RPM, Volume 18, Number 27, June 26 to July 2, 2016

Sermons on John 17

Sermon XXVII

By Thomas Manton

Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.—John17:17.

Thirdly, I now proceed to the reasons why God sanctifieth by his truth. It is most suitable to God's honour and to man's nature.

First, To God's honour. It was meet that God should give a rule to the creatures, or else how should they know his will? And then it was meet to honour this rule, by owning it above all other doctrines, by the concomitant operation of his Spirit. This is the authentic proof; the efficacy of the word is a pledge of the truth of it: John viii. 32, 'And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make ye free.' from the bondage of sin, the devil, and death. A wicked man cannot have an absolute assurance of the truth of the word; he hath no feeling of the power of it. There is a great deal of do. How do you prove the scriptures to be the word of God? A believer hath the testimony in his own heart: 1 John v. 10, 'He that believeth in the Son of God hath the testimony in himself.' His conscience and his heart are set at liberty by water and blood. This made the apostles bold, and should make ministers so: Rom. i. 16, 'I am not ashamed [Pg. 423] of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation.' We should not be ashamed to preach it, and you should not be ashamed to profess it: 'It is the power of God.' God will not associate and join the powerful operation of his Spirit with any other doctrine. So David, when he commendeth the law, by which he doth not mean the decalogue, but the whole word of God: Ps. xix. 7-9, '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 soul; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever; the judgments of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether.' He had spoken before of the excellency of the sun, now of the word, intimating that the word of God is as necessary for the heart as the sun is for the world. We can as well be without the sun as without the bible. But how doth he evidence it? From the effects upon the heart and conscience: comfort and grace are two great evidences of the perfection of the word. No doctrine in the world, save this divine truth set down in scripture, is able to discover the sin and misery of man, the remedy and relief of it in Christ. No doctrine save this alone can effectually humble a soul, and convert it to God, make it sensible of the loss by sin, and restore it to a better condition.

Secondly, It is more suitable to man's nature The word is more morally accommodated to work upon the heart of man than any other instrument, means, or doctrine in the world.

1. The precepts of it. It is the copy of God's holiness, the light by which we see everything in its own colours. The light of nature is \~nomou\~, 'the work of the law,' Rom. ii. 14, 15. It taketh notice of gross acts of sin, and the outward work of duty; they made conscience to abstain from gross acts of sin, and to perform outward acts of piety and devotion, as offering sacrifices and prayers. But now there is an excellent spirit of holiness that breatheth in the word, and all matters of duty are advanced to their greatest perfection: Ps. cxix. 36, 'Thy commandment is exceeding broad; 'of a vast extent and latitude, comprising every motion, thought, and circumstance in duties; not only the act is required, but the frame of heart is regarded; not only sins, but lusts are forbidden. If ever there were an instrument fitted to do a thing, the word is fitted to promote holiness, the true purity that is pleasing to God.

2. The patterns and examples of the word. We miscarry by low examples, and learn looseness and carelessness one by another. Therefore the word of God, to elevate holiness to the highest extent, presseth not only the examples of the saints, whose memorials are left upon record in the word, but the holiness of the angels, yea, the holiness of God himself. The highest aim doth no hurt; he will shoot further who aimeth at a star than he that aimeth at a shrub: 'Be ye followers of them who through faith and patience have inherited the promises,' Heb. vi. 12; 'Thy will be done on earth, as it is done in heaven,' Mat. vi. 10; 'Be ye holy, as I am holy,' 1 Peter i. 15. Communion begets conformity. We need all kinds of examples; high examples, that we may not rest in any low degrees and beginnings of holiness; low examples, that we may think it possible. We are not [Pg. 424] angels, but men and women, \~omoiopayeiv\~, of like affections, that have the same natural interests, natural wants with others. It is a trodden path; in the way to heaven you may see the footsteps of the saints.

3. Excellent rewards, and fit arguments to induce us to the practice of holiness: 2 Cor. vii. 1, 'Having these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all the filthiness of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God;' 2 Peter i. 4, 'Whereby are given, unto us exceeding great and precious promises, that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through last.' God covenants with us, as if we were free-born; to interest our hearts in the love and practice of holiness, we have as much propounded as we can wish for, nay, and more: 1 Cor. ii. 9, 'Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.' Lactantius saith of the heathens, Vurtutis vim non eentiunt, cujtu prosmiwn ignorant—They feel not the power of virtue, because they are ignorant of the reward of virtue. Life and glory, and the great things to come, are powerful motives; can you meet with the like elsewhere? All creatures seek their own perfection. Philosophy is to seek of a sure reward and encouragement.

4. Our many advantages in Christ. We have not only encouragement offered, but help and assistance. Christ hath purchased grace to make us holy: 1 Peter ii. 24, 'Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead unto sin, might live to righteousness; by whose stripes ye were healed.' He hath not only purchased the rewards of grace, to wit, that God should not deal with us in sovereignty; but purchased the abilities of grace,' redeemed us from a vain conversation.' 1 Peter i. 18. By his death the covenant is made a testament, and all the precepts are turned into so many promises and legacies. Christ will give what he requireth. All excuse is taken away from laziness, and wickedness is no longer allowed the plea of weakness. There is help offered in Christ.

