Page images

and scripture, otherwise we could not be justly so obliged to believe them. And thus I have shewn at large that the scripture is the great rule of our faith and manners, and that as such it is both full and clear, as containing in it all things necessary to salvation, and proposing them so plainly and clearly, as that upon an honest and diligent inquiry all men may find and discover them.



JOHN V. 39.

Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal

life. WHETHER these words are to be rendered indicatively, Ye do search the scriptures, as some would have them, or imperatively, Search the scriptures, as our translation renders them, amounts to the same thing; for if we render them indicatively, Ye do search the scriptures, it is evident that they are spoken with approbation, Ye do read the scriptures, and ye do very well in so doing: for thus we find the Bereans commended for searching the scriptures; and Timothy, for knowing them from a child. And if to search the scripture be a commendable practice, then to be sure our Saviour here mentions it at least with approbation; and what he approves when done, that to be sure he would have us do. Whether therefore it be delivered in the form of a command, or of a bare assertion, it is equivalent to a command, it being at least an assertion of a thing which he approves, and consequently would have all men to practise. But because there is a numerous party in the Christian world which doth not only forbid the people to search the scriptures, but represents it as a practice of very dangerous consequence, it is hereby become necessary that we should not only assert, but prove their obligation to it, which otherwise would be very needless, there being no


thing more plain and evident in itself. Now to prove that the people are obliged to search and read the scriptures, I shall, as briefly as I can, argue the point from these following topics:

1. From the obligations which the Jews were under to read and search the scriptures of the Old Testament.

2. From our Saviour's and his apostles' approbation of their practice, in pursuance of this their obligation.

3. From the great design and intention of writing the scriptures.

4. From the direction of these holy writings to the people.

5. From the great concernment of the people in the matters contained in them.

6. From the universal sense of the primitive church in this matter.

1. From the general obligation which the Jews were under to read and search their scriptures. For so God requires them to keep the words which he commanded them in their hearts: and to teach them diligently to their children, and to talk of them as they sat in their houses, and as they walked in the way, and when they lay down, and when they rose up: and to bind them as a sign upon their hands, Deut. vi. 6, 7, 8. and elsewhere, This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night; speaking to the children of Israel in general, Jos. i. 8. and again, Ye shall lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, that your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children, in the land which the Lord sware unto your fathers to

[ocr errors]

give them, as the days of heaven upon the earth, Deut. xi. 18,21. and to meditate on God's law day and night David makes a part of the character of the blessed man, Psalm i. 2. Now if they could not keep God's laws in their hearts, as most certainly they could not; if they could not teach them to their children ; if they could not talk of them upon all just and proper occasions; and, in a word, if they could not meditate on them day and night without being very well acquainted with them by diligent search and reading them, it is most certain that to read and search into them was their indispensable duty. Now if there be the same reason why we should read the scriptures as there was why the Jews should, then the obligation of these commands must extend to us as well as to them; because the reason of the law is the law: but it is evident, even beyond contradiction, that there is no good reason assignable for the one, which is not of equal force for the other; and whatsoever is objected by our adversaries in this point against our reading the scriptures, is of equal validity against the Jews reading them. It is objected, that our reading them, through our incapacity to understand them, must occasion a great many errors and heresies in the church. And why should not their reading them occasion the same, since neither their understandings were larger than ours, nor their scriptures clearer and more intelligible than ours? It is further objected, that because of the many ill examples recorded in scripture it is dangerous for the people to read it, because of their aptness to be misled and corrupted by example. But I beseech you, are there not more bad examples in the Old Testament than in the New? And were

[ocr errors]

not the Jews as apt to be corrupted by them as we Christians? And therefore, since these objections do press as much against their reading the scriptures as ours, it is certain they ought to keep both from it or neither. Seeing therefore, notwithstanding these objections, God obliged the Jews to read them, it is plain they are not of force enough to disoblige us from doing the same.

2. From our Saviour and his apostles' approbation of this practice of the Jews, in pursuance of their obligation to it, it is also evident that we are obliged to the same. That the common people of the Jews did ordinarily read the scriptures in our Saviour's time is evident, not only from the text, Search the scriptures, (which if you take them indicatively, are an express declaration that they did read them; and if you take them imperatively, necessarily imply that they themselves owned that they ought to read them,) but also from those questions which our Saviour frequently asked them in his conferences with them; such as, Have ye not read? Have ye never read in the scripture? and, Hath not the scripture said so and so? Which question would be very impertinent, if reading the scripture were not then ordinarily practised by that people. And that even their holy women were then so well instructed in the scriptures as to be able to instruct their children, Timothy is a sigual instance, who, though his father were an heathen, had known the holy scriptures from a child, 2 Tim. iii. 15. which knowledge he must necessarily have derived from his grandmother Lois, and his mother Eunice, whose faith St. Paul celebrates, 2 Tim. i. 5. And this practice of reading the scriptures, which was so common among that

« PreviousContinue »