|« Prev||Chapter VI.||Next »|
The work of the Holy Spirit in the composing and disposal of the Scripture as a means of sacred illumination — The perspicuity of the Scripture unto the understanding of the mind of God declared and vindicated.
There is yet another part of the work of the Holy Spirit with respect unto the illumination of our minds, which must also be inquired into, and this concerneth the Scripture itself; for this he hath so given out and so disposed of as that it should be a moral way or means for the communication of divine revelations unto the minds of men; for this also is an effect of his infinite wisdom and care of the church. Designing to enlighten our minds with the knowledge of God, he prepared apt instruments for that end. That, therefore, which we shall declare on this head of our discourse is, That the Holy Spirit of God hath prepared and disposed of the Scripture so as it might be a most sufficient and absolutely perfect way and means of communicating unto our minds that saving knowledge of God and his will which is needful that we may live unto him, and come unto the enjoyment of him in his glory. And here sundry things must be observed.
188First, The Holy Spirit hath not in the Scripture reduced and disposed its doctrines or supernatural truths into any system, order, or method. Into such a method are the principal of them disposed in our catechisms and systems of divinity, creeds, and confessions of faith; for whereas the doctrinal truths of the Scripture have a mutual respect unto and dependence on one another, they may be disposed into such an order, to help the understandings and the memories of men. There is, indeed, in some of the epistles of Paul, especially that unto the Romans, a methodical disposition of the most important doctrines of the gospel, and from thence are the best methods of our teaching borrowed; but in the whole Scripture there is no such thing aimed at. It is not distributed into common-places, nor are all things concerning the same truth methodically disposed under the same head, but its contexture and frame are quite of another nature. From this consideration some think they have an advantage to charge the Scripture with obscurity, and do thereon maintain that it was never intended to be such a revelation of doctrines as should be the rule of our faith. “Had it been so, the truths to be believed would have been proposed in some order unto us, as a creed or confession of faith, that we might at once have had a view of them and been acquainted with them; but whereas they are now left to be gathered out of a collection of histories, prophecies, prayers, songs, letters or epistles, such as the Bible is composed of, they are difficult to be found, hard to be understood, and never perfectly to be learned.” And, doubtless, the way fancied would have been excellent had God designed to effect in us only an artificial or methodical faith and obedience. But if we have a due regard unto the use of the Scripture and the ends of God therein, there is no weight in this objection; for, —
1. It is evident that the whole of it consists in the advancement of men’s own apprehensions and imaginations against the will and wisdom of God. It is a sufficient reason to prove this the absolutely best way for the disposal of divine revelations, because God hath made use of this and no other. One, indeed, is reported to have said that had he been present at the creation of the universe, he would have disposed some things into a better order than what they are in! for “vain man would be wise, though he be born like the wild ass’s colt.” And no wiser or better are the thoughts that the revelations of supernatural truths might have been otherwise disposed of, with respect unto the end of God, than as they are in the Scripture. God puts not such value upon men’s accurate methods as they may imagine them to deserve, nor are they so subservient unto his ends in the revelation of himself as they are apt to fancy; yea, ofttimes when, as they suppose, they have brought truths unto the strictest propriety 189of expression, they lose both their power and their glory. Hence is the world filled with so many lifeless, sapless, graceless, artificial declarations of divine truth in the schoolmen and others. We may sooner squeeze water out of a pumice-stone than one drop of spiritual nourishment out of them. But how many millions of souls have received divine light and consolation, suited unto their condition, in those occasional occurrences of truth which they meet withal in the Scripture, which they would never have obtained in those wise, artificial disposals of them which some men would fancy! Truths have their power and efficacy upon our minds, not only from themselves, but from their posture in the Scripture. There are they placed in such aspects towards, in such conjunctions one with another, as that their influences on our minds do greatly depend thereon He is no wise man, nor exercised in those things, who would part with any one truth out of its proper place where the Holy Spirit hath disposed and fixed it. The psalmist saith of God’s testimonies they are אַנְשֵׁי עֲצָתִי, the men of my counsel,” Ps. cxix. 24; and no man will make choice of a counsellor all whose wisdom consists in sayings and rules cast into a certain order and method. He alone is a good counsellor who, out of the largeness and wisdom of his own heart and mind, can give advice according unto all present occasions and circumstances. Such counsellors are the testimonies of God. Artificial methodizing of spiritual truths may make men ready in notions, cunning and subtile in disputations; but it is the Scripture itself that is able to “make us wise unto salvation.”