5. Terrible threatenings. The word is impatient of being denied; it would have holiness upon any terms. There is somewhat propounded to our fear as well as our hope; not only the loss of happiness: Heb. xii. 14, 'Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see God, which is loss enough to an ingenuous spirit; but the forfeiture of the soul into eternal torments, without ease» without end: 'Go, ye cursed, into everlasting fire.' God hath a prison for obstinate creatures, a worm that never dies, a fire that never goes out. Whose heart doth not tremble at the mention of these things? We cannot endure the torment of one night under a feverish distemper; how shall we think of lying down in everlasting burnings?

6. The word presseth all this with such a majesty and power, that it astonisheth the conscience, and maketh the hearts and souls of men to quake within them. Felix trembled at the mention of judgment to-come. There is so much of God in the word, that if it doth not renew men, it doth restrain them, maketh them tremble; where it hath least force, it cometh with a manifestation of divine authority upon the conscience. Lactantius saith, Nihilponderis habent ilia prcecepta, qua sunt [Pg. 425] humana. There is no such majesty in human precepts. Nemo credit, quia tarn se hominem putat ease qui audivit quam ilium qui prcedicat. Man is not astonished by man. Verba dedi, verba reddidi. But now the word of God searcheth the heart, pincheth the conscience, and where it worketh least it maketh men to quake within themselves. It is said, Mat. vii. 28, 29, 'The people were astonished at Christ's doctrine, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.' God's word cometh with evidence and conviction upon the conscience, that they admire the power of it; there is a sovereign majesty in it, the draught is like the author. Thus you see what a powerful instrument the word is, even in a moral way; therefore the fittest means whereunto God should join his assistance to work on the heart of man.

Use I. Of information.

1. It informeth us what a treasure truth is, and what a value we should put upon it. There are two things in the world that God is very tender of—his truth, and his saints. In the controversy about toleration, men, on the one side, have urged the danger of meddling with saints; on the other side, others have urged the value of truth. If the whole controversy did depend upon this issue, which are to be most respected, the truth or the saints, since God is tender of both, it would soon be decided; for besides this, that it is strange that they only who are called saints should be afraid of a vigorous prosecution and defence of the truth, it is clear truth must have the pre-eminence,, for it is truth that maketh saints, and we had need be more tender of the root than of the branches.

2. It informeth us that out of the true religion there is no salvation, because there is no true holiness, and without holiness no man shall see God: Heb. xii. 14, 'Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see God.' It is not without peace; the necessity is not laid upon that, but holiness; for peace is often broken for strictness' sake. A man that is faithful and sincere may have little of the world's respect; but now without the true religion there is no holiness, that is clear. Hence it is said, 'Sanctify them by thy truth.' There may be civility, and the exactness of a moral course, counterfeit grace; but there can be no true sanctification, because the heart can never be good that is ignorant of the truth and poisoned with error. There may be superstition, which is but a bastard religion; there may be a good life, but there cannot be a good heart, no true comfort, and true grace. Anima, que a Deo fornicata est, ccuta ease non potest. He that believeth ill, can never live well. Grace and truth are twins that live and die together. Moral virtue is very defective in itself. Bapientia eorumplerumqve abecondit vitia; non abecindit—All their craft was to hide a lust, not to root it out.

3. That they have not a sound apprehension of truth that have no grace. There may be a naked and inactive apprehension that is not accompanied with power; they learn truth by rote, and rest in a vain speculation, but have no strength to perform their duty: 2 Tim. iii. 5, compared with Rom. ii. 20. What in one place is called 'a form of godliness,' is in the other called 'a form of knowledge.' Poor, slight, and superficial apprehensions of the truth; they take up truth, not [Pg. 426] upon any divine testimony or evidence of the Spirit, but upon the credit and authority of men, the practice and profession of the nation, or the injunctions of a civil state. This is the account of most men's truth and faith. Alas! truth thus received entereth not upon the heart Men gain but a disciplinary knowledge; a literal knowledge and a spiritual knowledge differ: Eph. iv. 21, 'If so be that ye have heard of him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus.' When a man receiveth it out of the hands of the Spirit of Christ, it frameth and disposeth the heart to godliness. So Col. i. 6, 'Since ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth.' The tasting of a thing excelleth the reading of it; the true, inward, powerful, affectionate knowledge affecteth the heart, and altereth and changeth it. A man knoweth no more of Christ than he valueth, esteemeth, and affecteth, and which puts the whole inward man into a holy spiritual frame. Good principles, if heartily embraced, will breed a good conversation. The point needeth to be heeded in these times, when knowledge is increased, but practice and strictness suffereth an abatement and decay. Boni esae desinunt, postqvam docti ewuerint. What strength and power of religion possesses the heart? When you know the truth, doth it carry you to God and godliness?

