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The entrance of thy word giveth light; it giveth understanding to the simple.—Ver. 130.
IN the former verse, David had commended the word from the wonderfulness and mysteriousness thereof; here from its clearness and perspicuity, ‘Thy testimonies are wonderful;’ yet they give light, ‘The entrance giveth light to the simple.’ The one property doth not hinder the other, upon a twofold account:—
1. Because the truths revealed in scripture are of two sorts: some are plain doctrines, fit for the entertainment of novices, and may be called the porch and entrance; others are deep mysteries, to exercise the wits of the strongest. In the waters of the sanctuary in some places the elephant may swim, in others the lamb may wade. The penmen of the scripture acknowledged themselves to be debtors to wise and foolish, learned and unlearned: Rom. i. 14, ‘I am debtor both to the Greeks and to the barbarians, both to the wise and to the unwise.’ And accordingly were made use of to discover truths of all sorts. There are δυσνόητά τινα, not all things, nor the most material, but some things hard to be understood, 2 Peter iii. 16. God hath expressed his mind in some points so, that the sharpest-sighted will not at first glance easily take up the meaning of it. Other things are plain and easy and obvious, so that the very entrance or first sight of them giveth understanding.
2. From the manner; because though there are mysteries, and things naturally unknown to us, yet they are not obscurely delivered, so as that we should despair to understand them; but in a plain and familiar style, depths of mystery in plainness of words. Therefore the simplest who desire to know so much as may comfort and save their souls, ought not to be hindered and discouraged in the study of the scriptures. The sum is: some things are open and clear, other things dark and mysterious; but though hard to be understood, yet not impossible to be understood; most things plain, none impossible: ‘The entrance of thy word giveth light; it giveth understanding to the simple.’ In these words—
1. What, or the benefit we have by the scriptures, set forth by two words, the one metaphorical, giveth light; the other literal, it giveth understanding. That is it which is meant by light.
2. How or whence we have this light, from the entrance of the word.
3. To whom, to the simple.
The first thing is explained in the text; it giveth light, that is, it giveth understanding. Two questions then remain by way of explication:—
1. What is meant by ‘the entrance of thy word’? Some render it ostium, the door, as Jerome; the Septuagint, δήλωσις; the vulgar, the declaration; we, the entrance. The word petack signifieth door, gate, or opening. The expression giveth us occasion—
[1.] To distinguish of truth in scripture. There is ostium and penetrale, the porch of knowledge and the secret chambers of it. The porch I should take for the first vital essential necessary truths that concern faith and practice: those are obvious to every one that looketh into the scriptures. The inner chambers are those more abstruse points, that do not so absolutely concern the life of grace, but yet conduce ad plenitudinem scientiae, serve for the increase of knowledge. Those that are in the porch, and have not as yet pierced into the depths of scripture, may yet have so much light as to direct them into solid piety.
[2.] Every door hath a key belonging to it, so hath this a key to open it, which Christ hath in his keeping: Rev. iii. 7, ‘He hath the key of David, which openeth and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth.’ The officers of the church are in part intrusted with it for the good of the church. Christ saith, Luke xi. 52, ‘The lawyers had taken away the key of knowledge, and entered not into the kingdom of God themselves, and them that were entering in they hindered.’ Such unfaithful ones hath every age almost afforded; that shut the door of knowledge against the people. Papists, that lock up the scriptures in an unknown tongue, are grossly guilty of it. Others that hinder plain and powerful preaching, cannot excuse themselves from being accessory to this guilt; yea, those that obscure the plain word of God by philosophy, traditions of men, or careless handling: Tertullian complained long ago of those, qui Platonicum et Aristotelicum Christianismum procudunt Christianis.
[3.] By this door opened there is entrance, and so cometh in our word. This entrance may be understood actively or passively; when the word entereth into us, or we enter into it.
(1.) Actively, when the word entereth upon a man’s heart, and maketh a sanctified impression there; as the expression is, Prov. ii. 10, ‘When wisdom entereth into thy heart, and knowledge is pleasant to thy soul.’ This entrance of the word bringeth light with it. The first creature God made was light, so in the new creature; therefore it concerns us to know what manner of entrance the word had upon us: 1 Thes. i. 9, ‘For they themselves know of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols, to serve the living and true God.
