|« Prev||Lecture VII. Preached January 9, 1691.||Next »|
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God.
YOU have had an Object of religion; the only competent and deserving Object (I hope) with some efficacy presented to you; an absolute perfect Being, an eternal infinite Mind or Spirit, self-existing and unmade; demonstrating himself to be so, by the things that are made. And now the business of that religion that is to be exercised towards such an Object (the glorious and blessed God) is continually to render to him a due homage, and to expect from him blessedness for our own. souls. Religion stands in serious endeavours (as the learners among us are taught to speak and understand) “to glorify God und enjoy him for ever.” Under this twofold notion, we are to go and act towards him as our chief end: as one to whom we owe all the duty we are capable of performing, and by per forming whereof we glorify him; and from whom only we must expect all the felicity we are capable of partaking of, and in, the participation whereof we enjoy him; so we are to consider and move towards God as our end, in such a motion of heart and spirit. This is present religion, that is, the religion of our present state. The religion of the way (as it is cal led) or the religion of viatores; those that are travelling, and yet short of their final perfection. And therefore is the whole 444of that religion, to wit, the religion of the present state in contra-distinction to that of the eternal state, expressed by a term that denotes continual motion; that is, a coming to God. “He that cometh to God must believe that he is.” We are to be continually in this motion all the while we are in this world; coming to God. In order whereto that great fundamental is to be forelaid—the belief that God is; as that which is prerequisite, upon which we have been insisting already. “He that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” But now, whoso ever have it in design thus to come to God, and move towards him, they will find that they need a rule to guide those motions by which they may direct and steer their course: there is no coming to God but as he is pleased to render himself accessible, but as he will be approached; and therefore our religion which consists in this motion, in this coming to God, cannot be a self-devised thing, or an invention of our own; we cannot come to God as we please, but as he pleases, as he will have us come: we can never glorify him, but by doing his will, nor can we ever come to enjoy him but by compliance therewith. Therefore, this must of course be the next inquiry, with any considering person, any one that doth seriously design to do any thing in the business of religion: “What course shall I take to know God’s will, concerning my approach, my coming, my tending towards him through the whole course of my life in this world?” It is a very rational inquiry, and that which the exigency of the case must urge every one to, that doth intend seriously and in good earnest to be religious. For admit, that there be internal principles, from the very reason and nature of things, truth and false hood, good and evil, right and wrong, yet besides that such as are needful are taken into the constitution, or among the determinations of the divine will, so there are other things super-added with respect to the varied state of our case: and it is the divine will that doth determine and constitute what we shall do in this course of our motion towards him, and consequently what shall be required of us to believe and know that we may so do, and so we do need a signification of his will concerning our faith, and concerning our practice. Though it is true, that the determinations of his will are riot (as to the most principal things that do concern us) arbitrary, but they are determinations of his will, according to most excellent wisdom, most perfect judgment, and counsel, for he “worketh all things according to the counsel of his own will;” and so doth will such things concerning us, and in reference to us, as the state of our case doth require and need, and without which 445there could be no commerce restored, and brought about between him and us. And now, whatsoever will express and signify to us the divine will about such things as will be our fit and useful rule to guide our motion towards God as our end, we are to seek after. And concerning this, the inquiry must needs be made by every serious person; “What is there that I may look upon, as such a sufficient signification to me, of the divine will touching my great concernments with him? “Now we have a book among us, that calls itself, and is commonly styled THE WORD OF GOD. This very book, if it be not the word of God, truly, to call it so, and to attempt and endeavour to spread it as such, is one of the boldest cheats that ever was attempted to be put upon the sons of men. But if really and truly it be so, then it doth our business: you find it doth so, by looking into it, for this is the business it doth profess, and the intent which it doth own and avow, to acquaint us with the divine will and pleasure in order to our serving and glorifying him, and being finally happy and blessed with him. If it be his will indeed, it will most undoubtedly serve for this end and purpose; that being all the end that professedly it hath to serve. Nothing can so well serve this purpose as his word, if there be such a word: for who can so well tell us what God’s will is, as he himself? Sure he best knows his own mind, and what judgment he hath made of things, and which (after him) he will have us to make, in order to our practice.