4. They that are above scriptures have no fame holiness. God sanctifieth by the truth. It is strange how charily overreacheth to saint antiscripturists and men above ordinances; whereas it is the true ground and reason of sanctification. As Bernard saith of some, that whilst they plead for the salvation of heathens, scarce show themselves Christians; so I am afraid our excessive charity to men argueth little affection to God. God accepteth no holiness but word-holiness, and worketh holiness no other way. I doubt they that despise prophesying quench the Spirit When men neglect and contemn the word of God, they dam up the fountain of holiness.

5. What is the true witness of the scripture's certainty? Not the testimony of the church, but feeling the sanctifying virtue of it. It is good to take the testimony of the church at first, as we take a medicine from others upon their experience; but we must not rest in it; 1 Thess. i. 5. 'For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and n much assurance;' this giveth certainty. At first we believe upon the church's saying, as the woman: commended Christ to her citizens: John iv. 42, 'Now we believe, not because of thy saying, for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ the Saviour of the world.' There is a preparative human faith; as in taking pills, we do not chew them, but swallow them. It is not good to be disputing away our hopes. But we should not rest in this, but labour to get an experience of the power of the truth upon our hearts.

6. The difference between civility and sanctification. Civility is wrought by mere moral education, according to natural principles, without any knowledge, or so much as a desire to be acquainted with the word of God. Thus many are careful of common honesty in matters of traffic and commerce, obedience to civil laws, being restrained from gross enormities, but have no true grace; but in true holiness we are inclined by the word: 1 Peter ii. 2, 'As new-born babes desire the [Pg. 427] sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.' This is true holiness, when we conform and subject ourselves in heart and practice to the will of God, revealed in the word. The word of God must be reason and rule. Reason: 1 Thes. v. 18, 'This is the will of God concerning you;' and rule: Gal. vi 16, 'As many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them.' Why do you do this? as the children must ask their parents, 'Why do ye keep the passover?' Still all must be examined by the word: John iii. 21, 'He that doth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest that they are wrought of God; he trieth every action by it. Only the word is our rule in all our actions; we seek to it as our guide, obey it for truth's sake.

Use 2. Exhortation.

1. Beware of error. It is a defiling thing; the more mixture of falsehood, the less awe of God upon the soul, and the more carnal affections are gratified. A constant use of the word discovers sin.

2. To press you to wait upon God for the purifying of your hearts through the word, in the use of the word, through the Spirit, to look for the purification and sanctification of your souls. Here I should press you to take heed that you hear, how you hear, and what you hear.

[1.] That you hear. You need wait upon God, and hearken diligently. The apostle infers it: James i. 18, 'Of his own will begat he us by the word of truth.' What then? 'Therefore be swift to hear.' Continually you will find some new enforcement or new consideration to promote your holiness and sanctification.

[2.] Take heed what ye hear, Mark iv. 24 You must get the distinguishing ear; that as the mouth tasteth meats, so the ear may taste doctrines, and you may judge of things that differ.

[3.] Take heed how you hear, Luke viii. 18; that is, wait for the operations of the Spirit, do not hear carelessly, negligently. It is said, Acts x. 44, 'While Peter was speaking those things, the Holy Ghost fell upon them.' While we are speaking to you there are many good motions stirred up in your hearts. Take heed how you hear, that the blessing may not escape from you.

'Thy word is truth.—The punt which I am now to discuss is, the truth of the word. In managing this discourse I shall show

1. What necessity there is that God should give us his word, or a declaration of his will.

2. Where we shall infallibly find this word or declaration of his will.

3. Of what concernment it is to be established in the truth of this word.

4. Whether it be possible that carnal men, remaining so, can have any assurance of this truth; or whether it be only left to be cleared op infallibly to the soul, by the light and working of the Spirit.

First, What necessity there is of God's word, or some outward signification of his will An absolute necessity of an outward rule there is not. God might immediately reveal himself to the heart of man; he who made the heart can stamp it with the full knowledge of his will. But the written word is best for God's honour, and for the safety of religion, and because of the weakness of our nature.

1. For the honour of God, that he should give man a rule. You [Pg. 428] know all creatures that God hath made, they have a rule without themselves, by which they are guided and directed in their operations. It is God's own privilege to be a rule to himself. The angels have a rule, that is distinct from their essence. And in innocency, though God stamped the knowledge of his will immediately upon man's heart, that Adam's heart was as it were his bible, yet his rule was-distinguished from his essence, otherwise he could not have sinned against God. If man were his own rule there would be an impossibility of sinning, and so there would be an intrenchment upon God's own privilege. You know it is God's own privilege that his act is his rule, and therefore it is impossible that God should sin. Look, as when a carpenter choppeth and squareth a piece of timber, there is a line and rule without him, by which he is guided and directed: if it were to be supposed that his hand could never strike amiss, that would be his rule, he would need no line or rule without him. But this is proper to no creature, it is God's own privilege that his essence and his rule are not distinguished; but still a man should not share with him in his peculiar privilege, therefore he hath given him a rule. Besides, if man were a rule to himself, there would be no room for rewards; there is no commendation nor praise where there is a natural necessity of doing good; as stocks and stones are not capable of a reward for not sinning, because they cannot sin.