(2.) Passively, when men do first enter upon the study of the word. It may be read ‘the entrance into thy word,’ as well as ‘of thy word.’ When once acquainted with it, and the first rudiments of knowledge, we should soon discern the Lord’s mind in the necessary truths that concern faith and practice.
2. The other question is, what is meant by the simple? The word is sometimes used in a good sense, sometimes in a bad.
[1.] In a good sense. (1.) For the sincere and plain-hearted: Ps. cxvi. 6, ‘The Lord preserveth the simple: I was brought low, and he helped me;’ 2 Cor. i. 12, ‘For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-wards.’ (2.) For those that do not oppose the presumption of carnal wisdom to the pure light of the word: so we must be all simple, or fools, that we may be wise: 1 Cor. iii. 18, ‘If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise; ‘that is, in simplicity of heart submitting to God’s conduct, and believing what he hath revealed The Septuagint in the text, φωτίζει καὶ συνετίζει νηπίους, it enlighteneth and giveth understanding to the babes; and so they often translate this word, babes or little ones: thence Christ’s saying, Mat. xi. 25, ‘I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.’ Not to worldly wise, but babes in comparison; not to conceitedly wise, but those that are sensible of their own ignorance.
[2.] In a bad sense, for the ignorant. (1.) In the general, every man is naturally dull and ignorant in divine things: Job xi. 12, ‘Vain man would be wise, though man be born like a wild ass’s colt;’ for grossness as well as untamedness. So every man is simple. (2.) Those that are naturally weak of understanding, or of mean capacity: Prov. i. 4, ‘To give subtlety to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion;’ Prov. viii. 5, ‘O ye simple, under stand wisdom, and ye fools, be ye of an understanding heart.’ In all these senses may the text be made good. I take the last chiefly intended.
1. Observe somewhat from that word ‘the entrance.’
Doct. 1. That in getting knowledge there is a porch and entrance that we must pass through before we can attain to deeper matters.
As in practice there is a gate and a way: Mat. vii. 14, ‘Because strait is the gate and narrow is the way that leadeth to life.’ An entrance and a progress. An entrance by conversion to God, and a progress in a course of holy walking. So in knowledge there τὰ στοιχεῖα τῆς ἀρχῆς τῶ λογίων τοῦ Θεοῦ, ‘the first principles of the oracles of God;’ or some elements and afterwards deeper i milk for babes as well as meat for stronger men: Heb. v. 12-14, ‘For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God, and are become such as have need of milk, and riot of strong meal. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of rightness; for he is a babe: but strong meat belongeth to them that full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.’ There is an order in bringing men to knowledge.
[1.] There is something obvious and lies uppermost, in all truths, that is soon understood, and this we put into catechisms. We must teach as able to bear; Mark iv. 33, ‘And with many such parables spake he the word unto them, as they are able to hear it.’ Indeed, afterwards we come to die into the mines of knowledge, and to dive deeper, as choice metals do not lie on the surface, but in the bowels; therefore we should not content ourselves with a superficial search, but dig as for treasure in a mine: Prov. ii. 4, ‘If thou diggest for her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures.’ So Paul, 1 Cor. iii. 1, 2, ‘And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ: I have fed you with milk, and not with strong meat; for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.’ By milk, he meaneth the plain handling of the doctrines of Christian religion, according to the capacity of those that are weak in knowledge; and by meat, the more exact and curious handling those points. Our weakness enforceth that we begin with the one, but we must go on to the other, for several reasons. Partly because we are to grow in knowledge, as well as other graces: 2 Peter i. 5, ‘Give all diligence to add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge.’ Besides that knowledge that maketh way for faith and virtue, there is a knowledge to be added to it, a great skill in divine things. Partly because those obvious truths will be better improved and retained when we look more into them : after notions do explain and ground the former. First we receive the truth, and after we are rooted and grounded in it: Col. i. 23, ‘If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel.’ A half light makes us very unsettled in our course; but, when we grow judicious, have a fuller and clearer apprehension of truths, we are the more confirmed against the error of the wicked; whereas otherwise light chaff is carried about with every wind. Partly because the more we understand a truth, the more dominion it hath over our faith and practice; for God beginneth with the understanding, and grace is multiplied by knowledge: 2 Peter i. 2, ‘Grace and peace be multiplied unto you, through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord.’ A truth simply understood hath not such operation and force as when it is soundly and thoroughly understood. Love aboundeth with judgment: Phil. i. 9, ‘And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more, in knowledge and in all judgment.’
