RPM, Volume 18, Number 28, July 3 to July 9, 2016

Sermons on John 17


By Thomas Manton

Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.—John 17:17.

Now I proceed to the arguments that prove the scriptures to be the word of God.

1. Some are extrinsical, and do lie without the scriptures.

2. Some are intrinsical, and lie within the scriptures themselves, as being taken from the matter and form of them. For the first, extrinsical arguments; there I shall show you

1. That God hath owned the scriptures for his word.

2. The church hath owned them as God's word.

3. The malignant world in their way hath owned them; that is, upon that respect they have opposed them.

First, God hath owned them several ways. By the wonderful success of that religion which the scriptures establish; preservation; miracles; accomplishment of prophecies, promises, and threatenings; by concomitancy of grace; testimony of the spirit; by particular judgments and punishments of those which have abused the scriptures.

First, By the wonderful success of that doctrine and religion which the scriptures do establish. Certainly if we think that God hath any care of human affairs, we cannot but judge that doctrine to be divine which God hath suffered to diffuse, and spread itself far and near in all parts of the world Nay, if he hath any care of his own glory; for this doctrine pretendeth to be his, and his permitting it to be propagated showeth that he owneth the claim and pretence: to right himself and to undeceive the nations, he would otherwise have disclaimed them. Herod was smitten with worms and died when he assumed divine honour to himself: Acts xii. 22, 23, 'And the people gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man. And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory, and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost.' It is agreeable with the goodness of providence, that that which is beet should be diffused. Now, what religion hath been so diffused as the Christian, through Europe, Asia, Egypt, Ethiopia, and other parts of Africa, and now in America? It is true, paganism is of a vast extent, but it includeth many religions under one name: some worship a star, some a dog or cat, some a plant Bites differ with nations and countries; but Christianity alone, like the [Pg. 439] leaven, hath pierced the whole lump: Mat xiii. 33, 'The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.' Within the space of thirty yean, or thereabout, it spread far and near throughout the Roman empire, and much further. Hestemi eumus, eaith Tertullian, et tamen vestra amnia implevimiu, urbes, insulas, ccutetta, municipia, concftiabula, tafraipefytribw,decurinA,paidrt lolavobierdinquimua templo.—We are but of yesterday, and yet how are we in creased? The Christians are found in all places cities, villages, isles, castles, free towns, councils, armies, senate; mane, everywhere but in the idols' temples. Such a wonderful increase and success was there in a short time. So I shall mention Augustine's dilemma—If the miracles related by our writers be true, then they give experience of the truth of scripture; if false and feigned, then this is a miracle above all miracles, that the Christian religion should prevail in such a manner as it hath done in the world. You will say so top, if you do but consider the circumstances of this success: the doctrine itself contrary to nature; it is a religion that doth not court the senses, nor woo the flesh; it differeth no splendour of life, nor pleasures, nor profits; it biddeth us to deny all these things, and expect persecution: self-denial is the first lesson that is learned in Christ's school: Mat. xvi. 24, 'If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up the cross and follow me.' As Orates to a woman that courted him showed his bunched back. The devil disguiseth his temptations, and concealeth the worst Christianity hath its allurements, but they are either spiritual, or to be made good in another world; here they have comfort with persecution: Mark x. 30, 'He shall receive an hundred-fold now in this life, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions, and in the world to come eternal life.' Here they have support and comfort, but still trouble and exercise. And the doctrine is as contrary to our lusts as our interests: Col. iii. 5, 'Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth, fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affections, evil concupiscence, and covetouaness, which is idolatry.' As dear and as near as a joint of the body is, yea, the most useful one, it is to be cut off: Mat. v. 29, 30, 'If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee, &c.

