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2. By persons of different interests in the world. CHAP. God made choice of men of all ranks to be inditers of his oracles, to make it appear it was no matter of statepolicy or particular interest, which was contained in his word, which persons of such different interests. could not have agreed in as they do. We have Moses, David, Solomon, persons of royal rank and quality; and can it be any mean thing which these think it their glory to be penners of? We have Isaiah, Daniel, and other persons of the highest education and accomplishments; and can it be any trivial thing which these employ themselves in? We have Amos, and other prophets in the Old Testament, and the Apostles in the New, of the meaner sort of men in the world; yet all these join in consort together: when God tunes the spirits, all agree in the same strain of Divine truths, and give light and harmony to each other.
3. By persons in different places and conditions ; some in prosperity in their own country, some under banishment and adversity, yet all agreeing in the same substance of doctrine; of which no alteration we see was made either for the flattery of those in power, or for avoiding miseries and calamities. And under all the different dispensations before, under and after the law, though the management of things was different, yet the doctrine and design was for substance the same in all. All the different dispensations agree in the same common principles of religion; the same ground of acceptance with God, and obligation to duty, was common to all ; though the peculiar instances wherein God was served might be different, according to the ages of growth in the church of God. So that this great uniformity, considered in these circumstances, is an argument that these things came originally from the
BOOK same spirit, though conveyed through different instru
ments to the knowledge of the world.
5. In a persuasive and convincing manner; and that these ways. 1. Bringing Divine truths down to our capacity, clothing spiritual matter in familiar expressions and similitudes, that so they might have the easier admission into our minds. 2. Propounding things as our interest, which are our duty; thence God so frequently in Scripture recommends our duties to us under all those motives which are wont to have the greatest force on the minds of men, and annexeth gracious promises to our performance of them; and those of the most weighty and concerning things. Of grace, favour, protection, deliverance, audience of prayers, and eternal happiness: and if these will not prevail with men, what motives will ? 3. Courting us to obedience, when he might not only command us to obey, but punish presently for disobedience. Hence
are all those most pathetical and affectionate strains Deut. v. 29. we read in Scripture. O that there was such a heart
within them, that they would fear me, and keep all my
commandments always, that it might go well with them, Jer.xiii. 27. and with their children after them! Woe unto thee, **** O Jerusalem! wilt thou not be made clean? when
shall it once be? Turn ye, turn ye from your evil Hos. xi. 8. ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel? How
shall I give thee up, Ephraim? How shall I deliver thee, Israel? How shall I make thee as Admah? How shall I set thee as Zeboim ? Mine heart is
turned within me, my repentings are kindled together. Matth. xx. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have
gathered thy children together, as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! What majesty, and yet what sweetness and condescension is there in these expressions! What obstinacy and rebel
Ezek. XXX. iii. II.
lion is it in men for them to stand out against God, CHAP. when he thus comes down from his throne of majesty, and wooes rebellious sinners to return unto him, that they may be pardoned! Such a matchless and unparalleled strain of rhetoric is there in the Scripture, far above the art and insinuations of the most admired orators. Thus we see the peculiar excellency of the manner wherein the matters contained in Scripture are revealed to us : thus we have considered the excellency of the Scripture, as it is a discovery of God's mind to the world.
The Scriptures may be considered as a rule of life, or as a law of God, which is given for the government of the lives of men; and therein the excellency of it lies, in the nature of the duties, and the encouragements to the practice of them.
1. In the nature of the duties required, which are most becoming God to require, most reasonable for us to perform.
1. Most becoming God to require, as they are most suitable and agreeable to the Divine nature; the imitation of which, in our actions, is the substance of our religion. Imitation of him in his goodness and holiness, by our constant endeavours of mortifying sin, and growing in grace and piety; in his grace and mercy, by our kindness to all men, forgiving the injuries men do unto us, doing good to our greatest enemies; in his justice and equity, by doing as we would be done by, and keeping a conscience void of offence towards God and towards men. The first takes in the duties of the first, the other the duties of the second table. All acts of piety towards God are a part of justice; for, as Tully saith, Quid aliud est pietas, nisi justitia adver- Cicero de sus Deos ?
1. Nat. Deor. And so our loving God with our whole 1. i. c. 41. hearts, our entire and sincere obedience to his will, is
BOOK a part of natural justice; for thereby we do but render
unto God that which is his due from us as we are his creatures. We see then the whole duty of man, the fearing God, and keeping his commandments, is as necessary a part of justice as the rendering to every man his own is.
2. They are most reasonable for us to perform, in that, 1. Religion is not only a service of the reasonable faculties, which are employed the most in it, the commands of the Scripture reaching the heart most, and the service required being a spiritual service; not lying in meats and drinks, or any outward observations, but in a sanctified temper of heart and mind, which discovers itself in the course of a Christian's life; but, 2. The service itself of religion is reasonable; the commands of the gospel are such as no man's reason which considers them can doubt of the excellency of them. All natural worship is founded on the dictates of nature, all instituted worship on God's revealed will; and it is one of the prime dictates of nature, that God must be universally obeyed. Besides, God requires nothing but what is apparently man's interest to do ; God prohibits nothing but what will destroy him if he doth it; so that the commands of the Scriptures are very just and reasonable. . .
2. The encouragements are more than proportionable to the difficulty of obedience. God's commands are in themselves easy, and most suitable to our natures. What more rational for a creature, than to obey his Maker? All the difficulty of religion ariseth from the corruption of nature. Now God, to encourage men to conquer the difficulties arising thence, hath propounded the strongest motives and most prevailing arguments to obedience. Such are the considerations of God's love and goodness manifested to
the world, by sending his Son into it to die for sin- CHAP. ners, and to give them an example which they are to follow, and by his readiness, through him, to pardon the sins, and accept the persons of such who so receive him as to walk in him; and by his promises of grace to assist them in the wrestling with the enemies of their salvation. And to all these add that glorious and unconceivable reward which God hath promised to all those who sincerely obey him; and by these things we see how much the encouragements overweigh the difficulties, and that none can make the least pretence that there is not motive sufficient to down-weigh the troubles which attend the exercise of obedience to the will of God. Thus we see what a peculiar excellency there is in the Scriptures as a rule of life, above all the precepts of mere moralists; the foundation of obedience being laid deeper in man's obligation to serve his Maker, the practice of obedience being carried higher in those most holy precepts which are in Scripture, the reward of obedience being incomparably greater than what men are able to conceive, much less to promise or bestow.
The excellency of the Scriptures appears, as they contain in them a covenant of grace, or the transac- 3. tions between God and man, in order to his eternal happiness. The more memorable any transactions are, the more valuable are any authentic records of them. The Scriptures contain in them the Magna Charta of Heaven, an act of pardon with the royal assent of Heaven, a proclamation of good-will from God towards men; and can we then set too great a value on that which contains all the remarkable passages between God and the souls of men, in order to their felicity, from the beginning of the world? Can we think, since there is a God in the world of infinite goodness,