2. In the writing and composing of the holy Scripture, the Spirit of God had respect unto the various states and conditions of the church. It was not given for the use of one age or season only, but for all generations, — for a guide in faith and obedience from the beginning of the world to the end of it. And the state of the church was not always to be the same, neither in light, knowledge, nor worship. God had so disposed of things in the eternal counsel of his will that it should be carried on by various degrees of divine revelation unto its perfect estate. Hereunto is the revelation of his mind in the Scripture subservient and suited, Heb. i. 1. If all divine truths had from the first been stated and fixed in a system of doctrines, the state of the church must have been always the same; which was contrary unto the whole design of divine wisdom in those things.
3. Such a systematical proposal of doctrines, truths, or articles of faith, as some require, would not have answered the great ends of the Scripture itself. All that can be supposed of benefit thereby is only that it would lead us more easily into a methodical comprehension of the truths so proposed; but this we may attain, and not be rendered one jot more like unto God thereby. The principal end of 190the Scripture is of another nature. It is, to beget in the minds of men faith, fear, obedience, and reverence of God, — to make them holy and righteous; and those such as have in themselves various weaknesses, temptations, and inclinations unto the contrary, which must be obviated and subdued. Unto this end every truth is disposed of in the Scripture as it ought to be. If any expect that the Scripture should be written with respect unto opinions, notions, and speculations, to render men skilful and cunning in them, able to talk and dispute about all things and nothing, they are mistaken. It is given us to make us humble, holy, wise in spiritual things; to direct us in our duties, to relieve us against temptations, to comfort us under troubles, to make us to love God and to live unto him, in all that variety of circumstances, occasions, temptations, trials, duties, which in this world we are called unto. Unto this end there is a more glorious power and efficacy in one epistle, one psalm, one chapter, than in all the writings of men, though they have their use also. He that hath not experience hereof is a stranger unto the power of God in the Scripture. Sometimes the design and scope of the place, sometimes the circumstances related unto, mostly that spirit of wisdom and holiness which evidenceth itself in the whole, do effectually influence our minds; yea, sometimes an occasional passage in a story, a word or expression, shall contribute more to excite faith and love in our souls than a volume of learned disputations. It doth not argue, syllogies, or allure the mind; but it enlightens, persuades, constrains the soul unto faith and obedience. This it is prepared for and suited unto.
4. The disposition of divine revelations in the Scripture is also subservient unto other ends of the wisdom of God towards the church. Some of them may be named:—
(1.) To render useful and necessary the great ordinance of the ministry. God hath not designed to instruct and save his church by any one outward ordinance only. The ways and means of doing good unto us, so as that all may issue in his own eternal glory, are known unto infinite wisdom only. The institution of the whole series and complex of divine ordinances is no otherwise to be accounted for but by a regard and submission thereunto. Who can deny but that God might both have instructed, sanctified, and saved us, without the use of some or all of those institutions which he hath obliged us unto? His infinitely wise will is the only reason of these things. And he will have every one of his appointments, on which he hath put his name, to be honoured. Such is the ministry. A means this is not coordinate with the Scripture, but subservient unto it; and the great end of it is, that those who are called thereunto, and are furnished with gifts for the discharge of it, might diligently” search the Scriptures,” 191and teach others the mind of God revealed therein. It was, I say, the will of God that the church should ordinarily be always under the conduct of such a ministry; and his will it is that those who are called thereunto should be furnished with peculiar spiritual gifts, for the finding out and declaration of the truths that are treasured up in the Scripture, unto all the ends of divine revelation. See Eph. iv. 11–16; 2 Tim. iii. 14–17. The Scripture, therefore, is such a revelation as doth suppose and make necessary this ordinance of the ministry, wherein and whereby God will also be glorified. And it were well if the nature and duties of this office were better understood than they seem to be. God hath accommodated the revelation of himself in the Scripture with respect unto them; and those by whom the due discharge of this office is despised or neglected do sin greatly against the authority, wisdom, and love of God; and those do no less by whom it is assumed but not rightly understood or not duly improved.