I might (indeed) have driven the inquiry a great deal further into the principles of religion, upon a merely rational ground, or according to the ducture of natural light; as it was necessary to be done, upon what hath been clone already, in representing and evidencing to you an object of religion: which was necessary first to be proved, before we could with any colour of reason go about to assert the divine authority of this book. It would have been a very absurd thing to go about to prove from this book, the authority of it, that there was such a thing when he which should give that authority, and from whom that authority should be derived, should be unknown to us; or it should be a matter of doubt with any, whether there was such a one, yea or no. But that being once proved and out of question, now it comes in the proper and natural method, and next of course to be considered: Is there such a revelation from this God, as this book doth pretend to? hath it really that divine stamp upon it from him, which by those who do profess and own themselves christians, it is apprehended to have? And if that can be found, it supercedes any need of following the line of natural light (as such) further; because 446 there is nothing more now to be discovered that way, which Is not more clearly and fully contained in this hook. And therefore all other things that might he referred thither, I shall rather satisfy myself to deduce and insist upon as they come in our way from thence. In order whereto, our first business must be to assert the authority of them. And for that purpose it is, I have pitched upon this passage of Scripture, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God.” All Scripture is θεοπνευστος. It is only that one word that is said of it, God-breathed. All Scripture is (as it were) the breath of God. That indeed is the very literal sense of the word here used, breathed from God.
And so the words are a formed proposition to our hands, we need not vary them in any other phrase, but take them as they lie. Our business must be to assert, from them,—The Divine Authority of the Scriptures. Jn order whereto, I shall premise,
First: That I design not herein to meddle with divers lesser collateral questions, as touching the Hebrew points, and He brew translations, the various readings, etymological and other differences, which are things much fitter for the schools than for the pulpit. And therefore,
Secondly: My main design must be to evince to you, that this book doth contain it; it a sufficient revelation of the divine mind and will, touching what we are to believe and do in order to our glorifying God as our supreme Lord, and our enjoying him, and being happy in him as our best and only satisfying good. And in order hereunto, the course that will be fittest to take, will in short be this—To state the subject to you that is spoken of under the name of Scriptures, with its universality, “all Scripture:” and then—To prove to you from that subject, the thing affirmed of it, that it is God-breathed, that it is inspired from God, or (which is all one) that it is of divine authority, and that God is the Author of it.
I. For the stating of the subject here spoken of, Scripture, with a universal term, “all Scripture;” that universal term can not he absolutely universal, (as you may be sure) cannot signify all writing. Every writing cannot be pretended to be God-breathed, or of divine inspiration; therefore the limitation of this universal term is to be taken from the immediately foregoing words, “From a child thou hast known the holy Scriptures.” It is therefore holy Scripture that is here spoken of. All holy Scripture, the whole of that which is called holy Scripture; it is of divine inspiration. Well, what is that, that is here called 447holy Scripture? Undoubtedly it must he that which in those days was immediately known by the name of the Scripture, and many times the Scriptures: nothing was more familiar with our Saviour, when he was conversant here on earth, than to speak of this book by the name of Scripture, and sometimes the Scriptures as being so in the most famous and eminent sense, according to the account that went of that part of them, among the Jews, of whom he was one, and among whom he conversed. Every one knew none could be ignorant what was meant by the Scriptures at that time, or in those days: “Search the Scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life:” (saith our Saviour, John v. 39.) And this and that was done (as you often find in the evangelist historians) that the Scripture might be fulfilled. And the Scripture cannot he broken, saith our Lord, in one of his contests with the Jews. John x. 35. Now it is very evident here,
1. Therefore, by the Scriptures, that is, holy Scriptures (a? the apostle’s words in this place do expound themselves) must be meant the books of the Old Testament. That (I say) in the first place must be meant by it, which then by universal consent among that people, went under the name or notion of the Scriptures. That is, those books of the Old Testament which go with us at this day under that notion, and come into that censure and account, without the apocryphal books which never came into that account among the Jews, and therefore are justly left out of that account with us. They never took them. The ancient christians did not take them into that account at all, nor the Jews before our Saviour’s time, or at any time: they were not written in the Hebrew tongue (unless some little parts) as the books of the Old Testament were; and have many things very fabulous in them, that shew them to have proceeded from human authority; though divers of them (some of those books at least) proceeded from very pious writers. After that, the full compute of these books of the Old Testament was gathered up and digested by Ezra since the captivity. It was very plain the Jews never took any writing into the account of canonical Scriptures from the time they took in the prophecy of Malachi; never after that, did they add any thing to the sacred canon, and so much we find Josephns against Appion most expressly to tell us. And therefore the apocryphal writings could be none of the books that went under the name of the Scriptures here, when the apostle saith, “all scripture is given by inspiration of God:” nor indeed, did they come into that account in the Christian church in the purest times. The account that is given us of the Scriptures by Origen and Athanasius leaves 448 these books quite excluded: though we have an account too in ancient records of some use made of them as certain ecclesiastical books, but not as the holy Scriptures; they were not accounted the holy books. That then is part of this subject here to be spoken of, when it is said, “all scripture is given by inspiration of God,” that is, the books of the Old Testament, which was the Scripture in the eminent sense at that time. But,
