;” and when they have been directed to personate God, “I am the Lord; do so and so, I am the Lord,” this is so becoming the greatness, the grandeur of the Author of this book, that it is not a supposable thing that there should be any, that would assume the confidence, in reference to things of this nature, to take upon them at such a rate; that is, comparing the confidence of such a pretence with the matter that is spoken of; and nothing is more evident than that this is agreeable to God only, or to one immediately directed by God only, and none else. And upon what was noted to you concerning the difference of styles, for such parts of this book wherein God is represented to be the immediate Speaker, himself making this use of man, it is evident in such cases, when he hath appeared more immediately as the Author of what was said, nothing beneath God can be supposed to have spoken like him. As now to instance, there is that song called the song of Moses in the 32. of Deuteronomy; God doth give immediate directions to publish the 479words of such a song to this people, and to keep it as a record among them. It seems most likely that every word there, was dictated immediately by God himself. And who did ever read any thing so great and so august as the words of that song are? And so when we find God immediately speaking to Job, in some of the latter chapters of that book, Who can imitate the majesty of what is said? which is there spoken unto him, when God speaketh to him himself out of the whirlwind. And,
(2.) Consider the sublimity of the matter: How mighty, great things are contained in this book! As in that Hosea viii. 12. “I have written unto them the great things of my law.” To take such a summary as that, 1 Tim. iii. 16. “Without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in. the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.” How mighty things are these, of how sublime a nature! And these make the principal contents of this book. And then,
(3.) Do but consider again, the comprehensiveness of this Sacred Volume, of how vast extent it is. And what mind, but the mind of God could have comprehended and collected together so great a variety of things as we find in this book? So as that nothing can be pretended to be wanting; not one thing can be so much as alleged is wanting that is requisite to be put into such a book, to serve the end it pretends to serve, and that it avows itself to be designed for. Things that suit all states of men from the highest to the lowest, all ages and each sex. Things we have that make up the system of what we are to believe, and things that compose and make up the system of what we are to do, and what makes up the system for us of what we are to desire. Do but look to the credenda, and the agenda and the petenda or speranda: where we may have the collected digesta of the one kind and the other, and who can pretend any thing to be wanting here? The comprehensiveness of this book speaks the divinity of it, having that in it which suits every case and every purpose for which such a book can be desirable, or can be pretended to be so. And then,
(4.) Consider too, its correspondency to the spirit of man, which it was designed to rectify and set right, and be a mea sure unto, if you look upon the spirit of man under a threefold capacity. That is, look upon it as merely rational, or look upon it as corrupt and depraved, or look upon it as regenerate and renewed; and the contents of this book do most admirably suit480it every way, Look upon it as merely rational, and nothing so adequate to the mind and reason of a man; so as that, though things in it there are indeed, that the reason of man could not have found out; there is nothing in it which the reason of man would not approve, being represented and laid before it. If we consider the condition of man as corrupt, what delineations have we of the corrupt frame and temper of the spirit of man in this state? And nothing, to me, is a greater argument of the truth of our religion in general, than to find such exact descriptions of the state of man, suiting the temper in which he is now to be found upon the original depravation in all his conditions in this world. So that just such a thing as a carnal man was, and was represented to have been five thousand years ago, just such a one he is now; all the imaginations of the thoughts of the heart of man are evil, and continually so. And when God looks down from heaven upon man, to understand who it is that seeks after God, there is none that is found doing good, no not one; none seeking after God; for that good must be chiefly meant: as if all the world did agree in that one common sense, to say unto God “Depart from us, we desire not the knowledge of thy ways: let not God molest or disturb us in our course.” Just so is the degenerate spirit and temper of man represented, and how true a representation is it! And then look upon the spirit of man as renewed, and how lively a description is there of the regenerate man, the renewed man! just so desiring after God, the living God, as this book doth express; there placing its sole felicity and highest delight, there reposing its treasure, there placing the study of the heart, to be sincere and upright in his sight: who but God could have made such a representation of man? And that I take to be a further consideration which shews the divinity of this book, even those most inimitable characters of its divine Author that are most conspicuous to every discerning eye. But I add,
(5.) The wonderful efficacy this word hath had upon the souls of men, from age to age. It hath shewn itself to be “the power of God, through faith unto salvation.” What multitudes has it subdued! This sword of the Spirit, and arrows taken from hence, how “sharp have they been in the hearts of the King’s enemies,” by which multitudes have been thrown down and made subject! what conquests hath it made! Though indeed there have been sad dark intervals: but no more but what have been foretold long ago, wherein the progress of the Christian interest and religion should be slow and little: no other was to be expected, according to what was long ago foretold of. But 481if you consider the vast increases that were within the first and second centuries, so that some of the ancients have taken notice, and one particularly, by way of apology, to the emperor that then was, “we grow so numerous” (saith he) “that were it not for the peaceableness of our spirits and principles, you could not subsist in opposition to