But it may be said, “Why did not the Holy Ghost dispose of all things so plainly in the Scripture that every individual person might have attained the knowledge of them without the use of this ministry?” I answer, — It is a proud and foolish thing to inquire for any reasons of the ways and works of God antecedent unto his own will. “He worketh all things according to the counsel of his own will,” Eph. i. 11; and therein are we to acquiesce. Yet we may see the wisdom of what he hath done; as herein, — 1. He would glorify his own power, in working great effects by vile, weak means, 1 Cor. iii. 7; 2 Cor. iv. 7. 2. He did it to magnify his Son Jesus Christ in the communication of spiritual gifts, Acts ii. 33; Eph. iv. 8, 11, 12. 3. To show that in and by the work of his grace he designed not to destroy or contradict the faculties of our nature, which at first he created. He would work on them, and work a change in them, by means suited unto their constitution and nature; which is done in the ministry of the word, 2 Cor. v. 18–20.
(2.) The disposition of the Scripture respects the duty of all believers in the exercise of their faith and obedience. They know that all their light and direction, all their springs of spiritual strength and consolation, are treasured up in the Scripture; but, in the unspeakable variety of their occasions, they know not where every particular provision for these ends is stored. Hence it is their duty to meditate upon the word day and night; to “seek for wisdom as silver, and to search for it as for hid treasures,” that they may “understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God,” Prov. ii. 3–5. And this being a duty whereunto the exercise of all graces is required, they are all improved thereby. The soul which is hereby engaged unto constant converse with God will thrive more 192in that which is the proper end of the Scripture, — namely, “the fear of the Lord,” — than it could do under any other kind of teaching.
(3.) A continual search into the whole Scripture, without a neglect of any part of it, is hereby rendered necessary. And hereby are our souls prepared on all occasions, and influenced in the whole course of our obedience; for the whole and every part of the word is blessed unto our good, according to the prayer of our Saviour, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth,” John xvii. 17. There is power put forth in and by every part and parcel of it unto our sanctification; and there is such a distribution of useful truths through the whole, that everywhere we may meet with what is prepared for us and suited unto our condition. It is to me no small argument of the divine original of the Scripture, and of the presence of God in it, that there is no thought of our hearts with respect unto the proper end of the Scripture, — that is, our living unto God so as to come unto the enjoyment of him, — but that we shall find, at one time or other, a due adjustment of it therein, in one place or other.
There can no frame befall the hearts of believers as unto spiritual things, whether it be as unto their thriving or decay, but there is a disposition of spiritual provision for it; and ofttimes we shall find it then opening itself when we least look for it. Powerful instructions, as unto our practice, do often arise out of circumstances, occasional words and expressions; all arguing an infinite wisdom in their provision, whereunto every future occurrence was in open view from eternity, and a present divine efficacy in the word’s application of itself unto our souls. How often in the reading of it do we meet with, and are as it were surprised with, gracious words, that enlighten, quicken, comfort, endear, and engage our souls! How often do we find sin wounded, grace encouraged, faith excited, love inflamed, and this in that endless variety of inward frames and outward occasions which we are liable unto! I shall say with confidence, that he never was acquainted with the excellency of the Scripture, with its power and efficacy, in any holy experience, who is capable of fancying that divine revelations might have been disposed unto more advantage with respect unto our living unto God. And these things are sufficient for the removal of the objection before mentioned.