2. For the safety of religion, now man is fallen, that he might not obtrude fancies on his neighbour: Isa. viii. 20, 'To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.' Let it be voice or oracle, all is to be measured by the outward rule which God hath given to the church.

3. In respect of man, to repair the defects of nature, and to satisfy the desires of nature.

[1.] To repair the defects of nature. Fallen man is brutish, and knows not how to carve out a right worship for God, or a rule of commerce between him and us. We have not light enough in our own-hearts for such a work. You see what sorry devices of worship man frameth when he is destitute of the knowledge of God's will, and left to the workings of his own heart. The apostle observes it of the philosophers, Rom. i. 22, 23; the wisest of heathens, when they sat abrood upon religion, it proved but a monstrous misshapen piece: 'Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things.' You see how sottish man, if left once to himself, is ready to worship a stick, or straw, or piece of red cloth, instead of God. Though the Knowledge of the law of God be written on man's heart, as it was on Adam's, who was his own bible, yet it is so blurred and defaced that we cannot read the mind of God in our own heart. It is true there are some scattered fragments and relics, and some obscure characters, that will teach us something of morality and duties, to fit us for commerce between man and man, but very little to teach us how to have commerce with God. The Gentiles have the work of the law written upon their hearts: Rom. ii. 14, 15, 'For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these having not the law, [Pg. 429] are a law unto themselves; which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their consciences also hearing witness, and their thoughts in the meanwhile accusing, or else excusing one another;' that is, they are sensible of the necessity of external obedience, but nature goes no further. There is no article of belief, if we consider it with all its circumstances, and in that exact manner that is propounded to us in the word of God, that could ever have entered into the heart of man. And therefore, since man's heart is so weak, we need a rule that we might know God's will. His works indeed declare God's glory, that indeed there is an infinite, eternal, incomprehensible power, that made all things and guides all things: Ps. xix. 1, 'The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth forth his handiwork;' but they speak nothing of the fall, of the restitution by Christ, of the mystery of the Trinity, and those glorious representations that are now made of God in the scriptures; and therefore there was a necessity in this "kind to repair the defects of nature.

[2.] To satisfy the desires of nature. There are two things that render us unsatisfied with the light of nature—an insatiable desire of knowledge in the soul, and a trouble of heart about misery, sin, and death.

(1.) An insatiable desire of more knowledge, and full satisfaction concerning God and the way to enjoy him. Reason, you know, is the property and excellency of man, and his privilege above the beasts; now reason desires to replenish itself with knowledge and perfection in its kind. The stomach no more desires true food for sustenance than a man doth knowledge. Man that is born to know hath a strong desire to it, and delight in it when it is increased. This was Adam's bait in paradise: Gen. iii. 6, 'The tree was good for food, and pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise.' And it is a mighty delectation, even to man's natural soul, to view any truth; the contemplation of it is a mighty rejoicing and delight. Therefore the word of God may beget, even in natural men, such a kind of delectation: Ps. xix. 10, 'More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than fine gold; sweeter also than the honey and the honeycomb.' They rejoice the soul because they fill it with light. That there is such an impatient thirst and desire after more knowledge than we have in ourselves appears by the very idolatry of the Gentiles; they were unsatisfied with their own thoughts, they would know more, and that was the reason they were so ready to close with every fancy that was offered to them. As a man that is very hungry, and almost famished, will fasten upon any food that comes next to hand, many times that which is most hurtful and noxious, so man, being desirous of some more knowledge concerning the nature of God, when he can meet with no other, he fastens upon gross superstitions and fables, whatever comes next to hand. Some outward rule and direction they will have, a bad one rather than none at all, out of a despair to find a better.

(2.) As there is an impatient thirst and desire after knowledge, so there is a trouble in conscience about misery, death, and sin. This bondage is natural, and we cannot be eased of it without some knowledge of a means of reconciliation. Nature is full of inquiries which way God will be pleased: Micah vi. 6, 7, 'Wherewith shall I come [Pg. 430] before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God? Shall I come before him with burnt-offerings, with calves of a year old? will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my first-born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?' What shall I do to pacify God? This is the great inquiry of nature. Nature knows that some satisfaction must be given to offended justice; and until conscience have: firm ground of rest it will not be quiet. This put the heathens upon such barbarous actions as giving the first-born for the sin of their soul; and this made the Jews so unsatisfied; they looked no farther than the sacrifice: Heb. ix. 9, 'In which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; that is, their conscience had no firm ground of satisfaction and quiet by sacrifices. Therefore you shall see how God makes use of this advantage, this dissatisfaction, without some external rule, and the knowledge of means how to be reconciled: Jer. vi. 16, 'Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, Where is the good way? and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.' As if the Lord had said, There is now a dissatisfaction, a natural bondage upon man. Now look to all the religions in the world, see where you can find rest for your souls. God leaves it upon that issue and determination. These things show there must be some external rule for guiding of the creature. It is for God's glory, for the safety of religion, to repair the defects of nature and to satisfy the desires of nature.