[2.] There are first principles and fundamental doctrines that must be first taught in a plain and easy way. I say, some things are initial and fundamental, others additional and perspective; we must regard both—the one in our entrance, the other in our growth. The one are called the first principles of the oracles of God, Heb. v. 12, &c., partly, because they are first in order, and first to be taught and learned; partly, because they are chief and fundamental truths of the gospel, upon which the rest depend, most conducing to salvation: the foundation laid well, the building will stand the stronger. They are reckoned up, Heb. vi. 1, 2, ‘Therefore, leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptism, and of laying on of hands, and of the resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.’ In the general he calls them the principles of Christ. The doctrine of Christ is the sum of religion; he that hath learned it well hath learned all. In particular, repentance from dead works is made the first, or that a sinful creature must turn to God by Christ before he can be happy. The next is faith towards God, believing the promises and privileges of the gospel, and depending on him till they be accomplished. Indeed, in these two is the sum of religion sometimes comprised: Acts xx. 21, ‘Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.’ So Acts v. 31, ‘Him hath God raised up to be a prince and a saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and remission of sins.’ Doctrine of baptism is the initiating ordinance, what it signifieth, to what it obligeth. Laying on of hands, the way of Christ’s officers entering the church. Resurrection and last judgment bindeth all. Again, because the prime truths are few and clear, ignorant and unlearned people may know them; they are milk, babes and ignorants may swallow them, as most easy of digestion, God’s end in the scripture being to guide his people to true happiness. Those truths that are necessary to this end are few and clear, and plainly set down, that he that runneth may read them. Though we reach not other points, yet if we get but to this door, there is a great deal of profit.
[3.] They which do not first learn these, cannot profit much. Some confused knowledge they may acquire, but distinct, clear, and orderly understanding they never grow unto. When men run before they can go, they often get a knock. They that were never well grounded are always mutable; therefore before We are brought into the chambers of knowledge, we must stay in the porch, begin with most necessary things, which are most clear and plain, and thereby we are made capable of higher mysteries.
2. Though all Christians must come to this pitch, to know what is necessary to salvation, yet we must not stay here, nor always stay in the porch, nor always keep to our milk, nor be always infants in understanding: 1 Cor. xiv. 20, ‘Brethren, be not children in understanding.’ Other things must be regarded, or why hath God revealed them? No part of scripture is expressed in vain, or at random, but all by divine direction; though the first points are most necessary, yet the rest are not superfluous, but have their use: 2 Tim. iii. 16, ‘All scripture is given by inspiration, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness;’ one part of scripture as well as the other, and maketh much for the increase of spiritual knowledge, comfort, and godliness. One part is milk, another stronger meat; but all is food for the soul. The grown are more ready to every good work, more strong in the resistance of sin, more stead fast in the truth; therefore we should improve our knowledge. If a man layeth the foundation, and doth not carry on the building, he loseth his cost; therefore let us go on to perfection.
Use 1. Let us bless God for this door and porch, that the scriptures are so plain and clear in all things necessary to salvation. Many complain of the difficulty and obscurity of religion, and the many controversies that are about it, and they know not what to choose, nor where to find the truth, till the world be more of a mind. It is true, in some things there is difficulty, but not in the most necessary things. Pascimur apertis, exercemur obscuris; ibi fames pellitur, hic fastidium. God has made his people’s way clear and sure in necessaries, for which we have cause to bless his name, for exercising our diligence and dependence. Something is difficult: if those that complain of this difficulty would enter into the porch that standeth open, other things would soon be understood. Whatever differences there are in Christendom, all agree that there is one God, Jesus Christ his only Son, who died for the world, and accordingly must be owned by his people; that a man must be converted to God, and become a new creature, and walk holily, or else shall never see God; all are agreed in this. Pre pare thy heart for entertaining the light and power of these truths, and in due time God will show thee other things. In the meantime bless God that whatever is necessary is plain to them that are docile and heedful, and willing to do the will of God. As in the world, the most necessary things are at hand, the less necessary are hidden in the bowels of the earth; so in scripture, necessaries are facile and easy.
