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4. The authority of the scripture as to us is not from the church, but from itself; that is, the reason why we receive the scripture as the word of God, it is not because the church says it is so, but because it evidences itself to be so. For as God's works do themselves tell their Maker, so his word declares the Speaker; so that a spiritual discerner must needs say on the reading of it, though none should recommend it. It is the voice of God, not of men. Can we discern an unlearned man's letter from that of a learned man ? and doth not God's word bear a divine character? It is a light, a lamp, &c. the nature of which is to discover itself. Thus there is objective evidence enough in the scripture; though indeed the subjective evidence cannot be had but by the Spirit of God; so that to him bearing witness by and with the word, we owe the full assurance that it is God's word, 2 Cor. ii. 10, 14. And this is the reason why great scholars may be less persuaded of this træth, than the most unlearned peasants; because, though the sun discovers itself sufficiently, yet blind men cannot see it.
Now, that the inward illumination of the Spirit of God is necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the word, I shall prove by the following arguments.
1. The scripture makes this inward illumination of the Spirit of God necessary for understanding of the scriptures, while it ascribes the same wholly unto the Spirit, Matth. xvi. 17. Flesh and blood hath not revealed it, [Christ's • being the Son of the living God] unto thee, but my fa
ther which is in heaven; 1 Cor. ii. 10, 11, 12. God bath ' revealed them unto us by his Spirit; for the Spirit search
eth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man • knoweth the things of a man, save the Spirit of man · which is in him ? even so the things of God knoweth no
man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not " the Spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; " that we might know the things that are freely given to us
of God.' If the Spirit of God take the same unto himself as his own proper work, how can any arrogate it to themselves, as if by the power of nature they were able for it?
2. There is an utter inability in man by nature to know savingly the things of God. They are above his capacity while he remains in his natural state, and nothing can act beyond the sphere of its activity. This is plain from 1 Cor. ü. 14. where not only the act of receiving them is denied to natural men, but the very power of discerning them; and the reason is given, “because they are spiritually dis• cerned, and he wants the organ of discerning spiritually. And this discerning is appropriated to the spiritual man, ver. 15. Had not the Israelites in the wilderness very great external helps to gain the knowledge of the things of God, Deut. xxix.? but all was ineffectual. What was the want then ? See ver. 4. • The Lord hath not given you • (says Moses, to them) an heart to perceive, and eyes to see,
and ears to hear.' 3. If it were not the spiritual illumination that
this saving understanding of the things of God, then the
greatest adepts in human literature would have most of the saving knowledge of such things as are revealed in the word. This plainly follows: But that it is not so, the scripture testifies, i Cor. i. 20, 26, 27, 28. “Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world ? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called. But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world, to confound the wise: and God hath chosen the weak things of the world, to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are.' Many times it is seen to be quite otherwise. And what makes the difference? See Matth. xi. 25. I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven 6 and carth (says Christ), because thou hast hid these things * from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto -babes.' Even as he hath put this treasure in earthen vessels, to the end the praise might be of God, that it may be seen it is not the act of the preacher, but the power of the Spirit, that gives true understanding.
4. Men without the saving illumination of the Spirit are so far from attaining sufficient knowledge of the things revealed in the word of God, that they judge them foolish, 1 Cor. ii. 14. The doctrine concerning Christ crucified was to the Jews, who had the law and the prophets, a stumblingblock, and to the Greeks, who excelled in human learning,
foolishness, 1 Cor. i. 23. ; yea, no less than madness, Acts xxvi. 24. Nay, even the godly themselves, when without the actual influence of the Spirit, are not far from reckoning as they do who are in nature; as in the case of the apostles, looking on the account brought them of the resurrection of their Lord as an idle tale, and not believing it, Acts xxiv. ll. The doctrine of Christ's resurrection seemed to the disciples as idle tales ; how much more so to men utterly destitute of the Spirit, who many times are besides judicially blinded ? 2 Cor. iv. 4.
5. The Lord promises his Spirit to the end men may be taught to know the truths of God savingly, Ezek. xxxvi. 26. John xiv. 16, 17. and xvi. 12, 13. Has he promised his Sprit in vain ? or are we sufficiently furnished already? If so, why does he promise his Spirit ?