2. There comes within the compass of this subject too, the books of the New Testament. For we must consider about what time this was written by the apostle to Timothy; this was the second epistle you see; and that was most certainly written a considerable time after the greatest part of the New Testament was written. You. may take notice in the next chapter, (2 Tim. iv. 6.) that he speaks of the time of his departure being near at hand. He had once appeared before Nero already, and we are told that this was written near about the time of his appearance before Nero the second time: so we have it in the conclusion of this epistle, that is, in the adjunct to it. And though those subjoined adjuncts to the epistles, are not always of unquestionable authority, yet the matter of this epistle leading so much thereto, it puts this thing out of doubt that this was written very near the close of the apostle’s life, “I am ready to be offered,” saith he, “and the time of my departure is at hand.” Now it is evident that all the gospels were written a considerable time before this. The last of them, undoubtedly, was the gospel of John, and that he is supposed to have wrote about the eighth year of Nero, whereas the apostle suffered (as we are told by history) in the last year of Nero about seven years afterwards. So that in all likelihood this was the last, or the last save one, that he wrote of his epistles; Paul here speaking of the time of his departure as near at hand: and we find that what was written by him, is elsewhere referred to, under the name of Scripture: as by the apostle Peter (2 Pet. iii. 15, 16.) where he speaks of his “beloved brother Paul” who had “many things in him hard to be understood, which,” saith he, “ignorant and unstable minds wrest, as they do other scriptures to their own destruction,” and we find the apostle James in his 4 chap. 5 ver. refers, under the name of Scripture, to another passage of his “the spirit in us” (as saith the Scripture) “lusteth to envy.” You find nothing any where to answer this but that Gal. v. 17 There, having spoken of envy, particularly before, he addeth, “thefk-sh lusteth against the spirit.” And whatsoever was to come within that character and sacred stamp must come within the compass of this subject too. 449The book of the revelation plainly shews it was written by the apostle John when he was in Patmos: and after his return from thence, history informs us, that upon the request of the Asiatic churches, he did collect and gather together and put into order all the books of the New Testament, and so (as it were) did seal up the canon. And a considerable time after that, we are informed of his taking a journey to——116116 This is blank in the manuscript: and after examining every document to which he could gain access, the editor has not beensuitablee to ascertain the place alluded to, nor the authority on which the author states this circumstance. The fact, it must be admitted, is extremely doubtful. on purpose to collect the Sacred Writings he found among the churches there, with whom, he conversed: and he there found the books punctually as we have them, and in the same order wherein they now stand in our Bibles. And in the fourth century, they were all recognised by the council of the Laodiceans; therefore at this time, when this epistle to Timothy was written, there must be understood to be a reference had to all the books of the New Testament already written, and any to be written by inspiration of the same Spirit. And so this makes up together, the subject here spoken of, when it is said “all Scripture,” all holy Scripture “is given by inspiration of God.” All God-breathed, (as it were) breathed from heaven, the issue of divine breath, for those great and glorious purposes that it was to serve in this world. And now,
II. We come to prove the thing affirmed concerning this subject—that these Scriptures were inspired from heaven, by God himself, or are of divine authority; which is the import of this assertion, as to the way of God’s communicating his mind to those that delivered them. The expression is large and extensive enough to comprehend any, wherein there might be a certain signification of the divine will, whether he did communicate it by voice, (as he did divers things we find upon record in Scripture) or whether it was by dream, or by vision, to the penman, that is, asleep or waking: or whether it were (as the Jews distinguish) by immediate irradiation of the intellect, the understanding faculty: or whether it were by impression or signature upon the imagination or fancy, as a thing intervening between the divine mind and the intellect; which way so ever it was, the expression will reach it. It was of divine authority; it proceeded from him, be it one or the other of these ways. And in order to the evincing of this by argumentation, I shall briefly say somewhat to justify the undertaking, of proving the divine authority of these Scriptures by that argumentative way: 450 and then shall proceed to the proof thereof, in that way which the case itself doth best admit of.
1. Something may be needful to be said to justify the undertaking to prove the divine authority of these writings, in a way of argumentation. In order to it, do but note these two things.