Secondly, The Holy Spirit hath so disposed of the Scripture that the mind of God in all things concerning our faith and obedience, in the knowledge whereof our illumination doth consist, is clearly revealed therein. There needs no other argument to prove any thing not to belong unto our religion than that it is not revealed or appointed in the Scripture; no other to prove any truth not to be 193indispensably necessary unto our faith or obedience than that it is not clearly revealed in the Scripture. But in this assertion we must take along with us these two suppositions:—
1. That we look on the Scripture and receive it not as the word of men, but as it is indeed, the word of the living God. If we look for that perspicuity and dearness in the expression of divine revelation which men endeavour to give unto the declaration of their minds in things natural, by artificial methods and order, by the application of words and terms invented and disposed of on purpose to accommodate what is spoken unto the common notions and reasonings of men, we may be mistaken; nor would it have become divine wisdom and authority to have made use of such methods, ways, or arts. There is that plainness and perspicuity in it which become the holy, wise God to make use of; whose words are to be received with reverence, with submission of mind and conscience unto his authority, and fervent prayer that we may understand his mind and do his will. Thus all things are made plain unto the meanest capacity; yet not so, but that if the most wise and learned do not see the characters of infinite divine wisdom on things that seem most obvious and most exposed unto vulgar apprehension, they have no true wisdom in them. In those very fords and appearing shallows of this river of God where the lamb may wade, the elephant may swim. Every thing in the Scripture is so plain as that the meanest believer may understand all that belongs unto his duty or is necessary unto his happiness; yet is nothing so plain but that the wisest of them all have reason to adore the depths and stores of divine wisdom in it. All apprehensions of the obscurity of the Scripture arise from one of these two causes:—
(1.) That the minds of men are prepossessed with opinions, dogmas, principles, and practices in religion, received by tradition from their fathers; or have vehement and corrupt inclinations unto such ways, practices, and opinions, as suit their carnal reason and interest. It is no wonder if such persons conceive the Scripture dark and obscure; for they can neither find that in it which they most desire, nor can understand what is revealed in it, because opposite unto their prejudices, affections, and interests. The design of the Scripture is, to destroy that frame of mind in them which they would have established; and no man is to look for light in the Scripture to give countenance unto his own darkness.
(2.) It will appear obscure unto all men who come to the reading and study of it in the mere strength of their own natural abilities; and, it may be, it is on this account that some have esteemed St Paul one of the obscurest writers that ever they read. Wherefore, as a book written in Greek or Hebrew must be obscure unto them 194who have no skill in these languages, so will the Scripture be unto all who are unfurnished with those spiritual preparations which are required unto the right understanding of it; for, —
2. It is supposed, when we assert the clearness and perspicuity of the Scripture, that there is unto the understanding of it use made of that aid and assistance of the Spirit of God concerning which we do discourse. Without this the clearest revelations of divine supernatural things will appear as wrapped up in darkness and obscurity: not for want of light in them, but for want of light in us. Wherefore, by asserting the necessity of supernatural illumination for the right understanding of divine revelation, we no way impeach the perspicuity of the Scripture. All things wherein our faith and obedience are concerned are clearly declared therein; howbeit when all is done, “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, neither can he know them,” until the eyes of his understanding be enlightened.
3. The Holy Spirit hath so disposed the Scripture, that notwithstanding that perspicuity which is in the whole with respect unto its proper end, yet are there in sundry parts or passages of it, — (1.) Τινὰ δυσνόητα, some things “hard to be understood;” and, (2.) Τινὰ δυσερμήνευτα, some things “hard to be uttered or interpreted.” The former are the things themselves, which are so in their own nature; the latter are so from the manner of their declaration.