And if thy right hand offend thee, out it off, and cast it from thee.' Now, that this should prevail, it argueth a divine power. Mahomet allured his followers with fair promises of security and carnal pleasure; there wind and tide went one way; man is very credulous of what he desireth; but Christianity teacheth men to row against the stream of flesh and blood, and to bear out sail against all the blasts and furious winds without: here was nothing lovely to a carnal eye. This for the doctrine itself! Again, look upon the persons that were to manage it, the contemptibleness of the instruments which God used in promoting the word; a few fishermen, destitute of all worldly props and aids, of no power, wealth, wisdom, authority, and other such advantages as were wont to beget a repute in the world; yet they preached, and converted many nations. They had no public interest, and were not backed with the power and authority of princes, as superstitions are wont to prevail by [Pg. 440] their countenance and example: 'Every one seeketh the face of the ruler;' but the gospel had gotten firm footing in the world long ere there was a prince to countenance it; there were many to persecute it, but none to profess it. It is notable that at first, as God's instruments were poor and contemptible, so were the persons that received their message: James ii. 5, 'Hearken, my beloved brethren, hath not God chosen the poor of this world, rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised?' He speaketh it as a known observation, in that age. Though now, as the church is constituted, it is otherwise, and sometimes God chooseth the rich, and sometimes the poor, but then those that were poor and despicable, that it might be known they were not moved with any outward respects to profess the truth, and that the glory of his power might be known, in preserving and propagating religion, when destitute of worldly succours and supports. lie viaeretur aulhoritafe traxisse aliquos, saith Ambrose, el veritati ratio, non pampas gratia prcevaleret. It was much that Christianity, supported by such (to appearance) despicable instruments, should hold up the head: yea, the powers of the world were against it; bonds and sufferings and afflictions and deaths did abide them everywhere, horrible torture, and very frequent; never did war, pestilence, or famine sweep away so many as the first persecutions. Thus were Christians murdered and butchered everywhere, and yet still they multiplied, and were not frightened by their calamities; as the Israelites grew by their oppression in Egypt or as a tree that is lopped sendeth put the more sprouts. Christianity flourished most when the scorching heat of persecution was at the highest.

And as they were without power and worldly interests, so they had not such gifts of art, eloquence, and policy as the world had, with whom they had to deal. You see in the scriptures, all is carried on in a plain way, without art and pomp of words. Paul was learned indeed, but he layeth aside his ornaments, lest the power of the cross of Christ should be made void: 1 Cor. ii. 3-5, 'And I was with yon in-weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.' And they were to deal with men of excellent parts and learning, some of which received the gospel. And pray mane, this plain doctrine was opened in that part of the world where arts most flourished, and at that time; for about the time of our Saviour's coming, curious arts and other civil disciplines were are at the height and a?µ?; yet, as Aaron's rod devoured the magicians' serpents, so was the gospel too hard for all, and got ground. And pray mark' again, which is another circumstance, it prevailed not by force of arms, or the long sword, as all dotages and superstitions are wont to do; this was the way of Cain, Jude 11; the Christian religion prevailed by the word and patience of the saints: Christ's sword is in his mouth; and Ps. viii. 2, 'Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength, because-of thine enemies, that thou mayest still the enemy and toe avenger.' Again, this way seemed to the world a novel way; they were leavened with prejudices, and bred up by long custom (which was another [Pg. 441] nature) in the worship of idols: 1 Peter i. 18, 'Ye were redeemed not with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversations, received by tradition from your fathers.' Men keep to the religion of their ancestors with much reverence. Christ did not seize upon the world as a waste is seized upon by the next comer. Men took up with heathenish rites when they were to seek of a way of worship; but the ark was to be set up in the temple that was already occupied and possessed by Dagon. The work of those who first promoted the faith of the gospel was to dispossess Satan, and to persuade men to renounce a religion received by a long tradition and prescription of time; they went abroad to bait the devil, and hunt him out of his territories; and yet they prevailed in that manner that hath been declared, and to this day doth it prevail. Now errors are not long lived, 'the day shall declare it,' 1 Cor. iii. 3. In time they vanish and come to nothing; when passions are allayed, and worldly interests are changed.

What use shall we make of this, of God's owning the word by success? Besides satisfaction in the matter in hand, and admiration of providence, we may make this use of it, to bewail our own blindness and hardness, that the word which hath prevailed over the world doth not prevail over our hearts: Col. i 6, 'Which is come unto you, as it is in all the world, and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day you heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth.' This is comfortable when we can say so, This word prevailed over all the world, and, blessed be God, over my heart But oh! how sad is it when that which subdueth the world standeth still, and getteth no ground with us I Say, out of what rock was my heart Hewn? Is my will only the toughest sinew in all the world, that it can stand out against the battery of the word? In thirty years, or thereabouts, the word prevailed over most of the known world. I have been a hearer ten, twenty, or thirty years, and yet I cannot find. my heart soft, pliable to the purposes of grace; much ignorance and obstinacy still remaineth. As they said, Luke xxiv. 18, 'Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things that are come to pass there in these days?' Art thou only a stranger to the power and success of the word? Thus may we bemoan ourselves.

