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“He saith;' that is, God saith; or, more especially, the Holy Ghost. He both spake in David, in the inspiration of that psalm; and by David, or, in the psalm, he spake to us. This alone will give us that reverence and subjection of soul and conscience to the word of God, which are required of us, and which are necessary, that we have benefit thereby. In that kind of careless deportment, whereby men hear the word and immediately lose it; this is not the least evil, that they do not sufficiently consider whose word it is, and who speaks it immediately to them; and to prevent this, God doth not only preface what he speaks with, “Thus saith the Lord,' but oftentimes adjoins such of his attributes and excellencies, as are suited to beget an awe and reverence in our hearts, both of him that speaketh, and what is spoken.
$4. Obs. 2. The holy scripture is an inexhaustible repository of spiritual mysteries and sacred truths. We had never known what is in the Old Testament, had it not been for the New, Luke xxiv, 45, and we should never know fully what is in the New Testament, were it not for heaven and glory, where we shall know as we are known, 1 Cor. xiii, 12. It may be some will say, they can see none of these stores, can find little or nothing of these riches. It may be so; for this treasure is such, as men can see little of it if they have not a guide and a light. Let a treasury that is made deep, or closely immured, be filled never so full with gold and precious things, yet if you turn a man to it in the dark, he can see nothing that is desirable; but rather feel an horror and a fear come upon him. It is by the Spirit of Christ, and the light of the gospel, that this vail of darkness and blindness is taken away. But what are these excellencies and riches? We reply; here is the mystery of his love, grace, wisdom, righteousness, and holiness, in Christ Jesus. There is in it the whole counsel of God, concerning his own worship, and the whole of that obedience which he requires of us, that we may come to be accepted with him here, and to the eternal enjoyment of him in glory. There is in it a glorious discovery of the eternal Being, or nature of God, with its glorious essential excellencies, so far as we are capable of an encouraging contemplation of them in this world. Again, the souls of believers are carried, by the aids of these revealed mysteries, out of this world, and have future eternal glories presented to them. Now, how large, how extensive, and unsearchable must that repository of mysterious truths be, wherein all these things, with all the particulars whereinto they branch themselves, all the whole intercourse between God and man in all ages are stored! O heavenly! ♡ blessed depositum of Divine grace and goodness!
$5. Obs. 3. Many important truths lie deep and secret in the scripture, requiring a very diligent search in their investigation, and for their discovery. And the reason why in this place I insist on these things, is not so much to explain the sense of it, as to vindicate the way of our apostle's arguing, and of citing testimonies out of scripture, with his exposition and application of them. That which we are therefore to inquire into for our own advantage, is the ways and means whereby a due search may be made into the scriptures, and what is necessarily required thereto, so that we may not fail of light and instruction; and they are, amongst others, these that follow:
(1.) A humble, teachable frame of spirit; this is the great preparation for the soul's admittance into the TREASURY of sacred truths. Go to the reading, hearing, or studying of the scripture with hearts sensible of your own unworthiness to be taught, of your disability to learn, ready to receive, embrace, and submit to what shall be made known to you; and this is the way to be taught of God: and suppose in this way you learn not so much as others, yet that which you do learn shall be of so much use and advantage to you, as theirs shall be who attain to the greatest degree of spiritual light and knowledge. The word inquired into will be as manna to them that gather it, Exod. xvi, 18.
(2.) Earnest prayer for the guidance, direction, assistance, and illumination of the Holy Ghost, to enable us to find out, discern, and understand the deep things of God. Where this is neglected, whatever we know we know it not as we ought. That this is the only way whereby we come to know the things of God, the great and wondrous things laid up in the word, our apostle shews at large, 1 Cor. ii, “The natural man,” he tells us, that is, such as hath not the help and assistance of the Spirit of God, “cannot receive the things which are of God,” ver. 14, he can neither find them out himself, nor own them when they are discovered by others; yea, woe be to him who leans to his own understanding in this weighty matter.
(3.) Endeavor, in all your inquiries into the word, to mind and aim at the same ends which God hath in the giving of it. Then do we comply with the will of God in what we do, and may comfortably expect his gracious assistance.
(4.) They that would search the scriptures to find out the sacred truths that lie hid in them, ought to take care that they entertain no corrupt lusts in their hearts or minds, which will certainly refuse to give admittance to spiritual truth when it is tendered to them. Love of sin will make all study of the scriptures to be mere lost labor. Hearts pure and undefiled, minds serene and heavenly, so far as by the grace of God we can attain them, are required to this work; and it ought to be one great motive to an endeavor after them,ấthat we may be more able to discern the mind of God in his word.
(5.) Sedulity and constancy in this duty are great helps to a profitable discharge of it. When men read the word but seldom, so that the things of it are not familiar to them, they will be continually at a loss what they are about. Besides, there is not any thing in our walking before God that is more acceptable unto him; for this expresseth somewhat of that reverence which we ought to have of the greatness and holiness of Him with whom we have to do. The Jews frontispiece to their great bible is that saying of Jacob upon the vision he had at Bethel, “How dreadful is this place! This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” So ought we to look upon the word with an holy awe and reverence of the presence of God in it.
(6.) In our search after truth our minds are greatly to be influenced and guided by the analogy of faith; “he that prophesieth” that is, interpreteth scripture, must do it, (Keta Tyy avahoyiev TuS T151€ws,) Rom. xii, 6, “According (say we) to the proportion of faith,” or things to be believed. There is a harmony, an unanswerableness, a proportion, in the whole system of faith: particular places are so to be interpreted, as that they do not break and disturb their order; for all the scripture is from the same spring of divine inspiration, and is in all things perfectly consistent with itself; and the things of greatest importance are delivered in it plainly, clearly, and frequently. To these the sense of every particular place is to be reduced; none is to
be assigned to it, none to be pretended from it, that clashes with any of the truths elsewhere clearly and fully confirmed. For men to come to a place of scripture, it may be dark and obscure in itself, and through I know not what pretences draw a sense from it, which is inconsistent with otber doctrines of faith elsewhere plainly revealed, is openly to corrupt the word of God. Want of a due attention to this rule is that which produced the most pestilent heresies in the church.
(7.) A due consideration of the nature of the discourse wherein any words are used, tends much to give light into their sense and import, whether historical, prophetical, &c. Now these things are duly to be weighed by them who intend to dig deep in this mine of sacred truth; but particular directions in reference to them are too many here to be insisted on.
(8.) The proper grammatical sense of the words themselves is duly to be inquired into; and this principally respects them who are able to pursue this search after truth in the original languages. Others also may have much help by comparing parallel places, even in translations, whence the proper sense or usual acceptation of any words may be learned.
$6. What hath been now spoken may serve, as for the reproof of some, so for the direction of others. Whence is it that some receive so little benefit by their studying the scriptures, at least in their pretending so to do? Alas! their manifold miscarriages are manifest to all; without diligence, without humility, without watching unto prayer, they go in the confidence of their own strength and abilities to search and expound it; which is to attempt the opening of brazen doors, without a key.