Secondly, What is God's word? This is necessary to be cleared; for the question is not so much, whether God's word be truth? as whether this or that be the word of God or no? This will be easily granted by every one that hath the sense of a godhead, that what God speaks must needs be true; for God is so infinitely wise that he cannot be deceived, and so infinitely just and true that he will not deceive us, and so omnipotent that he cannot be jealous of our knowledge, and so gracious that he is not envious of our knowledge, as the devil would insinuate: Gen. iii. 5, 'For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.' It will be no infringement to his interest if we should know his nature and his will. But the great question is, what we should take for the word of God? Now that we may have a sure ground in this kind, let us consider how he hath revealed himself to man. The dispensations of God are several:—(1.) To Adam; (2.) To the world; (3.) To the church.

1. To Adam. His bible was his heart; the law was written there, and God preached to him immediately, and by oracle gave him all extraordinary commands, and the book of the creatures for his contemplation; not so much to better his knowledge, as to increase his reverence.

2. To the world. To heathens God gave the book of nature, which was more than they made use of, and therefore he stopped there: Ps. xix. 1-3, 'The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge. There is no speech nor language [Pg. 431] where their voice is not heard.' &c. This revelation God hath made of himself, even to all nations; they have sun and moon to look upon, and the structure of the heavens to behold, which are so many pledges of the excellency and infiniteness of God: Rom. i. 19, 20, 'Because that which may be known of God is manifest to them, for God hath showed it unto them; for the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and godhead; so that they are without excuse;' Acts xiv. 17, 'Nevertheless, he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.' In the book of nature there is the rough draught of God's will. Trismegistus said it was liber units divinttate plentis—creation was nothing else but one book, that was full of the glory of God and his excellency. God spake to them by things, not by words. This, with some instincts of conscience, the relics of the fall, was all the heathens had. Conscience was God's deputy, to put them in mind of a judge; and the heavens put them in mind of a God. Look, as Job's messengers said,' I alone am escaped to tell thee,' so there are some few relics and principles alone escaped out of the ruins of the fall, to tell us somewhat of God, and somewhat of a judge. That light proclaims everywhere, and speaks to every nation, and proclaims it aloud to all people, kindred, and tongues of the earth: Take notice there is one infinite eternal God, that made us, and you, and all things else. God's refreshing the parched earth with showers of rain shows how willing he is to be gracious to poor hungry creatures. Fruitful seasons show us the abundance of his mercy. The decking the heavens with stars, and the earth with plants, show us what glory he can put upon the creatures. This language may be gathered out .of the creation, and thus did God speak to all creatures by the voice of his creatures.

3. To the church. And the dispensations of God to the church have been various and diverse: Heb. i. 1, 'God who at sundry times, and in divers manners, \~polumerwv\~ \~kai\~ \~polutropwv\~, spake in times past unto our fathers by the prophets,' &c. He spake his mind by pieces, that is signified by the word; now he gave a piece of his mind, and then a piece; and he hath spoken also in 'sundry manners,' by several ways of revelation. The church never wanted sufficient revelation nor means of knowledge to guide them to the enjoyment of God and true happiness. God's dispensations to the church may be reduced to three heads. There was—(1.) His word without writing; (2.) Then word and writing; (3.) Then writing only.

[1.] There was the won! without writing, by visions, oracles, and dreams, by which he manifested himself to persons of the greatest sanctity and holiness, that they might instruct others, and impart the mind of God to others. Now mark, this dispensation was sure enough, to guide them to communion with God. Why? Because the people of the world were then but few families, and the persons intrusted with God's message were of great authority and credit, therefore sufficient enough to inform that present age of God's counsel; and (which was another advantage) they lived long, to continue the tradition with certainty to others for hundreds of years. Vision and [Pg. 432] tradition was sure enough; for, as it is observed by some, three men might continue the tradition of the counsel of God from Adam till Israel went down into Egypt. There was Adam first; God taught him by oracle, and he taught others, he lived a long time. Methuselah lived with Adam two hundred forty-three years, and continued until the flood; then Shem lived with Methuselah ninety-eight years, and flourished about five hundred years after the flood; and Isaac lived fifty years with Shem, and died about ten yean before Israel's descent into Egypt So that Methuselah, Shem, and Isaac might continue the knowledge of God, and preserve the purity of religion from Adam's death, till Israel's going down into Egypt, for so many hundred years. This was God's dispensation to that church.