Use 2. Let us use this method in learning, and teaching of others. In learning ourselves, first, be sure to get a clear understanding of, and firm assent unto, the main plain truths of scripture; that there is one God: Heb. xi. 6, ‘He that cometh to God must believe that he is;’ that Jesus Christ is the Son of God: John xvii. 3, ‘This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.’ It is a corner truth, that enliveneth all religion: Mat. xvi. 16, ‘Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God; 7 then, ‘Upon this rock will I build my church;’ John vi. 69, ‘We believe and are sure that thou art Christ, the Son of the living God.’ This is the great enlivening truth, that hath influence both on faith and obedience. We must believe that he is able to bring us to God, John xiv. 6, Heb. vii. 25, and must be obeyed, Heb. v. 9; that every man needeth this Christ to bring him to God, Acts iv. 12. There is a necessity of his merit, that God may be propitious; of his Spirit, as the foundation of a new life, that we may be reconciled to God; that we should live holily, because there is a day of account when every one shall receive according to his works. We should bestow more cost upon the main truths, to get a clear distinct knowledge of them; there must be a removing of rubbish, and digging, to lay the foundation of the knowledge of the principles of the doctrine of Christ, before there can be any safe building or going on unto perfection, Heb. vi., and firm assent to them; for he is the best Christian that doth most clearly understand and firmly believe these things, not the opinionist, the disputer, he that best promotes the interest of his party or side, which are the distempers now afoot in Christendom. Those truths well accepted would so purify the heart as we should sooner discern God’s interest in other things, and be able to find out that. So for teaching our children, God reckons on it from his people: Gen. xviii. 19, ‘For I know Abraham, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment;’ Deut. vi. 6, 7, ‘And these words that I command thee ‘this day shall be in thy heart, and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thy house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.’ Train them up in wholesome truths, in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, Eph. vi. 4; how to carry themselves towards God in matters of religion; how towards men, in righteousness, civility, and good manners; chiefly that _they may be instructed in the knowledge of Christ, and salvation by him.
Use 3. Let the entertainment we have upon our first entrance into the study of religion encourage us to follow on to know the Lord, that we may see more into his mind and counsel concerning us. When we are first serious, we have notable experience of light and comfort and power; this is a bribe to draw us on farther; more light, for it is a growing thing: Prov. iv. 18, ‘The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more to the perfect day;’ more taste, 1 Peter ii. 3, 4, ‘If so be that ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious, to whom coming as to a living stone,’ &c. It should sharpen and put an edge upon our desires; more power: James i. 18, 19, ‘Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first-fruits of his creation; wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.’ You saw the entrance, and your first acquaintance with the word succeeded well.
Doct. 2. By the word of God we get light, or our understandings m-e enlightened: Prov. vi. 23, ‘For the commandment is a lamp, and the law is light, and reproofs of instruction are the way of life.’
1. Light is a great benefit. This is the perfection of the rational nature, the benefit that we have above the beasts: ‘He teacheth us more than the beasts of the field.’ They are guided by instinct, ruled by a rod of iron; we have reason, and in it more resemble God, who is light, and in him is no darkness at all, 1 John i. 5; we come nearest to our happiness in heaven; it is called ‘The inheritance of the saints in light,’ Col. i. 12. Our knowledge is perfected, and the vision of God is our happiness: 1 Cor. xiii. 12, ‘For now we see through a glass darkly, then face to face; now I know in part, then I shall know even as also I am known.’