us. It were easy for us to overturn the empire: and were it possible for us to retire and draw from the world, the world would wonder at its own emptiness.” And Pliny writing to Trojan, another of their emperors, tells him, that rigorous and severe practices against the Christians were now altogether impracticable and might be dangerous: for he tells him, every where the way to the temples was overgrown with grass, and there were none to buy up their sacrifices, and there was no way in the world to keep peace in the empire, but to be very benign to the Christians. And he did procure by that epistle, a great suspension of the rage, and cessation of the persecution that was at that time. And then, all this was done, not by the power of arms, (as the mahometan religion hath spread itself in the world,) but only by the power of this very word, the doctrine of Christ; whereby it appears to be “the wisdom of God and the power of God.” I have discoursed to you at large before, of the strong and irrefragable evidence that is given to the truth of this book by the prophecies, and by the miracles we find recorded in it; the punctual predictions of the former, and the obsignations given to divine truth, given by divine power in the latter. But this seal, set upon the souls of men by the sanctifying Spirit, (whereof this word hath been continually the instrument) carries to seeing and discerning persons, the greatest evidence imaginable in it. It was the saying of Plato, that “the world is God’s epistle to men; the characters of his invisible power and goodness being so visible upon it.” And how raised would his thoughts have been, and how much transported would he have been beyond the transport in which he was on this occasion, if he had but known and viewed this divine and sacred book! But then, to find it again, copied out and transcribed in men’s hearts! “You are,” saith the apostle, “the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in the fleshly tables of the heart. 2 Cor. iii. 3. What a demonstration is here of the divine Author that hath made work, even by his word, upon the hearts and souls of men? So as that the same apostle speaks in that, 2 Cor. xiii. 3. “Do you seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, which to you-ward is not weak, but mighty in you?” “Examine yourselves whether ye be in the faith,” “Do you seek a proof of Christ 482 speaking by me?” See him in this book, and look into yourselves, such of you as have been converted and turned by my ministry; see if you be not Christ’s epistle? See if he hath not written out the greatest and most necessary things about him and his religion, out of this book into your own hearts. And I add,
(6.) That the high complacency that the best men take in this book, must needs prove it to be divine to their own sense. It is true, that there wants not rational evidence to demonstrate the divine authority or divinity of this book, to any that shall at leisure impartially consider the thing. But it is a far more lively proof that any one hath of this in himself and in his own soul, when he is made to taste, in the word, how gracious the Lord is, when he hath the pleasant relish of it in his own spirit: when he can say by his own experience, “Oh, how sweet are thy words to my mouth, yea sweeter than honey to my taste!” when it is to him a recreation to retire and set himself to think and consider and study upon these great and deep things of God; when once he comes to experience this, that the law of God is his delight, and that therein he can exercise himself night and day. So it was, when much less was writ ten of this book than what we now have. If David had seen all the writings of the New Testament, and of the prophets that succeeded himself, and had had the complete, entire volume in his hands that we have, with what transports would he have spoken of the ravishing pleasures of this book! how delectable a study must it have been to his soul! I hope (though it is much to be lamented indeed that there are no more) there are many at this day that find it thus: “We approve it ourselves, in our own hearts; this must be, this cannot but be the divine word, it is so delectable, so refreshing to our souls.” And,
(7.) Lastly. Take this by way of addition, the plain and manifest design it hath to make men holy and good; and consequently to make them blessed and happy at length, proves it to be divine. It hath manifestly this design; and can have no other. This is a thing that speaks itself to every conscience of man that doth consider, that is, that this book in the general composure of it hath a design to make men good and holy; and consequently to make them blessed and happy; and can have no other design. Every one must suppose that such a book as this, came not by chance into the world; if not by chance, then it came by design; and if it came by design, then something or other must lie designed in it. It doth serve this end manifestly, aims at this, to make men holy and pure, and fit them for heaven and a blessed eternity; and it hath no other 483design, it aims at nothing else. This then must be of God; this must either have been a divine revelation from God himself, (as it avows itself to be,) or it must be one of the most horrid forgeries that ever was contrived under heaven, ever since the creation of the world. But I would appeal to any man’s conscience, whether it is likely any one would be guilty of so audacious a wickedness, to entitle the holy God to be the Author of an imposture, for no other end than to make men holy and good? would men be so wicked as this, for no other end but to make the world good? Their own fact would fly in their faces. Here is a design to make the world holy and happy; and if the world were thus, as this book would make it, if it were suitable to it and the contents of it, if there were that love to God and Christ and our neighbours, that holiness, that righteousness upon earth that are expressed in, and designed to be promoted by this book, what a blessed world were this! The very image and idea of heaven itself. But to think that men should be guilty of the greatest wickedness that ever was done under the sun, with so good a design, is the most inconsistent and unimaginable thing that can be.
These considerations, superadded to what was largely spoken to before, I reckon will prove the matter out of doubt, (with all that impartially consider and weigh things,) that these Scriptures are of divine authority.
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