(1.) There are in the Scripture τινὰ δυσνόητα, things deep, wonderful, mysterious, such as in their own nature do absolutely exceed the whole compass of our understanding or reason, as unto a full and perfect comprehension of them. Nor ought it to be strange unto any that sundry divine revelations should be of things in their own nature incomprehensible; for as unto us, many earthly and natural things are so, as David affirms concerning the forming of our natures in the womb, Ps. cxxxix. 5, 6, 14–16. And our Saviour assures us that heavenly things are much more above our comprehension than earthly, John iii. 12. Such as these are, the Trinity, or the subsistence of one single divine nature in three persons; the incarnation of Christ, or the assumption of our human nature into personal union and subsistence with the Son of God; the eternal decrees of God, their nature, order, causes, and effects; the resurrection of the dead; the manner of the operations of the Holy Spirit in forming the new creature in us, and sundry others. Our rational faculties in their utmost improvement in this world, and under the highest advantage they are capable of by spiritual light and grace, are not able, with all their searchings, to find out the Almighty unto perfection in these things. And in all disputes about the light of glory, — as whether we shall be able thereby to behold the essence of God, to discern the 195depths of the mystery of the incarnation, and the like, — men do but “darken counsel by words without knowledge,” and talk of what they neither do nor can understand. But yet the wisdom of the Holy Spirit hath in these two ways provided that we shall not suffer from our own weakness:—
[1.] In that whatever is necessary for us to believe concerning these things is plainly and clearly revealed in the Scripture, and that revelation declared in such propositions and expressions as are obvious unto our understandings. And he who thinks we can believe nothing as unto its truth but what we can comprehend as unto its nature overthrows all faith and reason also; and propositions may be clear unto us in their sense, when their subject-matter is incomprehensible. For instance, consider the incarnation of the Son of God, and the hypostatical union therein of the divine and human natures; it is a thing above our reason and comprehension: but in the Scripture it is plainly asserted and declared that “the Word, which was God, and was with God,” was “made flesh;” that “God was manifest in the flesh;” that “the Son of God was made of a woman, made under the law;” that “he took on him the seed of Abraham;” that “he came of the Jews according to the flesh,” and “is over all, God blessed for ever;” and that so “God redeemed his church with his own blood.” Thus plainly and perspicuously is this great matter, as it is the object of our faith, as it is proposed unto us to be believed, declared and expressed unto us. If any one shall now say that he will not believe that to be the sense of these expressions which the words do plainly and undeniably manifest so to be, and are withal incapable of any other sense or construction, because he cannot understand or comprehend the thing itself which is signified thereby, it is plainly to say that he will believe nothing on the authority and veracity of God revealing it, but what he can comprehend by his own reason that he will believe; which is to overthrow all faith divine. The reason of our believing, if we believe at all, is God’s revelation of the truth, and not our understanding of the nature of the things revealed. Thereinto is our faith resolved, when our reason reacheth not unto the nature and existence of the things themselves. And the work of the Spirit it is to bring into captivity unto the obedience of the faith every thought that might arise from our ignorance, or the impotency of our minds to comprehend the things to be believed. And that new religion of Socinianism, which pretends to reduce all to reason, is wholly built upon the most irrational principle that ever befell the minds of men. It is this alone: “What we cannot comprehend in things divine and infinite, as unto their own nature, that we are not to believe in their revelation.” On this ground alone do the men of that persuasion reject the doctrine of the Trinity, of the 196incarnation of the Son of God, of the resurrection of the dead, and the like mysteries of faith. Whatever testimony the Scripture gives unto them, because their reason cannot comprehend them, they profess they will not believe them; — a principle wild and irrational, and which leads unto atheism, seeing the being of God itself is absolutely incomprehensible.
