« ZurückWeiter »
(1.) By the internal illumination of the mind, giving a spiritual discerning of divine truth, which the natural man receiveth not, as the apostle says, 1 Cor. ii. 14. and it is called, 2 Cor. iv. 6. a shining into our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ.
(2.) By subduing the obstinate will of man, and so enabling it to yield to a ready, chearful, and universal obedience to the divine commands contained in scripture; and, in particular, inclining it to own Christ's authority, as king of saints; and to say, as converted Paul did, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? Acts ix. 6.
(3.) He works upon our affections, exciting in us holy desires after God and Christ, and a very high esteem and value for divine truth, and removes all those prejudices which are in our minds against it, opens and enlarges our hearts to receive the word, and comply with all the commands thereof, thus, Acts xvi. 14. The Lord opened the heart of Lydia, that she attended to the things that were spoken of Paul. So David prays, Psal. cxix. 18. compared with v. 5. Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law. O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes!
QUEST. III. What is the Word of God?
ANSW. The holy scriptures of the Old and New Testament are the word of God, the only rule of faith and obedience.
N speaking to this answer, we shall consider the several names by which the scripture is set forth with the import thereof, and more particularly that by which it is most known; to wit, the Old and New Testament, and then speak of it as a rule of faith and obedience.
I. There are several names given to the word of God, in Psalm cxix. one of which is found in almost every verse thereof.
It is sometimes called his law, statutes, precepts, commandments, or ordinances, (a) to signify his authority and power to
(a) He who has created all things, with all their relations, and who is the universal Sovereign, has a right to the allegiance of his rational creatures, and they arc under obligation to obey his laws, because it is his will that they should do so. He has connected our interest with our duty, as a motive to obedience, and because he is good; but if we should substitute utility for his authority, and conform to his laws, merely because they are advantageous, we rebel against our Sovereign, and renounce his authority, that we may pursue our own advantage. Virtue is amiable for its intrinsic rectitude. If we choose to practice it merely because beautiful, we please ourselves; and though the excellency of virtue is intended as a motive, and it is well for the man who is charmed by it, yet, if this be the only inducement, he has lost sight of the Divine authority, and his virtue is
demand obedience of his creatures which he does therein, and shews us in what particular instances, and how we are to yield obedience to it.
It is also called his judgments, implying that he is the great Judge of the world, and that he will deal with men in a judicial way, according to their works, as agreeable or disagreeable to this law of his, contained in his word; and, for this reason, it is also called his righteousness, because all that he commands in his word is holy and just, and his service highly rea
It is also called God's testimonies, as containing the witness, evidence, or record, that he has given to his own perfections, whereby he has demonstrated them to the world. Thus we are said, 2 Cor. iii. 18. To behold, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord.
It is also called his way, as containing a declaration of the glorious works that he has done, both of nature and grace; the various methods of his dealing with men, or the way that they should walk in, which leads to eternal life.
Moreover, it is called, Rom. iii. 2. The oracles of God, to denote that many things contained in it could not have been known by us till he was pleased to reveal them therein. Agree
no obedience to the laws of God. If the obligation of virtue be founded solely on its utility,or beauty, we are at liberty to forego our advantage, or pleasure without guilt, and remorse of conscience will be unaccountable. It is also fit and preper, that we should practice virtue, but this is no more to be substituted for the Divine authority, than the other motives of advantage or pleasure. If it be objected, that the fitness of moral good is eternal, and a rule even to Deity, and so may be deemed a foundation of the obligation of human virtue. It is conceded that the fitness of virtue is eternal, for God is eternal, and has been always holy, and just; in the same manner also the beauty of virtue is eternal; but to suppose these to have existed anterior to thought and action, and to be independent of an eternally and immutably holy God is to indulge the mind in speculations, which, to say the least of them, are groundless. We may as well assign a cause to eternal existence, as to eternal holiness. When the Creator formed the Universe of intelligent creatures, he gave them, with their existence, the various relations and circumstances which sprang up with them: and their obligations with respect to him and his works originated at the same time, and from the same source; which could be no other than the Divine pleasure; and the positive express appointments, which have been since super-added, rest upon the same basis, the will of God.
That we might discern his will and conform to it, he has set before us his own character, which in all things is good. He has given us reason, or active intellectual powers capable of pursuing the truth, and discovering his character, as a rule of our conduct. And because reason is matured by slow degrees, and the advantages for its improvement are unequal, he has given us a sense susceptible of the impressions of good and evil, by which we can distinguish between moral good and evil almost as casily, as by our natural senses we discern the differences between light and darkness, sweetness and bitterness; and thus has he rendered the judgment upon our own actions almost always unavoidable. The light of nature has been confirmed by express revelation; and because the law of nature identifies itself with the written law of God, the obligation of both rests upon the same foundation, the Sovereign will.
ably hereto, the apostle speaks of the great things contained in the gospel, as being hid in God; hid from ages and generations past, but now made manifest to the saints, Eph. iii. 9, Col. i. 26.
Again it is sometimes called the gospel, especially those parts of scripture which contain the glad tidings of salvation by Christ, or the method which God ordained for the taking away the guilt, and subduing the power of sin; and particularly the apostle calls it, The glorious gospel of the blessed God; 1 Tim. i. 11. and the gospel of our salvation. Eph. i. 13.
And, in this answer, it is called the Old and New Testament; that part of it which was written before our Saviour's incarnation, which contains a relation of God's dealings with his church, from the beginning of the world to that time, or a prediction of what should be fulfilled in following ages, is called the Old Testament. The other which contains an account of God's dispensation of grace, from Christ's first to his second coming is called the New.