2. This light hath excellent properties.
[1.] It is lux manifestans; it manifesteth itself and all things else. How do I see the sun but by the sun, by its own light? How do I know the scripture to be the word of God, but by the light that shineth in it, commending itself to my conscience? So it manifests all things else. By this light a man may see everything in its own colours; it layeth open all the frauds and impostures of Satan, the vanity of worldly things, the deceits of the heart, the odiousness of sin: Eph. v. 13, ‘All things that be reproved are made manifest by light, for whatsoever doth make manifest is light.’ It sets out the odiousness of sin as a breach of God’s most holy law, enmity against the great God, the procurer of his eternal wrath. Nothing manifests things as this light doth.
[2.] It is lux dirigens, a directing light, that we may see our way and work. As the sun lighteth man to his labour, so doth this direct us in all conditions: Ps. cxix. 105, ‘Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.’ It directs us how to manage ourselves in all conditions, in prosperity, adversity; in all affairs, paths, steps; in all the particular actions of our life; it filleth us with spiritual prudence; the wayfaring, the fool, the man of parts that is a stranger, the man of mean parts, all may meet with plain and clear directions hence to guide them in the way to heaven.
[3.] It is lux vivificans, a quickening light, lux est vehiculum influentiarum: John viii. 12, ‘I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life;’ Eph. v. 14, ‘Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.’ That light was the life of men, so is this spiritual life; it not only discovereth the object, but helpeth the faculty, filleth the soul with life and strength.
[4.] It is lux exhilarans, a comforting, refreshing, cheering light: Eccles. xi. 7, ‘Light is sweet, and it is a comfortable thing to behold the sun.’ It is so in two respects:—
(1.) It presents us with excellent grounds of comfort, not only against afflictions, but against distress of conscience, which is the greatest trouble that can befall the creature, such as the sense of God’s love in Christ; so it rejoiceth the soul: Ps. xix. 8, ‘The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandments of the Lord are pure, enlightening the eyes.’ It doth good to the heart. Others tickle the senses, but are not affliction-proof, stead us not when God rebuketh us for sin. The light of God’s countenance is displayed in the word: Ps. iv. 6, 7, ‘There be many that say, Who will show us any good? Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us. Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and wine increased.’
(2.) Because it is a soul-satisfying light, as light easeth of trouble and restlessness of mind, which we always lie under till we find a safe way of salvation, which we never do till we give up ourselves to the conduct of the word: Jer. vi. 16, ‘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 to your souls.’ There we find enough to satisfy conscience, though, it may be, not to satisfy curiosity, which is libido intellectus—thirst of a sober man and thirst of a drunkard, the one satisfied, the other mortified.
Use 1. Information.
1. That without the word men lie in darkness, whatever learning they have, if they want the gospel. As the Ephesians, before it came to them, though given to curious arts, the apostle telleth them they ‘were sometimes in darkness,’ Eph. v. 8. The wisest heathens could only grope and feel about for happiness. If they neglect the light, though it be among them, it is not excusable: John i. 5, ‘And the light shineth in darkness, but the darkness comprehendeth it not.’ But if they refuse the light, and this carelessness groweth obstinate, their condition is the worse: John iii. 19, ‘This is the condemnation, that light is come, and men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil.’
2. If we get not understanding of the mysteries of salvation, we may blame ourselves: 2 Cor. iv. 3, 4, ‘But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.’ If thou miss the way to heaven, accuse thine own blindness; thou canst not accuse the gospel, plead its darkness. The true cause of their non-proficiency is unbelief, they believe not; the superadded cause is spiritual blindness.
Use 2. Exhortation to look after this light, without which we shall be in the dark as to comfort: Isa. l. 10, ‘Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and seeth no light?’ Either under actual horrors or doubtfulness and uncertainty. Every wicked man is troubled, as the leaves of the trees of the wood are shaken with the wind. Now who would live in such a condition, to be at the mercy of the tempter? You are in the dark as to duty; our own reason, the counsels and examples of others, will mislead us; and we shall be unsteady, carried away with every deceit of sin, at least unsatisfied whether in God’s way or not: 1 John ii. 11, ‘He that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.’ Oh! study the word.