[2.] That degree of knowledge which we can attain in and about these things is every way sufficient with respect unto the end of the revelation itself. If they were so proposed unto us as that, if we could not fully comprehend them, we should have no benefit or advantage by them, the revelation itself would be lost, and the end of God frustrated therein. But this could not become divine wisdom and goodness, to make such propositions unto us: for this defect ariseth not from any blamable depravation of our nature as corrupted, but from the very essence and being of it as created; for being finite and limited, it cannot perfectly comprehend things infinite. But whatever believers are able to attain unto, in that variety of the degrees of knowledge which in their several circumstances they do attain, is sufficient unto the end whereunto it is designed; that is, sufficient to ingenerate, cherish, increase, and preserve faith, and love, and reverence, with holy obedience, in them, in such a way and manner as will assuredly bring them unto the end of all supernatural revelation in the enjoyment of God.
(2.) There are in the Scripture τινὰ δυσερμήνευτα, some things that are “hard to be interpreted;” not from the nature of the things revealed, but from the manner of their revelation. Such are many allegories, parables, mystical stories, allusions, unfulfilled prophecies and predictions, references unto the then present customs, persons, and places, computation of times, genealogies, the signification of some single words seldom or but once used in the Scripture, the names of divers birds and beasts unknown to us. Such things have a difficulty in them from the manner of their declaration; and it is hard to find out, and it may be in some instances impossible, unto any determinate certainty, the proper, genuine sense of them in the places where they occur. But herein also we have a relief provided, in the wisdom of the Holy Spirit in giving the whole Scripture for our instruction, against any disadvantage unto our faith or obedience; for, —
[1.] Whatever is so delivered in any place, if it be of importance for us to know and believe, as unto the ends of divine revelation, it is in some other place or places unveiled and plainly declared; so that we may say of it as the disciples said unto our Saviour, “Lo, now he speaketh plainly, and not in parables.” There can be no instance given of any obscure place or passage in the Scripture, concerning 197which a man may rationally suppose or conjecture that there is any doctrinal truth requiring our obedience contained in it, which is not elsewhere explained. And there may be several reasons why the Holy Spirit chose to express his mind at any time in such ways as had so much obscurity attending of them:—
1st. As for types, allegories, mystical stories, and obscure predictions, he made use of them under the Old Testament on purpose to draw a veil over the things signified in them, or the truths taught by them; for the church was not yet to be acquainted with the clear knowledge of the things concerning Jesus Christ and his mediation. They had not so much as a perfect image of the things themselves, but only an obscure shadow or representation of good things to come, Heb. x. 1. To have given unto them a full and clear revelation of all divine truths would have cast the whole design of God for the various states of the church, and the accomplishment of the great work of his grace and love, into disorder. It was not hard, then, for the church to be taught of old in types and allegories; but it was much grace and mercy that through them the light of the Sun of Righteousness so far beamed on them as enabled them comfortably to wait “until the day did break and the shadows flee away,” as Cant. iv. 6. The fullness and glory of the revelation of grace and truth was reserved for Jesus Christ. God did them no wrong, but reserved “better things for us,” Heb. xi. 40.
2dly. Whatever seems yet to be continued under any obscurity of revelation is so continued for the exercise of our faith, diligence, humility, and dependence on God, in our inquiries into them. And suppose we do not always attain precisely unto the proper and peculiar intendment of the Holy Spirit in them, as we can never search out his mind unto perfection, yet are there so many and great advantages to be obtained by the due exercise of those graces in the study of the word, that we can be no losers by any difficulties we can meet withal. The rule in this case is, That we affix no sense unto any obscure or difficult passage of Scripture but what is materially true and consonant unto other express and plain testimonies. For men to raise peculiar senses from such places, not confirmed elsewhere, is a dangerous curiosity.
3dly. As to sundry prophecies of future revolutions in the church and the world, like those in the Revelation, there was an indispensable necessity of giving them out in that obscurity of allegorical expressions and representations wherein we find them; for I could easily manifest that as the clear and determinate declaration of future events in plain historical expressions is contrary to the nature of prophecy, so in this case it would have been a means of bringing confusion on the works of God in the world, and of turning all men 198out of the way of their obedience. Their present revelation is sufficient to guide the faith and regulate the obedience of the church, so far as they are concerned in them.