Secondly, By miracles, the known miracles that accompanied the teaching of it Miracles you know are a solemn confirmation, or letters-patent brought from heaven to authorise any person or doctrine; for they are such effects as do exceed the force and power of nature, and therefore mast needs come from an extraordinary divine power. Now it is not to be imagined that ever a divine power would co-operate with a falsehood and cheat; and therefore whatever is confirmed by miracles hath God's solemn testimony and ratification, and so deserveth credit and estimation. Now a little before Christ's time, there was a great silence and rest from prodigy and wonder, that the Messiah might be known; but after he had preached his sermon on the mount, they were commonly wrought, both by himself and his messengers, and to evidence the truth of them, they were commonly done in the sight of the multitude, even of them that withstood his doctrine. His adversaries objected, that he did 'cast out devils by Beelzebub, the prince of the devils.' But that could not be, because all miracles were referred to [Pg. 442] the glory of his Father, and the devil cannot work beyond the power of a natural agent Now by the circumstances of Christ's miracles it appeared that he wrought beyond any natural power. It is possible that by natural power diseases may be secretly inflicted and secretly cured by Satan; but Christ not only cured, but restored perfect health, which no natural means can work. He raised the dead, a miracle that cannot be counterfeited. Therefore well might Nicodemus say, John iii. 2, 'Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God; for no man can do these miracles that thon dost, except God be with him;' they being wrought by a divine power, they showed his divine mission and calling. And as Christ, so did his messengers; as the apostles: Heb. ii. 3, 4, 'How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by them that heard him? God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will.' They were authorised by Christ, as Christ by God, and God bore them witness: it is my truth, I am their witness, and you will perish if you do not hearken to it That which may be observed in these scripture miracles is, that they were not done when men would require, or when the instruments pleased, but according to God's own will, upon special and weighty occasions, that it might be the more evident that God was the worker of them; and therefore were not merely used to beget a reputation at all places, and at all times, as if God's power should be at the creature's beck. Counterfeits, such as Apollonins Tyanaerus, were never dainty to show their juggling tricks, but always were pliable to the humours and lusts of men, and to satisfy curiosity. Only now and then, and upon special occasions, would God manifest himself. Jugglers prostitute their feats. Come, let as see what you can do, show us a miracle; as' Herod desired to see Christ, that he might see some miracle,' Luke xxiii. 8. This would not lessen the majesty of God. Signs and wonders were not ordained for the stage and scene, to cause admiration and pastime for every wanton spectator. Again, I observe, that generally these miracles were actions of relief and succour, not merely of pomp and glory, and tended to deliver from the miseries of soul and body, as blindness, sickness, and devils. I remember but two of Christ's miracles that were destructive, blasting the fig-tree, and drowning the herd of swine; in other miracles, he was exercised in curing the sick, raising the dead, casting out Satan, &c.

Object. 1. Ay! but we have none now.

Ans., It is not necessary, because the same doctrine and role is continued to as without change. That which is extraordinary must be proved by extraordinary means. Miracles wrought where were is no necessity are liable to suspicion. When Christ's doctrine was new, and the calling and function that he exercised in the church new, then were miracles wrought to confirm them. The Lord's manner hath always been, when he erects any new worship and service, to give testimony to it from heaven; as trees newly set need watering, which afterwards we discontinue. Upon the delivery of any new Jaw or truth to the world, natural and ordinary means of conviction are [Pg. 443] wanting. None now pretendeth to be an extraordinary messenger from God; the doctrine is ordinary, and the call ordinary, and why should we expect extraordinary confirmation? The old sufficeth. And by the consent and experience of many ages, and its own reasonableness, Christianity hath gotten a just title to human belief, and there we must submit: John xx. 30, 31, 'And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: but these were written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.' God hath given us the report and record of the old miracles, which is enough to beget faith in them that have a mind to believe rather than wrangle. We think it had been better if God had continued this sensible confirmation, but we must not give laws to heaven. Because we have so much light, and other inducements of faith, God will govern us by wisdom and not by power. It is true, men are less apprehensive of his wisdom than of the sensible effects of his power; but because we have otherwise confirmation sufficient, now doth God try us, whether we will turn atheists and antiscripturists, and upon light suspicion misbelieve.