[2.] Afterwards there was both word and writing. God's word was necessary for the further revealing and clearing up of the doctrine of salvation, which was revealed by pieces. And writing was necessary, partly because in process of time precepts were multiplied, and it was needful for men's memories that they should be registered in some public record; and partly because the long life of God's witnesses was much lessened, and the corruption of the world was increased, and Satan began to imitate God by oracles, visions, and answers, and idolatry and superstition crept into the best families. Into Tenth's: Josh. xxiv. 2, 'Your fathers dwelt on the other side the flood, in old time, even Terah the father of Abraham and the father of Nachor, and they served other gods.' And Jacob's family was corrupt: Gen. xxxv. 2, 'Then Jacob said to his household, and to all that were with him, Put away the strange gods that are among yon, and be clean, and change your garments.' The people were grown numerous enough to make a commonwealth and a politic body, and it was fit they should have 8 public record and common rule; and therefore, to avoid man's corruptions, and to give a stop to Satan's deceits, the Lord thought fit there should be a written rule at hand, for the trial of all doctrines. God himself wrote the first scripture that ever was written with his own finger: Exod. xxiv. 12, 'And the Lord said to Moses, Come up to me into the mount, and be there, and I will give them tables of stone, and a law, and commandments which I have written, that thou mayest teach them.' And then commanded Moses and the prophets to do the same: Exod. xvii. 14,' And the Lord said unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in a book;' and Exod. xxxiv. 27, 'And the Lord said unto Moses, Write thou these words; for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel.' So he bids Jeremiah, chap, xxxvi 2,' Take thee a roll of a book, and write therein all the words that I have spoken to thee.' And so God spake to all the prophets, though it be not expressed, and by inward instinct bids them write their prophecies, that it might be a public record for the church in all ages. Now this way was always accompanied with prophetical revelations until Christ's time, who, as the great doctor of the church, perfected the rule of faith, and by the apostles, as so many public notaries, consigned it to the use of the church. And so when the canon was complete, then John, as the last of the apostles, and outliving the rest, closed up all, and therefore closeth up his prophecy thus: Rev. xxii. 18,19, 'For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the [Pg. 433] prophecy of this book; if any man 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 that are written in this book.' Which sealeth up the whole canon and rule of faith, as well as the book of the Revelations. And therefore

[3.] There is now writing only without the word, without visions and revelations. There needeth no more now, because here is enough to make us wise unto salvation: 2 Tim. iii. 15-17, 'And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.' It is sufficient to make as wise to preach, and you wise to practise. It is now certain enough; God hath left a public record, that we might not spend our time in doubting and disputing. And it is full enough; you need nothing more, either to satisfy the desires of nature or to repair the defects of nature, to satiate the soul with knowledge; for God Lath given to the church sufficient instruction to decide all controversies, to assoil all doubts, and to give us sure conduct and direction to everlasting glory.

Thirdly, The next question is, of what concernment it is to inquire of the truth of the scripture? Many think that such a discussion needs not, because this is a principal matter to be believed, not argued, And arguments at least beget but a human faith; yet certainly it is of great necessity if you consider four things:—

1. It is good to prepare and induce carnal men to respect it, and to wait for the confirmation of the Spirit. A human faith maketh way for a divine; when men hearken to the word upon common grounds, God may satisfy them; as those, John iv. 42, 'Now we believe, not because of thy saying, for we have heard him ourselves and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Son of the living God.' They first believed upon the woman's report and then upon their own experience. So it is good to establish sound grounds, that we may know the truth of God, first upon hearsay, and afterward upon experience. This way we induce and invite men to make a trial.

2. Because it giveth an additional confirmation, and greater certainty to the people of God. Foundation-stones can never be laid with exactness and care enough. For if you mark it, you will find all doubting in your belief, all disproportion in your practice, ariseth from this, because the supreme truth is not settled in the soul. We ought to believe it more and more; then it stirs up greater reverence, greater admiration, and makes way for your delight and joy, to have your charter cleared. It is good to look upon this argument, that it might further our comfort, and that this fire may be blown up into a flame, and that truth may have more awe upon the conscience.

3. It awakeneth them that have received the word upon slight .grounds, to be better settled. Most men look no further than human Authority and public countenance; they have no other grounds to [Pg. 434] believe the scriptures than the Turks to believe the Alcoran, because-it is the tradition of their fathers. Most men's belief is but a happy mistake, a thing at peradventnre, and they are Christians upon no other grounds than others are Turks. God loveth a rational worship; he-would have us to render \~logov\~, 'a reason of the faith that is in us.' But they are Christians by chance, rather than choice and solid reason; it is because they know no other religion, not because they know no-better. Well, then, that you may be able to justify your religion 'for wisdom is justified of her children.' Mat xi. 19), that you may take up the ways of God upon a rational choice, it is good to see what ground» and confirmations we have for that holy faith we do profess.