4thly. Some things are in the Scripture disposed on purpose that evil, perverse, and proud men may stumble and fall at them, or be farther hardened in their unbelief and obstinacy. So our Lord Jesus Christ affirms that he spake unto the stubborn Jews in parables that they might not understand. And whereas “there must be heresies, that they which are approved may be made manifest,” 1 Cor. xi. 19; and some are “of old ordained to this condemnation,” Jude 4; some things are so declared that from them proud, perverse, and wrangling spirits may take occasion to “wrest them unto their own destruction.” The truths of Christ as well as his person are appointed to be a “stone of stumbling and a rock of offence,” yea, “a gin and a snare” unto many. But this, humble, teachable believers are not concerned in.
[2.] The Holy Spirit hath given us a relief in this matter, by supplying us with a rule of the interpretation of Scripture, which whilst we sincerely attend unto we are in no danger of sinfully corrupting the word of God, although we should not arrive unto its proper meaning in every particular place; and this rule is, the analogy or “proportion of faith.”152152 There seems a general agreement among modern critics that this expression of the apostle is not susceptible of the meaning which is here attached to it. It does not refer to any rule according to which we are to try a doctrine by its harmony with the system of divine truth as a whole (although the rule itself is sound and valuable); but the passage simply means that a man is to preach or prophesy “according to the measure of his faith," — the μέπρον πίστεως of which the apostle had been speaking in verse 3. — Ed. “Let him that prophesieth,” saith the apostle, — that is, expoundeth the Scripture in the church, — “do it according to the proportion of faith,” Rom. xii. 6. And this analogy or “proportion of faith” is what is taught plainly and uniformly in the whole Scripture as the rule of our faith and obedience. When men will engage their inquiries into parts of the Scripture mystical, allegorical, or prophetical, aiming to find out, it may be, things new and curious, without a constant regard unto this analogy of faith, it is no wonder if they wander out of the way and err concerning the truth, as many have done on that occasion. And I cannot but declare my detestation of those bold and curious conjectures which, without any regard unto the rule of prophecy, many have indulged themselves in on obscure passages in the Scripture. But now suppose a man brings no preconceived sense or opinion of his own unto such places, seeking countenance thereunto from them, which is the bane of all interpretation of the Scripture; suppose him to come in some measure prepared with the spiritual qualifications before 199mentioned, and in all his inquiries to have a constant due regard unto the analogy of faith, so as not to admit of any sense which interfereth with what is elsewhere plainly declared, — such a person shall not miss of the mind of the Holy Spirit, or if he do, shall be assuredly preserved from any hurtful danger in his mistakes: for there is that mutual relation one to another, yea, that mutual in-being of all divine truths, in their proposal and revelation in the Scripture, as that every one of them is after a sort in every place, though not properly and peculiarly, yet by consequence and coherence. Wherefore, although a man should miss of the first proper sense of any obscure place of Scripture, which, with all our diligence, we ought to aim at, yet, whilst he receiveth none but what contains a truth agreeable unto what is revealed in other places, the error of his mind neither endangereth his own faith or obedience nor those of any others.
[3.] For those things which are peculiarly difficult, as genealogies, chronological computations of time, and the like, which are accidental unto the design of the Scripture, those who are able so to do, unto their own edification or that of others, may exercise themselves therein, but by all others the consideration of them in particular may be safely omitted.
And these are the heads of the work of the Holy Spirit on our minds and on the Scriptures, considered distinctly and apart, with reference unto the right understanding of the mind of God in them. By the former sort, our minds are prepared to understand the Scripture; and by the latter, Scripture is prepared and suited unto our understandings. There yet remains the consideration of what he doth, or what help he affords unto us, in the actual application of our minds unto the understanding and interpretation of the word; and this respecteth the means which we are to make use of unto that end and purpose; and these also shall be briefly declared.
|« Prev||Chapter VI.||Next »|
►Proofing disabled for this book
► Printer-friendly version