But who have this light? He that heartily desireth knowledge: Prov. ii. 3, ‘If thou criest after wisdom, and liftest up thy voice for understanding;’ he that diligently labours for it: Ps. i. 2, ‘His delight is in the law of the Lord, and in his law doth he meditate day and night.’ That propoundeth a right end, to be Christ’s disciple, to do God’s will: John vii. 17, ‘If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.’ That humbleth himself for his ignorance. John got open the book with weeping: Rev. v 5. ‘And one of the elders said unto me, Weep not; behold, the lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, hath prevailed to open the book.’ Those Bereans were πρόθυμοι: Acts xvii. 11, ‘They received the word with all readiness of mind,’ εὐπειθὴς; James iii. 17, ‘Easy to be entreated.’ The opposite on the one side is slowness of heart: Luke xxiv. 25, ‘O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!’ Or obstinacy on the other, a sluggish easiness, when light of belief, to believe anything without searching into the reason of it, or given up to a foolish credulity: Eph. iv. 14, ‘That ye be not as children, tossed to and fro. and carried about with every wind of doctrine and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;’ like a reed shaken with every wind. But he that is endued with this light is one that doth not depend on his own wit, but submits his reason to God: Prov. iii. 5, 6, ‘Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not to thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.’ Well, then, this earnest desire in the next verse, ‘I opened my mouth and panted: I longed for thy commandments.’ This painful seeker will find out this treasure; this humble trusting soul will have it.
Doct. 3. That the scriptures are written so that plain and private men may get this light and spiritual understanding by them: Ps. xix. 7, ‘The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.’
1. From the author, God, who is the fountain of light; and surely he was able and willing conveniently to express his mind to his creatures. Cannot God speak plainly? Deus et mentis, et linguae, et vocis artifex, as Lactantius calleth him. He that is so wise, so loving of mankind, our supreme judge and king, would he hide this light under a bushel? Would he conceal his mind, and leave thee in the dark? Micah vi. 8, ‘He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?’
2. For whom the scriptures were written; not for ministers or professed students. God speaketh to all sorts of men in the scripture, and therefore would have all understand them. He wrote the scripture that it might be read of all, young and old: Deut. xxx. 11, 12, ‘This commandment which I command thee this day, is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off: it is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it,’ &c. Rich and poor; the king was to read in it all the days of his life: Deut. xvii. 18, 19, ‘It shall be that when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, he shall write him a copy in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites: and it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life.’ Every good man is to meditate in it: Ps. i. 2, ‘His delight is in the law of the Lord, and in his law doth he meditate day and night;’ Deut. vi. 6, 7, ‘These words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thy heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thy house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.’ The apostles wrote epistles to the whole church, spake to old men, youth, little children: 1 John ii. 13, ‘I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father.’ To kings, judges, men, women, husbands, wives, fathers, children, masters, servants, was it written for their use; nor must it be taken out of their hands, nor is it above their reach.
3. The end why it was written, to be a sure and infallible direction to guide us to eternal life, and make us wise unto salvation: 2 Tim. iii. 15, ‘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.’ Not only so, but it is our food and means of growth: 1 Peter ii. 2, ‘As new-born babes desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.’ Every life hath food convenient for it. It is our weapon in temptation: Eph. vi. 17, ‘And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.’ To be read by all in this spiritual warfare they are all engaged in. It is God’s testament, therefore should be viewed by his children; the epistle of the creator to his creatures, therefore to be read by them to whom it is sent. God’s letter must not be intercepted upon all these reasons. There is enough to make wise the simple in scriptures.
But is there nothing difficult in scriptures? Ans. Yes, to subdue the pride of man’s wit, to quicken us to wait and depend upon him for knowledge, to prevent contempt, to exercise our industry and diligence, and to fasten truths on our minds. There is some difficulty, but not such difficulty as that the people neither can nor ought to read them with profit, which is the dispute between us and papists. There is no difficulty but what is conquerable by that grace that God ordinarily dispenseth, and the means of explaining or applying; not a whole loaf, but a dimensum, his share; for it distributes to every man his portion.