Object. 2. How shall we know that those miracles were done, since we saw them not; we have but fame and report, which oftentimes is no friend to truth?

Ans. We have the report of men that lived in that age, who were only fit witnesses in this case, and were persons of singular holiness and credit, and they were those that sealed it with their blood, and therefore their report is of as great authority and certainty as if we had seen them ourselves. And besides, the report is ancient, constant, not contradicted by the vigilant adversaries of that age with them, which would be a madness, if they were false and counterfeit, since they might so easily inquire into the truth of the report Foreign histories testify that such things were done, though they seek to deprave the actions, as if done by the power of Satan. And hitherto the church bath maintained the truth of them against all opposers. But of this hereafter.

Use. To press us to reverence the word of God, since God hath owned it by miracles, and 'sealed up instruction,' as the expression is, Job xxxiii. 16; that is, ratified it by extraordinary dispensations. The apostle proveth that the despisers of the gospel will have a sorer judgment than the despiser of the law: Heb. ii. 2-4, 'For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him, God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?' The transgressors of the law, though they did not see God giving it upon the mount, were punished, and so will the disregarders of the gospel, though they did not see the miracles. It is better to believe than to make trial; there are no atheists and antiscripturists in hell; they feel the truth of what they would not fear. Nay, when God hath owned it, if you neglect it, or receive it carelessly, or do not study it, though you do not openly oppose, or secretly question the [Pg. 444] authority of it, if you neglect it, God will deal severely with you. The miracles were then wrought, and the doctrine needeth not often confirmation.

Thirdly, The accomplishment of prophecies, threatenings, promises, as if God had made the word a rule of proceeding, and the whole government of the world were managed in a conformity to the scriptures, for his whole providence is hut a comment upon it.

1. Prophecies. Mow have they always been accomplished, as set down in the word? Isa. xli. 23, 'Show the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that ye are gods.' A man may foretell things that depend on natural causes, as snow, rain, heat, cold, eclipses; but things merely contingent, depending upon the free grace of God, or free will of man, are foretold in the word; as the rejection of the Jews and the calling of the Gentiles are clearly spoken of and clearly accomplished. The scripture is not only an authentic register of what is past, but an infallible prognostication of what is to come; nothing good or bad befell but that which was foretold.

2. So for threatenings; God governeth the world by this rule. Threatenings have been accomplished: Hosea vii. 12, 'I will chastise them, as their congregation hath heard.' A man might have the history of the Jews, from time to time, out of the threatenings of Moses and prophetical predictions, and extract the life of Christ out of the writings of the prophets.

Object. But threatenings many times are not accomplished.

ans. The prerogative of free grace many times doth interpose, and God worketh extra ordinem. God hath reserved this liberty to himself; he is not bound though we are. It is for his honour that it should be-so; as all human laws allow the chief magistrate a liberty of pardoning. There is difference between laws and decrees; the threatenings are the sanction of the law.

3. Then for promises. We never waited upon God, and put forth hope according to a promise, but it was made good to a tittle: Josh. xxxiii. 14,' Behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth; and ye know in all your hearts, and in all your souls, that not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the Lord your God spake concerning you: all are come to pass unto you, and not one thing hath failed thereof.' He was about to die, and therefore could not be supposed to feign. Now he appealeth to their experience, 'You know-in all your hearts.' &c. So Solomon speaks, 1 Kings viii. 56, 'Blessed be the Lord, that hath given rest upon his people Israel, according to-all that he promised: there hath not failed one word of all his good promise, which he promised by the hand of Moses his servant' So if a man would but observe the course of providence, after a little faith and patience, which is required of all that would inherit the promises. God never failed, but made good his word to a tittle.

Object. Many temporal mercies are promises, which promises are not accomplished.