6. The prayers of the saints for this illumination prove the necessity of it, Psal. cxix. 18. Eph. i. 17, 18. Col. i. 9. And they pray so, because they feel the need of it: the experience of the Spirit is that against which there is no disputing
7. Let us consider that passage, John vi. 45. ' And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and learned of the Father, cometh unto me.' It is plain that by coming unto Christ is meant saving faith in him. Now, in order to this there is a promise, that they shall all, viz. all the elect, for faith is the saving faith of God's elect, be taught of God, viz. by the Spirit, not merely by external revelation, because whosoever thus hears comes unto Christ ; but it is certain that all come not to Christ that hear, and learn of the Father by external revelation only. From all, which it is evident, that unto the sufficient understanding of the things revealed in the scripture the teaching of the Spirit is necessary; and that all who attain to the saving knowledge of these things do believe.
What then remains upon this head but, that we diligently read the holy scriptures as being the word of God, and the rule which he hath given to direct us both as to faith and practice; and that we fervently pray to God, that he may give us his holy Spirit to enlighten our minds in the saving knowledge of the word, without which we will remain in the dark, and the word will be but a dead letter to Vou. I.
us ? Lord open our eyes, that we may understand thy word.
THỂ UTILITY OF THE SCRIPTURES AS A RULE.
I proceed to the consideration of another Doctrine.
Doct. “The scriptures are the rule to direct us how we
may glorify and enjoy God.' Here I shall only give the properties of this rule.
1. It is a perspicuous or clear rule. For though all things in scripture are not alike plain in theniselves, nor alike clear unto all; yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.
(1.) With respect to all things necessary to salvation, whether for faith or practice, it cannot be denied, but there are portions of the scripture very obscure, which possibly are not rightly interpreted even to this day; but in such things as are necessary to salvation, they are clear. And in this respect it hath been said, that the scriptures are a depth wherein a lamb may wade, and an elephant may swim.
(2.) Though some things, the faith of which is necessary to salvation, be high and incomprehensible mysteries, such as the doctrine of the Trinity, of the incarnation of the Son of God, &c. yet the way of propounding them is clear.
(3.) It may be that what is truly necessary unto salvation may be very obscurely laid down in some place of scripture; yet in some other place we shall find the same thing clearly propounded :
(4.) And that so as not only the learned, but even the unlearned, may attain to a sufficient understanding of them; which you must carefully remember is meant here of believing persons, who have the inward illumination of the Spirit, removing their own natural darkness : for if ye shall understand it of unbelievers, it contradicts what we have laid down above, relating to the necessity of spiritual illumination. And so the sense is, that not only may the learned, but even the unlearned Christian, attain to a sufficient understanding of the word;
(5.) Providing they make due use of the ordinary means appointed of God for the understanding of them ; reading attentively and devoutly, with prayer and meditation on them, &c.
This perspicuity of the scriptures I shall prove by the following arguments.
(1.) The scripture plainly teaches its own perspicuity and clearness in this sense. It is called a lamp and a light, Psal. cxix. 105. 'The very entrance of it (is said) give light and understanding to the simple,' ver. 130. See Prov. vi. 23. The apostle, 2 Pet. i. 19. calls the holy scriptures a light, and particularly the word of prophecy, or the prophetic word, which of all the rest seems most dark, yet this he calls a light and a shining light, shining in a dark place ; shewing thereby, that where it comes and shines, though the place be of itself dark, yet it dispels the darkness.
(2.) Such is the way God hath delivered his word, that its commands are not remote from the understanding; the meanest believer hath no reason to complain in the difficulty of it in the things necessary to salvation, Deut. XXX. 11. &c. For this command which I command thee this day, it is nof hidden from thee, neither is it far off: It is not in heaven, that thou shouldst say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldst say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.'
(3.) If all things necessary to salvation be understood by all sincere Christians, and this by virtue of the Spirit dwelang in every believer, then the scriptures are clear in all things necessary to salvation to the meanest believer. But the former is true : 1 Cor. ii. 15. · He that is spiritual judgeth all things;' 1 John ii. 20, 27. Ye have an unction from the holy One, and ye know all things. The anoint. ing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you; but the same anointing teacheth you of all things.". Consider to whom John