Use 1. For the confutation of them that forbid the simple use of the word. The papists say, God’s word is dark and hard to be understood; therefore they lock it up from the people in an unknown tongue, as if none could profit by it but the learned sort. Yea, many among us are ready to say, What should simple men do with scripture? and think that all the confusions and troubles of the world come from giving people this liberty. Ans. Though in the word there are mysteries to exercise the greatest wits, yet there are plain truths to edify the simple. This text is a notable proof against them. It is good to have a text against every error of theirs. They are injurious to God; as if he had revealed his mind so darkly, or his word, that it were so doubtful and harmful that there were danger in reading it: injurious to the scriptures, while they tax them with obscurity; injurious to the people of God, while they despise those whom the Lord inviteth with their pharisaical pride: John vii. 49, ‘But this people who know not the law are cursed;’ hinder them of their comfort; the simple have souls to save, therefore have need to see with their own eyes, to consider God’s charter. They pretend they do it in mercy to the people, lest by their mistakes they should ruin themselves, and introduce confusion into the world. They should as well say all must be starved, and deny meat and drink because some surfeit. But certainly they do it for their own interest; they have false wares to vend, and to keep the people from discovering the errors they impose upon them, they would conceal the scriptures from them. Ignorance is a friend to the devil’s kingdom. The blind go as they are led. They are afraid of the scriptures as a thief of a candle or the light which would discover his villany and hinder his design, John iii. 20.
Use 2. Of encouragement to poor Christians that have a sense of weakness. Before Plato’s school was written, ‘Let none but the learned come in hither;’ but Christ inviteth the simple. That none might be discouraged, he speaketh to all sorts: Prov. viii. 4, 5, ‘Unto you, O men, I call, and my voice is to the sons of men: O ye simple, understand wisdom; and ye fools, be of an understanding heart.’ That which is spoken to all is thought to be spoken for none. Christ speaketh to men under their several distinctions, noble, base, young or old, rich or poor. If any earthly profit be offered to any that will take it, who will exempt themselves? None are so modest. But in spiritual things persons are more stupid. Let none be discouraged by weakness of parts; all are invited to learn, and here they may be taught, of any capacity. Oh! but how many will say, I am so weak of understanding, that I shall make no work of such deep mysteries as are contained in the scriptures. I answer—
1. Many times this objection cometh from a sluggish heart; to ease themselves of the trouble of a duty, as meditation or prayer, they pretend weakness, they would have a rule that would make knowledge.
2. If it be serious, God is able to interpret his own book unto thee. He must indeed open the door, or we cannot get into the knowledge of truths there. If you had better parts you would be but groping about the door. He that hath not the right key is as far from entering the house as he that hath none. If the Spirit of God be thy master, thou shalt learn, though never. so blockish.
3. Wisdom stands upon the threshold, or at the door of God’s word, as ready to open the treasures of knowledge: ‘The entrance of thy word giveth light.’ No sooner is a soul entered into the Spirit’s school but he becometh a proficient; on first acquaintance with scriptures he seeth great light. Yea, she sendeth abroad to invite comers: Prov. ix. 3-5, ‘She hath sent forth her maidens, she crieth upon the highest places of the city, Whoso is simple let him come in hither: as for him that wanteth understanding, she saith to him, Come eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled.’ Therefore go on with thy duty. He that sent an interpreter to the eunuch to guide him, when reading part of Isaiah’s prophecy which he understood not, will direct and guide thee in the knowledge of all necessary truths, Ps. xxv. 8, 9; Prov. ii. 2-5.
4. It is a good advantage to be sensible of our blindness: Rev. iii. 17, 18, ‘Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and stand in need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thee thine eyes with eyesalve that thou mayest see.’ The first thing a man seeth is his own blindness, nakedness, and wretchedness: John ix. 39, ‘And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into the world, that they which see not might see, and that they which see might be made blind.’ Many times they which conceitedly think they see are made blind. Those that are ignorant and humbled under the sense thereof, Christ will open their eyes; but they that are conceited of their own parts and knowledge, their hearts are darkened more and more, and they are given up to follow their own fancies. The simple may see further than others, because they swell not with the presumption of their own wit. Surgunt indocti, et rapiunt coelum, cum nos doctrma nostra detrudimur in gehennam. Sometimes simple people are more forward and earnest than others, and men of weak parts and small breeding may have strong affections. A blunt iron, when heated, may enter deeper into a board than a sharp tool when cold. Great doctors and rabbis are proud and careless, and poor broken-hearted sinners are warm and serious. Your labour will not be in vain.
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