Ans. They are promised still with exception of the cross. God is tied no further than the covenant tieth him: Ps. lxxxix. 31-33, 'If they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments, then will I visit their transgressions with a rod, and their iniquity with stripes. [Pg. 445]

Nevertheless, my loving-kindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail; my covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone put of my lips.'

Object. But the scriptures do absolutely press and inculcate these hopes of temporal mercies.

Ans. No; only they are mentioned in the promise, partly to encourage our hearts to pray, we should not else ask them: 2 Chron. xx. 9, 'If when evil cometh upon us, as the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we stand before this house, and in thy presence, and cry unto thee in our affliction, then thou wilt hear and help;' Ps. cxix. 49, 'Remember thy word unto thy servant, upon which thou hast caused me to hope.' Partly to show that God is able to keep them from such distress; and, if it be good for them, will keep them: Dan. iii. 17, 'Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, ? king.' Partly to show that if we have such mercies, we have them by virtue of a promise: Ps. cxxviii. 5, 'The Lord shall bless thee out of Sion:' to see a mercy come out of the womb of a promise is very sweet and comfortable. Partly to comfort them; if they have them not, they shall have the spiritual part; nothing shall light on them as a curse. We must go into the sanctuary to know the meaning of such promises. God will deliver, either from the lion or from every evil work: 2 Tim. iv. 17, 18, 'I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion, and the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work.' If there be any temporal promise, you may expect the mercy in kind, or as good. There is not a waste word in the promise; God will give them satisfaction. The people of God never complain when their thoughts are regular, partly because God seldom faileth a trusting soul; few experiences can be given to the contrary: Ps. xci. 2, 3,' I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge, and my fortress; my God, in him will I trust. Surely he shall deliver me from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.' Thereby there is another engagement on God: Isa. xxvi. 3, 'Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusteth in thee;' Ps. ix. 10, 'And they that know thy name, will put their trust in thee; for thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee.'

Use. Learn to regard the promises and threatenings of the word with more reverence, as if God in person had delivered them to you: 1 Thes. ii. 13,' For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because when ye received the word of God, which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but (as it is in truth) the word of God.' Look to the threatenings. God hath left room for his mercy, and that must be sought in God's way, or else we have no security and peace.

Look to the promises.

1. Seek after them more, and mind them more. Sure your neglect saith you do not count them true: 1 John v. 10, 'He that believeth on the Son of God, hath the witness in himself; he that believeth not God, hath made him a liar, because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son.' If one should proffer you a hundred pounds, and you should go away and never heed it, it is a sign that you do not believe him. [Pg. 446]

2. Venture more on the promises; they are God's bills of exchange, whereby you have treasures in heaven. Deny interests; God will make it up.

3. Rejoice in them more. Yon have blessings by the root: Heb. xi. 13, 'These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them;' they hugged the promises. Do yon ever refresh yourselves with the remembrance of them? Do you ever bless Goof for your hopes, and say, I will rejoice in God because of his word?

4. Wait for the accomplishment of them. The word of the Lord is a tried word. The saints are tried, and the word is tried: Ps. xii. 6, 'The words of the Lord are pure words, as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.' It is enough for faith that we have the promise.

Fourthly, God hath owned the word, by associating the operation of his grace and powerful Spirit with it, and with no other doctrine. Things of a powerful operation do evidence themselves, as fire by heat, the wind by its noise and strength, salt by its savour, the sun by light and heat, and the like. Moral principles that are effectually operative manifest themselves also. Let us see how the case standeth with the scripture. It is called, Rom. i. 16,' The power of God unto salvation;' and the 'preaching of the cross is to them which are saved the power of God.' 1 Cor. i. 18; 'and 1 Cor. ii. 4, 'My speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, out in demonstration of the Spirit and of power;' and 1 Thes. i. 5, 'Our gospel came not unto you in word only, but in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance.' It giveth a persuasion of itself by its being the power of God, and the rod of his strength: Ps. ex. 2,' The Lord shall send the rod of his strength out of Sion.' When the Egyptians saw the miracles that Moses wrought, they confessed the power of God, that God was with bun: Exod. viii. 19,' Then the magicians said to Pharaoh, This is the finger of God.' And when the scripture evidenceth so great a power, it shows itself to be of God, as in judging the hearts of men: Heb. iv. 12, 'The word of God is quick and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.' In convincing them of their evil estate: 1 Cor. xiv. 25, 'And thus are the secrets of the heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face, he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a troth.' In converting sinners to God: James i. 18, 'Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth.' In building up them that are sanctified: Acts xx. 32, 'And now, brethren, I commend yon to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to built you up, and to give you an inheritance among them that are sanctified.' This is no sluggish idle power, that may be hid and obscured, but manifests itself by sensible effects; it is lively and operative, not only to change men's lives, but hearts: Ps. xix. 7, 8 , 'The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.' This the apostle makes to be a sensible proof [Pg. 447] of Christ speaking in him: 2 Cor. xiii. 3, 'Since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, which to yon-ward is not weak, but is mighty in you.'

