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- — He is a sincere Reader of the \io\f
Serm. Scriptures, who (when he reads them) _ Jii laYs aside al1 Prejudice and Partiality, and firmly resolves to embrace whatsoever is therein revealed, tho' it should happen to clash with his Interest, or with his Lusts, or with his own or other Nfehs Opinions. And this sincere Disposition is very requisite to qualify Men for the right understanding of the Christian Doctrines. For it is well known that Mens inordinate Affections and Appetites are very apt to mislead them, and do in some Cases render them incapable of making a true Judgment of Things. They who have addicted themselves to the Pursuits of Honours, Riches and Pleasures, are concem'd not rightly to understand a Religion which calls them off from the Love of these Things; and therefore it is no Wonder if they do not rightly uhr •derstand it.
Preconceiv'd Opinions likewise have a mighty Power to blind the Eyes of Men, and to hinder them from perceiving the plainest and most evident Truths.
We We have a remarkable Instance, of this in —-: the Apostles themselves. Tho' our Lord x ^ j had told them several Times, in as plain _J^—\ Words as he could possibly use, That he JJjould be betrayed into the Hands of Men, and be mocked, and spitefully in? treated and spitted on; and that they should scourge him and put him to Deaths and that the third Day he Jhpuld rife again; yet St.. ft$ark once and St. Luke twice observes, that they understood none of these Things; and this Saying was hid from them, that they perceived it not, neither knew they the Things which were spoken. Now this Blindness of the Disciples may thus (and, I think, no otherwise) be accounted for. It was a received Opinion among the Jews in our Saviour's Time, that the Messiah should be a mighty Temporal Prince, who. should deliver Israel from the Yoke of their Enemies, and extend his Conquests over foreign Nations, and reign prosperously and gloriously for ever and ever. And it appears from several Places of the New Testament that this Opinion had taken
deep Root in our Lord's own Disciples;
v^T wn'c'1 was tne Reason tnat tney did not
__' 1 apprehend his Meaning when he spoke
very plainly to them of his Sufferings and Death. The literal and true Sense of our Saviour's Expressions was obvious; but it being apparently inconsistent with that Notion which the Diiciples (as well as the rest of the Jews) entertain'd of the Messias, they overlooked it j and imagined that their Master's Words had some figurative or mystical Meaning, which they were not able to find out.
This Instance may teach us that the Way to understand the Scriptures is, not to make our Belief (tho' it should happen to agree with the receiv'd Doctrine) the Rule of interpreting Scripture, but on the contrary, to make the natural and genuine Interpretation of Scripture the Rule of our Belief. Which if we do, tho' our Sentiments mould happen to differ from the Judgments of learned Men, and even of Councils and of Churches, we need not be much disturbed at it; because learned Men and Councils and
Churches Churches may err, and oftentimes have —
erred in Matters of Faith j and therefore v^vf
their Determinations have neither Strength ''
nor Authority, unless they can be proved by Warrants of Holy Scripture. But the Scripture was written by the Inspiration of the Holy Ghost, who is infallible j and therefore whatever that fays is by all means to be embraced, whether it be agreeable, to the Opinions of Men or no. For the Opinions of Men are not a Rule by which we are to try the Doctrines of Scripture; but Scripture is the Rule by which we are to try the Opinions of Men.
As there is no Necessity that we should interpret the Writings of the inspired Penmen consistently with the Doctrines of Men uninspired: so it is very necessary that we should Jo expound every Part of God's Word, as that it may agree with every other Part of it. Which that we may do, we must diligently compare one Place with another, and consider together what is dispersedly said in Scripture concerning any Doctrine. U 4 By By this Means many seeming Inconfisten
^} 'cies may easily be reconciled; many Dif
_' \ ficulties, which have mightily puzzled
Christians, may receive a clear and natu-t ral Solution; many Controversies, which have disturbed the Peace of the Church, may soon be ended. An Example or two will shew the Usefulness of this Practice which I am now recommending. The Scripture does frequently attribute the Creation of the World to God and in some Places to Him alone; which may seem repugnant to those Places of the New Testaments which ascribe the Creation to Jesus Christ. To get rid of this Difficulty, some have asserted that Jesus Christ had no Hand in the Creation of the World; others, that Jesus Christ and God the Father are One and the fame Person. Neither of these Assertions is. true; for the New Testament doth as certainly ascribe the Creation of the World to Jesus Christ, as to God the Father; and in almost innumerable Places speaks of Christ as a distinct Person from the Father. But this Difficulty may be easily