4. That we may know the distinct excellency of our profession· above all other professions in the world. The daughters of Jerusalem are brought in asking the spouse, Cant i. 9,' What is thy beloved more than another beloved, 0 thou fairest among women? What is thy beloved more than another beloved, that thou dost so charge us?' What can you say for your Christ, and for your way of salvation, and for your scriptures, above what other men can say for their worship or their superstition? A Christian should know the distinct and special excellency of his profession: Jer. vi. 16, God bids us, 'Stand in the way, and see, and ask for the old paths, Where is the good way?' It is good to survey the superstitions we have in the world, and compare-the excellency of our holy profession with other professions. In scripture we are required, not only to glorify God, but to sanctify him: Isa. viii 13, 'Sanctify the Lord of hosts in your hearts.' So 1 Peter iii. 15, 'Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in yon, with meekness and fear.' Now what is it to sanctify? It is to set apart anything from common uses. This is to sanctify God, when we can say, He is thus and thus, and none like him. Now it is fit that you should be acquainted with the grounds and reasons of your holy profession, with the distinct excellency that is in it above all other religions in the world. God counts no assemblies in the-world to be like the church; therefore we should be always studying the excellences and perfections of God, that we may see there is none like our God. That phrase, 'Who is like unto thee?' is twice used in scripture. Of the church: Dent xxxiii. 29, 'Who is like unto thee, O people, saved by the Lord?' And of God: Micah vii. 18, 'Who is a God like unto thee, who pardoneth iniquity?' &c. The church should in gratitude return tins upon God. Where is there such a pardon to be had? such a satisfaction for conscience, and such ? fountain of holiness? Christ and the church are thus brought in mutually pleasing themselves in one another, Cant ii. 2. Christ begins with the church: 'As the lily among the thorns, so is my beloved among the daughters.' It is not meant in regard of scratching, as if the church were in the midst of thorns; but by way of comparison. Look, as a lily excels thorns, so the church excels all the world. And then the church begins, ver. 3 'As the apple-tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons.' Look how much the fruit-bearing tree excels the barren and rotten trees of the forest; so doth Jesus Christ excel all others. Upon these grounds it will not be [Pg. 435] amiss to enter upon the discourse concerning the divine authority of the scriptures.

Fourthly, Whether a wicked man remaining wicked, may be convinced of the truth of the word? I should think they can have no absolute assurance till they have some work of grace, because that is the fruit of grace: Col. ii. 2, 'That your hearts might be comforted, and knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ;' 2 Cor. iv. 4, 'If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost;' 1 Cor. ii. 14, 'The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.' He receives not the things of God, that is, doth not perceive them with demonstration, nor receive them with acceptation. A natural man may have an opinion, a light conjecture, a slight conviction upon his heart, enough to beget an awe, so as he knows not how to contradict the truth of the scriptures; but not an absolute assurance of the· truth of the word. It is Christ's sheep only that are able to distinguish his voice: John x. 27, 'My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.' They that look upon the scripture in the light of the Spirit, they are only able to see that it is from God. We may convince them, and use preparative inducements, but they cannot be absolutely assured of the truth of the doctrine, and that for two reasons:

1. Because all external arguments, without the light of the Spirit, work but a human faith. He that inspired the scriptures must open our eyes to know them, and incline our hearts to believe them; otherwise we shall look upon them but as a traditional report; Isa. liii. 1, 'Lord, who hath believed our report?' The church maketh report; what is the reason wicked men do not entertain it? 1 John ii. 20, 'Ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things.' Men may speak of Christ by hearsay, as a parrot talks after a man; but it is the Spirit only that must reveal him to the heart The disciples themselves knew not the truth of the gospel so much by Christ's outward ministry as by the inward illumination of the Spirit So Christ himself saith, John xvi. 13,' Howbeit, when the Spirit of truth is come, he shall guide you into all truth.' Christ had brought it out of the bosom of the Father, and had taught them by an external ministry; but the Comforter was to bring it into their hearts, to lead them into all truth. Therefore though carnal men may have a rational conviction, and may be so overpowered with reason that they cannot contradict the word, and so far understand it as to be condemned by it, yet they have not an absolute assurance; it is accompanied with atheism, doubts, and dissatisfactions.

2. Because the Spirit worketh not by way of certioration and full assurance, but where he sanctifieth. And therefore the apostle saith, 1 Thes. i. 5, Our gospel came not to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance.' It cleanseth and sanctifieth the heart. And in the text it is said, 'Sanctify them through thy truth; thy word is truth.' Wherever there is an inward plenary conviction, there is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of God [Pg. 436] works, he changeth the heart It is true a wicked man, remaining carnal, may have common gifts from the Spirit: Heb. vi. 4, 'They may be enlightened, and taste of the heavenly gift, and be made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and taste the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come' They may be able to make use of the model and form of knowledge that is in the brain; but there is not an absolute assurance. This partial conviction is soon lost; it is led in by man, and led off by man. A natural man, being in the church, may have great presumption and probability; he may know nothing to the contrary why it is not God's word; nay, he may in bravery die for his profession; but he dies in his own quarrel, and for his own humour, not for the love of the truth; because it is his, not because it is God's, because his own profession may not be disparaged; but a true certainty they cannot have, such as is affective, transforming, settled.

use 1. To wicked men, that stagger about the truth of the scriptures, and are haunted with a spirit of atheism and continued doubts.