Object. But this is an argument to those that hare felt it; how wilt it persuade others?

Ans. 1. It is an argument to others also, for this mighty operation is sensible to others; they may see the change wrought in them, and wonder at it: 1 Peter iv. 4, 'Wherein they think it strange, that you run not with them to all excess of riot.'

2. There are public effects of the power of the word, besides private instances. Wherever the word hath been, Satan vanished where formerly he tyrannised, and his deceits are of no more force; oracles ceased at Delphos, the devils howled. Where the gospel is preached, there are less witchcrafts and diabolical delusions; they are not so frequent where the gospel has had a free passage.

3. Those that have felt no experience of this power have a secret fear of it: John iii. 20, 'Every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.' Conscience is afraid of the majesty of God shining forth in the scriptures. Men dare not pause upon, and consider the doctrine therein contained. Atheism lieth in the heart, the seat of desire: Ps. xiv. 1, 'The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.' Men question the word, because they would not have it true. When men give leave to lusts, they are afraid the word should prove true, and therefore would rather accuse the word of falsity than their own hearts; as Ahab was loath to hear Micaiah, because he prophesied evil Strong lusts make the soul incredulous; they fear the scriptures, and then question them. They know there is power in them to astonish them; and therefore, as malefactors desire to destroy the records and evidences that are against them, so do wicked men; they are antiscripturists in affection, rather than opinion.

Fifthly, By the Spirit's testimony. That it is so is clear: 1 John v. 6,' It is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth.' The doctrine of the gospel is there called Spirit, because he is the author of it: 2 Peter i. 21,' For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of men, but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost' Or because the Spirit is truth, therefore he is the supreme witness. He is of God's privy council: 1 Cor. ii. 11,' For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man, that is in him? Even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.' Now the Spirit witnesseth from heaven or on earth: 1 John v. 7, 8,' For there am three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and blood; and these three agree in one.' From heaven in miracles, and so Christ as God might be a witness in his own cause. On earth; so in an association and conjunction with water and blood, when we feel the effects of it in ease of conscience, or sanctification of heart And over and above the Spirit's testimony there is an inward testimony: 1 John v. 10, 'He that believeth in the Son of God, hath the testimony in himself.' But what is this inward testimony? A [Pg. 448] witness to the truth of scripture by the certainty of our own thoughts; it is not that which every one's mind and fancy suggests to him, but the light of the Holy Ghost leading us into the acknowledgment of the truth; the same Holy Ghost which inspired the penmen of the scriptures, inclines our hearts to believe them: 1 John ii. 27, 'But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you; and ye need not that any man teach yon: but as the same anointing teacheth you all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.' Faith cannot be wrought by human authority, or mere rational inducements; it is the work of the Spirit We may plead and urge, but the heart closeth not with what is represented till the Spirit worketh.: Isa. liii. 1, 'Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?' There is an outward report, and an inward revelation. This testimony of the Spirit may be thus discerned.

1. It is affective. Truth represented in the light of reason, leaveth weak impression; but truth represented 'in evidence and demonstration of the Spirit,' 2 Cor. ii. 4, worketh after another manner, sees another manner of excellence and beauty in Christ, another manner of vanity in the creatures.

2. It draweth to admiration: Ps. cxix. 18, 'Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out thy law.' A man never wondereth so at the dreadf nlness of God's wrath, at the sweetness of God's mercy in Christ, at the evil of sin, the strictness of duty, till the Spirit opens his eyes: Acts xiii. 12, 'Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord.'

