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2 Tim. Hi. 16, 17.
All Scripture is given by Inspiration of God:
and is profitable for Doctrine,for Reproof, for
Correction, for Instruction in Righteousness:
that the Man of God may be perfect', throughly
furnifijed unto all good Works.
I HAVE (hewn you, in several Discourses on this Text, the Divine Authority of Scripture, its complete Usefulness to all the Purposes of Religion, and the consequent Duty of reading it. Yet still I am sensible an unhappy Objection may remain with too many, that they have tried, and do not experience this Usefulness; and why it should be their Duty to persist in reading what they do not find attended with any good Effects, they cannot apprehend. But if they have not read as they Vol. VI. I ought, ought, their whole Argument falls to theGround. Nothing is to be expected from the wrong. Perfownance of any Duty r and therefore I proposed- originally
IV. To* give Directions for the right Performance of this.
Many proper ones, I hope, have been intimated to you not obscurely, under the former Pleads: Part of which however I shall now repeat amongst others.. For to say again the same 'Things, to me is- not grievous* and for you- it fe
That we should; come to the Word of God
with serious MindSj is a Requisite, that oner mould hardly have thought needful to mention,, if there were not some, who give ltttle other Proof of ever having looked1 into it, than perverting the Expressions of it to ludicrous Purposes, and so extracting. Poison from the-Bread of Life. You need not be told, that such caw receive no Improvement from it: but only be: warned against suffering them to infect yo» with the same Distemper: for to Men of a gay and lively Turn it is often very catching. But reflect: Every Book in the World, of every Sort, may easily be turned into. Matter of Di
version, if People are resolved to shew at any Rate, some their Ability, and others, (which is far the more usual Case) their Desire only of being witty. But especially on sacred Subjects, the Corruptness of Mens Hearts disposes them both to invent and receive such Kind of Entertainment with peculiar Eagerness; fof this very Reason principally, that they know they ought not. And besides, the Old aud New Testament do lie somewhat opener to prosane Abuse, than many other pious Compositions, from the Difference of Stile and Manners in distant Ages and Countries, from the scrupulous Exactness of our Translation, and the Changes in our Language, that have happened since it was made. But surely there are strong Motives, of Religion, of Prudence, r of common Decency, to restrain Men, from taking fiich unsair Advantages, to so bad an End; if this contemptible Affectation of appearing ingenious, by forcing a Laugh out of every Thing, did not so effectually destroy, as it doth, all Regard to Rightness of Behaviour and true good Sense. A Scorner seeketb Wisdom, and findeth it not: but Knowledge is easy to him, that con' sideretbb.
b Prov. xlv. 6. It is wrongly translated, underjianieth,
I 2 Let
Let us therefore fiever permit ourselves to make, either in Thought, at the Time of reading the Scripture, or in Discourse afterwards, a light and burlesque Application of any Text: for how little Harm soever we may intend, the Practice is plainly unfit and irreverent: besides that we are soon led on from small Freedoms to greater. And let us never be influenced to think ill or meanly of the least Part of God's Word from any such Applications made by ethers: for they prove nothing against Scripture, but much against those who invent or use them. Or if we find, that, notwithstanding, they do in Fact begin to make Impressions upon us, as they may imperceptibly, if we are not on the Watch; let us avoid, as carefully, yet as inoffensively, as we can, the Company of those, who delight in such dangerous Conversation r according to Solomon's excellent Rule, Cease, my Son, to hear the InJlruBion, that causeth to err from the Words of Knowledgec. For as to any Hope of Good from arguing with them, no People upon Earth are so incapable of being convinced or silenced by Reason, as they that are conceited of a libertine Wit. And therefore, however entertaining their Talk may be
c Prov. xix. 27.
otherwise, otherwise, yet being essentially faulty in this Respect, let us consider it only in the strong, but just Light, in which St. Paul places the idle Discourse of some in his own Days, when he saith, But /hun profane and vain Babblings: for they will increase unto more Ungodliness; and their Word will eat, as doth a Cankerd. They, whose Learning and Judgement and Taste and Worth are the most universally acknowledged, have, in all Times down to our own, spoken and thought of the Bible with the highest Degree of honourable Regard. And it is no less absurd, than impious, to be hurried into despising and ridiculing it, either by the extravagant Flights of any Man's wild Fancy, or the graver Authority of Judges so evidently prejudiced, as the self-sufficient, or the dissolute, merely because they are grown of late more numerous and less modest. Let us at least observe a little first, what good Effects this new Kind of Wisdom produces in the Lives and Families of those, who are so fond of it; and wait a while to see, (if indeed it be not too visible already,) what Sort of Figure they themselves, and a Nation composed of them, or led by them, make and