1. Wait upon common grounds, consent of the church, and probable arguments. You ought out of respect to search into it, whether it will be found to be the word of God or no. You read in Judges, when Ehud said to Eglon, Judges iii. 20,' I have a message from God unto thee, he rose out of his seat' If a king's letter, threatening great peril, were brought to a man, he doth not know whether it he the king's letter or no, but because the peril is great, he will inquire further into the matter. So when the word of God is brought unto you, propounding everlasting hope, threatening everlasting death, this should make you wait, inquire, and see if it be the word of God or no. We venture far for great gain upon a probable hope. If there were but a loose probability of having a great price for a shilling, a man would venture .upon that probability. Now here is not only a possibility of gaining, but you are threatened with horrible torments, everlasting death and horror, more than is propounded in any religion. Bo not think this is a foolish credulity: 'The simple believeth every word;' there is none more foolishly credulous than the atheist and the antiscripturist, who withhold their assent from the word of God upon very slight reasons, and venture then· salvation upon them.

2. Do not in such a matter rest upon the credit of any man, but seek to have a firm ground in your consciences, an inward certioration from the Spirit of God: Phil. i. 9,' This I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in judgment,' \~aisyhsei\~, in all sense. Wait till you have an inward feeling. He that is led by a man into the acknowledgment of the truth will be led off again by men. There will be no stability till you have an inward assurance: 2 Peter iii. 16, 'Beware, lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness.' \~idion\~ \~sthrugmon\~. Every child of God should have some ballast in his own spirit, some ground and experience upon which he durst venture his soul. Labour for this proper ballast and steadfastness of your own. And for your comfort let me tell you, if you, with a humble and pious mind, wait upon God, you will not want it long. He that with a sincere mind, and studiousnees of his own salvation, desires to find out the truth of the scriptures, certainly God will settle him. [Pg. 437]

Use 2. Here is advice to the people of God.

1. Prize this way of dispensation; bless God that the rule of faith is put into a settled coarse, the greatest gift, next the Lord Jesus Christ, that the world ever had. The scriptures are God's charter given to man, the evidence of his happiness, by which he holds heaven and grace, and all his privileges in Christ Though the bible alone were extant in the world, here were sufficient direction, a doctrine full enough to guide us to happiness; and though all the world were full of books, if the bible only were wanting, you would have no sure doctrine. Some books are of Satan's inditing, they that are full of filthiness and folly; other book smell of men; there is not another book in the world but hath something of man in it, and a human spirit But this is all of God, this is the truth, the touchstone of words and deeds. Other writings speak man's heart, but this speaks to man's heart with a divine power; this is the book that is the best discovery of God's heart to us, and our own to ourselves; it is the touchstone, not only to try doctrines, but to try all men's dispositions, how we stand affected to him.

2. Best in the certainty of this doctrine. We are foolish creatures, and would give laws to heaven, and indent with God to believe upon our own terms. Look, as the devil would indent with Christ: Mat iv. 3,' If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread;' so we indent with God: If it be his word, let God testify it by some oracle, or some visible dispensation. We think it were better, and that the world had more assurance, when God spake 'in divers manners,' than when the canon and rule of faith is closed up, and he speaks by writing only, and not by voice. No; God's terms are surer than if a man should come from hell and speak to them. We are apt to think, if a messenger should come up in garments of flaming fire, and preach the horrors of the· world to come, then there would be no atheists; but there is a far greater certainty in such a dispensation as we are now under: Luke xvi. 30, 31, 'If one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one arose from the dead.' Satan still appears to the blind world in horrible shapes to terrify them; so would we look upon this as a horrible shape, as the malice and cunning of the devil. Nay, it is surer than if an angel should come from heaven to preach tile gospel to us, for that would not be such an absolute assurance: Gal. i. 8,' For though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.' Nay, it is more sure than an oracle from God; though that is as sure in itself, because it is from tile true God, yet it is not so sure to us: 2 Peter i. 19,' We have a more sure word of prophecy.' More sure than what? Than visions and the voice from the excellent glory. He alludes to that voice which came from heaven: Mat iii. 17, 'This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.' Ay! but saith he, 'We have a more sure word of prophecy. Therefore rest in this way of dispensation; do not blame God, as if he had ill provided for the comfort and safety of the church.

3. Improve it to a solid hope and comfort; it is the word of God. and venture upon it If you be deceived, God hath deceived you, as [Pg. 438] the prophet saith, Jer. iv. 10. Venture upon the promises of God; entertain the precepts of it, as if God himself had spoken them: 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, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.' When you hear any particular thing pressed out of the word, entertain it as if God spake from heaven. What will you venture upon God's word in a way of suffering? and what lust will you thwart and crucify, that God by his word commands?

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