A testament is the declared or written will of a person, in which some things are given to those who are concerned or described therein. Thus the scripture is God's written will or testament, containing an account of what he has freely given in his covenant of grace to fallen man; and this is the principal subject matter of scripture, as a testament; therefore it contains
1. Of many valuable legacies given to the heirs of salvation; the blessings of both worlds, all the privileges contained in those great and precious promises, with which the scripture so abounds. Thus it is said, Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory; Psal. Ixiii. 24. and the Lord will give grace and glory, Psal. Ixxxiv. 11.
2. It describes the testator Christ, who gives eternal life to his people, and confirms all the promises which are made in him; as they are said, 2 Cor. i. 20. To be in him yea and amen, to the glory of God; and more especially he ratified this testament by his death as the same apostle observes, which is a known maxim of the civil law, that where a testament is, there must of neces ity be the death of the testator, (a) Heb. ix. 16, 17. upon which the force or validity thereof depends. And the word of God gives us a large account how all the blessings, which God bestowed upon his people, receive their validity from the death of Christ.
3. It also discovers to us who are the heirs, or legatees, to whom these blessings are given, who are described therein, as
(4) Where a covenant is, there should be the death of the devoted victim.
repenting, believing, returning sinners, who may lay claim to the blessings of the covenant of grace.
4. It has several seals annexed to it, viz. the sacraments under the Old and New Testament, of which we have a particular account in scripture.
This leads us to consider how the scripture is otherwise divided or distinguished.
(1.) As to the Old Testament, it is sometimes distinguished or divided into Moses and the prophets; Luke xvi. 29. or Moses, the prophets, and the psalms, Luke xxiv. 44. And it may be considered also as containing historical and prophetic writings, and others that are more especially doctrinal or poetical; and the prophets may be considered as to the time when they wrote, some before and others after the captivity. They may also be distinguished as to the subject matter of them: some contain a very clear and particular account of th.. person and kingdom of Christ, e. g. Isaiah who is, for this reason, by some, called the evangelical prophet. Others contain reproofs, and denounce and lament approaching judgments, as the prophet Jeremiah. Others encourage the building of the temple, the setting up the worship of God, and the reformation of the people upon their return from captivity: thus Zechariah and Haggai. As for the historical parts of scripture, these either contain an account of God's dealings with his people before the captivity; as Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, &'c. or after it, as Ezra and Nehemiah.
(2.) The books of the New Testament may be thus divided. Some of them are historical, viz, such as contain the life and death of our Saviour, as the four gospels, or the ministry of the apostles, and the first planting and spreading of the gospel, as the Acts of the Apostles. Others are more especially doctrinal, and are wrote in the form of an epistle by the apostle Paul, and some other of the apostles.
One book is prophetical, as the Revelations, wherein is foretold the different state and condition of the church, the persecutions it should meet with from its Anti-christian enemies, its final victory over them, and its triumphs, as reigning with Christ in his kingdom.
This leads us to consider, when God first revealed his will to man in scripture, and how this revelation was gradually enlarged, and transmitted down to the church in succeeding ages. There was no written word, from the beginning of the world, till Moses's time, which was between two and three thousand years; and it was almost a thousand years longer before the canon of the Old Testament was completed by Malachi the last prophet, and some hundred years after that before the canon of the New Testament was given; so that God revealed
his will, as the apostle says, in the beginning of the epistle to the Hebrews, at sundry times, as well as in divers manners, and by divers inspired writers.
Notwithstanding the church, before it had a written word, was not destitute of a rule of faith and obedience, neither were they unacquainted with the way of salvation; for to suppose this, would be greatly to detract from the glory of the divine government, and reflect on God's goodness; therefore he took other ways to supply the want of a written word, and hereby shewed his sovereignty, in that he can make known his will what way he pleases, and his wisdom and goodness, in giving his written word at such a time when the necessities of men most required it. This will appear, if we consider,
1. That when there was no written word, the Son of God frequently condescended to appear himself, and converse with man, and so revealed his mind and will to him.
2. There was the ministry of angels subservient to this end, in which respect the word was often spoken by angels, sent to instruct men in the mind and will of God.
3. The church had among them all this while, more or less, the spirit of prophecy, whereby many were instructed in the mind of God; and though they were not commanded to commit what they received by inspiration to writing, yet they were hereby furnished to instruct others in the way of salvation. Thus Enoch is said to have prophesied in his day; Jude ver. 14, 15. and Noah is called, a preacher of righteousness, 2 Pet. ii. 5. Heb. xi. 7.
4. Great part of this time the lives of men were very long, (viz.) eight or nine hundred years, and so the same persons might transmit the word of God by their own living testimony.
5. Afterwards in the latter part of this interval of time, when there was no written word, the world apostatised from God, and almost all flesh corrupted their way; not for want of a sufficient rule of obedience, but through the perverseness and depravity of their nature; and afterwards the world was almost wholly sunk into idolatry, and so were judicially excluded from God's special care; and since Abraham's family was the only church that remained in the world, God continued to communicate to them the knowledge of his will in those extraordinary ways, as he had done to the faithful in former ages.
6. When man's life was shortened, and reduced to the same standard, as now it is, of threescore and ten years, and the church was very numerous, increased to a great nation, and God had promised that he would increase them yet more, then they stood in greater need of a written word to prevent the inconveniences that might have arisen from their continuing any longer without one, and God thought fit, as a great instance of