3. It begets more certainty. Till we have the Spirit's light, we have but a trembling, wavering opinion, but then we have that which the apostle calleth,' The fulness of the assurance of understanding,' Col. ii. 2. Though we have no other arguments, yet we see by another light As Gereon reporteth of a devout man, that doubted of an article of faith, and came to be settled, not by any new demonstration, but by the humiliation and captivation of the understanding, to see more by former arguments; as Hagar's eyes were opened to see the fountain by her, Gen. xxi. 19. The Spirit taketh away the veil of ignorance, the pride of reason; and by an overpowering force maketh the soul stoop to the simplicity of the gospel.

4. It is a transforming light: 2 Cor. iii. 18, 'We all, with open face, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of our God.' A man that looketh upon the gospel in the light of parts and external tradition hath a model of truth in his brain; but these find it impressed upon their hearts; there is light and fire. Wait for this witness.

Sixthly, By the wonderful preservation of scriptures, even to our times. There is no doctrine so ancient; it describeth the whole history of the world from the very creation: Moses was ancienter than the gods of the heathens. No doctrine can produce such records of the original of the world. The doctrine of the gospel is as old as paradise, where God preached it to Adam: Gen. iii. 15, 'I will put [Pg. 449] enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: It shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.' The foundation was laid long since, though it was more explicitly revealed upon the coming of Christ. None so much oppugned. We have some ancient writings of the heathens, though nothing so ancient as scripture. Other writings, by tract of time, have been much mangled, though they have been cherished by men, as not contrary to their lusts; but the scripture is still opposed, persecuted, maligned, and yet it continueth: Ps. cxxix. 1, 2, 'Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth, may Israel now say. Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth: yet they have not prevailed against me.' The church hath been always bred up under affliction. Enmity against it began betimes, yet still it holdeth up its head; errors are not long-lived: 1 Cor. iii. 12,13, 'Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man's· work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is.' The world hath had time enough to inquire into the scripture, and to discover the vanity and falsehood of it, if there were any. Nay, not only the main doctrine of the scripture hath been continued, but no part of it is falsified, corrupted, or destroyed. The world wanted not malice nor opportunity; the powers of the world were bent against it, and corrupt persons in the church were always given to other gospelling: Gal. i. 6, 7, 'I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ, unto another gospel; which is not another, but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ;' 1 Tim. vi. 3. 'if any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words.' &c. But still the scriptures are wonderfully preserved, as the three children in the furnace, not a hair was singed; not a jot or tittle of the truth is perished or corrupted. If it were corrupted, it must be before Christ's time, or after it; not before, then Christ would have noted it; not after, for then the parts would not agree; but we find no such thing, but an exact harmony. Nor is there any lost, for here is a sufficient instruction and guide to happiness. Christ hath promised not a tittle shall fall to the ground. The word hath been in danger of being lost, but the miracle of preservation is therefore the greater. In Joshua's time there was but one copy of the law. In Dioclesian's time, there was an edict to burn their bibles, and copies were scarce and chargeable, and yet still it hath been kept.

Seventhly, By his judgments on those who have reviled, abused, and persecuted this truth. The records of all ages witness to this. The whole Jewish nation was destroyed for opposing the doctrine of the gospel. After the slaughter of the prophets, and murder of Christ, God let them alone for forty years, and then 'wrath came upon them to the uttermost;' the people were carried captive, contrary to the Roman custom; the land lost its fertility. Look into succeeding times, very few persecutors went to the grave by a natural death. Particular stories are full of the judgments of God executed on them. Julian, the apostate, confessed Christ had the best at last, Vicisti Galilaee, and so died blaspheming. Lucian, that railed against [Pg. 450] God and his word, as he returned from a supper, his dogs fell mad, and tore him to pieces. Eusebius reports of a certain Jew that took upon him to apply a sentence of the word to a profane end, to make a jest of scripture, was stricken with blindness till he made confession of his fault Appion, scoffing at scripture and circumcision, had an ulcer growing in the place of circumcision, as Josephus reporteth. God is very angry when men are partial in the law, though they do-many good things: Rev. xxii. 18,19, 'For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.'

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