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BOOK all these dark veils shall be done away, and the soul
shall be continually sunning herself under immediate beams of light and love. But how, or in what way the soul of man, in this degenerate condition, should come to be partaker of so great a happiness, by the enjoyment of that God our natures are now at such a distance from, is the greatest and most important inquiry of human nature ; and we continually see how successless and unsatisfactory the endeavours of those have been to themselves at last, who have sought for this happiness in a way of their own finding out. The large volume of the creation, wherein God hath described so much of his wisdom and power, is yet too dark and obscure, too short and imperfect, to set forth to us the way which leads to eternal happiness. Unless then the same God who made men's souls at first do shew them the way for their recovery, as they are in a degenerate, so they will be in a desperate condition. But the same bounty and goodness of God, which did at first display itself in giving being to men's souls, hath in a higher manner enlarged the discovery of itself, by making known the way whereby we may be taken into his grace and favour again.
Which it now concerns us particularly to discover, thereby to make it appear that this way is of that peculiar excellency, that we may have from thence the greatest evidence it could come from no other author but God himself, and doth tend to no other end but our eternal happiness. Now that incomparable excellency which is in the sacred Scriptures, will fully appear, if we consider the matters contained in them under this threefold capacity. 1. As matters of Divine revelation. 2. As a rule of life. 3. As containing that covenant of grace which relates to man's eternal happiness.
1. Consider the Scripture generally, as containing CHAP. in it matters of Divine revelation and therein the excellency of the Scriptures appears in two things. 1. The matters which are revealed. 2. The manner wherein they are revealed.
1. The matters which are revealed in Scripture may be considered these three ways. 1. As they are matters of the greatest weight and moment. 2. As matters of the greatest depth and mysteriousness. 3. As matters of the most universal satisfaction to the minds of men.
1. They are matters of the greatest moment and importance for men to know. The wisdom of men is most known by the weight of the things they speak; and therefore that wherein the wisdom of God is discovered cannot contain any thing that is mean and trivial; they must be matters of the highest importance, which the supreme Ruler of the world vouchsafes to speak to men concerning. And such we shall find the matters which God hath revealed in his word to be, which either concern the rectifying our apprehensions of his nature, or making known to men their state and condition, or discovering the way whereby to avoid eternal misery. Now which is there of these three, which, supposing God to discover his mind to the world, it doth not highly become him to speak to men of?
1. What is there which it doth more highly concern men to know, than God himself? Or what more glorious and excellent object could he discover than himself to the world? There is nothing certainly, which should more commend the Scriptures to us, than that thereby we may grow more acquainted with God; that we may know more of his nature and all his perfections, and many of the great reasons of his actings
Book in the world. We may by them understand with
safety what the eternal purposes of God were, as to the way of man's recovery by the death of his Son; we may there see and understand the great wisdom of God, not only in the contrivance of the world, and ordering of it, but in the gradual revelations of himself to his people; by what steps he trained up his Church till the fulness of time was come; what his aim was in laying such a load of ceremonies on his people of the Jews; by what steps and degrees he made way for the full revelation of his will to the world, by speaking in these last days by his Son, after he had spoke at sundry times and in divers manners by the prophets, &c. unto the fathers. In the Scriptures we read the most rich and admirable discoveries of Divine goodness, and all the ways and methods he useth in alluring sinners to himself; with what inajesty he commands, with what condescension he intreats, with what importunity he wooes men's souls to be reconciled to him, with what favour he embraceth, with what tenderness he chastiseth, with what bowels he pitieth those who have chosen him to be their God! With what power he supporteth, with what wisdom he directeth, with what cordials he refresheth the souls of such who are dejected under the sense of his displeasure, and yet their love is sincere towards him! With what profound humility, what holy boldness, what becoming distance, and yet what restless importunity do we therein find the souls of God's people addressing themselves to him in prayer! With what cheerfulness do they serve him, with what confidence do they trust him, with what resolution do they adhere to him in all straits and difficulties, with what patience do they submit to his will in their greatest extremities! How fearful are they of sinning against God, how careful to please him; how regardless of suffering, when they must choose either CHAP.
VI. that or sinning; how little apprehensive of men's displeasure, while they enjoy the favour of God! Now all these things, which are so fully and pathetically expressed in Scripture, do abundantly set forth to us the exuberancy and pleonasm of God's grace and goodness towards his people; which makes them delight so much in him, and be so sensible of his displeasure. But above all other discoveries of God's goodness, his sending his Son into the world to die for sinners, is that which the Scripture sets forth with the greatest life and eloquence. By eloquence I mean not an artificial composure of words, but the gravity, weight, and persuasiveness of the matter contained in them. And what can tend more to melt our frozen hearts into a current of thankful obedience to God, than the vigorous reflection of the beams of God's love through Jesus Christ upon us! Was there ever so great an expression of love heard of! Nay, was it possible to be imagined that that God, who perfectly hates sin, should himself offer the pardon of it, and send his Son into the world to secure it to the sinner, who doth so heartily repent of his sins, as to deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Christ! Well might the apostle say, This is a faithful saying, and worthy of 1 Tim. i. all acceptation, that Jesus Christ came into the world's. to save sinners. How dry and sapless are all the voluminous discourses of philosophers, compared with this sentence! How jejune and unsatisfactory are all the discoveries they had of God and his goodness, in comparison of what we have by the gospel of Christ! Well might Paul then say, That he determined to know 1 Cor. ii. 2. nothing but Christ, and him crucified. Christ crucified is the library which triumphant souls will be studying in to all eternity. This is the only library which
BOOK is the true ’Iatpeiuv yuxñs, that which cures the soul of
all its maladies and distempers. Other knowledge makes men's minds giddy and flatulent; this settles and composes them. Other knowledge is apt to swell men into high conceits and opinions of themselves; this brings them to the truest view of themselves, and thereby to humility and sobriety. Other knowledge leaves men's hearts as it found them; this alters them, and makes then better. So transcendent an excellency is there in the knowledge of Christ crucified, above the sublimest speculations in the world!
And is not this an inestimable benefit we enjoy by the Scripture, that therein we can read and converse with all these expressions of God's love and goodness, and that in his own language? Shall we admire and praise what we meet with in heathen philosophers, which is generous and handsome; and shall we not adore the infinite fulness of the Scriptures, which run over with continued expressions of that and a higher nature? What folly is it to magnify those lean kine, the notions of philosophers, and contemn the fat, the plenty and fulness of the Scriptures ! If there be not far more valuable and excellent discoveries of the Divine nature and perfections; if there be not far more excellent directions and rules of practice in the sacred Scriptures than in the sublimest of all the philosophers, then let us leave our full ears, and feed upon the thin. But certainly no sober and rational spirit, that puts any value upon the knowledge of God, but on the same account that he doth praise the discourses of any philosophers concerning God, he cannot but set a value of a far higher nature on the word of God. And as the goodness of God is thus discovered in Scripture, so is his justice and holiness. We have therein recorded the most remarkable judgments of God upon contumacious