(I.) That undoubtedly there can be no effectual believing of the things contained in the Scriptures, unto salvation, without the special operation of the divine Spirit. It is only the Spirit that makes the sanctifying impression of these Scriptures upon the soul. The apostle expresses his great thankfulness to God, on the behalf of the Thessalonian churches (2 Thes. ii. 13) that “God had chosen them to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.” There is no sanctifying belief of that truth but by the divine Spirit; that is out of all question: “Sanctify them by thy truth, thy word is truth:” John xvii. 17. “Do thou sanctify them by it: the sanctifying them by this truth, or by the truth of this word of thine, must be thine own work.” There is that vicious prejudice in the minds of men, against the design and tendency of all sacred truth, and that power of corrupt inclination, to comply and comport there with, that it must be a great power that must overcome; and none is great enough that is inferior to the power of the Almighty Spirit. It is by a certain spirit of faith in the soul that men do believe to the saving of their souls. “We, having the same spirit of faith, believe and therefore speak.” There is none can arrive to this belief, a divine belief of the Scriptures, without the operation of that Spirit. This very notion, in general, that the Scriptures are the word of God, is a dead and insipid and ineffectual thing: as all other notions of truth comprehended in that general are also. But,
(2.) I must add, that the operations of the divine Spirit are not necessary to bring men under an obligation, or to make it become their duty to believe the Scriptures to be God’s word, or of divine authority: which therefore certainly doth infer, that there is a way of proving this by argument, that these Scriptures are of divine authority, so as to hold men under an obligation to believe them to be God’s word; that it becomes their duty to believe them so, so that they are culpable if they do not, if that light that may shine into. them that way about this matter be not received and comported with accordingly. And to evidence this briefly to you, do but consider these things:
[1.] If there be not enough to be said by way of argument to prove the divine authority of this sacred book, without the special immediate operation of the divine Spirit, then every one that hath not the operation of the divine Spirit, would be 451innocently an unbeliever under the gospel. Then it would he an innocent thing to be an infidel under the gospel, notwithstanding the clearest light that can be supposed to shine amongst us, supposing only the absence of the special influence of the divine Spirit: and then the mere retraction or withholding of that influence, would be enough to justify the infidel and to make him therefore not guilty of a crime in his infidelity, barely because he hath not that Spirit; than which, nothing can be supposed more absurd or more prejudicial to the Christian cause and interest.
[2.] This is to be considered too, (to the same purpose) that if the special operations of the Spirit, were necessary to make it become a man’s duty to believe these Scriptures to be the word of God, then they must be necessary in reference to every particular thing which he shall be bound to believe. But you know, the whole is made up of all the parts: and when we speak especially of the necessary parts, it is plain, that if the operation of the Holy Ghost be necessary to make it a man’s duty to believe these Scriptures, it must be necessary in order to his believing every more principal part, every sentence that doth more immediately and directly, concern the salvation of his soul; and then upon that supposition, every person that should be under an obligation to believe these Scriptures to be the word of God, must himself be an inspired person or a prophet. And then, this would be the consequence, that these Scriptures would be of no use at all, one way or another; not to them that have the Spirit of faith to enable them to believe them; because every thing that is contained in them, and necessary for the end for which they are written, must be supposed to be suggested and dictated to them by that Spirit, and therefore the believer would have no need of the Scripture; and to the unbeliever they would be no use at all, because while the Spirit doth not give his influence to make them believe, they (upon this supposition) never could believe. And therefore, consequently, the Scriptures would be of no use, do no good, either to believer or unbeliever. And therefore, as I have asserted in the first place, that there can be no effectual believing of these Scriptures unto salvation, without the sanctifying influence of the divine Spirit, so I further do assert, that such an influence of the divine Spirit, is not necessary to make it become a man’s duty to believe these Scriptures; but it will be his duty to believe them upon such light about this matter, as may in an argumentative way be supplied and furnished unto any that will make it their business attentively to consider. And now,
2. In the second place, I shall proceed to tell you in what452way this proof must be attempted and undertaken, that is, inasmuch as the subject here, Scripture, all Scripture, is so complete as you have heard: that is, is made up of the books of the Old Testament and the New. The method that is reasonable to be taken, is to endeavour to evince these two things to you, that there were Scriptures in our Saviour’s and the apostles’ lime, and many of them a great while before, which were certainly of divine authority: and that the books which we now have among us, in our time and in our hands, are the self-same books, in substance, (without any material corruption or alteration) that those were, which went for the holy Scriptures, of divine authority at that time. These are the two things that are to be evinced and made out to you, and with such evidence as may leave little ground or pretence of cavil to the understanding and honest christian: which I doubt not (through the blessing of God) may be done.
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